Feb 152016
 

Kilimanjaro_W_3may12_rex_bMt. Kilimanjaro is famous for being the home of Africa’s highest point, and being the tallest free-standing peak in the world. It’s estimated that 50,000 people come every year to climb it.

It is also repeatedly quoted that less than 50% of climbers make it to the peak. But do statistics suggest that it is becoming increasingly easier for people to succeed?

Before we go into the history of climbing Kilimanjaro, let’s first discuss Kilimanjaro itself. What most people don’t know about the mountain is that it isn’t simply ‘a mountain.’ It is classified as a stratovolcano; the mountain is actually three separate volcanic cones.

shira-mawenzi

Geologists believe that Kilimanjaro actually began life as a volcano now known as Shira, which erupted about 2.5 million years ago. At the time, it was likely about 17,000 ft tall, but has collapsed and eroded over the ages to a mere 13,140 ft, making it the shortest of the three cones.  Much later, approximately 1 million years ago, Kibo and Mawenzi erupted, now standing at 19,341 ft and 16,893 ft, respectively. These two volcanoes were separated by what is now known as the Saddle Plateau, located at 14,400 ft. Aside from being the tallest of the three, Kibo is also the largest, over 15 miles wide at the Saddle Plateau altitude. It’s also noteworthy that, while Shira and Mawenzi are extinct, Kibo is technically dormant, meaning that it still has the potential to erupt.

The earliest known written record of Kilimanjaro comes from Ptolemy, an Alexandrian mathematician, astronomer, and most importantly in this case, cartographer around 100 AD. He wrote of sailor’s reports of a “Moon Mountain” with references to the Nile, which may indicate Kilimanjaro or any of several other African mountains. Whether or not Ptolemy was, in fact, speaking of Kilimanjaro, nothing more was recorded about the mountain for over 1,700 years. In 1848, a German missionary named Johannes Rebmann became the first European to officially report the existence of Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately, his reports were considered unreliable by the Royal Geographical Society, and confirmation of Rebmann’s claims were not made until 1861.

Karl_Klaus_von_der_Decken_(1833-1865)AfrikaForscherAlmost no time passed before explorers began making attempts at the peak. Prussian officer Baron Karl Klaus von der Decken made an attempt in 1861, along with a crew of fifty porters, but bad weather foiled his plans. He made it to only 8,200 ft. He tried again a year later and made it to 14,000 ft before turning back – this time due to heavy snow. Hungarian Count Sámuel Teleki and Austrian Lieutenant Ludwig von Höhnel were a bit more successful in 1887; Teleki and his crew of 300 porters made it to 17,400 ft before stopping the expedition due to ear aches.

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Numerous others tried and failed to reach the coveted peak until 1889. German geology professor Hans Meyer made his third attempt at the summit of Kibo, with the assistance of Ludwig Purtscheller, an Austrian mountaineer. They established several camps stocked with food and supplies ahead of time to prevent to allow for multiple attempts without making a full retreat. Finally, on October 6, 1889, the pair reached Kibo’s summit and were the first to confirm that it had a crater.

So why did it take several trained, experienced explorers, with the support of large mountain crews multiple tries to reach the peak of Kilimanjaro?

The simple answer – snow and ice. In Meyer and Purtscheller’s day, there was a layer of ice over the top of the mountain, so thick that they had to spend quite a bit of time carving footholds in it just so they could proceed. These days, the ice has retreated, allowing for reliable routes to the different peaks of the three volcanic cones. One can climb to the top without ever stepping on snow.

But while snow and ice no longer are significant obstacles in the ascent of Kilimanjaro, the more modern barrier is altitude sickness. Because the early explorers had to battle the grueling terrain, they were encumbered, making slow progress on their ascent. They spent many days gradually gaining altitude and becoming acclimatized. Conversely, altitude sickness is the main reason for unsuccessful summits today.

Marangu

Today’s well maintained routes can be done in as little as 5 days (which we strongly discourage). The original route that Hans Meyer took for the first summit closely resembles the Marangu route being used now. It was also the route that was first used to guide commercial expeditions. For a long time, it was the only route available. But Marangu is not a well planned path. Even today it has a paltry success rate of 27% when done over 5 days.

