“...let's step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure....”
The scent of incense enters the lungs, caresses the skin and stagnates in the mind. The dance of light that smoke creates, between the alleys of houses built with sand-colored bricks and ancient forts with memories of a glorious past, makes the atmosphere even more magical. It is the same magic that remains etched in the eyes when you see the shopkeepers offering dried fruit, a handful of spices to flavor the dishes, or even when the fragrant oils are scattered in the environment using precious dispensers with candles or charcoals. The souq is a colorful place to breathe Oman, it is a way to get in touch with the Omani culture and to understand this people.
So, let’s go to this new adventure in Oman, made of roads, villages, souqs, deserts, mountains and history.
The plane lands in Muscat or Muscat, the capital of Oman. It is a medium-sized city, spotlessly clean where you often walk on paved floors of fine marble meanwhile you observe people on the street through colored glass and wrought iron gates with complicated ornamental motifs. Just enough time to visit the great mosque, which we reach the Royal Opera House. It is one of the main buildings in Muscat, inaugurated in 2011 by Sultan Qaboos, very passionate of classical music and opera. Inside, it is amazing: marble and precious fountains set in wooden structures.
The sun goes down, from the loudspeakers of the minarets of the mosques, the muezzin begins to sing prayers, the city slows down and evening comes.
The following day the engine of the Jeep 4×4 starts with one destination, desert, also passing through multiple villages and oases. The road from Muscat to Sharqiya Sands is a snake between small rocky mountains and small villages inserted between them. By taking breaks in the few service areas, you can understand how obsessive these people are about cleaning and how kind they are. Always ready to offer a smile and to help with directions or advices. It is really pleasant to spend the hours along the way capturing the change in the landscape, from a maritime environment to a completely desert one. The first camels begin to show up with their humps and long necks intent on collecting the fruits of small trees in the middle of nowhere. The temperature rises up to 35 degrees and, in the distance, you can see a yellowish spot that draws imaginative curves shaped by the wind, the desert on the horizon.
The Jeep behaves very well and follows a track along the plain that acts as a forerunner to the dunes, the sand begins to color the car while you go into this desolate wasteland but, at the same time, full of life. We put the bags in a tent already set up, after an excellent snack with dates, bananas and fruit juice, the dunes are ready to be ride. Walking in the desert is complicated as for two steps forward there is one back, but the sensation of bare feet on the hard sand made wet by the cold night is truly characteristic. The desert, like the mountain, is a fascinating environment and in some ways, they are extreme environments so very similar. Walking in absolute silence, seeing camels in the distance with a regular slow pace, observing the setting sun which creates magnificent plays of light making the grains of sand stand out like diamonds, is magnificent. The evening has come: the quarter Moon rises on the horizon and the first stars begin to show up with Venus. The darkness embraces everything and the temperature drops suddenly. The summer t-shirt and shorts are replaced by heavier long trekking pants. The sand becomes wet due to the strong humidity in the evening and the head light is the only illumination. Well, is better to keep it off as it is the constellation of Orion that makes itself beautiful with its sword and its belt. It is very relaxing to see a black sky with white dots listening to the wind creating new shapes of the dunes that will only be seen the next day.
From the mirror of the car, you can see the trail of dust dancing on the glass as the desert gets far. The direction is North-West to the old capital of Oman, Nizwa. The 4-lanes highway that cuts the Country in two, makes it clear how much infrastructures are present as well as the predisposition of this Nation to tourism. After a few hours of camels and scorching sun, you enter into the ancient city gates. Nizwa was the capital between the sixth and seventh centuries and, in 2015, it became the capital of Islamic culture. Being the ancient capital, it preserves a big the historical heritage and, over all, the seventeenth-century fort is fascinating. It is worth entering to enjoy the life of people in those times, from the kitchens, to the bedrooms, from the secret passages to the lush gardens, passing through the prisons, the visit to the fort is, from a historical point of view, truly remarkable. Special is also the view that can be enjoyed on top of the large cylindrical tower of the whole city with its mosques and the mountains that embrace it. From there you can hear the hustle and bustle of the vendors in the city souq. It’s time for perfumes, to go through the mist of incense that makes the alleys mysterious and magical, to bargain and be amazed by the Arab wonders. You feel like Prince Ali from the cartoon Aladdin, you are amazed, passing in front of each shop, by the amount of merchandise they offer. The even greater wonder is to stop and listen to the vendors who proudly tell the anecdotes and curiosities of each piece they sell. Inside the Suq, it is mandatory to get lost on purpose: all the alleys are the same and it is easy to lose orientation. Even standing still and watching the dance of the buyers-sellers is a spectacle that leaves you amused – it seems that they know all the languages of the world! The sunset begins to color the minarets of the mosques in orange colors and, from the peaks, the speakers intone the prayer, the warm and yellowish lights are turned on and the city is hugged by a magic atmosphere . The inhabitants, dressed in brightly colored clothes, invade the streets and the main square while the small restaurants prepare for dinner and shisha. Slowly, in front of a succulent dinner with typical dishes such as Majboos made of saffron rice with meat is time to go to sleep.
