Will Gadd faces climate change realities on Mount Kilimanjaro

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

In 2000, researchers predicted that the ice on the 5,895m high dormant volcano in the Eastern Rift mountains may disappear by 2020, prompting Gadd’s desire to return this year.

Gadd, Sarah Hueniken and photographer Christian Pondella first ascended the unique glacier in 2014, to view the ice features formed by melting factors that are unique to the tropics. The new expedition will see them return there, as well as tackling the tough Messner Route.

The rouse is named for Italian legend Reinhold Messner, the first person to climb all 14 eight-thousanders. He first climbed his iconic route in 1978, the year Gadd first got hooked on ice climbing.

A new 45-minute film on Red Bull TV documents the decline of the ice glacier and Gadd’s trip back to climb some of it 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 Kilimanjaro since 2000, also joined the group.

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.

Known for his Frozen Falls, Beneath the Ice and Ireland Sea Stacks Red Bull projects, 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 five 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.”


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