Moshi. Plans are afoot to open the Mawenzi peak on Mount Kilimanjaro to climbers.
Its steep terrain and fragile rocks require special equipment imported from abroad as well as the use of skilled rock climbers to assist in putting in place safe passageways.
Mawenzi is the third highest peak in Africa after Kibo and Mount Kenya, which is 50 metres taller.
“To climb Mawenzi you need special equipment. It is difficult,” said Mr Simon Aweda, the acting chief park warden at Kilimanjaro National Park (Kinapa) at the weekend.
He said although Mount Kilimanjaro attracted close to 60,000 tourists a year – most of them mountain climbers – nearly all of them aim for the Kibo peak.
He attributed this to both the spiky gradients which, according to him, have made Mawenzi “extremely dangerous to climb” and the lack of special equipment to reach the top of the rugged and sometimes ice-covered peak.
Mr Aweda said promoting Mawenzi to attract more visitors was among the new plans to diversify tourism packages at Kinapa. This will also include opening new routes for climbers.
There are currently six routes used by climbers to reach the highest peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro. They are Marangu, which is the oldest and most famous, Machame, Londrosi, Umbwe, Lemosho and Rongai.
The Mweka route, which is close to the College of African Wildlife Management (CAWM), is used for descending only. Marangu, where Kinapa headquarters are also located, doubles for both ascending and descending.
Mr Herman Mtei, the tourism officer with Kinapa, said the Mawenzi peak project was contained under the general management plan (GMP) of the park currently under review.
“Plans are that climbers will be charged $750 extra to cover for the cost of hiring special climbing equipment and for the crew,” he explained without giving the time frame for the project.
Kinapa, whose topographic centrepiece is Mount Kilimanjaro, is among the top three leading tourist destinations in Tanzania, the others being the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park.