The road climbs through ravines and gorges, the asphalt has given way to a dirt track that allows you to drive to a maximum of 15-20 km / h. The Canyon, Wadi Ghul, with its cracks in the rocks and steep slopes, awaits the adventurer with his dramatic panoramas and peaks. They are the highest mountains of the Arabian Peninsula above 3000 meters and are the fun of astronomers and those who like hiking. The warm sea sun is replaced with a fire in a circle of stones, moreover, it is still winter! The path descends into the gorges like a long snake that winds its way between the rocks and ravines, the deep base of the canyon is already in twilight while the sun, with the warm colors of the sunset, caresses the jagged peaks of the surrounding mountains. The temperature drops and the long shadows of the evening begin to follow the path towards an ancient abandoned village reachable only on foot. The houses made of stone and mud make a dive into the past, the kitchen in the center with the fire and the small bedrooms create the mental image of what it must have been like to live in those conditions, literally on the edge of the canyon. All the houses are built attached to the hard mountain stone to protect them from the weather. It is not possible to return if you have not previously chatted with the kind local population made of shepherds with their little treasure of animals that graze in these rocky moors. After a short conversation, it is clear how difficult life on top is without any kind of infrastructure, such animals are truly the only source of survival and probably of profit.
It is time to retrace the way forward with the magnificent angles, panoramas and eyes of the people you meet still in your mind and heart, on the horizon you can see the desert again, companion of many silences, approaching Muscat, the shapes of the minarets of the mosques are becoming increasingly clear. The song of the muezzin accompanies the streets while the scents of incense and myrrh envelop the body and mind again.
It was really worth it!
This story has begun about fifteen years ago, when, as teenagers, we played in a small, and often loser, basketball team in our city, Biella. Born and raised at the foot of the Alps it certainly wasn’t possible to think of a future far from the mountains. Yes, the mountains, which have been the background of every part of my life, from important decisions during the various hikes to a deep thoughts, looking at that horizon made of jagged peaks and glaciers, these are, in part, the absolute protagonists also of this short story.
The mobile phone vibrates and the WhatsApp message notification appears on the display. “Ok for the holidays, I have the week”.
We begin to think about the various possible places, I moved to Switzerland for working purposes and the mountains certainly, do not lack. We then start to look various possible trekking to be done in such my “new areas”. From the weather forecast it looks nice and so I start to surf the various websites of the Alpine Groups studying the various routes.
And again on WhatsApp: “Why don’t, instead of staying in Switzerland, we choose an adventurous trip with the tent?”
A week before departure: I am abroad for business purposes in a hotel in Moscow and I have started to look for some destinations, from the various possibilities I have seen that, the Lofoten Islands seem the perfect destination: free camping, mountains, trekking, midnight sun and nature. Weather forecasts are also on our side as it seems to be always sunny (the sun never sets).
“Gigi, come on, I will book the planes, then we’ll do the rest …” Said, done. Saturday (three days before departure) all flights are booked and, on Sunday, the car is also rented.
The Lofoten Islands are, for nature lovers, a true paradise. So why not visit them having the freedom to find out where to sleep and where to go?
Flight to Oslo and, then, to Narvik…lets the adventure begin.
Already on the plane, observing the peaks overlooking the ocean, you can enter in a fantastic world with breathtaking views. I would not be surprised to see dinosaurs run through the forests or the meadows that follow the mountain ridges, it seems to be the location of the film “Jurassic Park“.
