Kili Weather

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.

Friday, 27 April 2007

The month long hiatus in my travel plans is over at last. Lambing has finished -- with mixed results as usual. I decided not to enter the Black Mountain Roundabout walk after all, mainly because my pedometer indicated an average speed of 2.68 mph during a very un-taxing seven mile walk over my local hills that only involved an ascent and descent of a few hundred feet. I have to face the fact that I'm a slow walker (one of the penalties of being short in the leg). There's no way I could have completed the first twenty miles within the time allowed at this stage in my training. Fortunately, walking slowly is one of the keys to successfully reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro, so I'm naturally ahead of the game in one respect, at least.

Training has suffered, along with blogging and searching for a trekking group, during lambing. Lack of time and energy meant several missed swimming sessions and only one or two climbs up the farm each week with my weighted daypack. However, I think the numerous daily walks up the lambing field, often carrying twenty pounds of sheep feed or a couple of new-born lambs was mostly adequate replacement for my regular training regime.

I'm now in the process of buying a bicycle, which should increase my range of exercise. I gave up cycling years ago when I first moved up here into the hills; my old three-speed bike just wasn't capable of getting me up our precipitous Welsh slopes. Now, I've decided to invest in a mountain bike after borrowing one from a friend and discovering the joys of multiple low gears and suspension forks. Cycling has come a long way since I last sat on my trusty old three-speed. I've been bewildered by the choice of styles available – do I need a pure mountain bike, a trekking model or a hybrid? I've finally whittled down the choices to two models of 'comfort' mountain bikes, and will buy whichever I can get for the best price. Cycling should help build up leg muscle and give a good cardio-vascular workout without putting strain on my knees. I really need to save those knees for Kilimanjaro. Last week, I finally found another neoprene knee brace at reasonable cost, so I now have braces for both knees ready for the Kilimanjaro descent.

My new biometric passport arrived this week, complete with computer chip and dire warnings against damaging the chip. As letting it get too hot, too cold, bent or scratched will all cause potential damage, I can't see how it's going to last the lifetime of the little cardboard booklet. I do like the birds as passport wallpaper, though. Especially the red kite and the godwit, both a lot more recognisable than my own photo, so distorted by bad scanning (the passport office's work, not mine) and superimposed holographs that even my family and best friends wouldn't recognise me.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Progress (or lack of)

Preparations haven't gone well during the past week. Firstly, I've had a threatened head cold that's never quite made up its mind whether to turn into a full-blown streamer or just melt away. I gave swimming a miss last week because I just didn't feel up to it, and only took the dogs for a seven-mile walk over my own local hill at the weekend. Total height gain was only about 600 feet over some decidedly untaxing terrain, but at least the weather was pleasant – sunny with a light cold breeze. It didn't exactly blow away the incipient cold, but neither did it make me feel any worse.

Lambing has begun in earnest this week. I got little sleep last night, having slept on the sofa with my alarm clock set to go off every hour. Several freezing trips to the sheep shed eventually only resulted in one lamb being born at 5am. More sleepless nights are likely over the next three weeks, which will make it much harder to keep up the exercise regime. I'm still undecided about swimming tomorrow even if I feel able to leave the sheep for a couple of hours.

My equipment-buying spree is almost finished, as I now have everything I'll need for the trip other than small last minute purchases of medicines and snacks for the trek. Everything, that is, except the most important item of all – a good pair of boots. I've tried on the entire footwear section of three outdoor shops, including all the top brands and most popular lines with very limited success. They're all too loose, too tight, too narrow, too wide or just plain uncomfortable. The only pair that felt good on my feet were Meindl Borneo Pros – eye-wateringly expensive, of course – but I'm concerned they might be too heavy for my knees. I'm not convinced my knees are up to the task of dragging three pounds of leather up Kilimanjaro, especially on summit day. Lightweight fabric boots won't give the strength and support necessary for the summit descent, so I'm still hoping to find a suitable pair of leather boots. Time is not on my side, though, as they'll need a breaking in period of at least a few weeks before I leave for Tanzania.

I'm also having passport problems. My old one is due for renewal in August, so I sent it off together with the appropriate form, already filled in online and posted back to me by the passport office for signing. I've now received a letter from them saying my photograph has been rejected for being too light. As I paid £4 to have it taken in a booth in my local post office, I'm not pleased. I'm even less pleased with the replacement I had taken on Monday in the same booth (now fitted with proper blackout curtains, presumably in response to complaints from rejected customers). The original wasn't exactly flattering, but the most recent version makes me look like an extra in a horror film. At least they can't claim it's too light, even if it bears no resemblance to me.

And finally, I'm having no success in finding a trek operator that can give me the Kilimanjaro itinerary I want unless I'm willing to go alone rather than as part of a group. More on that subject later this week.