ICE CLIMBING AT KILIMANJARO: Will Gadd faces climate change realities ascending Kilimanjaro
ICE CLIMBING AT KILIMANJARO: Canadian ice climbing legend Will Gadd revisited the highest point in Africa back in February 2020 to make the last ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania before climate change sees the ice glacier melt away forever. “The Last Ascent” is the title of the film documenting the return of Will Gadd to Kilimanjaro. The documentary follows Gadd’s effort to ice-climb the disappearing glaciers around the world, including at the highest peak in Africa at 5,895m.
Let’s start with a piece of the film
ICE CLIMBING AT KILIMANJARO:
Will Gadd faces climate change realities ascending Kilimanjaro
KILIMANJARO, THE ROOF OF AFRICA (5.895M)
Kilimanjaro, with its 5,895m is the roof of Africa. A mountain of legend, located in the northeast of Tanzania. It is actually made up of three dormant volcanoes: Shira to the west, at 3962m: Mawenzi, to the east at 5149m, and the dominant Kibo between them. The highest is also the most recent from a geological point of view. The top of the volcano, Uhuru rises to 5,895m.
Not only is it the highest mountain in Africa, it is also the highest isolated mountain in the world. It offers a prominence 4,900 m high from its base on the plateau. At the time it was well known for the famous ice fields at its summit, which gave title to such famous books as “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” published by Ernest Hemingway in 1936 that led to the film of the same name, released in 1952 with none other than Gregory Peck, Susan Howard and Ava Gardner in the cast.
This mythical glacier has been drastically shrinking since the beginning of the 20th century. It is estimated that any of these years will disappear completely, no later than 2050. The creation of the Kilimanjaro National Park in 1973 has not been able to stop the phenomenon: The forest belt continues to narrow, as the mountain is home to the Maasai herders in the north and west, who need high meadows to graze their herds. As well as the Chagga peasants to the south and east, who cultivate increasingly extensive plots in the foothills, despite a process of awareness that began at the beginning of the 21st century.
The Last Ascent: The film by Will Gadd
Canadian ice climbing legend Will Gadd revisited the highest point in Africa back in February 2020 to make the last ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania before climate change sees the ice glacier melt away forever.
Researchers in 2000 predicted that the ice on the 5,895m high dormant volcano in the Eastern Rift mountains may disappear by 2020, prompting Gadd’s desire to return this year. In 2014, Gadd, Sarah Hueniken and photographer Christian Pondella first ascended the unique glacier ice features formed by melting factors that are unique to the tropics with the new expedition seeing them return there as well as tackling the tough Messner Route.
A new 45-minute film on Red Bull TV documents the decline of the ice glacier and Gadd’s trip back to climb some of it before rising equatorial temperatures see it disappear. For this attempt Douglas Hardy, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who has maintained a weather station atop Kilimanjaro since 2000, also joined the group. Using Hardy’s pinpoint GPS mapping, the team was able to establish that some of the glacier fins lost nearly 70 per cent of their ice mass in the elapsed period between trips.
Known for his Frozen Falls, Beneath the Ice and Ireland Sea Stacks Red Bull projects, Gadd, explained: “The thing about this trip that is most important to me is to show people this change in a way that a graph and a newspaper can’t. We think of climate change as being a relatively slow process, but just five years made a world of difference up there. When you look at the cumulative effects of what we saw, it’s quite fast. I always thought of climate change as a future problem. It’s going to be a lot faster, at times, than we think it is.”
ICE CLIMBING AT KILIMANJARO: PHOTO GALLERY BY CHRISTIAN PONDELLA, FOR REDBULL