Kilimanjaro Gets a Serious Dose of Reality

Humor on Africa's high point courtesy of the British tabloids
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Humor on Africa's high point courtesy of the British tabloids


O.K. I admit it. I can be a trash media junkie. It's a professional hazard, an artifact of the human mind's wonderful capacity for mental laziness and procrastination. Like Pavlovian drooling at the sound of a food bell, I can always count on the fact that when I've really got to knuckle down and get into some creative productivity, like magic, I'll keep waking from a sitting coma to find myself reading Wonkette or cruising the net for stellar mugshots. It's sick.

Hence today's post, courtesy of that London bastion of journalistic integrity, The Daily Mail. They've been running an absolutely fabulous series on nine typically obscure British media celebs, all in varying stages of hotness, trekking up the standard "Coca Cola Route" on Africa's Kilimanjaro (19,340). Of course, the celebs are probably playing it up by arriving in high heels and make-up, with twice the baggage they were allowed, but now they're around 16,000 feet, and the altitude's kicking in.

What that means is that the next day or two oughta be gum-snappin' awesome! The Mail certainly isn't scrimping on photo layout space, so every tear and tantrum should get displayed in lurid color. Of course, the celebs are also doing this as a charity climb, and they've raised 585,000 pounds Sterling (at today's rates, roughly 83 quintillion Zimbabwean dollars), so bring on the slapstick. Donations go to Comic Relief. Caveat donor.

And there is empathy to be found among the Schadenfreude. It's not like Kili can't be a grunt. By total coincidence I was looking back through old photos this morning and found these images of Kilimanjaro in 1971, a climb I did when I was 16.

I'm the figure with the big mittens and the red gaiters. I went there on the cheap with a club called the Iowa Mountaineers, a surprisingly active group. The photos were taken by Gil Harder, an Air Force colonel who flew cargo planes, and befriended my rookie teenage self. Two years later he died in a massive avalanche while climbing Annapurna in the Himalayas.

Of course, this was back when Kili had snow on it. Contrast the trekking shot with this panorama, taken in 2005.

Yeesh! Where shall our intrepid heroes find ice for their cocktails? Tune in or lose out. --sh