Three-time Everest summiteer and climate activist Dawa Steven Sherpa has forged a new route up Africa’s highest mountain to help Tanzania with an innovative eco-tourism project.
Sherpa helped explore the new Kidia Route and reached the summit of Uhuru Peak (5,895m) on 22 August along with rangers from the Kilimanjaro National Park. The Tanzanians want to promote it as a ‘VIP Route’ by pricing it higher for those who want to avoid the crowds on the Mweka or Machame routes.
“The summit is at about the height of Everest Base Camp, so it was not particularly difficult,” Sherpa said on return to Kathmandu this week. “But we had to explore a new route and see if it was feasible and safe for a low-volume, high-value trail that can help raise local incomes and make tourism itself more sustainable.”
Before Covid-19, there used to be 50,000 visitors a year to Kilimanjaro National Park with up to 200 climbers a day on the busier trails which had been nicknamed ‘Coca Cola Route’ or the ‘Fanta Route’ and where tourism income does not really trickle down to local communities. With the pandemic the numbers are down to 30%, affecting the park’s revenue for conservation.
The plan now is to limit trekkers on the Kidia route to only 20 a day, employ more porters, depend more on local produce, and charge tourists higher fees — a bit like an ‘executive class’ on Kilimanjaro, and similar to the Nepal government’s practice in Mustang and Dolpo.
Besides being the highest in Africa, the dormant volcano is also one of the tallest free-standing mountains in the world, rising 4,000m from its base. Uhuru is the highest point, and situated on the Kibo cone.