The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Over at the Guardian, Caryl Phyllips reports on how he and Russell Banks climbled Mount Kilimanjaro earlier this year.

Russell and I first talked about this climb in Saratoga Springs during the 2004 summer programme of the New York State Writers Institute. One night, in a bar called The Parting Glass, we found ourselves bragging to each other, and the assembled writing students, about how we had both climbed Kilimanjaro. I had done so three times, and Russell once, but it was some time now since either of us had been on the mountain. Also, Russell had gone up the easier Marangu route, and over drinks I was trying to introduce him to the idea that the more difficult Machame route was the way to go. Predictably, by the time the barman called last orders we had talked ourselves into an expedition.

I read the article with a mixture of awe and dread. In one of my weaker moments, I promised Alex (an inveterate hiker/backpacker) that someday within the next ten years, I would hike up Kilimanjaro with him. We’re now three years into that promise, so I have some time yet, but I can’t imagine how I will do it–I can barely summon enough energy or excitement to do Mount Whitney. Besides, I find reading about the Kilimanjaro hike much more exciting.

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