Seeing in the New Millennium
Kilimanjaro on New Year’s Eve Flashback
On the 31st December 1999, just before midnight, 14 of us were on the summit of Kilimanjaro sheltering from the icy wind. A dream had come true and we had the summit to ourselves. The EWP group were the last people of the 20th Century to be on the summit – and the first in the New Millennium. Far below we could see the lights of Moshi and Arusha, further south, on the horizon, rising from a silvery carpet of mists, rose ranges of mountains silhouetted against a starry sky.
Two bottles of Champagne lubricated our throats for a toast to the New Millennium. Then we let off a flare and started down to our camp in the crater and the warmth of our sleeping bags. As we walked down we saw probably as many as 500 head torches starting up the scree slopes below us – groups setting off to see the first sunrise in the New Millennium.
A record number of walkers were on the mountain and all routes were packed out. We had chosen to go up the little used Lemosho Route which we shared with only one other group. On the way down we were one of the first to leave the Mweka huts, it took us about 5 minutes to get clear of the seemingly endless campsites. Things had certainly changed a lot since my first ascent of the Mweka route in 1982 when my guide had to cut a path through the undergrowth and we saw nobody else on the mountain for a whole week.
The excitement is over now, calm has returned to the mountain. If you are thinking of climbing Kilimanjaro consider the Lemosho for a long walk-in through remote forest; Umbwe for a fast tough and dramatic approach and Machame as a compromise combining time for acclimatisation with some magnificent ice scenery. If however you are not a strong mountain walker or are short of time then the Marangu offers a varied, beautiful approach in relative comfort.