Taken the car to Narvik, we decide to do a “tour de force” of almost 6 hours, crossing all the Lofoten Islands to the most extreme point, the village of Å i Lofoten. It is in the Guinness Book of World Records for its short name, along with the villages of “Y” and “U”. The road, the legendary E10, is a succession of curves that follow the morphology of the islands, our Nissan Qashqai, with its panoramic roof, makes us enjoy every single kilometer. The village of ” Å ” is small, but full of beautiful corners to photograph or, even, to be contemplated immersed in the deep silence interrupted only by the seagulls.
We decide to stop there for the “night”, because, in reality, the sun never sets. Just above the village there is a promontory overlooking the sea with a prairie that surrounds a small lake, surrounded by mountains that stand above it … the ideal place for the night. The weather is fantastic and we decide to prepare a gourmet dinner – linguine with pesto, speck from South Tyrol and anchovies. We hear only the singing of birds and the breaking of the waves on the sea shore, while we are pitching the tent we are seeing a group of clouds dancing attached to the top of the mountain. There are not many people around us as there are so many possibilities to camp in all Lofoten that there are no problems of overcrowding.
The following day we decide to go to see the stock fish museum (typical fish of the area), but we find it closed. We then proceed through the various streets that diverge from the main road discovering fairy-tale places: Reine is one of these. We park the car in one of the many lay-bys along the road and decide to “climb” a mountain to admire the view from above. The peculiarity of trekking in Lofoten is that they are spontaneous, you don’t necessarily have to plan something specific, just put the backpack on your shoulders and start walking or climbing the slopes, you can be sure that you’ll reach breathtaking destinations.
On the top of it, in fact, the whole village of Reine is below us with its small harbor, the promontory and the various bridges that connect the islands. We arrived at the top of a mountain that frames a large lake (Reinevatnet), from where you can admire the islets of Lofoten with its characteristic cliffs.
We go down to pick up the car and again on the E10 … clouds that descend from the ridges of the mountains, lakes hidden behind remote corners, small churches isolated from the world and peaks illuminated by a sun that never sets … wow…
We read that Henningsvaer is a pearl set among a group of islands almost attached to each other, the port is dominated by a cliff overlooking the sea and the soccer field, one of the most northerly in the world, makes everything more fascinating (obviously in synthetic grass because of the winter temperatures …). We decide to spend the night here. We pitch the tent in a beach just before the village, Rørvikstranda beach …literally amazing…
In the evening (which however is lit up by day) we also decide to go in a pub in Henningsvaer suitably darkened with blankets on the windows to create a “night” atmosphere. Unique experience.
We then decide to move towards Eggum for a fairly easy trek in front of the ocean to reach one of the many lighthouses in the islands. During the trek, looking to the left it seems to be immersed in an austere and alpine environment, to the right, instead, it looks like a walk by the sea in the late afternoon. These are, in my opinion, the Lofoten, islands where you can “taste” a little bit of everything … from the breaking of the waves on the shore to the noise of the waterfalls from the top of the mountains breaking on the ground, all of that causes strong emotions and makes you feel really small.
The days go by, the nights are never present, the streets that deviate from the E10 make you discover corners that are as hidden as they are beautiful; the beaches and the water are of such a lively color that it seem to see postcards in every direction you look. The Lofoten are certainly a place to spend time in contact with nature, discovering the beauties of the planet and with which a strong bond is established immediately thanks to their beauty. We often feel attracted to something subjectively beautiful, Lofoten are objectively islands that attract you, nature is pure and you realize how fragile and magnificent that ecosystem is. I could quibble about the respect we have of our unique Planet, but this is not the occasion …
This is a short story about how two friends had fun as if they were children again, with the simplicity that only a campsite can give you in a place as extraordinary as it is unreal. You can think about the various sacrifices made during the year to save some money to spend on trips. The true value of sacrifices is rewarded by the beauty of nature and places like Lofoten.
It all started a couple of years ago on the roof of Africa. Uhuru Peak, 5,895 m. This peak is one of the emblazoned Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each continent. So, let’s go, Mount Elbrus, 5,645 m in the deep Caucasian Russia, at the Georgian border, the highest peak in the continental Europe. This time let’s try differently, alpine style, without porters, no support, with the tent and climbing the famous North Face.
