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The climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro  
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Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa
Kili from the ground up!

Kilimanjaro, like a beacon luring sailors ashore from far beyond the Serengeti and the Sahara, calls two U.S. Adventurers to its shores. Tim and Angie plan to climb the highest free standing mountain in the world in February 2010. It has been reported that some 20,000 climbers per year converge on the dormant volcano’s summit, with only half of them ever actually reaching the top. Kili, as it is lovingly referred to, is the highest mountain accessible to hikers.

The summit, Kibo, sits at 5895 meters or 19,340 feet. The trek up the mountain is termed a “walk up” but don’t let that fool you. The air is extremely thin, the weather is cold and windy, and conditioning and mental toughness is the basic necessity in order to make a successful ascent.

The beauty of this hike up the mountain is that one passes through five different climate zones, even though the mountain sits only 3 degrees south of the equator. Leaving Arusha, one of the more popular starting points, and the cultivated farmland surrounding it, one will begin the trek entering Kilimanjaro National Park and the rainforest. This is the first of five distinct climatic zones. The rainforest vegetation is thick and enjoyable; the weather is pleasant as well. Then as we ascent, the rainforest will yield to an open heath, where giant heather grow to 3 meters tall. Then we’ll pass through the moorland, then tundra, with all its bearded lichens which make up the arctic desert zone. In this zone, the various routes to the summit unite.

There are at minimum six different routes to the top, which converge on the crater before making the final ascent. Different treks and packages include five-day, six-day and more.. The first two require basically hiking right up the mountain, with less time to acclimate. This reduces the chances of making a successful summit by half. These also require a midnight final ascent starting time, which requires headlamp and night hiking. There is an interesting alternative however, a climb that spends the final night at the Crater Camp (5790m). This route allows us to sleep high on the mountain, enjoy the sunrise cast over the Great Rift Valley , and then makes a one-hour strike at the summit. This will also allow us time to make a side-trip to the perfectly formed ash pit nearby. This two hour round-trip trek is not only an extraordinary experience, but it also allows for increase acclimation.

Regardless of the route we decide upon, the final 100m will take us past the ever-shrinking glacier. This will be the most challenging portion of the ascent, and the reason why nearly half the people who attempt this climb ever make it. Once at the top, we’ll take some photos if our batteries stay warm enough close to our bodies, get wonderful panoramic views of the Shira Plateau to the west and Meru and Mwenzi rising to the east.

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