February 27, 2011

Towards the summit of Kilimanjaro

Chapter 7 – Always higher

Thomas Kieller

Photos – Copyright United Athletes Magazine

The duo of climbers (Mtuy and Kieller) on the Shira Plateau.

After passing through the zigzagging route in the forest, we arrived to the vast Shira Plateau which stretches out over 6,000 hectares. The contrast between the vegetation of the underwood and the various flora of the plateau is striking. The plants of numerous forms are growing, there and there, on the rocky land. So, we continued the ascent by walking on the volcanic dirt where the altitude varies between 3,400 and 3,900 meters.

Now, I was feeling the effects of the 100 km covered in four days. I did not have the same vitality if I compare to the start! I was not complaining of this situation, no way, I was looking for it. The challenge of the activity and the pleasure of surpassing oneself in this kind of environment are parts of the game. One must work out the muscles before reaching the highest point of Africa. Ha ha ha! Besides, I must say that despite the repetitive movements of the walk, the body adjusts rapidly. In a natural way, I followed the rhythm without thinking about the distance already covered.

When I saw for the first time, far way, the peak of Kilimanjaro in the sky, I can tell you that I felt a sensation of pleasure which motivated me to go further.

I continued the ascent in the wild alpine moor where the vegetation becomes rare. It was a sign that in altitude life is more difficult. Besides, fauna diminishes a lot. However, some animals adventure themselves there. Probably, they find what they are looking for...

The more one progresses in altitude, the more the landscape changes to leave just the alpine desert. Among the great quantity of greyish dust and volcanic rocks which are on the ground, nature surprises us one more time. Indeed, millions of years ago the Kibo, the last of the three volcanoes which has shaped the Kilimanjaro with its eruptions, left its signature in an unequivocal and artistic manner. A huge black, red and grey block of rock of approximately thirty meters high called Lava Tower completes the landscape. It is there just, in front of us, sculpted really high.

Lava Tower: A huge black, red and grey block of rock.

Well, at 4,642 meters of altitude, we camped near this tower of rock. Under a chilly temperature (below 0 degrees Celsius), I rested next to my tent while watching the scenery before me...