Once landed at Mineralnie Vody and after three hours driving with a Jeep, among breathtaking views and dirty roads in the middle of boundless spaces and uncontaminated grasslands, we arrived at the Base Camp at 2,600 m. Left by the Jeep, the was the sun low at the horizon while the grazing cows were looking at us in our slow progress with a 25 kg backpack on the shoulders and a 15 kg one on the belly. At the sunset, the first thing to do is to cross a river through a Tibetan bridge in order to, finally, pitch the tent for the first night.
The fog rises, the Elbrus cannot be seen, we have dinner in between the clouds and we slept for the first night in order to let the adventure begins. Await us, a morning with kilometers and fatigue, the idea is to climb directly to the High Camp 3,700 m but, with 40 kg on the shoulders, we understand immediately that cannot be reached in one day. Thus, we decide to have a Camp 1 at 3,100 m in a big lawn close to a small river from the glacier, just below the Mushroom Rocks (around 3,200 m). Another up and down from the Base Camp to Camp 1 since, in “one shoot” it was impossible to carry all the stuffs, the decision to climb Elbrus without any help has been taken while before and this is one of the effort to do.
Once pitched the tent, let’s go for a short walk to the Mushroom Rocks, some big mushroom – shaped stones that dominate the plain below. Lunar landscape!
The light gives way to darkness and also the tent is tinged with golden colors of the sunset until it becomes completely black. Illuminated by the headlamps, we stay a little bit outside to breathe the sizzling air of the sunset just past and, then, we go to sleep thinking about that peak white tinted that dominates us from above. During the night, a light storm cools (even if there was no need) the atmosphere in the tent, but the next day, is made of a red sun like a fire that illuminates the two peaks (East and West) of a warm orange color even if, at the top, there are 50 km/h winds and several degrees below zero.
The goal of the day is to reach the High Camp (or Camp 2) at 3,700 m. After an heavy breakfast, the tent is unpitched and loaded into the backpacks. The journey starts immediately with a ramp of 100 meters and steep slopes until soften slightly, will follow then few kilometers in the quite flat in order to arrive to a two ramps very tough between 3,450 m and 3,700 m. It starts to be visible the glacier, the wind gets more and more strength and the altitude makes the backpack even heavier. Step by step we reach Camp 2 in front of the gigantic Elbrus glacier that show itself in all its beauty and impressive size.
The tent is pitched on the rocks in front of the glacier and, after a substantial lunch, let’s go back to Camp 1 to take the remaining part of the stuffs left there in the morning. The hours pass while, with slow steps, we followed the same path made in the morning. The shoulders and the neck begin to hurt but we are all aware that Camp 2 is the “starting point” of the top of Europe. There will be no other up and down in the future, it’s done!.
At the 6:00 pm, everything has been transferred and we start to cook something with our camp stove and gas bottle. The hot polenta and mushrooms (typical Piedmonts dish) brought with so much efforts for this occasion, help to warm the body and the brain along the cool evening and, the herbal tea made by heating the water from the glacier, help to enter into the arms of Morpheus for the night.
At night there is a strong wind, typical of the area, and the tent, well-pitched, seems to be the winner of the battle.
The following day is the first day of acclimatization. You cannot think of conquering a peak above 5,000 meters without even be acclimated, the goal is about 4,600 meters at a point called Lenze Rocks. They are a series of monoliths separated from each other by about 400 meters in altitude where it is common to acclimatize. We choosed the lowest one at about 4,600 meters and, then, we continued slightly higher at 4,700 m to see the track on the glacier to be traveled to the top. The body responds well and the mind is in perpetual ecstasy seeing the top so ”near” at not more than 1’000 m in altitude, which however means another 6 hours of walking at least in such altitudes.
We eat something there and contemplate the horizon, this also helps the body to get used to the height prior to return to Camp 2 where we left the rope, ice ax and crampons to dry on the scorching stones in the sun.
The departure to the top is usually in a window between 00:00 and 03:00 am, we talked to other climbers, who are preparing for the night climb, and we shared a thousand alpine experiences, we had dinner and get ready to go to sleep with the inevitable tisane. It is important to drink a lot and eat properly to have energy and not suffer from the so-called altitude sickness.
