The Machame Route via Barafu traditionally persists for 6 days with 5 nights, however, it is fetching more common for climbers to opt for an additional night during the trekking, typically above the Karanga Camp. Not only does the additional day aid acclimatization but this also decreases from almost 6 to 3 number of hours trekking on the day that precedes the draining midnight climbing to the summit, so allowing hikers more time to recover their abilities, relax and prepare themselves for the final impulse to the top. The book has a full daily picture of this Route. If choosing the Western Crack Route, again this might be done in 6 days though you would be risky to do so – 7 is a much more workable length.
STERK Horn has loomed large in my dreams – and nightmares – for months now. It’s a 2830m peak that sits to the right of Cathkin Peak, the 3148m flat-topped mountain that defines the entire Champagne Valley in the central Drakensberg.
The last time we were there, two months ago, some of us managed to get to Level 3 of the 15 levels that make up the peak. It’s daunting.
In fact, on this Saturday morning, it looks impossible from the angle at the Monk’s Cowl nature reserve car park. “This is why we do the final ascent to Kilimanjaro in the dark, starting at midnight,” confides Trek4Mandela leader Richard Mabaso. “If you could see what the route was like in the daytime, your mind would play tricks on you. Instead, you just keep on going forward, step by step until you reach Gillman’s Point from Kibo – and from there to Uhuru, the top of Africa!”
We leave for Tanzania on July 12. My stomach is roiling at the thought. I’m not the only one. Nobody wants to be disqualified at Kibo Hut, the base camp, from doing the last push to the summit.
Mabaso is determined that everyone will stick together on the climb, practicing the discipline and the process that will be followed from July 14, when we set out from Marangu Gate hoping to the summit at sunrise on July 18, on what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday. So he leads from the front, setting the pace.
It’s a blistering pace, way faster than the Pole, Pole Swahili for slowly, slowly that will be the mantra on the slopes of Africa’s highest peak. We race up to the Sphinx, stopping to de-layer, stripping off gloves, beanies and down jackets. The sun’s come out, it’s a little warmer than the minus 3°C when we started in the car park, but many of us are starting to sweat.
Mabaso lets us into a secret; we have to step it up if we are to summit Sterk Horn, which is why he concedes he’s been pushing the pace. He flatters and cajoles, giving everyone three minutes to do the obligatory selfies, have a snack and packs their outer layers into their backpacks before we’re off again.
Up onto the escarpment is known as the Little Berg, we head for Sterk Horn in the distance.
It is incredibly deceptive. The ascent looks very gradual. We are about to find out that it’s not.
Up past Blind Man’s corner, we stop in a thicket of trees nestled in a mini valley. It’s time to get real, Kili real. In Tanzania, we’ll submit in groups with the slowest going first. Here we’re allowed to split into groups to try to get to the top of Sterk Horn, the only rule is that wherever we are by 2 pm, we turn back and head down.
Everyone opts to be in the first group to leave, but within several hundred meters we are strung out on the slope, organically sorting ourselves into groups – the fittest and strongest racing naturally up the mountain.
The going’s hard, but at least the pace is far slower. It’s relentless, one foot in front of the other, up one level and onto the other. Eventually, you lose count of the levels until finally we can’t go up anymore but have to go around.
It’s steep, the path is narrow – mountain goat territory. The wind picks up and it’s frigidly cold, then it drops and all that’s left is silence.
The view is breathtaking and terrifying all at the same time. Eventually, we catch up with the front-runners. Guide Phumlane Ndumo has stopped everyone. There’s a berg adder that Tawanda Chatikobo almost put his hand on in front, but the bigger issue is that although it’s only 1 pm, it will still take us 45 minutes to summit.
Then we’ve got to head back and, because it’s midwinter, the sun will set by 5.30pm, meaning we won’t clear the park in time – and the last leg will be done in the dark but none of us has a torch. It’s an unnecessary risk.
We have to turn back. There’s disappointment, but nowhere near what you’d expect. It’s soon replaced by an incredible sense of achievement. The altimeter on my watch claims we have reached 2674m above sea level – an ascent of 1319m from the main gate where we started. Kibo to Uhuru Peak will be 1165 during the early hours of July 18.
The big difference though will be the altitude. First, we have to get back down, which is easier said than done. When I first started training and I saw people walking up and down the Westcliff Stairs with their walking poles, I wrote them off as posers. Now I’m using mine for dear life – as well as trying to hold onto tussocks of grass.
The slope on either side is sheer. If anyone falls we won’t be talking about broken legs but body bags – and still the trail runners run up and down past us. The record to get to the top of Sterk Horn and back from the Monk’s Cowl gate stands at 2 hours and 18 minutes. Put that in context, it took us five hours to go down to the gate alone.
Many did it inadvertently on their backsides, a couple of us broke our poles, some like Dikeledi Dlwati and Lynn Forbes had to master the very real fears of being so high up and so precarious.
Spirits revive over coffee and bacon and eggs, the talk turns to Kili, as always.
* The Trek4Mandela organizers thank Volkswagen SA and Mercedes-Benz SA for the kind loan of vehicles to ferry the group from Joburg to the Drakensberg and back
LEERSUM In February 2017, Richard Oskam takes on the challenge for War Child to climb the 5.895 meters high Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Before that time he wants to make his sponsor contribution as high as possible. The pupils of elementary school De Meander will help him on 21 December.
