Monday, January 27, 2020

Another Great Post From 2014 - To the Roof of Africa - Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

There are shorter routes to the top of Kilimanjaro but I was not interested in a 'burn-run' to the top of a mountain - I was not interested in "bagging a peak." I discerned that most of the people I met on the trail were here just to reach the top. I had no such desire and the top of Kilimanjaro was never really a "goal" for me. My goal, if there was one, was to experience the place, to enjoy a hike day after day on such a grand volcanic edifice. I had some resistance to signing on for this trip because arriving at the top held no allure for me. With these pre-conceived "goals" in mind, I was surprised when I realized that failure to reach the top never really crossed my mind, while we were trekking. We had a great guide who was invested in our success and he made the pace reasonable so that it was not only doable, but actually not that hard. And the group I was with was nothing but positive. The cold and the dirt were hard in some ways, the climb was not in any way. Such is the reward of good leadership and pacing!

Day Six - Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp

Karanga morning camp scene.

Sunrise light on Kilimanjaro from Karanga Camp.

This was not our ascent day but we could clearly see the our route up on the mountains east (right) shoulder.

White-necked ravens waiting to pounce on any unattended food.

Check out this view of the mountain from about 14,000 feet. Only one mile up is the top.

Helen R. feeling no pain at 14,000 feet.

Chris H-N. taking photos on the mountain.

George A. was the best dressed man on the mountain. Here he is communing with the rocks.

The trail from Karanga Camp (background) toward Barafu Camp.

The many moods of Mawenzi are shown here in the next set of pictures. This is the third volcano in the area.


Late afternoon light. I just loved seeing this 16,893 foot peak from Barafu Camp. This is a big mountain!

Late evening shot back to Mt. Meru.

Day Seven - The Pay-Off - Barafu Camp to Stella Point and Uhuru Peak

Sunrise over Mawenzi on our ascent day, August 19.

The initial climb out of Barafu Camp. I was expecting dread at the thought of climbing 4,000 feet in 2.4 miles, between the elevation of 15,000 and 19,000 feet. But climbing Kili is as much of a mental exercise as it is physical. There simply was no time to think of dread, just one foot in front of the other and keep moving, Po-le. po-le (slowly, slowly).

A quick break for water and a snack. Mawenzi in the background.

Climbers making their way upward. We had a beautiful, exquisite day for the climb.

We passed this group heading up the mountain. I didn't think of it at the time but passing another group was kind of a miracle. The average age of our group was 53 years and if you exclude the two 30-somethings our average age was 59.5. In fact, our guides repeatedly called us 'babu's' (grandfather's). We were some of the oldest people on the mountain - most trekkers were in the 20's and 30's. Obviously, age is just a number.

Upwards toward the sky.

Nearing Stella Point, the lip of the crater rim. Look at the smile on Helen's face!

Sign at Stella Point. To a man, we were all surprised that it only took us 4.5 hours to climb the 4,000 feet.

Chris and Wayne at the top.

Helen and Wayne at Stella Point.

It is another 300 vertical feet and about 1/2 miles up to Uhuru Peak. Along the way we pass the warm edge of the Rebmann Galcier.

The glaciers face is about 50 feet high. They obviously are declining with time.

James celebrating getting his whole crew to the top.

Approaching Uhuru Peak on a gentle grade. The air was quite thin but the sun was out and relatively warm.

Wayne and Helen on the Roof of Africa.

This is what is left of the Furtwangler Glacier on top of the mountain. Note the tents pitched in Crater Camp at the base of the cliff for scale.

Remnants of the Ratzal Glacier on the eastern lip of the crater rim. Note the Ash Pit on the left. See an aerial photo from a jet of this feature taken from one of my previous blog postings here.

I noticed numerous fulgurites on the top of the peak where summer lightning had melted the rocks. This one is about 4 inches across.

Unbelievably, the descent down was equally as hard as the ascent! We took a parallel trail in the cinders and it was a lot of work to descend 4,000 feet on the same day. I found that I was out of breath on this down-hike as much as the up-hike. Like I tell my clients in Grand Canyon, "Down is hard, up is slow."

Back at camp the crew sang Swahili songs for us celebrating with us in our accomplishment. It was a magical moment for us.

Friday, January 24, 2020

One of My Most Popular Posts - The Geologic Slump That Closed US Highway 89, February, 2013

As I am still recovering from bilateral knee replacement surgery, my friend Joan recommended that I repost some of my most popular stories. What a great idea.

This first installment was written by me while traveling in Egypt, where I received word that US Highway 89 had been closed indefinitely due to a "geologic event". The Google Earth images really showed that this particular area is prone to geologic slumping. Enjoy!

(Note: I have removed dead links from the original story).

I am taking time out from my "Around the World" trip and writing from Luxor, Egypt where I visited King Tut's tomb today. Many friends, colleagues and one very special wife have written to me to share news of a giant slump that has closed State Highway 89 between Flagstaff and Page, Arizona. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is calling this a  "geologic event", one that occurred on the morning of February 20 (local Arizona time). ADOT has already produced an informative and image-rich video describing in engineering terms what happened to the road and what it might take to fix it (thanks to John P. for providing this link to me).

