Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tanzania Tuesday #27 : Estella Latham

Stella Point 2010 image from Mount Kilimanjaro Wiki

Today's heroine is Estella Latham, a woman who has made a unique impact on Kilimanjaro history, though I have been unable to locate much information about her – not even a photograph.

Estella and her husband Kingsley Latham climbed Kilimanjaro in July 1925. In her journal she recorded that they were warned repeatedly about the dangers of attempting such a thing, and the days before the climb she had nightmares of "cold and cruel glaciers, of tumbling down awful precipices into bottomless abysses, or climbing up impossible ice walls by tooth and nail!"

Due to an outbreak of smallpox along the route via Bismark's Hut (the present-day Marangu or "Coca Cola" Route), they needed to climb via the harder and steeper route to Johannes Hut. This hut no longer exists, but scholars have estimated its location as being along the rarely traveled Maua route: a direct servicing route for the Horombo Huts. I did find one description of an available Kilimanjaro climb via this route which has the summit attempt on day 3… not very appealing!

Maua route, "fastest way to the top". Image from MountKilimanjaro.com
With the warnings and the bad news about their route, Estella made a decision:
 "I deemed it wiser to say nothing of my trying for the top! I led people to believe that I was merely going as far as the last hut – Pieter's [sic]. I could foresee the storm of protest and warnings that would surely have descended on my head had I suggested that I too had dreams of ascending Kibo." 
They left Moshi on July 6 with a guide, Mfore, a cook, Hamisi, and several porters. Hamisi told Estella that he was convinced that there must be money at the summit "—nothing else could induce us to be so mad as to climb it."

They climbed through the forest in a thick mist which turned to rain before they reached the Johannes Hut at 2900 meters. The hut was already in decline when the Lathams visited. Estella wrote, "This hut must have been very comfortable once but vandals have torn out the woodwork, ceiling and floor boards and now only the corrugated iron room and four walls remain." As uncomfortable as they were, the group stayed there another day waiting for brighter weather.

They arrived at Peter's Hut (3720m) on July 9, relaxing there for an extra day to acclimatize. Estella wrote: "From the ridge Kibo looks a very long way off," and noted that she was "looking forward anxiously to tomorrow, as to my mind it will be the real test of what I can stand. I think that if I can get to the cave I can get to the crater rim (one dare not write top)."

Tiny thrill here: the Peter's Hut area has developed into Horombo huts, where we will spend the night on our last night on the Kilimanjaro, during our descent. The earliest photo I could find of Peter's Hut is from 1940:
Peter's Hut, 1940. Image from Mount Kilimanjaro Wiki
This photo is from 2013:
Horombo Huts, 2013. Image from Kilimanjaro Rongai 2013
I'm 99.9% sure that the light-colored building is the original Peter's Hut. Hey, it's the little things.

On July 11 they crossed the saddle ("a desolate stony desert") and stayed in a cave Stella called "Nyumba ya Muungu", "The House of God". The group was starting to weaken; her husband Kingsley was "feeling puffed and tired" and both Mfore and Hamisi were ill. They stayed an extra day there to regain their strength before making their summit attempt.

On July 12 Mfore (their guide), Hamisi, and several porters headed down the mountain, leaving Estella and Kingsley with 6 porters: 4 to climb with them, and 2 to remain in camp. That night Estella wrote in her journal:
 "What tomorrow will bring forth is the burning question. We dare not even imagine the humblest of victories. The climb from here does not look big, but in our puffed condition it will take us all our time." 
They left the cave at 4:30am on July 13 in bitter cold. They attempted an unsuccessful route around a rock buttress that tired them out, but they lit a fire, had some breakfast, and rested before continuing up. "The climbing was very tiring, heavy shale into which we sank up to our ankles, had to be contended with in addition to the altitude." Things were made easier by reaching the snow line next to the Ratzel Glacier, "green-white and dazzling".

Reaching Hans Meyer's Notch [now Gilman's Point] was a thrill, "and tired as we all were it put fresh life into us." They opened the record box, examined the flags and notes left by Gilman and other previous climbers, snacked on chocolate, and then continued along the crater rim toward Kaiser Wilhelm Spitz [now Uhuru Point, the true summit].

