Climbers attempting Kilimanjaro barefoot

Climbing Kilimanjaro barefoot!A team of South African climbers has traveled to Tanzania, where they hope to climb Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain on the African continent, without wearing shoes. Over the next few days, these barefoot adventurers hope to scale the mountain in an effort to raise funds for a children’s hospital back home.

According to the group’s website, the team of five climbers, and their support crew, arrived on the mountain yesterday and started their ascent. Early on, they passed through a pine forest, which provided a soft surface for their bare feet, but as the day wore on, they entered a tropical rainforest, where the trail gave way to gravel instead. While that proved to be a more challenging surface to hike on, they still managed to reach their first camp without too many problems.

In the days ahead, things won’t quite be so easy however. Today, they’ll leave the forests behind completely and move into the alpine marshlands of Kilimanjaro. That zone is punctuated with lush grasses and strange plants, which, aside from a few thorny bushes, shouldn’t offer too much of a problem either. After that, it is on to the alpine desert, which is much rockier and harder to walk on, even while wearing boots. The final push to the summit will include plenty of volcanic scree, not to mention snow and ice. The cold temperatures on the final approach to the 19,340-foot summit may actually numb their feet from the pain – that is if they don’t lose a toe or two to frostbite first.

In order to make this barefoot climb, the team has established a set of rules that will govern their approach. Those rules dictate that they must walk or climb every meter of the mountain without wearing any kind of artificial or natural substance on their feet. Furthermore, they pledge to walk each day between their camps in this fashion, although it seems likely they’ll put on some comfy slippers when they reach their end point for the day.

By undertaking this trek, the team is hoping to raise funds for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in South Africa. 100% of the proceeds generated from the climb will go to that organization, which is one of the first of its kind in Africa.

Having climbed Kilimanjaro myself, I can’t imagine attempting it without shoes. My feet hurt at the end of a long day as it was, and that was while wearing a good pair of hiking boots. Going completely barefoot seems crazy to me, and I’ll be incredibly impressed if they actually make it.

Teen mountaineer completes Seven Summits

Jordan Romero completes the Seven Summits15 year old mountaineer Jordan Romero has completed his quest to climb the Seven Summits, the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents, and in the process became the youngest person to achieve that feat. On Christmas Eve, Jordan, along with father Paul and stepmother Karen, reached the top of the 16,050-foot Mt. Vinson in Antarctica, the last of the mountains on his list.

Jordan first dreamed of climbing the Seven Summits after seeing a mural on the iconic peaks in his grade school. He was just ten years old at the time. Later that year, he would bag his first summit, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa. He would follow that up with successful climbs of Kosciuszko (Australia), Elbrus (Europe), Aconcagua (South America), Denali (North America), and Carstensz Pyramid (Oceania).

But it was his successful summit of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain on the planet, that grabbed headlines around the globe. At the time, Jordan was just 13 years old, and his bold expedition sparked debate in the mountaineering community over how young is too young to climb the world’s biggest mountains.

The logistics and location of climbing in Antarctica forced Jordan to wait another year and a half to climb Mt. Vinson, but now he has claimed that summit too. Last Friday, the teenager, along with his parents, moved up to High Camp on that mountain, and on Saturday – Christmas Eve – they continued on to the summit itself. Weather conditions, as you would expect, were challenging, with high winds and sub-zero temperatures dogging them all the way. But int he end, they topped out at about 1 PM local time. They then safely descended back down the mountain and skied back to Base Camp, where they enjoyed Christmas dinner.

Congratulations to Jordan on completing his quest to climb the Seven Summits. Well done young man!

[Photo courtesy of Jordan Romero]

Luxury resort harbors Tanzania’s last tropical coastal forest

Experience Tanzania's coastal forest at the Ras Kutani eco lodgeFor adventure travelers, the classic visit to Tanzania begins with a climb up Kilimanjaro, followed by a safari on the Serengeti, and is topped off with a relaxing beach experience on the island of Zanzibar. The first two items on that list are unmatched experiences that simply can’t be beat, but those looking for alternative to the beaches of Zanzibar may want to consider a stay at the Ras Kutani lodge, an eco-resort that offers access to the last tropical coastal forest in the country.

Located just 20 miles from Dar es Salaam, Ras Kutani offers beautiful and tranquil beaches along the Indian Ocean. The warm coastal waters are home to a vibrant and thriving coral reef system, which is home to dozens of species of fish, and is visited frequently by dolphins, sea turtles, and even whales. This makes it an ideal setting for snorkelers, although sea kayaking and boogie boarding are also popular activities when the surf is up.

