Google Street View Takes Us To New Heights On Everest, Kilimanjaro And More

We’re big fans of Google Street View here at Gadling and over the past few months we’ve enjoyed the addition of the Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon River, amongst other destinations. Through the use of modern technology, Google has given us the opportunity to explore some very exciting places without ever having to leave the comfort of our own homes. Now, with its latest addition to the Street View Collection, the Internet search giant is taking us to new heights as they take their high-tech cameras to the slopes of some of the tallest mountains on the planet.

The latest Street View gallery is entitled “The World’s Highest Peaks” and it includes views on and around four of the Seven Summits, which consist of the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents. Those locations include Everest Base Camp in Nepal, as well as the summits of Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet) in Tanzania, Elbrus (18,510 feet) in Russia and Aconcagua (22,841 feet) in Argentina. The gallery also spotlights various other sections of each of those mountains, including some of the more well known mountaineering camps or other landmarks, such as the famous Lava Tour on Kilimanjaro.

Not all of the images in the new gallery are captured from such lofty heights, however. For instance, the Himalayan village of Namche Bazaar is given the Street View treatment, allowing us to take a virtual stroll along its narrow walkways. The Google cameras were even allowed inside the colorful Buddhist monastery in Tengboche, a popular attraction for those trekking to Everest.

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to climb these peaks but the thought of the thin air makes you light headed, then this new gallery is just for you. Enjoy the heights of these iconic mountains without ever stepping foot on any of them.

[Photo Credit: Google]

Celebrity Climbers Summit Kilimanjaro For A Cause

A group of celebrity climbers topped out on the highest peak in Africa earlier this week in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of clean drinking water in developing nations. The group reached the 19,341-foot summit of Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro on Friday after spending seven days scaling its slopes.

The group was led by Grammy-nominated musician Kenna, who was joined by actors Justin Chatwin (Showtime’s “Shameless”) and Beau Garrett (“Tron: Legacy”), as well as Mark Foster of the band Foster the People, amongst others. The team was climbing as part of the Summit on the Summit II expedition, which was organized by Kenna and is a follow-up to a similar trek that took place back in 2010.

The SOTS organization is focused on educating the public about the clean drinking water crisis that many developing countries continue to face. Most of us are accustomed to simply turning on the tap in our homes and getting safe water whenever we need it, but that isn’t the reality for a large number of people around the globe. In fact, according to the Water Project, a non-profit dedicated to delivering clean water to those who need it, more than 800 million people on our planet do not have access to safe drinking water at all. That’s about 11% of the world’s population. This climb of Kilimanjaro was undertaken to educate people of that plight.

A Kilimanjaro trek is a mostly non-technical ascent up the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. If you’re in reasonably good health and take your time, it is possible for many people to reach the summit. Most expeditions up the mountain take roughly 6-7 days to complete, with another day required for the descent. This team went up the scenic Maragnu Route, which is amongst the more popular hikes. A Kili climb is one of the best adventure travel experiences around and there are a number of excellent guide services that can take travelers up the mountain.

[Photo Credit: Summit on the Summit]

Want To Mountain Bike Down Kilimanjaro?

At 19,340 feet in height, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in all of Africa. Over the years, it has become one of the top adventure travel destinations in the world, drawing in thousands of hikers on an annual basis. But next year, for the first time ever, a small group of travelers will actually get the unique opportunity to bike down the mountain thanks to a new itinerary offered by Trek Travel.

Having secured the first ever permit to mountain bike Kilimanjaro, Trek Travel will launch its inaugural WorldServe Kilimanjaro Bike Tour on February 22 of next year. The 12-day trip will include a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti to witness the Great Migration, a visit to a traditional Maasai village and, of course, a climb to the top of Kilimanjaro followed by a mountain bike descent.

The trip is limited to just 20 travelers, each of whom will be shipped a brand new mountain bike courtesy of Trek. That bike will come in handy while training prior to their departure for Tanzania and they’ll also use it on their ride down the slopes of Kili. On their return home after the trip, the bike is theirs to keep.

While this sounds like an amazing excursion, the trip isn’t being conducted simply for the adventure itself. Trek Travel’s goal is to raise funds for several projects designed to bring fresh drinking water to as many as 150,000 Tanzanians. With that expressed goal in mind, the prices for the trip range from $25,000 up to $85,000, with 90% of the funds going directly to one or more projects specifically focused on generating clean water. Those are steep price tags, of course, but this is a cause that an industrious traveler might be able to use to raise funds of their own.

For more information on the Kilimanjaro Bike Tour, check out the video below and visit the Trek Travel website.

KiliClimb Trek Bike Video from WorldServe International on Vimeo.

Barefoot Kilimanjaro trekkers complete climb

Last week we told you about a group of climbers from South Africa who were attempting to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa, without wearing shoes. Over the weekend, these barefoot adventurers completed their climb, but not without overcoming plenty of challenges along the way.

The team, which calls itself the Barefoot Impi, made their final push to the top of the 19,340-foot Kilimanjaro early Saturday morning. Setting out from the Kibo Huts, they trekked for more than four hours before reaching Gilman’s Point, one of the more famous landmarks on the way to the summit. At that point, they had walked barefoot for hours in below-freezing temperatures while dealing with steep slopes littered with loose volcanic scree. The next stage of the hike wouldn’t be any easier however, as two feet of fresh snow had hit the top of the mountain a few days ealier, and they had to make the rest of the climb in icy-powder – sans shoes.

Eventually they did make it to the top, and all five members of the team who had set out on this barefoot quest managed to complete the trek without any kind of natural or artificial protection on their feet. That’s a fairly remarkable accomplishment considering the temperatures and surface conditions they had to endure to get there. You can read all about their final day on the mountain in a blog post here.

As we mentioned in our original story, this charity climb was undertaken to raise funds for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, which is one of the first of its kind on the entire continent. No word on whether or not the Barefoot Impi team reached their fund raising goals, but clearly they were successful on their venture to scale the mountain.

My feet hurt just thinking about it.

[Photo courtesy]

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.