They first hiked along the ice rim on the crater, but then felt unsafe so walked on the rocks. They were about halfway to the summit when Kingsley had to turn back. "We were at this time at the base of the highest rock pinnacle in the crater rim. We climbed this pinnacle, leaving our record in a glass jar. On our recording card we named the pinnacle "Point Stella", provided it had not been previously named."

Stella Point as seen from Gilman's Point, 1945. Image from Mount Kilimanjaro Wiki.

This is the record the Lathams left at the point:
Estella M Latham
Kingsley Latham (Mountain Club of South Africa.)
Reached this point at 12.10 p.m. on Monday 13th July 1925 .accompanied by natives Filipos and Sambuananga. We then attempted to reach KW Spitz but were unable to reach it due to partial snow blindness, mountain sickness and exhaustion on my part. My wife was fit to reach the Spitz and she led on the return trip here as I was unfit to lead. In her honour I have named the point we reached “POINT STELLA”. It bears 290 degrees E of North i.e. 70 degrees West.
Kingsley Latham 13.7.25.
They headed back around the crater rim to Gilman's Point, rested briefly, and then descended to the cave. Being too tired to go farther that night, they overnighted there, descending to Peter's Hut on the 14th, and returning to Moshi on July 15. In her journal Estella praised "tireless Filipos", the porter who carried a rucksack to the crater rim, "and went sockless and in native sandals".

Estella didn't make another summit attempt on Kili; however, in 1937 Kingsley did. During this attempt Kingsley collapsed, lost consciousness, and had to be carried down the mountain. When he woke up in the hospital, he had almost complete amnesia. He returned to London for treatment, but took years to recover. His nephew wrote that Kingsley "had, like a child, to learn once again how to read and write; for a long time he had difficulty choosing the appropriate word for items he knew well. He gradually recovered most of his faculties and survived to become a successful coffee farmer; he died in his sixties on his farm in eastern Zimbabwe many years later."

Estella Latham is the only woman to have a geographic location on Mount Kilimanjaro named after her. I can only hope that I get to see it in person when we climb later this year!

Stella Point (well, the foot of the pinnacle there), 2014. Image from Mount Kilimanjaro Wiki


"5 day Maua route." Mount-Kilimanjaro.com. Web. Retrieved March 17, 2017 from http://www.mountkilimanjaro.com/maua.htm 

Estella Latham. Retrieved March 15, 2017 from http://kilimanjaro.bplaced.net/wiki/index.php?title=Estella_Latham

KILIMANJARO5895. (2013 July 4). Kili team safely back at Protea Hotel [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://kilimanjarorongai2013.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/kili-team-safely-back-at-protea-hotel/  

Latham, Jim and Jill. (2011 August 3). Kilimanjaro 1925 climb by Kingsley and Stella Latham [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://theafricansage.blogspot.de/2011/08/kilimanjaro-1925-climb-by-kingsley-and_03.html

Latham, Michael and Gwynneth. Kilimanjaro Tales: The Saga of a Medical Family in Africa. London: The Radcliffe Press, 1995.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hike of the Week, part 2 : Forbidden Forest Loop

What a difference a day makes ... well, that and getting away from the prevailing winds at the Dungeness Spit. On Sunday we did our second hike of the weekend, rambling through the Port Gamble Forest on the Forbidden Forest Loop.

Now, I know what you're thinking. If the weather was better, why not try to hike the Dungeness Spit again? Well, it's all about the tides. The low tide on the 19th wasn't going to be until 3:30 in the afternoon -- by which time I had hoped to be on a ferry back home. 

But the Port Gamble Forest beckoned -- a big chunk of still-logged land, with lots of shared-use trails and some logging roads winding through it. 

And did I mention that this loop would include stretches on trails named Fun Forest, ET, and Ewok? Well okay then.

We arrived at the trailhead parking lot and nabbed one of two remaining spaces. (There's additional parking across the street, if needed, along with a trail down to a beach where you can collect oysters at low tide.)

