A climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro before the storied snows turn to dust
The summit of Africa’s highest peak, just south of the equator, also happens to be one of the wettest places in the world.
That’s what I found when I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, in a place that gets a few inches of rain each year. And my view wasn’t of the mountain or its surroundings. It was of a distant ridge of the mountain, and I could see the raindrops in it, and hear them, as I approached.
My route up Mt. Kilimanjaro included a short hike to Lake Victoria, a crater lake fed by the African-American Kibo Glacier, which descends from the peak to the valley floor. Because I hiked on the very top of the mountain where the water from the glacier enters, I got a view of the glacier’s retreat and the lake’s upper and lower edges. It gave me a feel for how the glacier and lake work together to cover the entire height of the Kilimanjaro.
On the way down
So I took in a few minutes of this from the top of the mountain, and then headed down the mountain, a quick descent over a steep trail. Then, after a couple of hours, a quick descent over a steep trail. Then, another hour (maybe less) of that, before I finally reached the campsite I had set up, with a large, soft-sided tent, wood-burning stove, an old sleeping bag and a backpack filled with books I had packed for the day.
Included among the books were books that have been important to me over the years, like Robert Frost’s The Place of Dead Roads, The Great American Road Trip, and The Road to Italy. I also had the book that inspired me to climb Kilimanjaro, John’s Wilderness, by David Montgomery, one of the early pioneers of mountaineering in the Andes. It has inspired me for many years. This day, though, was only my third time on Kilimanjaro.
Why Kilimanjaro? As much as it was about getting to Africa, it was also the first mountain I climbed when I was growing up. I