Kilimanjaro is one of the most famous mountains in the world. Climbing it by bike is more like an expedition than a bike tour. Five days we fought our way to the summit and not just once did we doubt whether we would reach our destination.
I balance the bike lying on my backpack, while the poles in my hands give me additional support in the loose terrain. My breath synchronises with each small steps. Nothing else exists at this moment, nothing at all. My brain is empty and I try to pump as much air as possible into my lungs. Danny McAskill and Hans Jörg Rey struggle with me breathing heavily at 4am towards Uhuru Peak, the highest elevation on the Kilimanjaro mountain range.
As early as 1am we left our camp next to the "Kibo Hut" at 4.700 m. Overnight it snowed 15 cm. We thought briefly about postponing our summit trip, but decided to continue. The last stage of the ascent to the summit is steep and long. That's why we pitched our bikes the day before, in a cave approx. 500 m above the camp. Up to there it was pleasant to walk this morning. Now, with the additional weight of the bikes, it is progressing quite slowly.
Just at the right time the sun begins to turn the mountain into a light spectacle that is second to none. The clouds and the snow around us shimmer in all shades of red. A true motivation boost, which we also urgently need. Arrived at the crater edge of the volcano, we see the summit within reach. The last meters we are able to pedal, because the terrain only rises slightly. Completely out of breath we fall into each other' s arms at 5,895 m, the highest point of Africa!
It started over a year ago with all the preparations. We looked at various possibilities of acclimatizing the body to adapt to the altitude, but ultimately we chose to climb Mt. Kenya just one week before departure. Hans and I were able to ride our bikes to the highest point, Point Lenana 4.985 m, the so-called "trekking summit", which can be reached without using a rope. Danny, as the only one completely inexperienced at altitude, had to fight here with elevation sickness and was unfortunately not with us at the summit. From Kenya the three of us took the bus to Tanzania, our second mountain.
Altogether there were five stages for us here up to the summit. The first day had an ascent of 1,800 hm on a steep, often impassable emergency road. We stayed two nights at the "Horombu Hut" at 3.700 m. After an day of climatising we continued up to the enormous, so-called "Kibo Desert", a desert-like plateau from which the volcanic cone with the highest points in the Kilimanjaro range emerges. At the first sight of the steep slopes we all had doubts about what we were doing here with our bikes. The never ending march over the extremely soft ground of the plateau finally led us to the "Kibo Hut". Yesterday's ascent to "Hans Meyer Cave", the cave in which we deposited our bikes, was another day to adjust even more to the altitude.
And now, after 8 hours of ascent, we are standing up here and can hardly believe it. Cloud fragments surround us and alternately open the view into the huge crater with the few remaining glacier remains and the view of the deep underlying savannah on the other side. Opposite, now and then Mt Meru, Tanzania's second highest mountain (4,566 m), emerges from the sea of clouds.
For mountaineers the difficult descent begins here, for us an almost 5,000 hm long descent! We agree that we want to cover as much as possible while riding and now we get the reward of having dragged the extra weight of the bikes up here. Riding uphill was often unthinkable. Downhill only in a few instances does the terrain present us with unsolvable tasks. The steep gravel slopes over the "Kibo Hut", which were hostile to us, turn out to be extremely fun. As if waving on skis, we descend the wide slopes in unrestricted lines.
We spend another night in the camp and take the further descent under wheels - back through the "Kibo Desert" in the direction of "Horombu Hut".
Breathing is easier once again so we fill our lungs and accelerate. Large boulders of volcanic origin line the way. Shrubs grow between them and indicate that we are getting into deeper regions. On the bumpy rescue road we dive into the jungle belt that lines the foot of the mountain.
The small wooden terrace of a bar at the roadside under banana palm trees offers itself as the end point of the incomparable descent. Only the slogan of the local beer, which of course is called "Kilimanjaro", does not fit to the otherwise perfect scenery:
"If you can not climb it, drink it." For us it should read: "If you can bike it, drink it."