Pre­his­tory

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Kil­i­man­jaro, Tan­za­nia

I con­fess I wasn’t to­tally con­cen­trat­ing on Kil­i­man­jaro’s ge­ol­ogy as I wheezed up the vol­cano’s high­est flanks. Per­haps I should have been: mulling the ori­gins of this Rift Val­ley be­he­moth, the re­sult of a lava spew 750,000 years ago, might have dis­tracted from the breath-steal­ing al­ti­tude.

Hans Meyer was the first to make the top in 1889; now, around 35,000 peo­ple at­tempt Kil­i­man­jaro each year. Many do not suc­ceed. It’s not an overly tech­ni­cal climb, it’s just so high: 19,340ft, the con­ti­nent’s high­est point. And de­spite loi­ter­ing a few clicks south of the equa­tor, its summit is capped with snow.

My climb, via the Machame route, wound from cloud for­est to moor­land, to moon-like up­per slopes – a les­son in vol­canol­ogy made 3D, with the added poignancy of pass­ing Kili’s shrink­ing glaciers, likely to be gone in a mat­ter of years. It was dawn when I reached the summit, per­fect for watch­ing a time­less sun­rise over Africa. Point in time: 750,000 years ago (Kil­i­man­jaro be­gan to form) Length: From 28 miles; 6-10 days Dif­fi­culty: Stren­u­ous Best months: Jan-March, June-Oct

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