Ben Brandt climbs Mount Kilimanjaro


courtesy of Ben Brandt

Ben Brandt on Mount Kilimanjaro

Matthew Egger, staff writer

Summer break is a time that many Edina High School students spend relaxing, hanging out with friends, or going to the lake; however, senior Ben Brandt is an exception to that trend. Brandt spent two weeks of his summer in Africa with his mother and aunt, seven of those days climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

At 19,341 feet, Kilimanjaro is the highest freestanding mountain in the world– meaning that there are no other mountains surrounding it. It is also the highest point in all of Africa, making it one of the Seven Summits, the seven highest points on each continent.In order to prepare for his journey, Brandt said he ran roughly five miles every day for several months leading up to his departure. He also went to Hyland Lake Preserve, hiking the hills there in order to get himself in shape for climbing.

Brandt’s group hired four guides to assist them during their ascent of Kilimanjaro, all of whom were natives of the nearby town of Moshi.  Once at the base of Kilimanjaro, Brandt began the weeklong journey on the Machame Route. This route covers about 25 miles and 14,000 vertical feet of climbing. Brandt commented on the expedition’s length: “It wasn’t that far, it was about 8-10 kilometers a day [including descent distance], which would take about 6-8 hours because it was so steep.”

Due to the high altitude of Kilimanjaro, there are many health risks involved in climbing the massive peak. One of the most dangerous issues is high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). The life-threatening condition occurs when the heart cannot pump blood as efficiently as it can at lower altitudes, leaving blood backed up in the veins. As the pressure in the veins rises due to the increased presence of blood, fluid is pushed into the air spaces in the lungs, making it harder to breathe. A member in Brandt’s group unfortunately contracted HAPE, and had to make an emergency descent down Kilimanjaro to a nearby hospital. Brandt’s aunt also got hypothermia due to the extremely frigid temperatures on the mountain.

Finally, after five days of endless climbing, Brandt and his group prepared for a final summit push. Brandt said “You start climbing at about 10pm hiking until 8am, so you hike the entire night, and get to the top at sunrise. It’s really difficult, super long. We spent maybe ten minutes at the top; we waited in line for a picture. You feel really sick from the altitude, you don’t feel great.”, said Brandt.

Kilimanjaro, as stated before, is one of the Seven Summits, and is the fourth highest. The others are Elbrus (18,513 ft.) in Europe (Russia), Aconcagua (22,902 ft.) in South America (Argentina), Everest (29,035 ft.) in Asia (Nepal/China), Denali (20,310 ft.) in North America (United States), Carstensz Pyramid (16,023 ft.) in Oceania (Indonesia), and finally Vinson (16,067 ft.) in Antarctica. During some discussion of the Seven Summits, Brandt commented “[I don’t want to climb] Everest,… maybe the one in Oceania because it’s just a little mountain. No, Kilimanjaro was pretty tough, I don’t know if I want to do something like that again.”