Once in a lifetime

The Western Breach By Peter Dignan

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The Western Breach route on Kilimanjaro can be classed as a bridge route between trekking and technical climbing. The route used to be a very popular way of ascending Kilimanjaro, but it has fallen out of favour in recent years due to a number of accidents.

The most recent and severe accident took place in January 2006 when a large section of rock came loose from high on the Western Breach. The resulting rock fall killed three climbers and prompted the Kilimanjaro Park Authorities to close the route until an investigation could be carried out.

The findings from the investigation revealed that a large section of rock approximately 39 tonnes in weight became dislodged, due to the melting of ice within an ice-scree composite bonding. The section of rock then travelled 150 metres downhill before hitting and killing the three climbers. Other factors that contributed to the deaths of the climbers were strong downhill winds estimated at 177 Km/h and the fact the climbers were unable to react quick enough to the rock fall, due to poor visibility in snow conditions and strong winds deflecting the sound of the rock fall.

The investigation highlighted a few key points and some recommendations were put forward as to how the route could be made safer. A new route was proposed keeping climbers out of the main kill zone. Recommendations to erect signs at Arrow Camp were also put forward. The Western Breach was re-opened in 2008 and the park authorities now recommend the amended route, however signs have yet to be erected at Arrow Camp.

Outfitters are now guiding clients on the Western Breach and to date there have been no new accidents. Although the new route still passes through rock kill zones these can be crossed very quickly but an element of risk still exists and a helmet is definitely advisable if attempting the route.

Due to the receding glaciers on Kilimanjaro the structure of the mountain is changing, and there is always going to be risks associated with the Western breach as the ice melts and rock becomes loose. Risk is a personal choice and mountaineering by its nature is a risky undertaking. For those wishing to climb a more difficult route on Kilimanjaro but one that is safer than the Western Breach, the Credner Glacier is an option.

By.  Rob ColBourn

Source: http://www.PopularArticles.com/article363732.html

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