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Kilimanjaro Factfile

At 19,340 feet, Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the only one of the seven summits (highest mountain on each continent) that is accessible without mountaineering equipment and experience.

It's the highest freestanding mountain in the world and one of the largest volcanoes, dormant rather than extinct.

On the summit, the lungs can only absorb half the amount of oxygen compared to sea-level.

The summit at Uhuru Peak is more than 1,600 feet higher than Everest base camp.

Estimates vary, but around 20,000 people attempt to climb Kilimanjaro each year. Almost half fail to reach the summit.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

One for the girls

TMI for male readers. For my first product review in this blog I can say that the Shewee is better than the proverbial sliced bread, even for women who aren't planning on climbing halfway into space. It's a brilliant invention, and like all the best innovative products, it's simple and cheap. I wish I could remember on which Kilimanjaro blog I first read about it last month. It sounded potentially useful for any long journey, and especially for trekking at altitude – those five to six litres of water to be drunk each day to stave off Acute Mountain Sickness have to exit sometime. Well, a lot of times, in fact. The thought of having to leave my tent four or five times each freezing night is definitely not one of the anticipated highlights of the trip. So, the Shewee, combined with an old mineral water bottle seemed an ideal solution to a perennial problem. A quick search on Ebay revealed at least a dozen suppliers. My Shewee arrived this morning and I immediately saw an unexpected bonus for the Kilimanjaro trip. All that water isn't only a nuisance at night on the mountain. It also means many short diversions behind the nearest tree or rock during each day's climbing. And despite the wilderness setting, there will be plenty of people around – other trekkers, guides and porters, sometimes passing in both directions. That's probably not too much of a problem in the rainforest or areas strewn with lava boulders and rocky outcrops to give cover, but the final two days before the summit will be spent in a lunar landscape and on open scree slopes. In the lunar desert, everyone can see – well, just about everything. So, this neat little invention that fits easily into a pocket will put any woman on even footing with the men on the expedition (and that could well be a pun – keep those boots out of range). Put simply, it allows women to pee standing up and without undressing. It's brilliant, and it works. Five stars, without a doubt.

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