The weather forecasts do not promise well for the following days but we have begun to understand that it is not always been exact since the Elbrus does a little bit of what it wants. Within 5 minutes you could go from a hot sun, to a cold wind, so we do not decide when to attack the summit and and we preferred to wait for the new bulletin the next day.
At 6:00 we woke up with a bright sun, the volcano is there looking at us, it may be the right night but the forecasts for the evening are bad … okay, we decided to do a relaxing trekking up to 4’200 meters and eat something on the glacier, certainly not bad! Returning to Camp 2 we also talked with other climbers and we decided to attach the peak in the night…
We had lunch and we went immediately to the tent to rest because the alarm has been set at 11:30 pm. Here came dinner and even darkness, the afternoon clouds left room for a resounding sky, “ah if I could have here the telescope” … the Milky Way embraces the East and West summits and, the stars of the firmament, looked at us like little ants trapped in our dreams.
After dinner we went back to sleep, pointing the alarm clock a few hours later …
… it’s time … this is the day for which it has been expected so much, and so much effort has been made up to now, out of the tent, the eyes, instantly became accustomed to the darkness, the starry dark sky was in contrast with the pure white of the ancient ice…breakfast, the tent is closed, the crampons are on the feet, the satellite and the headlamp are on, the rope is tied and the ice axe is on the glacier. It starts!
2 o’clock at night, the icy wind freezes the face when, from the satellite, you hear the ‘beep’ that indicates the exceeding 4,000 meters, raising your head you begin to see the two twin peaks that are covered with clouds… let’s go on … 4,200 – 4,500, the dawn begins on the peaks all around, the wind is getting stronger and both peaks of the Elbrus are covered by the storm … the sun peeps over the stratified clouds and begins to illuminate the ice with a shy red-orange color.
At 4,800 meters, and after 4 hours of progression on ice, the wind becomes too strong and becomes very difficult to continue also because, to get to the top, there are still 6 hours of walking and about 4 hours to return to Camp 2, the weather forecasts are not good at all and it is useless to continue towards bad weather at those altitudes.
Visibility is fundamental and we also saw several roped groups, left few hours before us, give up. It is therefore decided to go back. Going down, the weather did not improve at all and the cold becomes more and more pungent, but the view is fantastic and the clouds have not yet arrived on the surrounding peaks, it is incredible to observe all the mountains around the Elbrus that, as in a big hug, they surround it. On 4,000 – 4,200 m the temperature becomes a little more bearable and we decide to sit down and contemplate the landscape for a few minutes (also because a bit of exhaustion).
It’s 9 am, the sun is high and it’s “quite” hot, looking towards the peaks, the storm continues to leave no respite and we think that the choice was right also because, the weather, is getting worse and worse. Calmly, we went back where our adventure is coming to an end, we would still have had a day to try the summit but, a slight ice mixed rain, began to fall slightly and then more and more thicker, rain that remained above our heads for the next day. We then decide to un pitch the tent go back to the Base Camp where, a week before, it all started.
Surely, the goal was to get on the top of Europe but, you know, it is the mountain to decide when to climb it and must, therefore, be respected. This experience has served to get to know the environment and understand the ”rhythms” of the Elbrus, we left this fantastic landscape with magnificent moments in our eyes after a fantastic adventure … goodbye Elbrus, and thank you for an unforgettable experience.
Greenland is not a goal but a lifestyle, it is not something to be photographed or observe, it is something to live to the fullest, air, ice, the muffled atmosphere with the snow, the iceberg noise in the sea, remain imprinted on you, forever. When you close your eyes you can even feel the freedom in this untouched world.
Air Greenland flight from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq, a 500 people village. Arrived there the Greenlandic atmosphere hit you, thin and bitter air, snow on the peaks (even in August!) and one road that from the airport brings to different hostels. From the airport the destination is “Old Camp”, a small hostel a little bit outside the village very comfortable.
