About Kilimanjaro

Keats Climbs Kilimanjaro with Thomson Safaris

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Height 19,339’  -  5,895m

GPS 32  39’S, 70  01’W


Unknown to westerners until 1849 when John Rebmann published its first account, Kilimanjaro wasn’t climbed until 1889 by Hans Meyer.  Kilimanjaro has been a constant object of fascination for explorers, writers and armchair adventurers ever since.


Composed of three volcanoes; Kibo, Mawensi and Shira, the volcanos have been dormant for over 360,000 years.  However witnesses have reported the crater on Kibo to have had a lava lake in recent history.  In 2003 scientists concluded there is molten magma just 400 meters below the surface.  The crater on Kibo is quite large and has a number of active fumaroles.


“The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (1936) made famous by Ernest Hemingway will be nothing but a memory in the next few years, as the glaciers that cap Kili are rapidly melting.  Ohio State University’s paleoclimitologist Lonnie Thompson concluded that by as early as 2015 there would be no snow left on Kilimanjaro.  Other scientists have posited that there is less snow this year on Kili than in the last 11,000 years.  No one knows whether global warming or a pending collapse of the volcano similar to Mt. Saint Helens is responsible, but all scientists agree that in less than a decade there will be nothing left but rocks.  See the following short video from National Geographic to clearly illustate these changes: Video


As the ice melts, many routes are becoming less stable with the Western Breach route closed in 2006 due to a massive rock slide.


There are a number of factors that will play a major role in safe summit:



Avoiding the rainy season helps increase your summit odds dramatically.  Kilimanjaro creates its own weather system to such a degree that even a dry season climb requires at least one day of climbing through the clouds, and constant precipitation.  Limiting the number of cold, rainy, exposure days at altitude is key to enjoying the climb and completing it.



There are a number of approved routes of up Kilimanjaro including the Machame, Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho and the Umbwe.  The Marangu is the most popular and least challenging of all the routes.  It also has the highest failure rate, as many unprepared climbers underestimate the commitment needed to reach the top of Africa.  Keats will climb the Machame route.  The Machame is physically a more demanding route, yet it is also much more scenic encompassing five distinct ecological zones.  At one point it winds through a valley with incredibly oversize plants – it has been described as a pre-historic experience



In order to prepare for Kilimanjaro in 2007, Keats will take a number of educational classes including alpine first aid.  Obviously Keats won’t be expected to perform first aid on any of the climbers, but his ability of identify the symptoms of different types of mountain sickness will be important.  Although unlikely, HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) is a potentially serious condition found at altitude and difficult to diagnose in children.  Keats ability to seek supplemental oxygen early once the symptoms develop could mean the difference between continuing to climb and the need for an emergency evac (this is not his mom’s favorite part of the planning).  Keats will also need to develop his physical stamina in that on summit day, most climbers spend 12-hours between high camp (at 15,000’) the summit and back again in a cold, low oxygen environment.  Part of Keats terms for climbing is the stipulation that he climb the entire mountain by himself, there will be no one there to carry him once he gets exhausted.



One of the realties of climbing the Machame route is that of large predators.  Lions and hyenas still hunt high on the mountain, and though rare they are apex predators and should be respected. 



Less visible but just as deadly as a Lion is the mosquito.  Capable of transmitting malaria and rift valley fever, the fact that a mosquito could end this expedition to benefit The Global Fund would be the ultimate irony.  Another vector borne disease prevalent in Tanzania is plague.  Water borne diseases are another risk including bacterial diaherrea, hepatitis A, typhoid and   schistosomiasis.  All of these diseases are considered to constitute high risk for visitors.  It is tragic to note that in 2003 8.8% of the adult population in Tanzania had AIDS.



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