Beyond the summit selfie

Nearly five years ago, I was bumping along a Kenyan highway lazily counting zebras when our guide suddenly pointed to the horizon. Jutting nearly 6000 metres into the sky, dwarfing everything around it for miles, was Mount Kilimanjaro. Crowned by a later of snow-white ice and snow, it was a magical sight – even from over 100km away.


Sadly, this iconic image of Africa’s tallest peak could disappear in my lifetime. According to NASA’s satellite photography, approximately 85% of the glacial ice disappeared on Mt Kilimanjaro between 1912 and 2011, with numerous scientists now predicting that what’s left of it could be gone within 30 years. Mt Kilimanjaro will still be there, of course, but without the iconic glaciers that have topped it for more than 10,000 years, it will never be the same.

Together with a group of similarly passionate mountaineers and environmentalists, adventurer Tim Jarvis is doing something about it. As part of the 25zero project, Tim and his team are in the process of chasing the world’s remaining equatorial glaciers – most of which scientists have predicted will vanish within the next 25 years – to create a documentary series highlighting the impact of climate change.

And, thanks to the support of Kathmandu, I’m going to be returning to Africa to join them on their upcoming ascent of Mt Kilimanjaro.

Why I'm climbing

As a travel writer specialising in sustainable travel, I was honoured to be invited to join this expedition, during which we’ll be putting Kathmandu’s new XT Series range to the ultimate test. Beyond the personal feat of (hopefully!) summiting Kili, it’s a privilege to be part of an adventure designed to continue arguably the most important conversation of my era.

Climate change is real. And it’s scary. And the effects are only going to worsen if we don’t all pitch in to do our bit, for literally thousands of studies have now proven that every individual can make a difference – both at home and when we’re on the move.

Simply switching off your lights for 60 minutes during Earth Hour, for example, has been calculated to save the carbon equivalent of taking thousands of cars off the road each year. If every traveller coughed up a few extra dollars to offset their flights, entire forests can be saved, and millions more trees can be planted to help mitigate the impact of our emissions.

And don’t even start me on the emissions created by producing plastic bags, bottles and straws, let alone the environmental consequences of discarding them, no matter how responsibly you do so.

As my job requires me to fly more than the average person, I feel a strong responsibility to go the extra mile to minimise my own impact on our fragile planet, which is one of the reasons I launched my blog, ecotravelist.com, as a platform to share tips and tricks to travelling more sustainably, from how to chose a legit eco-hotel, to how you can make a difference simply by purchasing your travel gear from companies committed to sustainability.

Not only can we help to slow the rate of global warming by making more planet-friendly choices when we travel, but we can also help to sustain the the amazing landscapes and vibrant cultures that inspire us to travel in the first place.

Sarah fills her water bottle on Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina.
Sarah fills her water bottle on Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina.

My goal on my upcoming Mt Kilimanjaro trip – aside from reaching the summit! – is to avoid single-use plastics at all costs. With so many products available at our fingertips these days – from reusable cutlery to water purifying devices – to help travellers minimise unnecessary waste, there’s really no excuse to reach for plastic water bottles when the tap water isn’t safe to drink, or use tiny plastic bottles of (typically poor quality) shampoo when you can bring your favourite eco-friendly products in your own reusable dispensers.

As well as avoiding single-use plastics, I’ll be bringing a bag to pick up rubbish I spot along the way. I might be too late to help save Kilimanjaro’s glaciers from melting within my lifetime, but there’s still plenty of time for all of us to help to preserve the beauty of this ancient stratovolcano – and countless other natural wonders like it – for generations of hikers to come.

Learn more about the 25zero Mount Kilimanjaro Expedition.