Kangerlussuaq means “big fjord”, has a lot of wild animals and plants, the peaks and the mountains are gentle and the main river arrives directly from the Ice Cap. Yes, THE Ice Cap! The Ice Cap hike is one of the most exciting thing that can be done in the surroundings. Touching with hands eternal glaciers after a good hike into the wilderness, is sensational. From the village is very easy to organize this hike. After about 50km driving with an off-road jeep inland, passing through the “arctic desert” and the Russel Glacier, the Ice Cap stands in front of you. From here onwards, there is only sea and glaciers until the North Pole. Walking on the Ice Cap is really emotional, the polar wind caresses your face and the glacier under you feed gently sizzling. Eating the classic sandwich sitting on this glacier is definitely amazing. The place is fantastic and, back to the hotel, after a good salmon dinner, new hikes have to be done and other places have to be discovered. The sun is still always there, very few dark hours in August!
Other flight to Ilulissat (really a pearl), UNESCO heritage 4500 people town. From the really beginning the journey is enjoyable, the flight between Kangerlussuaq to Ilulissat is something unforgettable, it is possible to see a lot of icebergs, arctic glaciers, mountains and the Ice Cap, all things that make you feel very very small and insignificant. Ilulissat in Greenlandic means “the iceberg” which is completely true since from the permanent pack and the surroundings glaciers, a lot of icebergs collides between each other’s making a particular noise like a broken mirror. There is also the world’s second biggest glacier after Antarctica called Sermeq.
The “Ice Cap Apartment” has a beautiful view of the harbor where small icebergs gently hit the fishing boats. Ilulissat is a beautiful city with all the comforts, not to miss is the Greenlandic buffet dinner at Hotel Fark, amazing!
The “midnight sun crusade” is one of the typical excursion that has to be done, floating between giant icebergs, the nature appears in all its majesty. The landscape change continuously drawing and shaping beautiful moments every second. Outside of the boat, sipping a hot tea, is really one of the most enjoyable things in life. The lights and shades, remain imprinted in the mind all lifelong.
In the morning is hiking time! Backpack and let’s go listening the noise of the broken icebergs colliding to each other’s and walking on the Greenlandic permafrost eating a sandwich in front of a glacier diving in the Arctic Ocean. With the hikes, there is the possibility to see really the wild Greenland.
Eqip Sermia! It is just a word but hides the real Greenland meaning. With a boat from Ilulissat, after 6 hours and about 80 km, it is possible to arrive in front a jewel. An ice wall, a calving glacier pushed from the Ice Cap into the Arctic Ocean. Birds, fishes and ice together in a perpetual exciting dance. Unforgettable experience.
Disko Bay! With an hydrofoil moving between the icebergs, it is possible to reach Qeqertarsuaq, a small town with about 1000 citizens in the Disko Isle. It is the most important port for whale hunting. Hotel Disko is the place to stay and the hikes in that island are really beautiful. Completely absorbed in the wilderness. Not to miss the open air fish market.
Greenland leaves something inside you that cannot be expressed through words. In thoughts, eyes, breath and hearth, Greenland leaves something unforgettable. Each single moment has to deeply enjoyed, what remains is full of magic as powerful as the island. In one word, Greenland!
The question is, why Kilimanjaro? Well, this is the story of a week full of fun, worries, fatigue, satisfaction, joy and happiness.
Selected the goal – Uhuru Peal, 5’895 m, 19.340 ft – has to be chosen the way, Marangu Route, six days, from 11th to 16th August 2016. Let’s go!
Thursday, August, 11th 2016: the small pick-up fully loaded with people, backpacks, potatoes, flour, chickens, water, gas cylinder and various “lunch boxes”, leaves you at the Marangu Route Gate. THE entrance. Completed the formalities, the climb starts! Way to Camp 1 – Mandara Hut, 2’720m, 8.923ft. The path is in the middle of the forest and the animals met during the hike, instead of the typical marmots, chamois and alpine ibex, are monkeys, not exactly an Alpine environment! Along the path it is easy to see blue and white monkeys that are watching you going “pole pole” (slow slow in Swahili) towards Camp 1. The first day is quite easy and after 3 hour and 8,2 km with 827D+, the Mandara Hut is in front of you. The dinner is prepared by the cook and in the meantime you can exchange experiences with other climbers sharing this adventure. This hut is also the last point on the way back thus it is possible to talk with other climbers that reached the summit (or tried to do so) the days before. After dinner and a small tour in the surroundings, make a deep sleep in the sleeping bag. The animal noises are quite disturbing and strange, hopefully the heavy door between the cot and the jungle will do his duty! Turn off the front lamp and take a rest for the next day.
