Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, making it one of the seven summits. It is considered to be the easiest of the seven summits because it requires no technical skills or equipment, such as rope, harness, crampons or ice axe.
Kilimanjaro is the world’s tallest free standing mountain, at 5,895 meters (19,341 feet). While most high mountains are part of ranges, such as Mount Everest’s Himalayan Mountain Range, free standing mountains are usually a result of volcanic activity.
Kilimanjaro lies 205 miles from the Equator. When early explorers reported seeing glaciers on the top of Kilimanjaro, people did not believe them as they thought it was impossible for ice to form so close to the equatorial sun. Scientists now believe that the glaciers shrink and then regrow during the planet’s ice ages.
Kilimanjaro once had three volcanic cones – Kibo, Shira and Mawenzi. Kibo is the tallest. Shira has since collapsed, creating the Shira Plateau. Mawenzi is 5,149 meters (16,896 feet) tall, and is the third highest peak in Africa, after Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.
Shira and Mawenzi are extinct volcanoes. However, Kibo is a dormant volcano; it can erupt again. The last major eruption was 360,000 years ago. The most recent activity was 200,000 years ago. Those who climb to the crater rim will be greeted by the smell of sulfur from the volcano’s lava.
The origin of the name Kilimanjaro is not certain. The most popular answer is that the name comes from the Swahili word “Kilima” (mountain) and the Chagga word “Njaro” (whiteness).
Mount Kilimanjaro was first climbed in 1889 by a German geologist Hans Meyer, an Austrian climber Ludwig Purtscheller and a local guide Yohani Kinyala Lauwo. On Hans Meyer’s first attempt in 1887, he made it to the base of Kibo because he did not have equipment for heavy snow and ice. He made a second attempt in 1888 that was also unsuccessful.
Now approximately 30,000 people climb Kilimanjaro every year. Unfortunately about 50% of climbers fail, mostly due to altitude sickness. The best way to climb is to use a longer route to aid in acclimatization.
The fastest ascent and descent of Kilimanjaro was completed by Swiss Karl Egloff in just 6 hours and 42 minutes in 2014.
The oldest person to climb Kilimanjaro is 86 year old Angela Vorobyova, a retired Russian school teacher, who climbed in 2015. The previous record holder was American Bob Wheeler, who climbed Kilimanjaro at the age of 85 years and 201 days in 2014.
The youngest person to climb Kilimanjaro is American Keats Boyd. He climbed Kilimanjaro at 7 years old in 2008. The minimum age for climbing Kilimanjaro is 10 years old, but exceptions are made with children that have significant experience trekking.
Kilimanjaro’s glaciers have shrunk 82% since 1912. Scientists estimate the glaciers may be completely gone in 50 years. The cause of this is thought to be due to deforestation, and not necessary global warming. Nearly 5 million indigenous trees were planted around the base of the mountain in 2008 to combat the issue.