JGIA Kilimanjaro Climb for Chimps
Rising majestically from the rainforests of the East African plains, the snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro is a breathtaking sight. To stand at its summit is to literally stand on top of the world.
The Climb for Chimps will see the team trek over six days from cultivated farmlands to lush rainforest, through alpine meadow and across a barren lunar-like landscape and finally to the summit where they’ll witness the incredible view of the sun awakening the East African plains below.
JGIA Kilimanjaro Climb for Chimps
Did you know that we have lost 90% of wild chimpanzees over the past 20 years? Or that chimpanzees and humans share almost 99% of DNA? Biologically, chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than they are to gorillas, yet the impact we are having on their environment means their future is uncertain.
Humans pose many threats to great apes. From habitat loss, owing to farming and mining, to the demand for bush meat and illegal pet trade, the chimpanzee is suffering due to lack of awareness and weak law enforcement. In addition, the communities surrounding the chimpanzees are often dealing with over population, poverty, conflict and corruption. To make a difference in these areas, as JGI does, requires a holistic approach, an approach that involves animals, people and the environment.
Chimpanzees are already an endangered species and are largely confined to the forests of Equatorial Africa as their last remaining stronghold. It was estimated there were 1 million apes in 1900. Today, there are estimated to be 170,000-300,000 chimpanzees left in Africa, and their population is decreasing rapidly. In fact the chimp population has decreased 90% in the past 20 years.
The money raised by the Climb for Chimps will go towards our programs in Africa, including the Gombe Stream Research Center, which works towards the ongoing preservation and restoration of chimpanzee communities within Gombe National Park, and supports the rangers who care for them. Additionally, funds raised will help Jane Goodall Institute Australia protect endangered chimpanzees and their habitat by working with communities in Africa to build better and more environmentally sustainable livelihoods.
Your support will ensure that our Africa Programs can continue to conserve, protect and restore chimpanzees’ habitats and surrounding communities in Africa. In addition, your support will help us maintain much needed sanctuaries, which provide a lifelong home for orphaned and injured chimpanzees.
Day 1, Saturday 11 February
JAMBO and Karibu (Welcome) to Tanzania!!
We’re all excited to meet up with everyone on the team in Arusha today, there’s lots of hand shaking and a few beers at the lodge as the group shares their enthusiasm for the trip.
The Gombe Five (Mark, Polly, Jeff, Laura and Alex) have had a great warm up over the last week bushwacking in the jungle and were treated to some extremely close encounters with the resident chimps – a fantastic experience overall so far. Photos on the way!
After spending the day enjoying the hotel swimming pool and some local food we are all headed to bed for an early night in readiness for the start of our trek tomorrow.
Excited much?! Bring it on.
(The next blog updates may be delayed as the team climb in and out of mobile phone coverage on the mountain.)
Day 2, Sunday 12 February
Trek to Simba Camp
This morning we met with our guides and some of the porters that are accompanying us on our journey. Imran, our head guide, tells us there are even more porters waiting for us at Rongai, around 30 in total – this is some undertaking!
The sun is shining as we set off on the 3hr bumpy drive to beginning of the trail at the North East of Kilimanjaro. After lunch it’s finally time to get started, we are raring to go but slow and steady – or Polé Polé – is the name of the game, which is a lot more difficult than it looks! Teams of porters race past carrying ridiculously large loads – how on earth do they do it, our packs are heavy enough in the heat! Clearly they are the pros, having done this many times, as it looks all too easy for them. Once we settle into our rhythm, we really start to appreciate our surroundings; thick rainforest gives way to ferns and shrubbery as we climb higher and we spot baboons near to the right of the trail. We reach Simba Camp early evening and eat a well earned and unexpectedly delicious dinner before settling in to camp for the night. Its chilly as the sun goes down – how cold will it be in a few days time we wonder?!
Day 3, Monday 13 February
Today was a tough one!
We started climbing straight out of Simba Camp over uneven ground and rocky outcrops; it was relentless and unforgiving and the mental strain from concentrating on feet and poles was evident after a while. Four hours later we stopped for a much needed hot lunch at Second Cave, and then it was on again into the clouds until we reached our final destination at Kikelewa Caves.
By the end of the day, we had climbed over 1km in altitude in only 5km horizontal distance – and boy were we feeling it! We arrived tired and thirsty into camp, the altitude is certainly beginning to take it’s toll on a few of us, but hey, we’re all still smiling! I think we will all sleep well tonight!
Day 4-5, Tuesday and Wednesday 14-15 February
Today we have a shorter (but steep!) climb to Mawenzi Tarn, a mountainside lake. We’ll spend the night here and rest tomorrow so that we have the best chance of making it to the summit in just a few days!
Day 6, Thursday 16 February
Today we rose early to start walking to Kibo Camp – Kilimanjaro Basecamp. We crossed the saddle between Mawenzi Peak and Mt Kilimanjaro, a trek that took us the best part of 6 hours, through a barren and inhospitable alpine desert – likened to the surface of the moon. Although there was only a little climbing involved today, this stretch was gruelling in its own way – a monotonous bleak landscape, dusty hot and windy, the team were pretty exhausted by the time we reached base camp. But here we were, at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro at last! We were left to rest and acclimatize for the rest of the day, interrupted only for an early dinner in preparation for our summit attempt at midnight. We were thoroughly briefed before hitting the sack at around 1800 and went to our beds in several layers of warm clothing – we were ready.
Day 7, Friday 17 February
Wake up call came at 2300, on went the warm layers and the headtorches, then it was a quick cup of tea and we were off – this was it!!
We started climbing in pitch black darkness under clear skies spotted with stars. It was tough going, steep and the ground underfoot was little more than rubble. It was a case of one step forward, 2 steps back at times.
The team dug deep and finally, there was the top and beyond, the crater of Kilimanjaro. We did it!!! Some of us continued over to Uhuru Peak while the others were happy to rest at Gilmans point, taking in the sunrise. The temperature was face-numbingly cold so after a short break we set off back down the mountain, skiing Kili-style down the scree slope.
Once back down, the days exercise was only half over – we still had to walk 5hrs to Horombo camp to spend the night! Safe to say, we were all absolutely exhausted but elated by the time we hit our sleeping bags tonight, after 16hrs trekking and over 3 vertical kilometres travelled in 24hrs. What a team!! Fantastic effort by all.
Day8, Saturday 18 February
And just like that, it’s our last day. We were more than happy to say goodbye to our tents (love them or hate them!!) and walk the last 6 hrs to Marangu Gate, where we were picked up by bus and delivered back to KIA lodge, the promise of a hot shower and a cold beer.
It’s been an amazing adventure, once which started months ago for the team with training, fundraising, and finally, climbing for chimps! Congratulations guys!!