Friday, August, 12th 2016: after breakfast at 7:43am ready to leave for Camp 2 – Horombo Hut, 3’750m, 12.303ft. The forest leave the place to Kilimanjaro’s moor land. From here it is possible to glimpse the Kilimanjaro’s peak (based on the weather conditions) and the Mawenzi’s peak (5’149m, 16.893ft, peak). After 5 hours, 14,4 km with 1’030D+, Horombo Hut is reached. Signed the guest book it is time to rest before the snack made of popcorns and chocolate biscuits. This place is one of the most panoramic view of the whole valley and mountain peaks, thus, a small tour in the neighborhoods with the camera is well recommended. After a dinner very early it is time to go to bed since the hard days are coming.
Saturday, August 13th 2016: acclimatization day. From Horombo Hut the final destination is “The Saddle” passing through Zebra Rock above the fateful 4’000m, 13.123ft. As mutually agreed with the guide, after Zebra Rock we proceeded towards “The Saddle” at 4’350m, 14.271ft. The landscape from this point is unforgettable. Kilimanjaro in front of you, Mawenzi on the right side and alpine desert surrounding everything. Yeah! From the top of The Saddle there is also the possibility to see Camp 3, Kibo Hut at 4’750m, 15.583ft. After 4 hours, 11,3 km and 853D+ the Camp 2 is already in front of you. This day is, in my opinion, fundamental for the right acclimatization to reach the summit.
Sunday, August 14th 2016: from here onwards there is no longer time to joke. There is only the time to go up, climb, take the summit and come back home. 8:15 am, breakfast done, let’s go for Camp 3 – Kibo Hut, 4’750m, 15.583ft. Alpine desert above 4’000m, after passing a sign “The last water point”, you are in the middle of “The Saddle”. It is an immense plateau pointing the Kilimanjaro’s summit. The peak is always in front of you during all the climb and you can see it, seems that you can even touch it, but it is quite far, yet. Lunch at 4’400m, 14.435ft and then let’s climb again. The hike takes about 6 hours, 10,1 km and 1’231D+. At these altitudes, each single effort is difficult and the fatigue of the past days start to appears. Reached Kibo Hut under a beautiful sun around 2 pm, it is mandatory to rest before the tea with biscuits and the inevitable popcorns. Due to the altitude, the dinner is quite light since you are usually not so hungry, anyway, the best thing is to rest a little bit since few hours later the fight for the summit began!
Monday, August 15th 2016: 00:14am, “only” 1’200D+ to the summit but a lot of obstacles have to be undergo, one for all, you limits, worries and thoughts. Turn on the front lamp and everything starts. A journey that will change you and your mountain experience. Everything starts at 4’810m, 15.780ft, a symbolic altitude for people, like me, living in the Alps, since it is the highest point in the Alps, the Monte Bianco summit. The climb start to became quite difficult specially because the thin air at these altitudes. The starry austral night is watching you. The legs and breath are ok, 5’000…5’400…5’685m, 18.651ft, Gilman’s Point, first crucial point, reached after a huge and very long ramp of about 1000D+ in only 3 km. What to do right now? This is the last point to go down and give up if you want. Let’s go, go up a little bit and see what will happen. 5’756m, 18.884ft, Stella Point, reached! “Only” 150D+ to the summit, everything is dark, but move on and proceed toward the summit. 7:23am, summit, Kilimanjaro’s peak at 5’895m, 19.340ft, the highest African’s peak, one of the glorious Seven Summit. 6km, 1’447D+, a huge ramp that ends at the Uhuru Peak. The sunrise from the summit is unforgettable, like the glaciers at the top. You are just in the middle of this long day but the sensations at the top, even with the tiredness, are amazing. After the same route, Kibo Hut is again reached and, after a quick lunch, let’s go down to Horombo Hut. 15 hours hike with 20,6km, 1’617D+ always above 5’000m. At Horombo the tiredness takes over and it is time to rest remembering the wonders seen just few hours ago.
