If you are looking for adventure, I implore you to check out the facts about Mount Kilimanjaro that may help form your decision to be at the highest point in Africa.
Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest freestanding mountain in the world and the tallest mountain in Africa that resulted from volcanic activity.
Uhuru point on this mountain, is the fourth highest summit at 5,895 meters above sea level, after Mount Everest, Aconcagua, and Mount McKinley. The other summits are Elbrus, Mount Vinson and Mount Kosciuszko.
The mountain is composed of volcanic cones of Kibo (which is dormant and last erupted over 360,000 years ago), Shira and Mawenzi (both extinct).
What makes Mount Kilimanjaro more popular than all the summits to visitors especially adventurers and hikers, is the fact that it is the easiest to climb, without the need for special equipment or technical skills. All that is needed is plenty of water and food, warm clothing and shelter.
It is estimated that approximately 30,000 people climb Kilimanjaro every annually though only half the number make it to the top mostly due to altitude sickness. The majority that fails choose to climb using the Marangu Route, which is the shortest path to the peak. Those who make it to the top use a longer route – the 8-day trek – for better acclimatization.
The History of Mount Kilimanjaro
The word Kilimanjaro is from two words, the Swahili word “Kilima” meaning Mountain and the Chagga word “Njaro” meaning whiteness.
The Kilimanjaro Mountain was formed from a repetitive process of an explosive eruption, several layers volcanic ash, magma, lava and tephra. It is a 3 million old stratovolcano.
Baron Karl Klaus Von der Decken along with an English geologist, R. Thornton were the first foreigner to attempt to climb the Kilimanjaro but didn’t make it to the summit due to adverse weather conditions.
In October 1889 a German geology professor Hans Meyer together with Ludwig Purtscheller a mountaineer reached the highest summit that Kibo and confirmed it had a crater. Along with them were African porters one of them being Yohani Kinyala Lauwo who is claimed to have climbed the mountain three times and lived until 10th May 1996.
The fastest round trip of Mount Kilimanjaro is by Swiss-Ecuadorian athlete, cyclist, and mountaineer Karl Egloff in 6 hours and 42 minutes in 2014. Given that the established Kilimanjaro routes range from five to nine days on the mountain, Karl is a pretty fast climber. He has the record for the fastest ascent of the volcano Cotopaxi, an active stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains, located in the Latacunga, Ecuador in December 2012.
Location of Mount Kilimanjaro
The mountain is situated in the Mount Kilimanjaro National Park in the northern part of Tanzania, about 205 miles from the equator. This mountain can be seen 48 kilometres away from Amboseli National Park and 123 kilometres away from the Tsavo National Park in Kenya.
The coordinates of the mountain are 3.0674° S, 37.3556° E.
Mountain Kilimanjaro is approximately 78 kilometres in length and 39 kilometres in width.
The convenient way to reach Mount Kilimanjaro is to fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport and then travel to Arusha or Moshi by vehicle. The distance from the airport to Arusha is 52 kilometres and to Moshi 68 kilometres. The average travel time to both cities from the airport is approximately one hour.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
Mountain climbing can be done all year round starting from the warm tropical forests. As you ascend you go through the plateaus with wildflowers and as you continue, the vegetation begins to get scarce as the air gets chilly. As you get close to the top it becomes arctic cold, with ice and snow visible. In total, the mountain climbers experience up to five ecological zones before they reach the top with each zone drier and colder than the last one.
It is not advisable to stay for long at the top of the mountain since the environmental conditions there are considered to be extreme, leading to body deterioration.
Though climbing the Kilimanjaro is open for all to climb, it should be taken seriously because of altitude sickness that pauses a real danger especially when travelling to extreme elevation. This is why 50% of all climbers fail to reach the Uhuru summit.
It is highly recommended that you seek the services of a guide when climbing the Kilimanjaro. Besides, going without one is illegal. However, you have to be careful when selecting a one. Look out for a quality and a well-branded company that has many years of experience with the best and highest client reviews.
There are packages to choose from that range from five to eight days with varying price tags. However, it should be noted that climbing Kilimanjaro is not a cheap event and the lowest price you should expect should be USD1,700. Any price lower than that would not cover many important things like porter wages, food and climbing equipment; things you should never compromise on.
There are six major climbing routes which vary in cost, distance and scenery.
- The Marangu Route has other names like “The Tourist route” because of its popularity is the most crowded route. It is also called “The Coca-Cola Route” because of the sleeping huts along this route. Camping is not allowed and it is the same path that is used to climb up and back down. Its problem is that it lacks good scenery compared to the rest of the routes, it is crowded and its five-day trek does allow for acclimatization. That is why it has a lower success rate of climbers reaching the summit. However, it is the cheapest route.
- The Machame Route also called “The Whiskey route” is a much tougher route but with the seven-day trek, your chances to reach the summit are better. It is the most popular climbing route because of the beautiful scenery of the Lava Tower, the Shira Plateau, the Lava Tower and the Barranco Wall.
- The Lemosho Route takes seven to eight days to trek and is a reserve of people who love camping in the wilderness for long and do not mind about the route cost. It also allows for the beautiful scenery of the rain forest and wildlife. This route joins the Machame route so you have more to observe on your trek. This route is the most expensive due to the distance, the remoteness and the additional transport costs.
- The Rongai Route is a six-day climb that is slightly expensive but allows for the scenery of wildlife, a unique feel of the wilderness and you get to climb and descend both sides of the mountain. It is preferred for its gradual climb with not steep ups and downs.
- The Umbwe Route is the most difficult route of them all reserved for experienced mountaineers.
- The other route used is the six-day Shira Route, which later joins the Machame route and is known for its low traffic and excellent success rates, with high-level operators.
Much as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro can be a daunting task if you are prepared and determined it is an achievable feat. On 22nd October 2018, six-year-old Coaltan Tanner, an American, reached the summit. The same goes for 88-year-old Dr. Fred Distelhorst, a retired American orthodontist, who became the oldest person to climb this mountain.
So if you are between the age of 6 and 88 years, it is possible for you to make it at the Uhuru summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.