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Book Review: Kilimanjaro & Mount Kenya

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By Turtle - Posted on 13 September 2008

Kilimanjaro & Mount Kenya: A Climbing and Trekking Guide
Author: Cameron M. Burns
Published by: The Mountaineers, Seattle WA, 1998 (1st edition)

I bought this book when I was planning my Kilimanjaro trek. About a third of the book is devoted to Kilimanjaro, another third to Mount Kenya, and the rest to topics common to the two mountains. The author seems to come from more of a climbing and mountaineering background (as opposed to trekking/walking) and emphasis is roughly evenly split between trekking routes and more technical mountaineering routes. The book has a few strong points, but overall I was a little disappointed with it. There is a newer (2006) second edition titled "Kilimanjaro and East Africa: A Climbing and Trekking Guide" which may have addressed some of the out of date parts of the first edition... I haven't seen this new edition yet.

In the first edition (published in 1998), much of the information about travel in East Africa is a little out of date now. For example, Burns writes "Making a phone call is one of the most frustrating things you'll ever do in East Africa... Expect to pay about US$20 to $30 for a 3-minute call to the United States". These days it's pretty simple: just bring your GSM cell phone, or even buy one on arrival.

At first I found the trekking route descriptions a little confusing, since Burns describes the routes in segments, and not complete routes from park gate to summit. For example what most outfitters call the "Machame Route" to the summit is described in the book as a combination of the "Machame Route" to Barranco huts, followed by the "South Circuit Path" to Barafu huts, followed by the "Barafu Route" to the summit. This is actually quite logical, but it doesn't match with common usage.

Burns' guidebook does have some information that isn't easily found elsewhere. There are brief route descriptions for many technical rock climbing and glacier routes on Kilimanjaro, for those who want more of a mountaineering challenge. The chapter on the early climbing history of Kilimanjaro is well researched and detailed. Roughly a third of the book is devoted to Mount Kenya, which doesn't have as much information available on the internet.

I found one paragraph in particular intriguing. Burns writes: "If you want a wild experience after getting down off Kilimanjaro, ask your driver to stop for some banana beer. This stuff is served in 2-liter plastic buckets and is made up of ground-up, half-fermented bananas." I kept my eye open, but didn't see any of the stuff in Tanzania... which may have been a good thing!

Buy this book if:

  • you want to do a technical climbing route instead of a trekking route on Kilimanjaro
  • you're planning to climb Mount Kenya
  • you're interested in the history of climbing Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya
  • you just prefer to read about Kilimanjaro on paper as opposed to a computer screen

Otherwise, you can probably find similar and more up to date info on the internet (for example at KiliTrekker.Com!) or in some of the other Kilimanjaro guidebooks:

Turtle says "pole pole"