As the years passed, more and better routes were established. The new routes on Kilimanjaro are designed to control the flow of visitors and have more reasonable elevation gains from day to day, thus reducing the likelihood for altitude sickness (though AMS is still the biggest risk while climbing Kilimanjaro). The longer routes that are used today, like the 8 day Lemosho and 9 day Northern Circuit, have success rates of over 85%. More and more people are choosing these routes with the education of reputable operators who steer clients away from the 5 day Marangu and 6 day Machame routes. Therefore, the percentage of total climbers who reach the summit is increasing. This is a welcome trend on Kilimanjaro, as it is safer and more fulfilling for everyone involved.

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Kilimanjaro has consistently changed over its several million-year history, and it’s not stopping now. Due to global warming, scientists predict that the ice on Kilimanjaro, the remains of ancient glaciers, could be gone by 2060. And it shouldn’t be forgotten that Kibo still has the potential to erupt. While it doesn’t appear that there is anything we can do about these changes, perhaps we should simply be grateful that this picturesque geological marvel is available for us to experience during our lifetime. And chances are, if you climb on a longer route with a professional outfitters like Ultimate Kilimanjaro, you’ll make it to the top –  in just one try.

Dec 272015
 
Mt-Kilimanjaro-Elephants
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. The fastest ascent and descent of Kilimanjaro was completed by Swiss Karl Egloff in just 6 hours and 42 minutes in 2014.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

Nov 242015
 

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In November 2015, Ultimate Kilimanjaro® hosted Asha Leo on her Kilimanjaro adventure. Here are her entertaining day by day videos on the 8 day Lemosho route.

Day 1: https://youtu.be/V5wdqciyJS8
Day 2: https://youtu.be/sDPM4O6m-A4
Day 3: https://youtu.be/ttJu90RMKOY
Day 4: https://youtu.be/8hiF5jcbUIQ
Day 5: https://youtu.be/U4Rszt_wepI
Day 6: https://youtu.be/C0pHsCcm_VI
Day 7: https://youtu.be/PBNOCLVbJ9c
Day 8: https://youtu.be/3Eu5detRQdw

Asha Leo is a British fashion model and television presenter. She began her career at age 13 by winning the Face of Sugar Magazine model competition. She subsequently signed with Select Model Management in London. By age 21, she moved to Nevs Model Management where she became an in-demand commercial fashion model working in Milan, Hamburg, New York, Miami, Seattle, Dubai, and Amsterdam. Throughout her career, Asha landed campaigns with Charles Worthington, Fat Face, Hot Diamonds, Head & Shoulders, Marks & Spencer, Nivea, Pretty Polly, Ri2k, Sears, Seventy, Sonnetti Jeans, Sony Mobile, T Mobile, The Body Shop, and Triumph. She has also graced the cover of several magazines including Stuff Magazine, Health & Fitness, Weddings, Arabella, Weddings, and Destination Weddings. Due to her Indian heritage, in 2004, Asha was chosen to be in the Kingfisher Calendar.

Upon graduating university, asha moved to New York to pursue modeling and television presenting. She has presented the 12 part series ‘Ibiza Exposed’ for Granada TV as well as hosted has hosted ‘Casino TV’ in Asia and ‘Cheats & Chat’ in the UK.

She is currently represented by Nevs Model Management in London, Ford Models in New York, Mega Models in Miami, Heffner Model Management in Seattle, Modelwerk in Hamburg, MC2 Models in Tel Aviv. She is represented by Innovative Artists in New York for Presenting and Acting.

Aug 242014
 

ebola map smallYou have probably heard the news about the ongoing Ebola epidemic in Africa. As of August 21, 2014, there have been approximately 2,500 reported cases, with nearly 100% of these cases originating in West Africa (Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia). There have been 15 cases originating in Nigeria.

There is virtually zero risk of exposure to Ebola while in Tanzania. As the map illustrates, the outbreak is many thousands of miles away. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s body fluids. Infected people are not contagious during the incubation period, and only become contagious with the onset of symptoms. Therefore people who are most at risk are health care workers and families of infected people, not tourists.

While we understand your concern and care for your safety, it is safe to continue with your Kilimanjaro plans until further notice. We will monitor the situation very closely and notify our clients of any changes. Should Ebola become an issue in Tanzania, trip insurance, which is a requirement for participation in our trips, would reimburse you for expenses if you purchase the optional coverage “Cancel for Any Reason.”

