My colleagues have maintained a weather station on Kersten glacier, at 5870m above sea level, just below the 5895m Kibo summit of Kilimanjaro for almost a decade. Unfortunately, we recently learned that the weather station had melted out of the glacier, and fallen over. The meteorological sensors are mounted on a single pole drilled into the ice, so if ablation lowers the glacier surface too far the mast is unsupported. Last month, Dr Sascha Bellaire and I headed off on a rescue mission.
The Marangu Hotel made everything easy for us by organising our Tanzanian ground transfers and ascent of the mountain with only 5 days notice and additionally providing us with excellent guides to accompany us onto the glacier to help with the repair work.
We planned to ascend from Kibo huts, do our work, and descend all the way to Horombo huts on the 21st January. This makes for a big day at such high elevation, involving a midnight start, and the expectation of the days activities taking at least 18 hours, possibly more. We also knew from the weather forecasts provided by colleagues that both the day before our summit day, and our summit and working day were likely to bring some precipitation to the summit. Could be interesting eh?
Indeed our summit and working day offered an amazing sunrise from Gilmans Point over a snow-covered summit crater and here is a gratuitous shot of what remains of the Eastern Icefield:
The weather deteriorated while we were on the glacier and we ended up working in cloud and horizontal graupel. Here our our guides Goodluck, Lionel and Frank with the weather station after we had repaired it, which involved redrilling a hole for the mast a few metres further from the glaciers edge and servicing or exchanging components of the sensors that may have been damaged by the fall and by lying on the glacier surface:
Prof. Thomas Mölg prepared a summary information sheet on the findings of glacier research carried out on Kilimanjaro by the Universities of Innsbruck, Massachusetts and Otago, and you can download the pdf here: Kilimanjaro factsheet.