What is it all about?
While some charity events might be banquets or dinners that raise money for a good cause, Wings of Kilimanjaro (WOK) is the most amazing adventure that also changes lives in East Africa.
Wings of Kilimanjaro’s mission is to raise money for clean water, local schools and other sustainable projects in Tanzania. But instead of bake sales or car washes to get people involved, participants with WOK also get to do something amazing: climb to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro and paraglide off!
Thanks to the events organized by the Wings of Kilimanjaro team since 2013, a school for Maasai children was built in Emboreet rural area, not far from Tarangire National Park. Together with the school buildings, the team built houses for teachers, who arrived from other parts of Tanzania to teach Swahili, English, math and other subjects to the young Maasai.
In 2019, Altezza Travel was the preferred expedition operator of Wings of Kilimanjaro. We were chosen because of our emphasis on safety and participant health, as well as our team’s expertise and extraordinary guides for Mount Kilimanjaro.
We were proud to be a part of Wings of Kilimanjaro 2019 and to contribute in such a positive way to local communities
In 2019, 22 individuals from all over the world came together to paraglide off the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Citizens of Australia, Chile, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the USA came together to face the unique challenge of not only climbing Kilimanjaro, but flying off the top, in order to raise money for the Emboreet school.
This was certainly not the largest climbing team Altezza has ever organized, however there were unique factors in a paragliding expedition that required much more equipment than usual, and a larger team. In all, we had roughly a 200-member climbing crew, when counting all the guides, assistants, porters, resupply team, cooks and health crew.
Part-way through the trek, we sent up additional porters to re-supply the climbing crew with fresh meat, fruits and vegetables to ensure they were strong and energized for their flight.
The team was led by Altezza guides, who are all certified Wilderness First Responders and have years of experience climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
You may read more about Altezza guides here.
The team chose to climb the Machame Route with certain modifications for this expedition, partially because of the requirement of large camps with enough space for our huge group, but also because of our understanding of the route’s difficulty level and the need to carry such important equipment for safe paragliding.
The group trekked through Machame Gate, moving through the tropical rainforest and up to Machame Camp, from where we moved to Shira Camp. Our final night on the Western slope of Kilimanjaro was in Moir Hut camp.
When we reached Lava Tower, some team members climbed up to Arrow Glacier to help acclimatize themselves before settling at Barranco Camp.
The next morning we scrambled up the Barranco Wall. The view from the top was stunning! We enjoyed beautiful African landscapes lying beneath and continued our way up the mountain.
That night we slept at Karanga Camp, and in the morning we went to Kosovo Summit Camp - not Barafu Camp (which is the usual overnight spot before summiting).
Why did we decide to stay in Kosovo Campand not Barafu Camp?
Our full climbing expedition had over 50 tents. Barafu Camp did not have the capacity to hold our team, and we needed to ensure everyone had a full rest in order to be their best for a safe flight the next morning. We did not want to split up the team, either, because there are important safety meetings and protocols we had to uphold that would not be possible at separate camps. Therefore, we chose Kosovo Camp to accomodate us before the final summit.
Kosovo is slightly closer to the summit than Barafu Camp, and shaves an hour off of total climbing time to reach Uhuru Peak. In this case, because of all the equipment and the importance of the paragliders starting their flights at a specific time in the morning, this hour was crucial.
Overnighting at Kosovo Camp requires a special permission from the Kilimanjaro National Park Authority. In order to get it, a trekking party should have portable toilets for both the trekkers and members of the crew.
Altezza medical team
We prioritize health and safety for all of our expeditions, from individual climbers all the way up to huge groups like this 200-member team. Each evening of the expedition, our guides performed health and wellness checks on every team member, including climbers, porters and kitchen-crew members. Oxygen levels, pulse rate and general wellness was recorded for every participant. Symptoms of altitude sickness were strictly monitored and basic medications distributed as needed.
Throughout this trek, almost every single team member felt excellent. We were very pleased with the health status of this large team. There was only one member who had the flu just before the trip, and there were a few instances where low oxygen saturation was recorded, however, he worked with the guides and took precautions and yes, he did successfully reach the summit. We were impressed with his determination and truly admired his perseverance, not only to reach the top, but to follow all the directions from the guides in order to do so in a safe and healthy way.
An Epic Expedition
This was an expedition for the books. Not only was the final summit truly something amazing, because participants literally flew off the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, but because of the camaraderie and positive-outlook of the team throughout the entire climb.
This climb was about more than just reaching the goal of summiting Africa’s highest mountain, it was also about making a difference for impoverished communities in Tanzania. That perspective fuelled everyone that this was bigger than a trek, bigger than a bucket-list challenge, this trek was actually life-changing and world-changing!
For the final summit, the team reached Uhuru Peak ahead of schedule, at 5 am. This gave us more time to prepare everything for the upcoming paragliding flights. However, it was freezing cold at the top. To keep warm, porters began dancing and singing. It didn’t take long for more of the team to join in and have a giant dance-party at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, illuminated by the rising sun. We celebrated not only the victory of reaching the physical goal, but also the more important achievement of making a lasting difference in Tanzania by providing education to needy communities in the shadow of Africa’s highest mountain.
Altezza has been proud to take part in the Wings of Kilimanjaro 2019 event and we will be looking forward to seeing this amazing team when they decide to set foot in Africa again.
Some photos in this article are courtesy of Mr Ryan Wilkes, @ryanwilkes