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#38991 - 07/30/12 12:54 AM Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, by Greg McKay
James Morrissey Offline
I
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/11/05
Loc: Manhattan, New York, New York
Greg McKay shares the experience of having climbed one of the world's tallest mountain peaks with the Nature, Wildlife and Pet Photography Forum!


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#38992 - 07/30/12 01:02 AM Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, by Greg McKay [Re: James Morrissey]
James Morrissey Offline
I
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/11/05
Loc: Manhattan, New York, New York
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro has always been a bit of a dream for me. I was so excited when I finally got the opportunity to not only go on Safari in Africa, but also to climb it's highest point. While the trip was wonderful, getting there was a bit of an ordeal. After a very long flight from London to Nairobi and then a short hop from Nairobi to just over the Tanzania border, and a protracted experience getting my bags in customs, I was finally at the Kilimanjaro International Airport!



At the airport, I was greeted by Zach, my American guide, who then whisked me away to the Springlands Hotel. I was told by Zach that I had to start drinking at least four to six liters of water per day to get hydrated for the climb. Altitude sickness is a very common problem on the mountain and it is almost completely preventable by simply drinking enough water. Living in the desert, I thought I drank a lot of water but boy was I surprised. By the time we arrive at our hotel in the small town of Moshi, I had already finished a 1.5 liter bottle and was handed another. That was par for the course for the next 36 hours. You almost never saw me without the bottle in my hand.

Pulling into our hotel through the compound gates, I was quite impressed. It really is a tropical paradise near the edge of town, and I was fortunate to call it home for the next two days.



That evening, there was a large celebration in the hotel courtyard. I learned that it is a group of seventeen climbers that had all just returned from successfully summiting Kilo. After the climb, they were all presented with a certificate of their accomplishment. The celebration definitely got me excited for my upcoming quest!



On my first morning in Tanzania, and I woke up to overhear someone say “Did you see it??” I knew immediately what they are talking about. Kilimanjaro is normally shrouded in clouds by late morning and not easily seen. I rushed to the front gate and caught my first glimpse of what’s to come. I suddenly felt very tiny and I began to find myself questioning my sanity. "Why on earth am I here?" It is really hard to describe the feeling that I had when I first saw this huge mountain rising up out of the jungle. It was then that it really hit me that I was over 60 miles as the crow flies from the summit.



A fact that many people are not aware of is that Kilimanjaro is the highest free standing mountain in the world. Sure there are plenty of other mountains that are much higher but with Kilo standing alone it just seems to be a bit more impressive then some of the other peaks.
We headed to the trail head, which turned out to be a 6 hour drive. We did make one stop along the way to pick up our climbing permits and I was checked out by this little fellow.



We then passed through what can best be described as a "banana bizarre" where all of the locals bring their crops to a central location to be sold. It was quite the experience.



Finally, we arrived at the trailhead. I snapped this shot as our Guide, Zach, began to go over our the itineary of first few hours on the trail. In the background, our porters for this adventure were consolidating all of our gear with the group and preparing to head out.



Our first night's camp looked very much the same for the next few days except for the eventual snow that we would begin to encounter.



I have to say that it really was a first class operation! They even set up our tents for us and provided warm water waiting so that we could wash up before each hot meal.

Since I had chosen the Rongai route, we were starting our journey on the North East side of the summit. The NE summit is less busy than the routes on the Southern side of the summit. Because it was so quiet, we really felt like we had the entire park to ourselves! We only ran into a couple of other groups the entire time up until we reached our high camp.

For the first few days, we headed almost due South towards Mawenzi Peak. On the fourth day, we camped at the base of Mawenzi before heading West towards Kibo, the main summit. The following shot was taken on the morning of day three. In this shot you can see Mawenzi peak to the left.



Every day leading up to the summit attempt is pretty much the same until the morning of day five, when I was awakened at 4:45am to the sound of my tent collapsing onto me from the weight of the overnight snowfall. To say that I was a little bit startled would be the understatement of the year!

My tent after sunrise and a bit of repair work.