I can give an informal geological assessment of the rock failure as I travel that road often and am familiar with the geologic setting of that portion of the highway. It is one of the most scenic roads in all the state of Arizona.

View from Highway 89 looking west toward the upper part of the Grand Canyon, known as Marble Canyon. The slump area is located just left of this shot and earlier slump deposits are visible in the foreground. The large boulders are collapsed fragments of Navajo Sandstone that fell from the Echo Cliffs (behind the photographer) from the previous slumping events. Photo taken in November, 2007

View to the south of the Echo Cliffs (photo taken in winter, 2010). The older slump is also visible in the foreground and is a part of the recent slump area.

Great view of slump material which is common on this slope. The slump was caused by cohesion failure in the Triassic Chinle Formation. Anyone who travels Highway 89 north of Cameron will know the havoc that this shale and mudstone lithology creates in the bed of that highway. Motorists often "enjoy" a free massage since the clays and shales swell when wet, then contract as they dry.

The Chinle Formation exposed north of Cameron Arizona, displaying the soft nature of the shale, claystone and mudstone bedding. Photo taken on October 17, 2009.

Chuck LaRue of Flagstaff sent me this Google image of Highway 89 and the ancient slump is quite obvious from this vantage. Note how the white colored Navajo Sandstone clearly has slumped downslope just above the highway in this view. Note that road construction in the late 1950's curved around the westward protrusion of the slump material.

Same image with lines highlighting the prehistoric slump area. The solid red line shows where the rocks broke away from, the dashed yellow line is the top of the slump block. This mass of rock slid downslope about 250 to 300 feet. The age of slumping is unknown to me.

A 'Halfway Around The World' Assessment - As I can believe, ADOT geo-engineers are on site evaluating options. Some rumors suggest that the highway may closed up to one year. The bed failure of the highway necessitates a tedious detour around the slump to State Highway 98, making a trip from Flagstaff to Page some 50 miles farther. Some brave travelers may try the unpaved Coppermine Road but likely just once if they do (the road is quite bumpy). I am sure that one viable option is to quickly pave the Coppermine Road. Some have also said that maybe the "slump route" may be abandoned. Not likely.The road is too scenic and too direct for that and engineers rarely say, "We give up"  these days. Look for a massive stabilization project on this slope, very similar to that undertaken on the Mesa Verde approach road in southwestern Colorado. (There huge portions of the Cretaceous Mancos Shale have often slipped, yet the National Park Service has completed very expensive and a well-engineered solution there. ADOT will do the same here, hopefully that will be landscape interpretive friendly, and we will be able to one day travel this great road again. However, this slope will also one day again slide downhill as it has for at least the last several hundred thousand years. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Trail of Time at Grand Canyon - Part 2 of the Charles Carrigan Video of My September 2019 GSA Field Trip

Here is the video made by Charles Carrigan of Day 2 of our GSA Field Trip in September, 2019. The video is 15 minutes in length and covers our 2+ kilometer-long walk along the Trail of Time at Grand Canyon National Park. Thanks to Charles for making these informative and educational videos! And to the 43 participants on our trip. There were about 5,500 professional geologists who attended the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Phoenix, Arizona.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Video by Charles Carrigan of My GSA Field Trip to Grand Canyon, September, 2019

Readers may recall that I participated as an invited speaker and field trip leader for the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America. One of the participants on that field trip made a professional grade video of the trip and now has Day 1 of the trip posted online. You can view this 8 minute video here. Great job by Charles!

I will post the video from Day 2 of the field trip once Charles makes it available, early next week.

Remember, as the narrator says, "As recently as 40 million years ago....."

Ha! The life of a geologist!

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Origin of the Domestic Tomato

I have a great interest in the origin of common foods. I am especially interested in those that originated in the New World, such as corn, avocados, peanuts, pineapples, chili peppers, and quinoa. Now a study of the genome of the domestic tomato gives information on its place of origin. It appears that tomatoes that were blue-berry size originated in modern-day Ecuador, with variants making their way to Meso-America on the Mexican Plateau, and then another movement to the Yucatan Peninsula where the larger varieties were developed. You can read a summary of the study here. The scientific abstract can be found here. On my computer, I could click on the PDF link and obtain the entire scientific paper.

Tomato domestication history is generally depicted as a “two-step” process with an increase in fruit size from blueberry-sized SP to generally cherry-sized SLC, and then to the very large-fruited common tomatoes (SLL) consumed around the world. All the signs from the study analyses pointed to the intermediate group (SLC) emerging in Ecuador—far earlier than human domestication— then spreading out northward over time, suggesting that human use of SLC came much later. They reconstructed a putative domestication history of tomato groups, focusing especially on the under-explored intermediate stage represented by SLC. They found that SLC originated in Ecuador probably as a wild species over 78 KYA, likely as a vicariance event that separated more coastal SP populations from inland emerging SLC.

Credit: Hamid Razifard, University of Massachusetts, Amherst