We set off with a detailed trail description from WTA.org, and a crappy photo I took of the map posted at the trailhead. Luckily, the WTA site had great descriptions, and we had no problems getting around the loop. 

The sun filtered through the trees, the air was reasonably warm, and the trail was lovely in that otherworldly, I expect to see a unicorn trotting toward me, magical forest sort of way.

No unicorns, but we did spot Bigfoot.

No, wait, that was just Wil.

Path meandered up and down, around bends, on the edges of gullies, all the while in forest. We saw very few people out on the trails -- only 2 or 3 other hikers the entire time we were out there.

We did, however see a few mountain bikers ... or, at least, people wearing helmets, standing next to their mountain bikes. I started to wonder if this was some new "meet up" or "flash mob" sort of thing...  but it turns out that there was some sort of junior mountain bike race, and the loitering bikers were course marshals. Even with the event going on, we saw fewer than 10 people on bikes all day.

The rest of the time we were just happily alone in the forest.

As I said earlier, the description on WTA.org was great, even if the trail signage wasn't. Here's an example:
The trail winds through the ravine and up the opposite side, crossing Road 1400 at a big moss-covered rock. 
Well, hello rock.

Given the rain the day before ... and a bit of churning from the mountain bikes ... there were some muddy patches.

And some very wet patches.

But it was a great chance to test out our Gore-tex boots ... and for Wil to test out his DIY "Dirty Guy" gaiters. (For the record, we're big fans of Dirty Girl Gaiters and used them with our trail runners when we hiked the Grand Canyon... but they don't really fit high enough to cover the tops of Wil's boots, so he jury-rigged a pair by cutting the toes off some cheap socks he picked up at the Wal-Mart... #stayclassybro)

We wandered around the forest for about 2½ hours, every so often coming to a clearing in the sun....

but mostly in dappled shade.

Eventually we made it back around to the final stretch -- heading back along the Stumps trail to the parking lot. We thought it was interesting how well this trail was marked compared to the others, but hopefully with time the others will get more signage as well.

Then the short drive to Kingston, a bit of a wait at the terminal, and then the boat home in the bright sunshine.

We both really liked this hike; it had lots of ups and downs and a whole lotta pretty, mossy tree action. The mountain bikers we encountered were polite, but it did make me think I should have something bright on the back of my pack if I'm on a mixed-use trail in the future.

This was a "two-hike weekend"; next weekend will be mellower with just one. We're both really enjoying the act of getting out and going on hikes; I just hope we can keep our enthusiasm up as the hikes get longer!

Forbidden Forest Loop, Port Gamble Forest

8.5 miles
370 feet elevation

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Oh Spit! Hike of the Week : Dungeness Spit

Hiking the Dungeness Spit all the way to the lighthouse has been a goal of mine for years. It's 11 miles roundtrip, and while it's mostly flat -- the only elevation change is getting from the trailhead parking lot down to the beach -- it's challenging because the walk is on sand. And in order to avoid spending your hike clambering over logs and rocks at the crest of the spit, you need to time your hike with the tides -- ideally at 6.0 feet or below.

I used the tide tables at Kaleberg.com which very helpfully identified in green days where the low tide is lower than 3 feet and at least 120 minutes after sunrise and before sunset, and pinpointed Saturday, March 18 as a good day to hike. The low tide was late enough that we could take the ferry over in the morning and have a relaxed hike.

The weather, however, didn't look like it would cooperate -- stormy skies on the morning ferry from Edmonds to Kingston.

But we arrived in Sequim plenty early, had waaaaaaay too much breakfast, and burned a little time at the local Wal-Mart where I picked up a whole mess of hand warmers and toe warmers that I think will come in very handy on Kilimanjaro. Did I mention they were on close-out? Woot!

The parking lot was empty when we arrived at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. This should have been a sign. We got our permit and started to head down the trail, which is nice and broad and well maintained. 

The skies had started to brighten up, but it was still super windy. How windy? Well.

Mmmmaybe the wind was all up on the bluff, and there would be none on the beach? Maybe?

We passed this cute sign asking people not to take things off the spit... and a bucket of things people had "returned".

