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Homestretch naturalist Brian Keating tells us about a unique species of bird he observed while hiking Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
“Let the Adventure Begin”
Kerby Centre Fundraising Gala
Calgary’s own, Brian Keating is a celebrated wildlife expert and world traveler extraordinaire, and he will take you on an adventure to “Places to see before you die.”
November 7 (6:30- 9:30 p.m.)
Kerby Centre, 1133- 7th Ave. Calgary
Canapé/appetizers and cocktail bar
Tickets are $125 each.
The Calgary Health Trust Kilimanjaro Climb: A total SUCCESS !
We awoke at 11 PM for “breakfast” last night after a fitful few hours of trying to sleep, to find it snowing! Fortunately by the time we headed out to begin the climb at midnight, the stars were out and the near-full moon illuminated the white landscape so much that we didn’t have to use our headlamps, until the moon set at 3:30 AM. We summited at 7:30 AM with all 26 of the Calgary Health Trust fund raising participants! 100% success like this is rare on the mountain, but because we had spent 7 days acclimatizing to the high altitude by hiking and camping, our bodies successfully adapted. It was certainly challenging: ice covered rocks, high winds and -15C temperatures made for a tricky ascent. Tonight we will all sleep well.
We did an equipment test tonight, here at Camp 4 at a place called Karanga, assembling and wearing our summit gear. We then hiked for a short distance until nightfall, and returned by headlamp. But the hike above our camp, located at 4,100 meters, was simply stunning, with the setting sun glistening on the tops of clouds far below us. It was a gift of absolute beauty, and a wonderful end to a fantastic day.
Here is a shore excerpt from my journal:
“We departed early from Camp 3 to avoid the onslaught of porters, which would have made this trail very dangerous. We ascended up the Barranco Wall, a very steep series of narrow, single track switchbacks and tricky rocky sections with some fantastic exposure. This was all enjoyed under a solid blue sky and a backdrop of a dramatic snowy Kilimanjaro mountain, glaciers glimmering in the morning light. A bird highlight: a sighting of a Lammerguyer, the Bearded vulture! We were all at our next camp by 1 PM to enjoy a relaxing afternoon. Tomorrow night, we begin the big climb.”
This was a mom and youngster, colobus monkey, from the same group I photographed just before we arrived into camp 1 in the forest. They are incredibly unique primates because of their digestive system: they feed on leaves! The problem is, leaves are full of toxins, but the colobus has worked a way around that issue. They have a stomach similar to a cow, allowing for bacteria to neutralize the toxins and extract the nutrients!
We had a very difficult day yesterday, a day that challenged all of us. After I sent you the first photo of the colobus, the sky literally opened up. For the next hour and a half of hiking, rain pelted down, often mixed with hail pellets, and often very hard. The trail turned from the trickle, pictured here, into a torrent. Small waterfalls flowed onto the trail, swelling our route with icy, fast flowing muddy rainwater. By the time we got to Camp 2, we were cold, exhausted, and in need of a good lunch. The expedition staff were incredibly efficient, and soon after we had arrived we were eating in the huge dome tent, starting with hot drinks and soup. Later, after a much needed rest, dinner was concluded with an amazing birthday celebration for one of the climbers that will not ever be forgotten. The delivery of a chocolate cake was done with classic African ceremony and joy. Later, when we set off to our tents for our much needed rest, the sky cleared. Under the light of a 1/4 moon, we enjoyed an un obstructed view of Kilimanjaro complete with its summit icecap! When we awoke today, we had a solid blue sky start as we set off towards Camp 3.
We spent the night in the forest, and just before arriving at our camp, we encountered some colobus monkeys! I managed to photograph this beauty as he came lower to feed on some leaves. It just started to rain which often happens at this time of day (around 1 PM). Kilimanjaro has typical mountain weather, but we did hike under blue sky all morning. We are now in the “heath zone”, and will camp in this habitat tonight up on the plateau, another 200 m above.
We awoke to clear skies and the full view of the Kibo volcano, our ultimate destination and the highest peak of Kilimanjaro. Everyone was full of good morning energy as we departed, knowing that today’s hike will be easy compared to yesterday’s, gaining only some 250 meters or so. The walk was under sunny conditions until just before we reached Shira 2, our third camp located at 3750 meters. We passed from the heath zone into the moreland, encountering the main indicator species, Giant senecio and Giant lobelia. Hunters cisticola, a lovely songster known for their duet singing, was frequently heard as we walked through the heath.
When we arrived into camp all the staff were there singing and dancing a welcome that went on and on. They are brilliant. After a hearty lunch of fried chicken and soup, we headed off for a hike up towards our ultimate destination, an acclimatization hike that will assist our adaptation to this high landscape.