Kilimanjaro at 15,200 feet

In February of 2006 I went to Tanzania with a group of friends in order to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.  I'll save you the suspense, I didn't summit.  The first day of the climb reaches 10,000 feet and for the next week stays higher than that.  After six days on the trail having hardly slept and suffering from altitude sickness I left my group at Barafu camp at 15,000 feet and went back down the mountain.  This was after a dead man was rolled through our camp and left briefly in front of my tent.  I knew once I saw that body that I couldn't possibly tell my daughter that it was more important to me that I climb that mountain than it was to come home alive to her, even though the odds of dying on the mountain were probably less than the odds of dying during my morning commute.  Why it didn't occur to me that my son might be equally concerned I don't know.  Regardless, I spent the next 6 hours down climbing from 15k to 10k, where I spent the first night in a week in air that I could actually breathe.  

Despite the physical unpleasantness the trip was an amazing experience.  The only real bummer (aside from some discomfort and a dead guy) was that I didn't realize that we would have an opportunity to go on safari so I only brought a super lightweight 18-55mm zoom lens.  On the APSC sensor Pentax *istDS that is a fairly wide to slightly tele zoom. That is not an optimal safari lens but it is a good landscape lens.  We did get a chance to safari through the Great Rift Valley so I have some really nice photos of really small animals really far away.  Fortunately we did get to see a few animals rather close up.   I had elephants pass within an arms length, impalas, hippos and wildebeest within forty feet, so I did get some good photos of those which I'll share at some point.

I took this shot from the trail close to Barafu camp, at 15,200 feet.  That light colored line is the trail up which we had just slowly climbed from the Great Baranco Wall below the far ridge to a ridge line some 2000 feet higher. If you look at the bottom right quadrant of the photo you can see a couple of climbers on the trail behind us, to give you an idea of the scale of this view.  The landscape at this altitude is barren, no trees and only a few gnarled and stunted bushes clinging to the rocks.  The trail is obvious and easy to find, worn barren by the thousands of boots which shuffle up every year.  

Clearly, once I got to Barafu camp my mind was not on photography, because while I took over 600 photos on this trip, the next shot on my camera after this one was of Mweka Hut at 10,000 feet.