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]

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.

Flying Kites Adventure Challenges: Give back on your next trip

Travelers looking to add a new dimension to their next journey may want to check out the Flying Kites Adventure Challenges, which are a series of great adventure travel opportunities that allow you to visit some fantastic destinations, while raising funds for charity at the same time.

Organized by Flying Kites, a non-profit that is dedicated to improving the standards for childcare in some of the poorest nations in the world, the adventure challenges are an intriguing prospect to say the least. The process starts with travelers selecting their adventure of choice from a list of five options. From there, they pledge to raise a certain amount of funds for Flying Kites, and once they reach that goal, the entire trip is payed for including airfare, guides, accommodations, and so on.

The list of challenges include climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa and trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, both of which require a $6000 fundraising goal. There are also two options for surfing in Nicaragua with an 8-day itinerary costing $2300 and a 10-day version requiring a $2500 commitment. Photographers and wildlife enthusiasts will no doubt be intrigued by the Kenya Film Expedition, which comes with a fundraising target of $7500, while runners and endurance athletes will want to compete in the North Face Endurance Challenge this May.

The fundraising goals are certainly reasonable, and attainable, for anyone who sets their mind to it. Most of those trips can obviously be done for less money on your own, but in this case, you not only get a fantastic travel experience, but also the added benefit of giving a little something back in the process. Great adventure travel combined with the chance to improve the lives of children in the places we visit? Sign me up!

Flying Kites – Adventure Challenges – Kilimanjaro/Nicaragua from Flying Kites on Vimeo.

American explorer to cross Africa on foot

Anthropologist, explorer, and member of the Royal Geographical Society Julian Monroe Fisher is preparing for an epic expedition that will see him cross Africa completely on foot. The journey, which is set to begin this spring, will cover more than 4000 miles, crossing the continent east to west, in an effort to raise awareness of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), an organization dedicated to removing land mines and other small arms from countries that were formerly plagued with conflict.

Julian’s adventure will get underway on April 26th of this year, when he sets out from the town of Pemba, located on the coast of Mozambique. From there, he’ll begin traveling west, crossing through miles of difficult and varying African terrain, before eventually ending in Lobito, Angola, which falls along that country’s Atlantic coast. Along the way, he’ll pass through the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, and Malawi as well.

No stranger to long distance travel, Monroe spent much of his time on the road between 1996 and 2003, crossing through more than 90 countries on five different continents. He has written two books about his travels and was an early adopter when it came to writing about his adventures on the web as well. Last year, he even opened an anthropological research station in the Bunkeye Cultural Village, located in the DRC, which this expedition will help raise funds for too.

This 4000 mile journey is sure to be an amazing adventure to follow, and Julian will be posting updates to his Facebook page along the way. But what he really hopes to do is draw attention to the amazing work that MAG is doing in countries across the planet in helping them to remove old land mines, un-exploded missiles, mortars, grenades, and other small arms that have been left behind following a major conflict. The organization operates throughout Africa and South East Asia, where it saves lives and limbs simply by doing away with old weapons that still litter the landscape.

For me personally, Africa remains my favorite destination, and traveling on foot is truly a unique way to see the continent and interact with its people. I’m sure that this will be quite the adventure when Julian and his team get underway in a few months time.

Martina Navratilova succumbs to altitude sickness on Kilimanjaro

Last week we reported that tennis great Martina Navratilova was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa to raise funds and awareness for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. She was setting off to reach the top of Africa’s tallest mountain, which stands 19,340 feet in height, and hoped to hit a few tennis balls off the summit to celebrate her success. But as the week wore on, she began to struggle, eventually turning back as she developed the very serious symptoms of pulmonary edema, also known as altitude sickness.

After struggling for several days on the trail, Martina was forced to turn back last Thursday when her lungs began to fill with liquid. She reached a height of 14,800 feet, but was too weak, and taking too great of a risk, to continue any higher. Instead, she was helped back down the mountain by a group of porters, who took her to a nearby hospital in Tanzania. From there, she was sent to a larger facility in Nairobi, Kenya, where she was treated for three days before being released on Sunday.

Before starting up Kili, Navratilova has never been to an altitude higher than 12,000 feet, but living in Aspen, Colorado she believed that she could acclimatize to the altitude quickly. She even went so far as to call the trek “just a basic hike.” After being released from the hospital she was singing a bit of a different tune however, saying “This was supposed to be fun, but nobody had fun. It was just survival. It is not an experience one would enjoy.”

Each year, a number of trekkers underestimate the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro, which results in numerous evacuations from the mountain. Most are not as serious as this one however, and had she continued higher, Navratilova ran the real risk of death. Fortunately, her guides knew when to take her back down and get her the medical attention she needed.

If you’re planning a Kili climb of your own, don’t let this story dissuade you. Do your best to prepare ahead of time, getting in some good cardio workouts and go on a few distance hikes carrying a pack. When you get to Tanzania, listen to your guides, and take their advice to go “Pole! Pole!”, which means “Slowly! Slowly!” With that in mind, you’ll have a good chance of reaching the fabled snows of Kilimanjaro.

[Photo credit: Chris Jackon/Getty Images]