Name ID 2341
The cynical could look upon the large numbers of trekkers climbing Kili as evidence that this is a relatively easy mountain to scale. For further proof, they could also point to those for whom the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro simply wasn’t, well, challenging enough, and who deliberately went out of their way to make the ascent more difficult for themselves, just for the hell of it. Men such as the Brazilian who jogged right up to the summit in just 24 hours. Or the Crane brothers from England who cycled up, surviving on Mars Bars strapped to their handlebars. And the anonymous Spaniard who, in the 1970s, drove up to the summit by motorbike. Nor must we forget Douglas Adams, the author of the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, who in 1994 reached the summit for charity while wearing an eight-foot rubber rhinoceros costume; and finally there’s the (possibly apocryphal) story of the man who walked backwards the entire way in order to get into the Guinness Book of Records – only to find out, on his return to the bottom, that he had been beaten by somebody who had done exactly the same thing just a few days previously.
And that’s just the ascent; for coming back down again the mountain has witnessed skiing, a method first practised by Walter Furtwangler way back in 1912; snowboarding, an activity pioneered on Kili by Stephen Koch in 1997; and even hang-gliding, for which there was something of a fad a few years ago.
Cyclists to skiers, heroes to half-wits, bikers to boarders to backward walkers: it’s no wonder, given the sheer number of people who have climbed Kili over the past century, and the ways in which they’ve done so, that so many believe that climbing Kili is something of a doddle. And you’d be forgiven for thinking the same.
You’d be forgiven – but you’d also be wrong. Whilst these stories of successful expeditions tend to receive a lot of coverage, they serve to obscure the tales of suffering and tragedy that often go with them. You don’t, for example, hear much about the hang-glider who leapt off Kili a few years ago and was never seen again. Or the fact that the Brazilian who jogged up spent the next week in hospital recovering from severe high-altitude pulmonary oedema. And for all the coverage of the Millennium celebrations, when over 7000 people stood on the slopes of Kilimanjaro during New Year’s week – with a 1000 on New Year’s Eve alone – little mention was made of the fact that three people died on Kilimanjaro in those seven days. Or that another 33 had to be rescued. Or that well over a third of all the people who took part in those festivities failed to reach the summit, or indeed get anywhere near it.