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Ice Climber Returns to Africa’s Highest Mountain to Climb a Glacier Before it Melts Forever

Will Gadd climbs on the Furtwangler Glacier on Mt Kilimanjaro on 22 February, 2020 in Tanzania, Africa. // Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool // SI202005300068 // Usage for editorial use only //

Canadian ice climbing legend Will Gadd revisited the highest point in Africa in February 2020 to make the last ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania before climate change sees the ice glacier melt away forever.

Researchers in 2000 predicted that the ice on the 5,895m high dormant volcano in the Eastern Rift mountains of Africa may disappear by 2020, prompting Gadd’s desire to return this year. In 2014, Gadd, Sarah Hueniken and photographer Christian Pondella first ascended the unique glacier ice features formed by melting factors that are unique to the tropics.

Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool

Gadd decided earlier this year to take a trip back to climb some of the mountain glaciers before rising equatorial temperatures see it disappear. For this attempt Douglas Hardy, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who has maintained a weather station atop Mount Kilimanjaro since 2000, also joined the group.

Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool

Using Hardy’s pinpoint GPS mapping, the team was able to establish that some of the glacier fins lost nearly 70 percent of their ice mass in the elapsed period between trips, a period of 6 years.

Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool

Gadd, 53, explained: “The thing about this trip that is most important to me is to show people this change in a way that a graph and a newspaper can’t. We think of climate change as being a relatively slow process, but just six years made a world of difference up there. When you look at the cumulative effects of what we saw, it’s quite fast. I always thought of climate change as a future problem. It’s going to be a lot faster, at times, than we think it is.”

Photo: Christian Pondella/Red Bull Content Pool

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