This next shot is me preparing to leave camp after our harrowing morning of digging out of the snow.



Halfway to our high camp, at an altitude of 15,450’, during a short break, I snapped these two shots to show just what it’s like to walk for six hours through a complete whiteout. Amazingly enough, Killian, our African guide walked us straight to our high camp.





Colleen, one of my climbing partners, gave me an exhausted smile as we rest at Kibo Huts, our high camp.



We Awoke around 11pm because we had to leave for the summit at midnight. I snapped this shot of our camp lit by the full moon.



After trudging at a snail’s pace for nearly six hours, we finally arrived at the the crater rim for this amazing sunrise shot.



I have taken better sunrise photos in my day, but the feeling of accomplishment at this point completely overwhelmed me. Unfortunately, we still had another 2.5 hours to go before we were to reach the actual summit at Uhuru Peak. There was not a lot of time to take pics between the sunrise shot above and the summit photo below as we were on a tight time table to get to the summit and get down off the peak before the clouds rolled in again. Eventually we do made it though! My official summit time is recorded as 8:04 AM.



By 11:30 AM, we were back at our high camp for a short rest before plowing full speed down the mountain. Every step we took got us into thicker and thicker air. It felt great! Our very slow, gradual ascent the last 6 days turned into an all out race to the bottom. We made it to the gate and our return shuttle bus in just two days.

After returning to the hotel, and a much deserved shower, our group headed out into town for a celebratory dinner and our certificate presentation.



It sort of reminds me of that old joke..."My parents went to (insert location here) and all I got was this lousy t-shirt." Well, I got the certificate and a t-shirt but I now also have the bragging rights of being able to tell folks that I have summited at least one of the Seven Summits!

Stay tuned Greg's next installment of his African trip - his safari!
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Manhattan, New York, NY Pet Photographer


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#38993 - 07/30/12 01:47 AM Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, by Greg McKay [Re: James Morrissey]
James Morrissey Offline
I
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/11/05
Loc: Manhattan, New York, New York


About Greg McKay:

I was born and raised in Louisiana, Greg grew up around cameras. My dad always had the latest and greatest for the time. He wasn’t a professional photographer but he was a professional “Dad,” raising 6 kids and always capturing the moments.

As I grew older, it was only natural for me to pick up a camera since none of my other brothers or sisters seemed to have any interest in it. As early as high school I remember being fascinated with photography and my first camera was a Canon A-1. Along the way I picked up an AE-1 Program as well as a Pentax K1000 that I used over the years for my astrophotography.

Out of high school I started a career in television as a cameraman and commercial editor that helped me hone my “eye” for composition. In 1996 I left the television world and started working in the Convention AV business and that’s what eventually brought me to Las Vegas, the convention capital of the world it seems.

In 2004 I was once again bitten by the camera bug and purchased the Canon 20D. From there it was a natural progression to the 5D then the 5D Mark II that I’m currently shooting with. Nature, landscaping and animals are my passion but I shoot across the spectrum from conventions to portraits to landscapes.

About the only field I haven’t attempted is wedding photography. I have a great deal of respect for the guys and gals that can handle that kind of pressure but it’s a cutthroat business here in Las Vegas so I have no desire to compete with those here that love doing it.

Anyone interested in reading about the entire adventure can find the story in my blog archive from March 2012 at http://siriusproductionsllc.blogspot.com

Find the link to the archive in the right-hand column or go through it day by day beginning here: http://siriusproductionsllc.blogspot.com/2012/03/day-one-las-vegas-to-london.html

At the bottom of each page there is a link to the “Newer Post” that will take you to the next day.



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Manhattan, New York, NY Pet Photographer


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#38994 - 07/30/12 01:52 AM Re: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, by Greg McKay [Re: James Morrissey]
James Morrissey Offline
I
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/11/05
Loc: Manhattan, New York, New York

Just a friendly reminder that this article is copyrighted 2012, Nature, Wildlife and Pet Photography Forum. It was written by Greg McKay, and edited by James Morrissey. The photographs are the sole property of Greg McKay. If you like the story, please feel free to pass the link on to a friend.
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