Today’s two images come from close to the summit of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and one of the seven continental summits. Kilimanjaro (5,895M – 19,341ft), an extinct volcano, is said to be the world’s highest free-standing mountain rising about 5,100M above the Tanzanian grasslands near Moshi. Classic views of the mountain show it ice-capped with glaciers filling the folds in the summit cone. But over the last 100 years the peak has lost over 80% of its ice cover: more evidence of global warming.
Kili is not a technical climb – it’s within the competence of any experienced walker – but due to its height, the cold (-10C or colder on summit day is common), and it’s relative isolation, it remains a serious undertaking that should not be taken lightly.
The final summit climb starts around midnight, climbing through the night by the light of a headtorch (on my climb we had a starlit sky and a three-quarter moon), reaching the summit ridge around dawn, from where the route skirts the giant crater to the summit.
Our views from the summit were breathtaking and I have selected two for this post. Firstly a B&W image taken at about 5,800M on the descent around the crater rim to Stella Point. It was about an hour after sunrise and early morning mist is boiling over the ridge and the horizon is carpeted with cloud – much of it below us.
This was scanned, using a Nikon Coolscan, from a colour transparency. I’m on a learning curve again with this scanner. Contrast can be quite difficult to control. I was unhappy with the digital colour version of this shot: the colour was not true and the highlights looked blown. B&W is, I think, a lot more tolerant of blown highlights – maybe because workers in B&W are used to exploiting contrast, producing images with strong lines and shapes and are not too concerned if shadows black-up, or highlights white-out.
The second image (below) was taken 45 minutes later, at about 5,600M, after we dropped off the ridge.
Clouds girdle the slopes and summit of Mawenzi on the other side of the caldera of this original giant volcano. This was taken with my Sony compact digital and enlarged with Genuine Fractals. If you look closely you should be able to see the earth’s curvature. I have also included a B&W version of this. In this instance I prefer the colour one but you may think differently?
For me Photography adds hugely to the experience of being in high and wild places like these. One’s senses are overwhelmed at the time by a wealth of views and emotions: too much to take in sometimes and hold for later recall. To look at images months or years later brings it all flooding back. I hope you enjoy these shots.
Sometime before the end of the year I’ll post images of Sunrise over Kili – a spectacular sight, I promise you.
Postscript…….. and here they are as promised:
Sunrise over the roof of Africa Part 1 – images from Meru.
Sunrise over the roof of Africa Part 2 – images from Kilimanjaro
A note about climbing Kilimanjaro. I climbed it 5 years ago with Jagged Globe, a highly respected UK company who lead expeditions across the globe. They also have a trekking company – Mountain Kingdoms – I would strongly recommend them both. Kili is a trekking peak and no mountaineering skills are required. Experience of multi-day walking at altitude and a preparedness to rough it in tents or very basic huts (depending on the route chosen), is an advantage.
Don’t be persuaded that the climb can be fitted into a one-week vacation. This is a seriously big mountain and its height brings the very real dangers of High Altitude Mountain Sickness which can kill. People who don’t acclimatize carefully on the climb put themselves at risk. My trip with Jagged Globe lasted 12 days. We first climbed Meru, a peak of nearly 15000ft, for acclimatization; and then the ascent of Kili, via the Umbwe and Barafu routes, took 5 days.
Of our team of ten, eight of us made the summit. One dropped out with a knee injury. Only one experienced any significant altitude related problems and he turned round on summit day without mishap.