Last summer, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. It is 5,895m high and the trek was probably one of the tougher challenges I’ve ever undertaken.
We took the Machame route up to the summit, but all routes eventually converge at Barafu – the final camp. Climbers summit at night, in order to arrive at the summit for sunrise. I suspect that this is also done so that the climbers don’t see what’s ahead of them, thus ensuring a higher summit rate. I’m fairly sure that I would have found the hellish experience even more unpleasant had I been able to see what horrendous gradients lay ahead of me.
The result of this business is that one sets out from Barafu camp on summit night with a head torch and no real idea where one is going. Ahead of you is this steep ascent – not that anyone can actually see it. All I could see was this snake-like figure made up of hundreds of little headtorches meandering its way up and up – until suddenly it connected with the stars. Whenever we stopped, which was very frequently, and I managed to get my breath back (sort of), I would take some time to marvel at the sky above. You just don’t get views like that in Europe.
This is a time-lapse video of Cotapaxi in Ecuador. I think it illustrates what I’m trying to describe beautifully. It also made me wish I could be back on the slopes of Kili, trekking to Uhuru.