Learn more about Ebola here.

Jul 222014
 
uhuru peak

Uhuru Peak sign transformations

Last week, climbers reaching the top of Kilimanjaro may have thought they were hallucinating. That’s because the park authorities made another sign change, the second in two and a half years.

In January 2012, the old, weathered, wooden Uhuru Peak sign was retired in favor of a shiny new green sign with yellow writing. Nearly everyone disliked the new sign because it lacked character and was not as visually clear as the predecessor.  Well, the park decided to return to the look and feel of the former sign.

Some minor changes to the words and font have been made.

The new “old” sign reads:

  • MOUNT KILIMANJARO
  • CONGRATULATIONS
  • YOU ARE NOW AT
  • UHURU PEAK, TANZANIA 5895M/19341FT AMSL
  • AFRICA’S HIGHEST POINT
  • WORLD’S HIGHEST FREE STANDING MOUNTAIN
  • ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST VOLCANOES
  • WORLD HERITAGE AND WONDER OF AFRICA
Dec 202013
 
0lavatower

Mount Kilimanjaro has no shortage of amazing visually stunning sights. The climb from the trailhead to the summit of Kilimanjaro rises from 6,000 ft to 19,340 ft, crosses five ecological zones, and offers plenty of spectacular things to see.

Here’s a list:

1. Rainforest
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Kilimanjaro routes begin in the lush rainforest, which receives approximately 80 inches of rain annually, mostly during the rainy season months of April through May and November.

2. Colobus Monkeys
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The Colobus monkey lives on the treetops in Kilimanjaro’s rainforest. Their name comes from a Greek word referring to the stumps on their hands they have instead of thumbs.

3. Zebra Rock

Zebr Rock is a popular landmark on the Marangu route. Over time, mineral rich rain water flowing over the black lava formed white streaks on the rock wall resembling a zebra.

4. Dendrosenecio Kilimanjari Plants
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The rare flora species Dendrosenecio Kilimanjari have evolved and adapted themselves to the unique and unpredictable weather of Kilimanjaro in order to survive.

5.  Shira Plateau
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The Shira Plateau is located on the western side of the mountain. The plateau is actually a caldera, a collapsed volcanic crater, created 500,000 year ago that was later filled with lava debris from another eruption.

6. White Necked Ravens
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White necked ravens are commonly found lurking around campsites and huts looking for some leftover food. They get their name from a patch of white feathers on the back of the lower neck.

7. Plane Crash Site
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In November 2008, a small passenger plane carrying four tourists and the pilot crashed on Kilimanjaro at 14,200 ft. The wreckage remains on the mountain on the saddle between Uhuru and Mawenzi.

8.  Porters

The Kilimanjaro porters carry all the gear so you don’t have to. These hard workers are a key success factor for climbers to reach the top.

9. Lava Tower
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Sitting at 15,900 ft, Lava Tower was caused by a volcanic eruption dating back between 150,000-200,000 years ago. Climbing the tower is a fun activity for people feeling extra adventurous.

10. Mawenzi
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Mawenzi is an older peak then Kibo, formed by a volcanic eruption that subsided before Kibo peak was formed. Mawenzi has no ice because it is too steep to allow glaciers to stick to it.

11. Full Moon
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One of the most popular times to climb Kilimanjaro is during a full moon. Climbing at this time with a clear sky will improve your visibility, especially during the summit attempt.

12. Glaciers
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Kilimanjaro’s 10,000 year old glaciers have drastically disappeared by 85% over the last 100 years. Because of this rate of decline, many experts expect the glaciers to completely disappear in the next 50-70 years.

13. Kilimanjaro Sunrise
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Many climbers especially enjoy the spectacular sunrise while heading up to the summit. It is viewed from above the clouds, as climbers approach Uhuru Peak in the early hours before the dawn.

14. Kibo Crater
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There are three volcanic cones on Mount Kilimanjaro: Shira, Mawenzi and Kibo. Kibo crater is the main crater and the largest, located near the summit of Kilimanjaro.

15. Uhuru Peak
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At 19,340ft, Uhuru Peak is the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro. The word Uhuru means “freedom” in the Swahili language. The green signage pictured above replaced the original wooden signs that were on the mountain for decades. Then the park decided to go back to the wooden signs a couple years afterwards.