Tuesday, August 16th 2016: from Horombo Hut down to Marangu Gate with a small deviation to see the Maundi crater at 2’772m, 9.094ft. Another 21km with 317D+ enjoying the path and the landscape. After 6 hours it is time to pass again the Marangu Gate and take the summit certificate.
85,6 km in total, 5’921D+ in 4 days, 23 hours and 56 seconds hike. Uhuru Peak at 5’895m, 19.340ft.
The question is, why Kilimanjaro? Because this was WONDERFUL.
Well, I think that the emotions offered by the Svalbard are not only related to the landscapes, but are mainly related to what they leave inside you during the journey. I think that, in each of us lives, there is space for unnecessary and very useful things. There are people that consider useful “tangible stuffs” and people that think, that a trip, may change their personality, the way how to see things and enrich them internally. All of this, in my opinion, are the Svalbard, beautiful landscapes, immaculate slopes and fantastic lands.
A trip to Svalbard is a particular journey, for those, like me, who love nature and wilderness. You have to enter in the adventurous spirit since, once landed, the Svalbard pull you into a different world, where the day-by-day concepts are overturned, where if the bus does not pass at the bus stop, is a real problem, where there is not the possibility to go for a hike without a rifle, a guide, a gun.
Already on the plane to Longyearbyen, the emotions begin, since, at 00:45 a.m., you can see the snowy and jagged peaks wrapped in a bright daylight. The thoughts are: “Where have I wound up this time?“. The airplane captain tells to fasten the seat belts, we are approaching Longyearbyen, the big and deep North, less than 1’000 km to the North Pole, a jewels between the 74° and 81° parallel. Far far away from everything, the beauty is exactly this. I do not want to narrate about specific excursions, I want to tell about their expressiveness, about the crunch of the glaciers under the crampons, about the taste of the cold wind at the summits, about the birds that follow the boat’s trail, about the puff of the whales, about the drink at the pub and about the silence that hugs you and let you listen your thoughts, yourself. It is exactly here that comes out what it is inside, your internal voice is merged with the barking of dogs, with the waives, with the rain that sometimes hits the face with icy drops. You lose you gaze towards the horizon and you think: “this is exactly what I was looking for”.
The trip started even prior to take the plane, downloading document from internet, with a map on the desk, a cup of tea, some biscuit crumbs on the keyboard and with paper and pencil. I have read on internet a joke that was saying: “I tried to look for the Svalbard in my globe, but I did not find them since they were covered by the pin”. That is exactly the concept behind these islands, you cannot go there by chance for a long week end, Svalbard are places where you have to deeply savor and because you like adventure and uncontaminated wilderness. With my camera and my backpack, I tried to immortalize the emotions, the most beautiful views even if, in each small corner, each peak, each fiord, under all conditions of light create interesting perspectives.
Light, silence, howling of dogs and whisper of the wind in the mountain huts, are what accompanied my during the whole journey. I think that the nature can bring to people emotions and beautiful sensations and I really think that I was able to absorb what Svalbard wanted to tell me discovering places and hidden secrets. Like the abandoned places in Pyramiden, a Russian outpost that, with its nothingness, is able to fill the people’s gazes, astonished and impressed on how, for business and policy, Countries, really push themselves very hard towards progress. Imagining the working conditions of the people “lost” in this village is impressive, six months in a perpetual daylight and six months in a complete dark environment. The abandonment of Pyramiden, leave the place to the wild peaks of Nordenskjøldtoppen and Trollsteinen, to the calving glaciers, to a hut in the middle of the icy peaks where, the only cuddles of a dog are the company within miles, to a sun that does not want to go down.
Flora and fauna united in a single dance able to immerse the traveler in the middle of a perennial documentary. I met a lot of people during the journey, real people with red cheeks because of the cold weather, in every discussion, every shared idea, there was the awareness to be in a magical place where, living together with the nature surrounding us, the citizens have created their own identity with a small hairdresser, a couple of pubs and a very good supermarket.
Enclose in a few lines what a normal guy felt is not easy, the atmosphere, the pictures, the sensations, and the emotions during the hikes, have been lived in the deepest part of my soul with the awareness that, this archipelago in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, is part of all the mankind and it is there to demonstrate that the nature, is ready to astonish us with her power, immense, simple, tremendous beauty.