Climbers attempting 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.