But the main draw to lodge is the spectacular coastal forest that surrounds the resort. Charles Dobie, the owner of Ras Kutani, made it his mission to save and preserve the coastal forest there, and as a result, he now owns one of the last remaining examples of that amazing ecosystem. The lodge is surrounded by 100 acres of this lush forest, which is home to more than 130 species of trees, four different types of monkeys, a wide variety of birds, as well as baboons, wild pigs, and the rare and beautiful Civet Cat.

Visitors to the lodge can stay in one of nine unique and spacious cottages, or four hilltop suites, that have been designed to mesh harmoniously with the environment. In addition to the relaxed beach activities, they are also able to take a self-guided tour through the coastal forest, where they can explore its natural wonders for themselves. Afterward, guests can enjoy the lodge’s famous gourmet cuisine, and relax by the ocean, where if they’re lucky, they may catch sea turtles as they hatch, and make for the sea.

To learn more about the Ras Kutani lodge, and everything it has to offer, visit the resort’s website.

Teen climber Jordan Romero prepares for final Seven Summit

Jordan Romero will take on Mt. Vinson nextWhen we last checked in with teenage mountaineer Jordan Romero, he had just finished climbing Mt. Everest and in the process, setting a record for the youngest person to accomplish that feat. Jordan was 13 at the time, and razor focused on becoming the youngest person to reach the top of the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. Now, a year and a half later, with one mountain still on his list, he is preparing to achieve that goal as well.

Next week, Jordan, now age 15, will leave the U.S. for Antarctica, where he and his father Paul, along with step-mom Karen Lundgren, will attempt to climb Mt. Vinson, the highest peak on the continent. If all goes according to schedule, he’ll arrive in the Antarctic on December 16 and start the climb the following day. Over the following two weeks, Jordan and his team will face brutally cold temperatures, high winds, and the threat of avalanches, all for the chance to stand on the summit of the 16,050-foot mountain. If successful, Romero will become the youngest person to complete the Seven Summits.

Jordan first conceived of the idea of climbing the highest mountains on each of the continents when he saw a mural of the Seven Summits in his elementary school. That was back in 2005, when he was just nine years old. The following year he was off to Africa, where he trekked to the top of Kilimanjaro, which only fueled his desire to climb those mountains. In 2007 he checked Kosciuszko (Australia), Elbrus (Europe), and Aconcagua (South America) off of his list, and summitted Denali (North America) and Carstensz Pyramid (Oceania) in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Last year, he gained recognition worldwide for his successful climb of Everest, igniting a debate in the mountaineering community in the process. Many climbers began to wonder just how young was too young, which later prompted Nepal and China to set strict age limits, requiring Everest climbers to be at least 18 years old. The move was applauded by many, although some felt that Jordan was proof that young climbers could do well on the world’s tallest mountains.

[Photo courtesy of Jordan Romero]

2012 Summit For Someone registration is now open

Summit For Someone offers great adventures while giving backBig City Mountaineers, the non-profit organization that provides urban youth with opportunities to build life skills through wilderness mentoring experiences, has announced that registration is now open for their 2012 Summit For Someone program. SFS gives adventurous travelers the opportunity to climb some of the world’s most iconic peaks, while raising funds to support the Big City Mountaineers program.

The process is simple. First, you select a mountain that you’d like to climb, such as Mt. Hood in Oregon or Mt. Whitney in California. Each of the mountains has a pledge value assigned to it ranging from $2400 for alpine rock climbs up to $8500 for a full blown mountaineering expedition. By signing up to climb a particular peak, you agree to raise the pledge amount for Big City Mountaineers. Once you’ve reached that goal, you’ll join a Summit For Someone climb on that mountain.

The SMS website has a full list of 2012 climbs which can be viewed here. Some of the mountains available include Grand Teton in Wyoming, Mt. Rainier in Washington, and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Difficulty levels range from beginner, meaning no mountaineering experience at all, to advanced, which is reserved for those who already have a variety of technical climbing skills. There are a number of intermediate options as well, offering something for everyone.

The beauty of the Summit For Someone program is that it gives travelers an opportunity to take part in a true mountain climb and a real adventure, while also raising funds to support a fantastic youth program. If you’re considering options for travel in 2012, perhaps an SMS trip would be the perfect opportunity for you.

[Photo credit: Walter Siegmund via WikiMedia]