Kilimanjaro Mountain High

Linda Watanabe McFerrin
Linda Watanabe McFerrin

What is it about mountains—super-high mountains—that is so attractive? Is it the challenge they represent? The excitement they provoke? The wonder they inspire? Even if it weren’t the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, rising 19,304 feet above the Great Rift Valley in northern Tanzania, would be awe striking. I remember seeing it from a distance on a long-ago trip to Africa when I was writing a story on the Lunatic Express for the San Francsico Examiner/Chronicle travel section. I was reading Ernest Hemingway’s classic The Snows of Kilimanjaro at the time. I’m crazy about mountains, but I never dreamed of climbing Kilimanjaro, so I was delighted to hear about the 2009 publication of Michel Moushabeck and partner Hiltrud Schulz’s book, Kilimanjaro: A Photographic Journey to the Roof of Africa (Interlink Publishing Group, Inc., 2009). If, like me, you are mesmerized by this particular mountain and have no immediate plans to scale it, you should get the book. Moushabeck’s pleasant, diaristic narrative and Schultz’s well-edited images make you feel as if you are along for the climb.

A few years back a dear friend, photographer Alison Wright, author of Learning to Breathe, decided to exercise the body she’d damaged in a major bus accident by climbing Kilimanjaro for her 40th birthday. She called us at a Christmas party where we, her assembled friends, were celebrating many things, one of which was her big day. “Hey, I’m calling you from the top of Kilimanjaro,” she gasped over the phone. I think we were all dazed and impressed. It was hard to imagine her summit: the slow, slow (pole, pole) climb, the altitude sickness, the way your strength is sapped and every step requires tremendous exertion, the exhilaration of making it to the top. Now, thanks to Kilimanjaro: A Photographic Journey to the Roof of Africa, I get it … in great detail, in living color. The book makes “Kili” accessible. Enjoy the climb.

Other favorite books on mountain adventures:

  • Coronation Everest by James (now Jan) Morris
  • Into Thin Air by John Krakauer
  • The Climb of My Life by Laura Evans
  • A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson