A climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro before the storied snows turn to dust, and then onto the world’s tallest peak, the second-highest place on Earth, is a rite of spring.
But for some, the climb is also a personal triumph — as if for others, it is an ordeal.
After a year, the climb is no longer an option. The snow recedes and cold air replaces the sunshine. By the time a climber climbs the mountain’s steepest ridge, where the trail runs on the side of a rock face, he will be as thin as he was when he was young.
“I feel so old,” he said of the climb just before a cold, bright day, as the others gathered on the top of the rock face, about 50 feet up.
This is Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and one of the most iconic mountains in the world. For many young people on the continent, it is synonymous with Africa.
About a year ago, about 7,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 24 from N’djamena, Chad, and Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, spent weeks on the mountain.
They were part of a campaign organized by the United Nations to support a peace treaty between the government and rebel forces that have divided the country and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands.
The students, most of them from Chad and Congo, climbed Kilimanjaro from their homes in N’djamena and waited in fields, for hours, before the first snow.
“You have to climb a mountain to understand it,” said Youssouf Mire, 26, who came to the top to meet his mother, who is ill with cancer. “Here, you see how low the mountains are.”
When the snow finally did arrive, the students were met by others on the mountain who came to meet them. They carried food, water and blankets.
Some climbed to the summit of Kilimanjaro