endless vertical plain of switchbacks

Los Angeles, hiking, LA hikes, adventure, Kilimanjaro, kilimanjaro summit

March 14, 2014 • Africa, Camps and Hikes, Latest • Views: 2301

I was on this hike up Echo Mountain today with my friend Lydia, and I had this sort of recall of my summit day on Kilimanjaro. The circumstances are not quite the same. Kilimanjaro summit day starts at Barafu Camp on the morning–if 11PM is morning–of your fifth day on the mountain. Two of those days are at altitudes above 12 thousand feet and so you don’t merely hike, but struggle against nausea and headaches and general feelings of silliness. Echo Mountain starts whenever I damn well please, preferably after a night of sobriety. The hike to the Uhuru summit is close to 7 miles and you climb over 4 thousand feet, from 15,091, to 19,340. The “summit” of Echo Mountain involves a 1,400 foot climb over about 2.5 miles.

So what’s the deal?

How steep was the summit day? My memory is a poor guide. It was dark out most the time, my eyes were on my feet and the feet ahead of me. All I wanted to do, all I wanted to feel or imagine, was a step when my head didn’t hurt and my lungs weren’t out of breath. When the sun came up and revealed the path ahead of us, all I could see was an endless vertical plain of switchbacks. That’s where the recall hits. That’s what feels familiar. Switchbacks. Echo Mountain.

So are they similar?

Barafu to Uhuru Peak–highest point on Kilimanjaro–is a 6.835 mile climb (according to the sheet passed out to us before we started the trek [not a completely reliable source, but close enough for these estimates]); we gained 4,248 feet over that stretch. I used some simple math (simple for me involved searching online for how to find the “grade” for a hike and to double and triple checking whether I could simply divide the rise over the run and then wondering why dividing 4k plus feet over 7 miles wasn’t working out right. I did finally figure it out.) So anyway:

› 6.835 miles(5280ft)=36088.8

4248/36088.8=0.1177 or simply: 12%

The Echo Mountain estimates vary a bit. One report had the elevation gain at 2,315ft, which felt excessive, another few at 1,400–which felt right. 1,400 is the elevation I’m gonna use. The trail is about 2.5 miles up, though this varies from source to source.

›2.5 miles(5280)=13200

›1400/13200=0.106 or simply: 11%

12% to 11%? Pretty close right?

Climb it three more times and you’re at the summit of the biggest mountain in Africa. Not a bad jaunt at all.


© 2014 Christopher Dart


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