My Kilimanjaro. Because you also have one. (Part 1)

cropped-stella1.jpgSomething about the mountain: Kili is not only Africa’s highest mountain, it’s also the world’s highest freestanding mountain. With an altitude of 5895m (19 340 ft) it is the 4th highest of the 7 summits. Roughly 10 people per year lose their lives on Kili. Majority thereof caused by Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).

Something about AMS: At sea level there’s 21% oxygen in the atmosphere. As altitude increases, the percentage remains the same. What happens is that you get less oxygen molecules per breath. For example, at 3600m (12 000ft) you are inhaling roughly 40% less oxygen molecules per breath, requiring some or other adaptation of the body to cope with the reduced supply. If the required adaptation does not happen quickly enough you end up in trouble. The clever people recognize three altitude categories:

  • High altitude 1 500 – 3 500m (4 900 – 11 500ft). Namibia’s highest mountain, the Brandberg (2574m or 8 445ft) falls into this category. I climbed it during June 2017 and it required my full attention. Yes, I know, some people would call that a hill.
  • Very high altitude 3 500 – 5 500m (11 500 – 18 000ft). Of the 7 summits, we’re talking about mountains like Mount Vinson in Antarctica and Puncak Jaya in Australasia.
  • Extreme altitude 5 500 and above (18 000ft). Kilimanjaro falls into this category.

To explain it in simple terms. On a high mountain you are likely to get horny and will most probably be able to do something about it. On very high mountains chances are less of getting the urge and it is even less likely that you will want to do something about it. At extreme altitudes you won’t even think about it because you will be too busy trying to stay alive.

16 September 2017 We arrive at Kilimajaro International Airport on a Kenya Airways flight from Nairobi. With me on the expedition is my wife Leonie, my best mate Fanie and his wife Anneke. Leonie and I have been married for 19 years and Fanie was there from the start, he was the best man. The rest of the team are from Europe. There’s Gary, a middle-aged detective from Ireland. Gary is a man of few words. There’s Mary from Scotland, she likes to talk. Richard and Tracey are from England and they somehow managed to always look clean, tidy and immaculately dressed throughout our time on the mountain. Eric and his two kids, Julian and Larissa are from France. Pleasant people. Jedd and Simon are two young men from Scotland who knows a thing or two about whiskey and beer… And lastly there was Chris and Matt also from England.

We booked through Jagged Globe, a British-based company specializing in all sorts of adventures from climbing to skiing to trekking remote wilderness areas (www.jagged-globe.co.uk). The guy who’s job it is to galvanize 15 strangers into a team of people who care about each other falls on the able shoulders of Mark Hendry from Herefordshire, England (go check out www.sandwoodmountaineering.co.uk). After a short briefing and a delightful dinner we hit the sack. Tomorrow we’ll head out to Camp 1 (Big Tree Camp at 2 650m (8 694ft). Camp one is higher than Namibia’s highest mountain…

to be continued…

 

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