July 20, 2011

Towards the summit of Kilimanjaro

Chapter 6 – At the summit of Africa

Thomas Kieller

Photos – Copyright United Athletes Magazine

After a short rest in the crater, I took the final assault towards the summit with Simon Mtuy. Indeed, my adventure on the Kilimanjaro was almost ending. I felt a bit sad because it was almost over after a week of climbing, but at the same time, I knew I was reaching my final objective.

I told Simon who was a few meters in front of me: "Give me the rhythm of the walk." And like a metronome, the record holder of the fastest ascent and descent of Kilimanjaro (without assistance) was climbing slowly in an assured manner. I was enjoying every step which brought me a little bit closer to the summit.

By taking a short pause on a boulder while discussing with Simon, I made a retrospective of the adventures of the last days. It’s in these moments that we feel good by all the actions taken. At approximately twenty meters from the highest point of Africa, I felt a great satisfaction and my arrival at the summit marked work well done.

The team at Arrow Glacier Camp.

Besides, the peak of Kilimanjaro is named in Swahili Uhuru which can be translated in English by the word "Independence". This part of the mountain has a symbolic value for Tanzanians and represents a significant episode of their country. Indeed, they gained their independence in 1964 which is quite recent. It is the sensation of being free that we feel at 5,895 meters of altitude when we look down and we see the ancient glaciers, the crater and the forms of the mountain with its different colours.

During this good moment, I took my microphone in order to exchange with Simon on his passion which is the mountain, on Kilimanjaro and on everything this volcano offers concerning sceneries, nature and human values which are brought out during an ascent. This interview had a particular meaning for me due to the African context, the incredible scenery and it was done in high altitude where respiration is quite different!

The forms and the colours of the crater of Kilimanjaro.

Afterwards, we left the summit by running on the flank of the mountain and by sliding in the volcanic ash in order to arrive lower to the camp. Before the sunset, I took a last look at the summit of Kilimanjaro... and I understood the chance I had to live this singular adventure.