CHALLENGE The personal and sporting challenge combined with this charity formed the reason for Richard Oskam to give up. ,, A friend of mine works for War Child and that’s how you know more about it. He goes along himself, and he suffers even more from fear of heights than I do. We once descended a Maya temple together on our ass. “Real climbing with crampons is – fortunately for Oskam – not an issue. ,, It is more a long walk at a strong pace, starting in the tropics to volcanic rocks with I will fight myself on the road, I rely on my perseverance, but the altitude sickness makes it hard for everyone. “
TOUR In 5.5 days the participants walk sixty kilometers of which the last part goes up. The descent lasts only one and a half days. Every Kili challenge is about 100 men and women climbing the mountain, 90 percent gets it. Oskam starts in the group of February 1, which happens to be a Leersumer, Marcel Kromschee. Warchild organizes part of the preparation such as a workshop with the breathing techniques of ‘ice creamman’ Wim Hofman. ,, Then you just sit in such an ice bath for a minute. “For the rest, Oskam keeps it at the Zevenheuvelenloop and running into his new shoes on his own Heuvelrug.
TANTE GRE On Oskam’s personal page on warchild.nl the intermediate amount of the sponsored amount is kept. Striking in the encouragement of supporters is the high ‘aunt Gre-content’.
Oskam laughing:,, That is my father’s sister in Gorkum. She is rather steadfast. I believe no one leaves her house without the promise to sponsor me! “
He emphasizes that every contribution is very welcome, no matter how small. Richard Oskam is a few hundred euros away from the required starting amount of 2400 euros. The costs of the trip and guidance are taken care of by each participant.
SPONSORLOOP On 21 December Dalton school De Meander will hold a sponsor run with all pupils, including the three Oskam children, to raise as much money as possible for the campaign.
,, They were immediately in for the idea. And found it fit perfectly with the Christmas thought. I made a presentation about War Child for the teachers. And now hope that the children run a lot of rounds. “
Seven-year-old Montannah Kenney has become the youngest girl to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Climbing Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa at 5,895 meters, was Montannah’s project during a school break last March. The adventure presented her with an opportunity to discover her potential strengths and learn about hiking and foreign cultures.
The Texas native accompanied her mother, Hollie Kenney.
“My sister asked me if I was interested in climbing Kilimanjaro with her,” Hollie Kenney recalled. “We started the planning phase, but she had backed out of it. She decided she didn’t want to do it anymore. Then, I had been asking a couple of friends if they were interested in going. Montannah chimed in and said, ‘I would go with you, Mommy.'”
Montannah also wanted to set a new world record and, more importantly to her, pay tribute to her father who passed away when she was 3 years old.
“I knew that heaven was not that farther up from Mt. Kilimanjaro. So, I wanted to do it,” she said.
It took six days to reach the peak.
Montannah said it was exciting reaching the top. “It was pretty warm at the bottom, but it was pretty cold at the very, very top.”
Get set, go
Montannah, who is a triathlete, and her mother, who is an endurance athlete, trained for the adventure.
“We started to do a lot of back-to-back hiking,” Kenney said. “Fortunately, in the Austin, Texas, area, we’ve got a couple of big hills that we could go up and down and up and down to get our hip flexors and muscles ready for the big challenge.”
Getting ready for the trip meant packing appropriate clothing and researching the mountain and the land — Tanzania. But when the trip started, they had to face the real challenges. For Kenney, one was the fear of Montannah getting altitude sickness.
That’s a combination of symptoms ranging from a headache, dizziness, and nausea to loss of energy and shortness of breath. It’s triggered by the decrease of oxygen, due to the drop in pressure at high altitudes.
“And we had make the decision that even if she showed the slightest sign of altitude sickness, we would turn around. We were not going to go,” she said. “I was so nervous about the summit. So, I was almost certain we weren’t going to make it, but we did it. My daughter didn’t have any issues.”
Beyond the summit
The most challenging part of the trip came on the night they were preparing to reach the summit with their guide.
“We really didn’t get any sleep,” Kenney recalled. “And for a 7-year-old, that’s very challenging because she just wanted to lay down and go to sleep. Then, to take seven hours and a half to reach the summit. When we finally get there, we have to come back down, which was another three hours. We had lunch, and then another five and a half hours going down even further. So, it was 17 hours total that we were hiking.”
Kenney was deeply touched to watch what Montannah did when she reached the peak.
“To see Montannah blow kisses to her Daddy, to know that she was as close as she possibly could be to him in heaven, that was very meaningful for a mom to see,” Kenney said.
At that point, Montannah was extremely tired but thrilled about her achievement.
“It was very long for me,” she said. “I was really excited, but I wasn’t really thinking about when we had to go all the way down. I was glad I did it, but I didn’t want to go down.”
In addition to the accomplishment of reaching the top of Kilimanjaro and setting a world record, the trip was an introduction to new cultures.
“Not only did we try different foods when we were on the mountain, but we went on two safaris afterward,” Kenney said. “We went to Zanzibar. We stopped in one of the towns to see how people in Tanzania live. We went to their local market, met several business owners. We met several families, and that was really exciting. Kids that lived in the town absolutely loved meeting my daughter. That was a lot of fun.”
Many people; including tourists are attracted by the white covered Kibo Peak of Africa’s highest mountain and have been seen coming to take pictures from different possible corners.
“The rains that occurred from January to May brought an accumulation of snow on the Kibo Peak.
The observed snow plays a key role in protecting glacier from melting,” One Climber says that besides further compaction and hardening of snow on the mountain’s summit, it has ended the wet season and maintained glacier and snowflakes at the Kibo peak.
The Chief Warden hinted that it is expected that in the months ahead, the dry season would crop in and melt the sleet and expose glacier ice.
On the tourism front, A climber pointed out that snow and glacier ice remains potential tourists’ attraction sites, especially at the Kibo Peak on the mountain.
However, she cautioned the Mountain climbers to be vigilant while ascending or descending to avoid dangers which may emanate from slippery slopes.