Climbing Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa

Chris, Uhuru Peak Jan 24, 2008

Steph and Margie Parikh
Gilman’s Point and Uhuru Peak
Dec 31, 2007

“As wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro.”

Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro

To view photos of Steph and Chris climbing Kilimanjaro, click here or go to:

All the time spent contemplating and planning the climb to Uhuru peak, the highest point of Kilimanjaro, 4.5 km above Kilema and 19450 feet above sea level, does not in the least prepare you for the physical challenge of being there. All body systems scream for respite as you slog, “pole, pole” (slowly), toward the summit, brain convincing you it is pointless, lungs screaming for more oxygen and legs more leaden with each stride.

But then the sun cracks the distant western sky, ice crystals instantly illuminate and towering glaciers reveal themselves to you in soft pink columns, with deeper blue-grey recesses between. You have made it, the roof of Africa, dizziness and exhaustion morphing into goofy elation and a warm rush through the body which erases all unpleasant sensations.

So much to take in from here, with views to Kenya and Tanzania below, lands you feel you have left far behind. The ancient volcanic crater below and the shattered western crater rim speak to the turbulent and violent geological history of this site, countless massive explosions and avalanches, events fundamental to all since, ultimately determining where humans have settled and how they live

This spectacular thrill of being at Uhuru is made more special by your awareness of the fact that it cannot last: lack of oxygen and the unavoidable cold ensure that you will soon have to leave. But this is not an unpleasant thought, as the vista below reminds you of spectacular alpine deserts, meadows and lower rain forests you will transit on your reluctant departure from this amazing park.

Would you do it again is the unavoidable question during the exhausted descent back to oxygen and more familiar conditions. You think about the three sets of young legs at home, growing and strengthening daily and decide that ten years hence, if they’re game for it, there’s no place you’d rather be.

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