"Sorry I took your stick."
A short way down the trail we got our first glimpse of the spit. Hmm, why do those waves look so big, and why does the beach look so narrow ... the tide is supposed to be going OUT ...  Oh, and as for the lighthouse, it's actually pretty close to the tree at the right-hand side of the picture. It's a long way out there...

Lighthouse? What lighthouse?
I'm sure that I'm not the only long-time Seattleite with this problem, but I seriously can't see the word "Dungeness" without hearing "Dungeness toooooooo!!!!" from the old Sea Galley commercial.

The video quality is terrible, but this triggers all sorts of childhood memories. Fun fact: when I was in high school, I did a one-week internship with the advertising agency that came up with the "We've Got Crab Legs" campaign for Sea Galley. They had the legs in the office and I even got to put them on one afternoon. So, yes, I've had crab legs, too.

We arrived on the beach and were thrilled that there was no wind.

Just kidding, the wind was nuts, and had whipped up huge, wobbling piles of seafoam.

So while it was beautiful, and dry (which was all I foolishly had hoped for...), the wind made for some pretty miserable walking. 

We set off along the spit, the wind coming from behind our left shoulders.

We watched big clumps of foam gather as each wave receded, and then, upon reaching some sort of critical mass, then catching the wind and flying up the beach.

Did I mention it was windy? However, we were warm and cozy in our down jackets. Wil added his heavy Gore-tex jacket and his Gore-tex trousers as added protection. Call him Captain Gore-tex...

At some point a truck taking volunteers out to the Dungeness Lighthouse inched past us. I thought it was remarkable how fast the receding tide still managed to cover up the tracks.

We were moving surprisingly slowly ... the walking was pretty unpleasant, given the crazy gusting wind. Wil wanted to remind me that wind is his least favorite condition. Rain, snow, hail, cold, heat, whatever. Wind makes him unhappy and angry.

But, but, it was super pretty!

After an hour, we were only halfway along the spit to the lighthouse. I just kept thinking about how unpleasant it would be to walk back, this time into the wind. So we called it a day ... well, just under half a day, since we needed to get back.
We're happy because we've decided to turn around.What, you can't tell we're happy???
So we turned to make our way back along the spit, resisting the urge to flag down one the lighthouse shuttle.

It was, indeed, very very windy. Amusingly, while I never felt any moisture, my coat was caked with a film of salt, and my Camelbak drinking tube tasted salty. Ew.

As we approached the base of the trail up to the parking lot, we saw a few people, including a few heading out toward the lighthouse. But most people were just standing within one hundred feet of the trail, marveling at the waves and the wind.

Before turning to go up the hill, we took one last longing look down the spit. I know these pictures don't capture it, but it really was pretty miserable out there. To go 2.5 miles out it took us just over an hour; to go the 2.5 miles back it took us a bit over 90 minutes. So 2 hours and 45 minutes to go 5 miles, and with just 130 feet of elevation change. But one day, lighthouse. One day I will see you in person.

Dungeness Spit

11.0 miles -- we made it 5.5
130 feet elevation gain

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tanzania Tuesday #26 : Clary von Ruckteschell-Trueb

Clary von Ruckteschell-Truëb (1882-1969) moved to east Africa in the early 20th century with her husband Walter von Ruckteschell.

Clary, Walter, and their friend and fellow artist Carl Albert von Salis climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 1914.

Walter and Carl reached the summit on February 13; Clary reached the crater rim at what is now called Gillman's Point... possibly the first woman to do so. (See last week's post on Gertrude Emily Benham for more information.)

Clary and her husband had set up a studio in Moshi in 1913 -- Clary working on her sculptures and ceramics, Walter on his paintings. 
image from Mount Kilimanjaro Wiki
Walter painted this painting of Kili during this period:

image from Mount Kilimanjaro Wiki; you can get your own copy from Art.com
I've been unable to find any account of their climb, but I did find some handsome ceramics that Clary made later in life after moving back to Germany (some currently available to purchase, if you're interested...)

