Early Attempts on Kilimanjaro

In the '60s there were several unsuccessful attempts to get a motorcycle to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro. All bar one was up the normal tourist route from Marangu in Tanzania

  1. I heard that the Rose brothers, Bob John and Steve (Kenya) made an attempt that got to Kibo hut (15,000ft).
  2. Roy Barber (UK) and Larry Walker (USA) get to about 16,000ft.
  3. Roy Barber and Vispi Mistri (Kenya) reach Hans Meyer Cave (17,000ft).
  4. Larry Walker reaches the crater rim in 1969 from Loitokitok on the Kenya side (18,500ft).
    Photo session of Larry's attempt

Hans Meyer Cave is where the scree approaches the angle of repose for loose gravel and it becomes almost impossible to find grip with the motorcycles of that era.

The scree
The Scree after the Cave

A human aspect comes into play as well - from about 12,000ft it gets tiring just walking. Pushing a motorcycle - Ha!
Above 15,000 you have to move very slowly and if you know what you're doing

you force yourself to breath. The air is getting thin but your bodies conditioned reflexes do not recognize it.

In other words without thinking you breathe just like at sea level, use up energy like sea level but the breaths you take don't have the same amount of oxygen because of the altitude. Like eating - your body doesn't let you know whats going on until too late - you've overeaten or on Kili, you're ill.

Ailments associated with height include Altitude Sickness and Pulmonary Oedema.

Altitude sickness can cause vomiting but usually just nausia and no energy or will to do

anything. The cure is to rest up for a few hours or even a day. If this doesn't work go down the mountain several thousand feet and rest some more. When you feel better go back up, but slowly.

Pulmanory Oedema is another matter, it can be a killer and particularly affects males under 19. Its cause is liquid passing from your blood into your lungs. Initial symptoms are similar to mountain sickness. Later you get a dry hacking cough with a pink or frothy sputum sometimes streaked with blood. If you suspect Pulmonary Oedema, get the person off the mountain immediately. Do not waste time, it is serious.


  • Eat sensibly. Fried bacon and eggs before the final ascent

    will practically guarantee failure!

  • Take it easy. Walk half as slow and breath twice as hard.
  • Repeated exposure to high altitudes also helps.

Taking a leisurely four or five days for the ascent is the best way to ensure success. There's no trouble getting down in one and a half days.

The usual walk takes 3½ days up and 1½ down. Some people do a rush two up one down, but what's the point, it's a beautiful mountain, enjoy!

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