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The Seventh Sojourn: It’s impermissible to ski on Kilimanjaro. Will it soon be impossible?

Skiing Kilimanjaro: Nothing a hundred men or more could ever do. [Photo] Kyle Mijlof

When Hannah Follender was studying abroad in Kenya in 2009, she climbed to the top of Kilimanjaro (19,340 ft.), where she saw a large basin filled with snow. Although she wasn’t there to ski, the glaciers sparked an idea—she would return someday with skis in tow. But, Follender later found out, it is illegal to tag the Seventh Summit.

“It looks perfect during the snowy season,” says Follender of the conical peak on Kibo, the highest of Kilimanjaro’s three peaks. Alternatively, the Heim Glacier, near the Umbwe Route, has receded significantly. “The whole plan was to go back and ski that [Kibo], and I spent the last couple of summers up in Jackson, Wyo. training.” 

While in Jackson, Follender crossed paths with Kit DesLauriers, the first person to ski all Seven Summits, who offered cautious advice to Follender after twice attempting to get a permit to ski and twice getting rejected. Follender was similarly rejected.

In 2006, like several other notable skiers and riders, DesLauriers went ahead and descended Kilimanjaro illegally, sneaking her skis up the mountain and only telling a handful of people of her mission. 

“The answer to why I went ahead with skiing without a permit was driven by the fact that it was part of a larger goal, the Seven Summits,” she says, “but also by my feeling that some rules are made to be broken in certain circumstances.”

Both Follender and DesLauriers say that the Tanzanian decision to close the summit to “pleasure devices” like skis and snowboards is grounded in safety; Kilimanjaro National Park is unaccustomed to seeing snow travel and its potential risks and therefore lacks the associated rescue protocols. And although skiers like Follender and DesLauriers are experienced in the mountains, the park worries about spreading the wrong message to the general public that the volcano is skiable.

While Kilimanjaro National Park holds steadfast to their rule, the glaciers and snowy terrain on the mountain are under a different constraint: time. A recent estimate from the American Geophysical Union suggests Kilimanjaro’s northern glaciers could be completely gone by 2030.

“That was another motivating factor to go ski,” Hannah Follender says. “Just to see what’s going on there…it’s pretty sad.”

Comments

  1. Glenn P. says:

    “Some rules are made to be broken in some circumstances”?!
    I can understand if there was a greater good, a life at risk, or a tremendously noble cause was that served the advancement of humankind, but when it is self -serving?! Sorry, Backcountry Mag, I just don’t support Ms DesLauriers attitude. That was just plain disrespectful of the people that work hard to keep that park operating.
    With that in mind, I suppose it would be OK if I decided to climb Shiprock because…well, just because I really, really, want to (I realise there is a slight difference) ?

    The article seems to avoid whether Ms Follender intends to seek a permit, give up on it, or ski it stealthily. Any further comment?

    • Agreed, stay away from Africa if you thik your personal goals outweighs the locals right to govern!!! REALLY? I am too a KSP 95′ ALUMNUS AND VAIL NATIVE AND I WOULD NEVER TRY THIS, SO DISRESPECTFUL…

  2. Ok so after Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro 40 times with Zara Tours and also being a decent skier, I have always thought that on a good day after a decent snowfall that you could quite possible ski uninterrupted from Uhuru Peak to just above Stella point at Rebmann Glacier.

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