On Africa’s Roof, Still Crowned With Snow

26 January 2008 | 04:59 Code : 16607 Geoscience events
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THICK veil of snow had settled on Kilimanjaro the morning after my group....

  THICK veil of snow had settled on Kilimanjaro the morning after my group arrived in Tanzania. Over breakfast, we gazed at the peak filling the sky above the palm trees of our hotel courtyard in Moshi, the town closest to the mountain. It was as Hemingway described it: “as wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun.”I had wanted to climb to the roof of Africa before climate change erased its ice fields and the romance of its iconic “Snows of Kilimanjaro” image. But as we trudged across the 12,000-foot Shira plateau on Day 2 of our weeklong climb and gazed at the whiteness of the vast, humpbacked summit, I thought maybe I needn’t have worried.An up-and-down-and-up traverse of the south face of Kibo, the tallest of the mountain’s three volcanic peaks, showed us a panorama of the summit ice cap and fractured tentacles of glacial ice that dangled down gullies dividing the vertical rock faces. And four days later, when we reached 19,340-foot Uhuru, the highest point on Kibo, we beheld snow and ice fields so enormous as to resemble the Arctic. It looked nothing like the photographs of Kibo nearly denuded of ice and snow in the Al Gore documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Nor did it seem to jibe with the film’s narrative: “Within the decade, there will be no more snows of Kilimanjaro.”


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