Tanzania - Wednesday September 10, 2003, Pedro and Gaston climb up the Ol Doinyo Lengai (the mountain of god)

Climbing the Ol Doinyo Lengai was the main goal of our trip to Tanzania. We had arranged the entire excursion with Hoopoe, a travel agent in Arusha. They provided the transportation, guide, mountain guide and support (tents, cook, etc.) We ended up climbing the Lengai by the west side which is more difficult than from the south, not a great idea. We started the climb very early (just after midnight) to avoid the heat of the day.

Map of the Ol Doinyo Lengai and vicinity

00:21 - Infrared picture of Pedro a few minutes after we started the climb

07:21 - Dawn! about 2350m high, to the west, the great african rift in front of us

07:21 - North-west, someplace down there we started the climb


07:22 - Samuel, our mountain guide

08:54 - 2600m, lake Natron barely visible at the distance

08:54 - Samuel would go to sleep at every oportunity. The rooster rock on the left, the pearly gates is the small notch 2nd from the right


08:54 - Mt Mosonik at the distance

09:25 - 2650m the steepest part of the climb

09:25 - The rooster rock, which we thought was close to the top, still a while to go

10:18 - Finally at the gate of the crater

10:18 - The walls of the ravine, mostly recent lava, react with the humidity and form very white crystals

10:36 - Past the gate of the crater, or the Pearly Gates

10:36 - Some lava flowed here relatively recently


10:37 - Exhausted but (almost) at the top

10:40 - The lava overflow to the north-west

10:40 - 2803m high

10:54 - The cones of the crater



10:54 - The view from the rim of the crater is astounding, the bulging effect is real not due to the lens

10:55 - Samuel and the highest point of the Lengai behind, 2947m

11:08 - I think this is T56B which was erupting at the time. In front and attached to it (lower) is T49 which was active at the same time. The boring naming of the craters can be found here.


11:19 - One of the older cones south of T56B, possibly T45, had collapsed (by and large) in the inside and had a hole open on its side. I was a bit leary about filming there, you never know how much more is going to collapse...

11:19 - Some of the relatively inactive cones

11:22 - Infrared pictures down the hole of the inactive cone T45

11:22 - The colours are distorted because of the little light inside the volcano.

11:22 - The base of the cones was at 2850m

11:29 - The flanks of T56B. The lava comes out black and combines with the humidity of the air (if there is any!) and turns white. So the new cones are black, the older ones are white (and also crumble)


11:29 - Most of the cones were spewing sulphydric acid (in small amounts it smells like rotten eggs)



11:35 - An older cone partly collapsed


11:36 - The pictures do not capture how blindingly white the crater is. Notice that the sky is dark in comparison.

11:40 - Almost like walkways of solidified lava (although sometimes it crumbles, for those who live in cold parts, it feels like walking over snow after freezing rain)

11:42 - Caught one eruption of T56B, we missed the most major one that day which happened just as we were reaching the rim. We could see the black plume but still not the cone.

11:42 - another eruption taken too late

11:45 - Pedro coming back over the lava field

11:46 - One of the many holes on the rim spewing gases

The descent was made unecessarily worse by our guide staying behind and taking a nap. We did not realize that he had the only water that we had left (and we were not ready to climb back to get it!!). The descent around 2400m at 14:00 (the sun was very bright and hot) was made very slow and the situation was getting worse by the minute. In the end Pedro went alone to the base and got some water, fruit and cookies, which reached me at about the 1/4 point. In retrospect, we did not have enough water and should have had something with high calories contents. We were supposed to have lunch back at the base, but I took a lot longer to climb than expected. It was a very long and tiring day, but absolutely wonderful.

18:03 - Sunset over the rift, after bringing the water and fruit from the camp.

GPS data of the climb to the Ol Doinyo Lengai. The collection is spotty because the batteries were dead and we were turning it on for seconds at a time.

Last updated on Sat May 1 05:54:13 EDT 2004 by GhG.