7 February 2013

Tanzania: Climbers Still Stuck On Kilimanjaro

Arusha — THE international pilots, who were supposed to glide to the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro two days ago, are still stuck at the mountain where they face agonizing weather conditions.

On Wednesday a helicopter was flown to the top of the mountain to shunt in supplies of food and water for the pilots who had failed to make it to the ground due to harsh weather conditions. Twenty climbers, who went up the mountain to the summit with the rest of the team were rescued from the mountain on Tuesday night and rushed to hospital after they reportedly fell ill.

The number of pilots who are expected to glide down from the mountain has fallen from the original 100 to 69 and keeps dropping. Experts find the situation to be increasingly hopeless and wonder if the first ever 'Paragliding' attempt on Kilimanjaro should be called off.

"I flew round the summit by helicopter this morning and saw between 30 and 40 pilots stranded on Uhuru peak. They looked tired and weak. I am not sure if they will be able to make it to the foot of the mountain," said Mr Timothy Leach, an expert climber who chose not to attempt the feat this time.

At Kibosho Vocational Training Centre on the foot of the mountain, relatives, event coordinators and officials from Tanzania National Parks gathered daily with their eyes glued to the mountain hoping to see the stranded pilots. A helicopter fixed with cameras made several trips around the peak to take videos and still images of the summit which were then shown to the waiting people below using a laptop computer.

"This is the first time that paragliding is being attempted on Mount Kilimanjaro and it may not be that easy," said Mr Erasto Lufungulo, the Chief Conservator at Kilimanjaro National Park. He added that even Mr Hans Meyer, the first white person to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, made several attempts before finally reaching the peak.

Having scaled the mountain since January 27, the team of international pilots who are out to make history for being the first to accomplish the maiden paragliding adventure from Africa's highest peak, which is also the world's tallest free standing mountain, have so far spent 11 days on the Kilimanjaro.

Many of the pilots are attempting their Kilimanjaro climb for the first time which means they were not conversant with the weather conditions on the mountain. The Public Relations Manager with Tanzania National Parks, Mr Paschal Shelutete, however, said the people who fell ill on the mountain were not the pilots themselves.

"The pilots were accompanied by many other people, including foreign journalists, film makers and supporting staff. So, the people who became sick could be among those in the other groups," said Mr Shelutete.

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