Thursday, February 09, 2006

Dot Helling description of climb of Kilimanjaro.

Hi all! thought you might be interested in this. I've pasted below a short article on the Kilimanjaro summit I did with friends in January guided by Simon Mtuy of Summit Expeditions Nomadic Experience (SENE). Simon is an ultrarunner who has been competing every year in Miwok and Western States and coming in top 10. He also has the unofficial record for the fastest ascent/descent of Kilimanjaro (8:27) and ON FEBRUARY 22 is going for an official record, shooting for sub 8 hours. Think of him on that day, there will be some press.Our summit trip with Simon was fantastic. Some of the group were runners/ultrarunners and we got to do some running but mostly it was a trek. You probably will recognize the names of Diane McNamara and Pam Duckworth, "retired" ultrarunners like me. Ann Trason and Carl Andersen went with Simon a number of years ago and had a great trip also, with more running than we did. They could keep up with him.I highly recommend this trip before the glacier melts much more. We took a less traveled route from the west. I plan to return and get up the Western Breach. It is the trip of a lifetime. Being on the summit is indescribable. We scored. After a snowstorm the night before which left 4" of freshies, it cleared as we climbed and the summit was sunny, clear and vibrant blue with views to the ends of the earth and above the clouds.


On January 18, 2006, seven Central Vermonters completed their summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak and one of the famous "Seven Summits." "Kili," as the mountain is affectionately known, stands 19,344' tall. Its height has diminished over the years as the snow cap melts due to global warming. Located in East Africa, Kili is entirely within the country of Tanzania on its border with Kenya. To stand on Kili's Uhuru Peak is to stand on the "top of Africa."The trip of a lifetime was organized by Summit Expeditions Nomadic Experience ("SENE") and lead guide Simon Mtuy. Mtuy and his two brothers led the 12 person group up the Lemosho/Shira Route on the western side of the mountain and down the Mweka Route home to Moshi nine days later. The challenges were great - weather, altitude, rock walls to climb. The group's original plan had to be diverted because of a massive rockslide on the Western Breach which occurred the week before their arrival. When it was clear the Western Breach was still not safely passable, the group traversed past the Arrow Glacier to the east, up the Barrancu Wall and across the Barrancu Valley to camp at upper Baruffu, a total climb in one day of 2400' to an altitude of 16,000'. The next day the group climbed from Baruffu to Crater Camp at 18,400' where it was extremely cold and the camp was covered in up to 4" of new snow overnight. Many of the group became sick from altitude with severe headaches, nausea and diarrhea. All were moving at a snail's pace with oxygen readings in the 60 to 70 percentile.On the way to Crater Camp, five of the group climbed over Uhuru Peak before descending to camp. The others hiked through the crater, a beachlike wasteland dotted by huge lava rocks and surrounded by enormous glacial ice walls.

The next morning, January 18, the group rose before sunrise and started the steep climb to the summit in the new snow. An hour and a half later, the entire group stood on the summit, the clouds had broken and a bright sunshine morning provided views in every direction as far as the eyes could see. A sign on Kili's rounded summit identified the highest point in Africa. Others who had come up the alternative route shared the top. Many photos were taken and cheers abounded. The group learned later on that it was extremely unusual for an entire group to summit, especially such a large group. Two members of a Seattle group climbing on a similar schedule had to be evacuated.Standing atop Kilimanjaro is indescribable. Not only is it high but its views are unmarred by anything in the horizon. Except for Mt. Meru and Mt. Moinza there is nothing close to where you stand as the horizon drops into the depths.

Our descent from the mountain was 16,000' in two days, through the six different temperate zones, past monkeys, alpine and moreland region, rain forest and cultivation. We left the snows of Kilimanjaro behind physically but never in our minds and souls.The summit group included Central Vermonters Dot Helling, Susan Arbogast, Bill Reynolds, Betsy LaFlame, and Scott, Mary and Justin Skinner, and Debbie Tirrito of Winooski. Others were Diane McNamara, Ed and Andrew Walsh from Massachusetts, and Pam Duckworth from Colorado.

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