David Breashears

Name ID 1276

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2002 Publishes: Breashears, David Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa

Extract ID: 4133

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Breashears, David Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa
Extract Author: The East African (Nairobi)
Extract Date: March 25, 2002

The Epic Climbing Film East Africans Won't See

Copyright 2002, Nation Media Group Ltd. All rights reserved.

Geologists calculate that more than 80 per cent of Kilimanjaro's glacier has melted since it was first mapped in 1912, writes Special Correspondent KEVIN J. KELLEY Just as Kilimanjaro towers over Africa, so too does a new film about the mountain surpass most nature documentaries in beauty and sheer size.

Shot with special cameras using 70 mm film, Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa will be shown in selected North American cities in a big-screen format known as Imax. Its enormous picture plane measures about 15 metres in height and 21 metres in width, creating an overwhelming visual experience. Audiences are made to feel they are actually ascending Kilimanjaro along with a six-member climbing team that includes two Tanzanians.

Director David Breashears is himself a veteran mountaineer as well as an Imax movie-maker. The first American to have scaled Mount Everest on two separate occasions, he was also co-director of a Imax film about a deadly assault on the world's tallest mountain. Breashears' 1996 Everest expedition coincided with a tragedy that claimed the lives of eight members of another party who were also attempting to reach Everest's summit.

Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa contains none of the horror that seeped into Mr Breashears' Everest film. Indeed, the filmmaker said in a recent interview with a US television network that he intended to make Kilimanjaro seem far less forbidding than the highest Himalayan peak.

"I wanted to make a film that appealed to a much broader audience, a film that when people saw it, they could actually leave the theatre and say, 'Yes, I can go climb Kilimanjaro.'"

The diversity of the climbing crew featured in the film reinforces the impression that ordinary mortals are capable of reaching Africa's zenith. Among those in the trekking team are a 64-year-old writer, a 12-year-old Boston schoolgirl, and a 13-year-old boy from Arusha, Hansi Mmari, who had never before seen snow, let alone climbed a mountain. The group is led by Chagga guide Jacob Kyungai, 50, who has reached the top of Kilimanjaro more than 250 times.

Although conditions on Kilimanjaro may not be nearly as harsh as those on Everest (which is 10,000 feet higher), Breashears says he actually found it harder to film on Kili, owing to the sharp contrasts in its ecosystems. As the movie explains, climbers must pass through five different climate zones as they ascend Kilimanjaro, beginning in a tropical rainforest and ending in an Arctic environment at a height of 5,896 metres.

The images Breashears recorded along the way are unforgettable. "Sublimely photographed, it's almost a religious experience," wrote a reviewer for The Dallas Morning News.

Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa premiered last week in Texas at the Houston Science Museum and will be shown at several Imax theatres around the United States and Canada in the coming months.

In addition to inspiring viewers, perhaps even enticing some to visit Tanzania, the film may raise awareness regarding the looming loss of the snows of Kilimanjaro. Geologists calculate that more than 80 per cent of the mountain's glacier has melted since it was first mapped in 1912. If the current pace of warming continues, it is feared that Kili's summit will be snowless by 2020.

Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, is in Northern Tanzania on the border with Kenya. It has two summits. Kibo, which measures 5,896 metres high at Uhuru Peak, is the highest point. Kibo's top is always covered by snow and ice even though it is near the Equator. The other summit, Mawenzi, stands 5,148 metres high and has no snow or ice.

However, according to a German-Tanzania expedition that scaled the Kibo summit in 1999, the mountain is four metres lower than previously calculated.

Experts from Karsruhe University in Germany and Dar es Salaam University say the mountain measures 5,892 metres above sea level.

Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano, one of the string of volcanic cones formed at the same time as the Rift Valleys of East Africa.

Extract ID: 3386