Here's a "jug vase" from designclassics24.eu :

"An extremely rare jug vase by the German potter Clary von Ruckteschell-Trueb / Munich (1882 - 1969). Red clay, with expressive glaze in green/brown-freckled. Around 1960. Height ca. 6.7'. Marked underneath with the engraved artist's workshop sign. Excellent condition, free of damages - no traces of use."
Clary von Ruckteschell-Treub's signature
And a very modern looking stein from steinmarks.co.uk :

The von Ruckteschell's home in Dachau has recently been restored and converted into a museum, studio, and rent-free apartments for sponsored artists. The Art Nouveau style, along with furniture designed by the couple, some of Clary's artworks, and their African souvenirs have brought the house back to life.Their daughter, Ruth von Bennigsen, says that her parents would be delighted. I wonder if there is anything in the museum about their Kilimanjaro climb?

the Ruckteschell's house in Dachau, now a museum. Photo c. Stadt Dachau


Clary von Ruckteschell. Retrieved March 8, 2017 from http://kilimanjaro.bplaced.net/wiki/index.php?title=Clary_von_Ruckteschell

Walter von Ruckteschell. Retrieved March 8, 2017 from http://kilimanjaro.bplaced.net/wiki/index.php?title=Walter_von_Ruckteschell

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hike of the Week : Poo Poo Point

Up early today -- despite Daylight Savings beginning -- to drive out to Issaquah to hike POO POO POINT. 

There is no point in lying ... obviously we hiked this because of the name. Well, okay, the name and the fact that it was the right distance and difficulty for us to hike 3 hours today, had no snow on the roads to get there, and had no snow on the trail. So it was perfect. And the name... well, that was a bonus. 

We squeezed in to the last spot in the small trailhead parking lot -- amusing to have 5 of 7 cars be Subarus -- and set off down the trail.

Soon we reached the first trail marker and knew we were on track. And this is proof that this really is the name of the hike. Seriously.

We started up a railroad grade trail, nice and gentle, and could see why this is so popular with trail runners.

And cougars. And bears. And Wil.

Eventually we came to a junction and ... yeah, the sign makes me giggle every time. 

The trail continued up up up for a few miles.

There were a few spots where we leveled out, and a couple of brief downhills... but for the most part it was up, up, up.

We crossed a bridge with damaged -- and partially repaired -- railings. I assume a tree fell on it? Or?

Though I instinctively stayed away from the railing, Wil took a nice picture of the creek we were crossing.

I love a mossy, ferny, woodsy trail ... but even I have to admit that a lot of this was pretty monotonous. And just up up up.

But we did see some pretty badass stumps...

... and some mossy, ferny trees ...

... and just the lightest dusting of snow just off the trail.

At one point we reached a trail junction and I was sorry that we started descending -- steeply -- because who wants to lose elevation? But eventually we popped out onto a wide, flattish trail with half a mile to go.

And then, Poo Poo Point!

Just kidding. This is Poo Poo Point:

The GREEN stuff is rubberized astroturf, because paragliders launch off this point. We did not launch ourselves, but we did take the obligatory "hikie". 

For the trip out to the point, we only saw about 5 people the whole time. As we walked the last few hundred yards, there were suddenly quite a few people... maybe 10 in all... which made me quip that the Starbucks / pub / free candy shop must have just closed.

Until we got to the point and saw 4 people and their dogs who had walked up the dirt road and who felt the need to talk very loudly at each other, let their dogs run loose, and then spark up. We may be people who like our nature very quiet, and who are big fans of using inside voices even when we're outside. So this was pretty grating, and we left after a few minutes.

Interestingly, this trail was listed as 4.5, 3.6, and 3.4 miles long ... We think 3.6 is pretty close.

So we climbed back up to the trail junction, then eased into the long downhill. As Wil said, it was surprisingly boring, but a good training hike. And, of course, it has lots of mossy, ferny trees...

As we came down we passed more and more people, and it started to rain. Another well-timed hike!

Poo Poo Point was a great training hike -- plenty of up and down (mostly up, then mostly down...), and I could imagine hiking up to the trail junction just for the exercise if not for the experience.

Poo Poo Point Trail
7.2 miles
2214 feet elevation gain