ASU alumna shared impression about her ascent of Kilimanjaro

3 March 2017 Faculty of Geography
At the beginning of January 2017 Faculty of Geography alumna Marina Tankova conquered the highest peak of Africa – Mount Kilimanjaro. Last week she told the audience about her journey at the lecture organized by Altai Krai Branch of Russian Geographical Society.

Kilimanjaro is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tanzania. The name “Kilimanjaro” can be translated from Swahili as “the shining mountain”.

Kilimanjaro occupies an area of 388,500 ha. It is a large stratovolcano and is composed of three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo (Uhuru Peak – 5,895 m), Mawenzi (5,149 m) and Shira (4,005 m). Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

The mountain formed over a million years ago due to active eruptions and has a distinctive shape. Although volcanic activity of Kilimanjaro is not documented officially, there is an evidence that the latest eruption took place about two centuries ago, which is quite recent. Currently, Mount Kilimanjaro is considered to be a dormant volcano that can become active at any time. Sulfur and greenhouse gas emissions have been observed recently, while research has shown that lava is only 400 meters from the earth surface.

Marina Tankova shared her impressions about the trip.

– Marina, what did you feel when you first saw Kilimanjaro?

– There are a lot of peaks that are more beautiful than Kilimanjaro. They are picturesque and pierce the sky, but nonetheless Kilimanjaro is inimitable. Any pupil knows that it is the highest mountain of Africa, but it is not enough. You need to see it with you own eyes to appreciate its beauty. You travel around the green country in tropical heat and suddenly notice an ice peak! It is absolutely incredible!

– Why did you decide to climb Kilimanjaro?

– I determined five reasons to climb this very mountain:

  1. Kilimanjaro lies within the Great African Rift Valley and is the highest point of Africa. It is listed in the Seven Summits program created for those, who want to climb the highest mountains of each of the seven continents.
  2. While climbing, a traveler has to pass through 5 main climatic zones. You begin ascending in the wet tropics and finish on the snow-covered peak. A person successively crosses the majority of the earth climatic zones, because of altitudinal zonation and proximity to the equator.
  3. According to Forbes Traveler, Kilimanjaro is one of the most beautiful volcanos on our planet.
  4. By the projections of scientists, Kilimanjaro may soon lose its main adornment: the ice cap becomes smaller from year to year. I had to hurry! Over the recent 100 years the amount of snow and ice decreased by more than 80% due to the reduction in the number of snowfalls.
  5. The ascend of Kilimanjaro is regarded as technically simple, although it requires climbing equipment and some experience in mountaineering.

– What is the main secret for successful climbing?

– It is crucial to prepare the right program for altitude acclimatization, which will allow your body to adapt to new conditions.  Around 15 thousand people try to conquer Kilimanjaro every year, but only 60% reach the peak of the mountain. A number of travelers die of altitude illness each year, because they underestimated the danger. The golden rule is not to hurry. If you feel sick, you should make it down and wait until the symptoms disappear.

– Kilimanjaro is located on the territory of a national park. Is organization of journeys and ascents regulated and controlled?

– Yes, of course. After Kilimanjaro National Park was opened for tourists in 1977, administration of national parks in Tanzania have established a strict set of regulations for ascents in order to preserve unique ecological complex of Kilimanjaro and provide safety for climbers.

In particular, the entrance to the park is charged, there are so-called “park fees”. Regardless of whether you are going to climb the mountain or not, you will have to pay for every day you spend in the park. Tourists must follow only officially approved climbing routes while ascending Kilimanjaro. Base camps are set only in specific places. Rangers keep camps in order and require the same of the tourists.

In any camp you should undergo the process of registration. According to the laws of Tanzania, you can only climb Kilimanjaro in the presence of guides and porters. It is customary to tip guides and porters.

– What route did you take? How many climbing routes are there?

– All in all, there are 5 routes for ascend approved by administration of national parks in Tanzania and 1 special route for descend. Marangu or Coca Cola route is the most “civilized”, well-established and busy route equipped with huts for sleeping and life-saving stations. It is considered to be the easiest path on the mountain. Machame is a difficult route and is recommended for experienced travelers. Nonetheless, it is heavily crowded. Lemosho is considered to be the most beautiful route and optimal for altitude adaptation. Rongai is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north and is low traffic. Umbwe is a short, steep and direct route, which is mostly recommended for strong and confident hikers. Mweka is a route, which is used for descend.

We chose Machame route. It is one of the most popular routes and difficult at the same time. It is recommended for adventuruous tourists with hiking experience. The path is very beautiful, especially when you climb the mountain on the eastern side and can see the peak from different perspectives. We saw unique eternal ice and signs of volcanic activity within the Reusch Crater.

– When is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?

– January and February are considered to be the best months for climbing Kilimanjaro, as it is the driest and warmest season with light rain showers. The average temperature in January and February is about 30°C, humidity is high. The temperature gradually falls and reaches 10–12°C below zero on the peak of the mountain. The weather is wonderful in the early morning. It can start raining after lunch. It was also snowing when we started descending. That is why you will be wearing shorts and a T-shirt at the beginning and arctic clothes at the end of your expedition.

– What can you wish to the students majoring in geography?

– It is a dream of each geographer to visit the most interesting places of our planet. I graduated from ASU Faculty of Geography and I am grateful for that, as it helped me turn tourism into my work and hobby. I wish every student of the Faculty of Geography to find their vocation and to travel more, because you can obtain the deepest knowledge only by traveling around the world.

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