Then it don’t matter. I’ll be all around in the dark - I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look - wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build - I’ll be there, too.
Since 2005, when I first came to East Africa and Tanzania, working in aid and relief logistics for UNICEF und UNHCR, I have been coming back pretty much every year except 2009. However, it took me five years to finally climb Africa’s highest mountain and Tanzanian national symbol, Mount Kilimanjaro and its Uhuru Peak. I finally did on Easter 2010, together with a very good friend of mine. At 5890 meters, it’s no piece of cake to climb the highest volcano cone, the Kibo, but compared to other mountains of that height, it is relatively easy one has to admit. Consequently, we had to come up with something special to at least gain some respect from my friends (among them expert skiers, alpinists and former mountain infantrymen). We decided to take the Umbwe route, the hardest but most scenic, and do it in 5 days instead of 6. Two guys, not very experienced climbers, over-selfconfidence - it all sounded like the beginning of a TV show on mountain disasters. Information on the Umbwe route is rather limited in comparison to the well-known Machame and Marangu routes, and since we would probably have valued a deeper insight on how to climb this route - in even less time than planned - I decided to share our experience along with a couple of tips.
The general guideline for doing the Umbwe route strongly recommends taking 6 days for reaching the summit and going down again. Park permits for this route are only issued on a 6-days-basis. And in general, the climbing companies, which you have to have and which provides you with food, porters, guides and everything else you need on the mountain, will charge you for 6 days anyway. We initially had planned to challenge this and do it in 5 days, but ended up doing it in even 4:
Overall 8300 meters difference in altitude, over 51 km distance.
Looking back, ascending up so fast was probably too quick. Even the guides seemed to be suffering a bit from the fast ascend during the summit push. I was doing fine despite headache that aspirin could cure and a moment of nausea once. However, many people have problems, and the only real tools against that are ascending slowly and drinking plenty. People who have attempted something similar had more severe problems, so it’s probably not advisable if you have no prior high-altitude mountaineering experience and have an understanding about how your body reacts to altitude.
What’s next? For me, looking at some other mountains. But there’s plenty of nice tours left even at home. For those looking for an additional modification to the standard Kilimanjaro trek, have a look at Matt Cutts’ blogpost about how he climbed Kibo and camped at the summit crater.
Okay, here it is. On the left is Jon, whom I met on the mountain.