South African team first to ‘officially’ fly off Kilimanjaro

Happy to be on the summit of Kilimanjaro, 16 September 2011.

The happy team on summit of Kilimanjaro, 16 September 2011. Photo: Marianne Schwankhart

A South African team of paraglider pilots summitted and flew down from Africa’s highest point, 5,895m Kilimanjaro on 16 September, the first to ‘officially’ do so, with permits.

The team of twelve pilots included Red Bull X-Alps pilot Pierre Carter, and was the third summit to be ticked off on his Seven Summits Seven Flights mission, having already flown off Elbrus in Russia, and Aconcagua in Argentina. Pierre flew tandem with South African news agency Times Live photographer Marianne Schwankhart.

The team left their 4,700m high camp at midnight as 16 September began, and arrived at the summit, 5,895m, at 7am. Marianne wrote on the team’s blog:

“Unfortunately the wind was coming up from the north and we had to fly off to the south so we waited quite a while to figure out a plan B.

“Eventually the eastern face warmed up and created a bit of a draught that we could launch in so we took the gap, which only lasted about 30 minutes.

Andrew Smith launches from Kilimanjaro on Pierre's X-Alps paraglider

Andrew Smith launches from Kilimanjaro on Pierre's X-Alps paraglider. Photo: Marianne Schwankhart Photo: Marianne Schwankhart

“Andrew Smith launched his glider first and shot right up above the huge clouds building up below us. He was gone in a few seconds flying at almost 70km/h.

“Next it was Pierre and myself in the tandem. We were ready to go but had to abort our launch a few times with strong dusties coming our way every couple of minutes.

“I was very nervous with the elements turning against us. But eventually we did launch pretty much in the same way as Andrew, cleared the big clouds, and turned towards Moshi.

“Chris Lotter launched after us with difficulty and after that the window oppertunity closed”.

These four had a 50-minute fly down to Moshi. The rest of the team were unabe to launch and forced to walk down, which took them rather longer.

Here’s some video of the team planning their flight from the roof of Africa. We are eagerly awaiting videos of their time on the mountain and the flights:

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