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Muntaka makes Ghana Proud .... Conquers Mountain Kilimanjaro
 
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14-Jun-2012  
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It was 12 noon in Tibet, on April 25, 2011. Twenty adventurers instinctively quickened their pace as they approached the Jokhang Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Lhasa.

Their faces beamed with smiles as they admired the architectural styles of the temple, a four-storey timber complex with a golden top. They had set off from the Shangbala Hotel, where they spent the night upon arrival from their various countries, and their initial impressions of the temple, the ultimate pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Pilgrims, were positive.

They were quickly attracted to a crowd of worshipers and some souvenir sellers. A military parade was also ongoing. The enthusiastic adventurers were beginning to take pictures and enjoy the atmosphere when something strange and unexpected occurred:

As if possessed by some spirits, and with ‘confusion’ clearly spelt on their faces, the Tibetan locals suspended their activities and rushed towards one of the adventurers. Speaking to him in the strange local dialect, they held and touched and pressed his skin before proceeding to take pictures with him. Scores of people took pictures with him that day.

The adventurer was Mr Muntaka Chasant, a 26-year-old of slight build and medium height from Aboaso in the Ashanti region of Ghana. As it turned out, the Tibetans had never met a dark skinned person, and were extremely fascinated by Chasant’s looks.

Sharing his experiences with The Mirror on Tuesday, Mr Chasant, said the incident happened on his way to the Mount Everest.

A former old boy of Kumasi High School, Chasant is passionate about sightseeing, and has spent a lot of money visiting many places of interest across the world. He has already visited all 16 countries that make up the ECOWAS.

He funds his trips with monies he makes from Muntaka Publicities, an outdoor advertising agency he set up after he completed a course in Chartered Marketing (UK) at the Institute of Professional studies. Chasant is especially obsessed with climbing mountains. It was this obsession that took him to Mount Everest.

Last month, invigorated by the pleasant experience of climbing 5364 metres to the base camp of the Everest, Chasant embarked on a more audacious mission to summit Africa’s highest mountain – The Kilimanjaro, at an altitude of 5,896 metres.

Having set aside about $5000, he flew to Kenya, where he crossed the Namanga border to Arusha,Tanzania.

The feedback he received when he told some of the Tanzanian locals of his objective was clear: “Climbing to top of the Kilimanjaro is not a child’s play. It’s not for small boys” one man told him.

However, the lion-hearted ‘son’ of Kwame Nkrumah refused to be dissuaded by naysayers. Chasant promptly paid a trekking company to make the necessary arrangements for his ascent to the summit of the mountain. No sooner had he made the payment than he was provided with a guide, three porters and a cook. His journey to the top of the Kilimanjaro had begun.

Chasant and his ‘aides’ set off from the Macrame Gate of the Kilimanjaro, which according to him was the second most difficult route to the summit of the mountain. The ascent of the Kilimanjaro was expected to take 6 nights and 7 days, so they carried tents, food, water and cooking items.

In his back pack, Chasant had some tools and safety equipment to help facilitate relatively easy ascent. They followed a long, winding path to the thick and green Machame rain forest. Then it began to rain. After about 5-6 hours of hiking on the winding trail, they made it to the Machame Camp (3000 metres) just at the end of the forest.

“My tent was erected and I quickly settled it. After dinner, I gave in to rest”, he said. After breakfast on Day 2, Chasant and his team climbed 840 metres to reach the Shira Camp (3840 metres). They left the glades of the rain forest behind and ascended across steep rocky ridges onto the Shira plateau.

They encountered other trekkers, who started calling Chasant “Asamoah Gyan” as soon as they realised he was a Ghanaian. Chansant found it difficult breathing due to the high altitude, but with a lot of support from his team, he continued on Day 3 to the Barranco Camp (3950 metres).

On Day 3, they continued to the Barranco Camp. Then they made their way on Day 4 to the Karanga Valley (4,200 metres). According to Chasant, he became apprehensive at that point when he saw some trekkers descending after they contracted Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). They were being evacuated to their start gate.

“I didn’t allow myself to be discouraged. I became more determined,” he said. They finally reached the Karanga camp where they pitched their tent and found some rest.

 





On Day 5, they made their way from the Karanga Camp to the Barafu camp (4600 metres), which is the base camp of the Kilimanjaro. Chasant’s body was getting used to the altitude, so they made it to the camp at 1 pm, after just about four hours of trekking. Then he rested to begin the journey to the Uhuru peak.

Chasant woke up around 10 pm and began preparing for the summit bid. His tent was completely covered in snow, which the porters broke before pulling him out.

The temperature, according to Chasant, was around -26 degrees Celsius, so he packed layers of climbing clothes onto his body. He also set his camera and headlamp. At exactly 12:00am on Day 6, Chansant began ascending through the heavy cloud towards Stella Point on the Crater rim.

“This was probably the most difficult night of my life. I was ascending a height of 1,200 metres in a short time and high altitude sickness was setting in barely half way through the journey”, he said. “Breathing was difficult. It was physically and mentally challenging. My mind was wide open and I was breathing like a camel.”

However, with persistent encouragement and support from his guide, Stanley, Chasant continued pushing forward.

They continued through the cold and cloud throughout the night until the sun started to rise. After about 7 hours of ascent, Chasant and his team made it to Stella Point.

They took photos and rested for few minutes at before continuing to the Uhuru Peak – the highest point of the Kilimanjaro. This was supposed to take only about an hour, but Chasant had become tired.

“I pushed on until the tip of the sign that read ‘Congratulations! You are now at Uhuru Peak’ started to appear. Suddenly, I became energetic. I continued slowly.”

“Finally, before I knew what was happening, I was standing on the summit right next to the sign. I rested for about a minute with my head right up in the sky. It was exciting to be standing on the highest point in Africa.”

Chasant’s immediate reaction after reaching the summit was to quickly pull out his Ghana flag and take several photos. His joy knew no bounds because of all the 15,000 individuals who attempt to summit the Kilimanjaro every year, only about 40 per cent succeed. He started to descend after about 10 minutes at the peak due to the terrible weather conditions there.

Chasant said: “Severe headache set in and I started blacking out. I started to experience temporary memory loss. Fatigue also set in and the first hour of descent turned out to be rather difficult. Stanley became once again very helpful at this point. We held each other and used our walking poles as a peddling device.”

After about 4 hours, he made it back to Barafu Camp where his porters were anxiously waiting to congratulate him on his success.

In his discussion with The Mirror, Chasant proudly displayed the certificate of congratulations issued to him by the Tanzanian authorities. He said he feels proud to be among the few Africans to have summitted Kilimanjaro.

He hopes to visit Antarctica and some mountains in North and South America in the immediate future.

Chasant called on the government to develop base camps on the Mount Afadjato, so that people from across the world would come to summit it. This he said will provide employment for the citizenry and also provide the country with valuable foreign exchange.
 
 
Source: Written by Samuel K. Obour for The Mirror newspaper.
 
 

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