The tallest free-standing mountain in the world is one of the 28 finalists for the New 7 Wonders of Nature and we find out in November if Mt Kilimanjaro is voted into the top 7. This incredible mountain may be an inactive strato-volcano, but trekking to the top is one of the world’s greatest active adventures, as Karen Graham can attest…
“At 5895 metres (19,340 feet) above sea level, Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is the highest mountain in Africa. My trek to the top was the most challenging and rewarding experience I’ve ever had, especially due to the spectacular landscapes I encountered en route.
Departing Marangu Gate (1860 metres/6102 feet), I ventured into a thick rainforest, a strange world illuminated by soft light filtering through a dense canopy. Here trees resembled old men, with moss hanging from their branches like beards. Water trickled over rocks and along the path, making everything damp underfoot.
Trekking day two, I emerged from the rainforest to a vista of barren moorland and my first awe-inspiring view of Kilimanjaro’s snow-capped peak rising majestically in the distance. Later a mist descended, cradling me with its damp chilly fingers, and I thought I’d never get to Horombo Hut (3720 metres/12,205 feet). Visibility was poor, but eventually I saw it – a vision though the swirling mist. The hut was a shining beacon, a haven full of friendly faces and the warmth of a roaring fire.
Day three, I hiked over barren terrain with little vegetation, except an occasional cactus-like plant. A scattering of lobelias and giant groundsels bearing yellow flowers dotted the horizon. Mawenzi, a strange craggy peak, looked like an old ruined castle, burnt and still smoking, with mist rising above it, while the alpine desert reminded me of the stark lunar landscape of the moon.
Day four and the final ascent was tough. Every five or six steps I stopped in the early morning darkness to regain breath, but finally I arrived at Gilman’s Point (5685 metres/18,652 feet) on the crater rim. I felt as if I was on top of the world, above the clouds and looking at the snow-covered roof of Africa – it’s a sight, experience and achievement I will never forget!”
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* photo by Kelly Benson – Intrepid Photography Competition