Since there are only a few weeks until Rube and I depart to Tanzania, here are some fast facts about Kilimanjaro:
Elevation: 19,340 feet (5,895 meters)
Location: Tanzania, east Africa
First Ascent: Hans Meyer (Germany), Yoanas Kinyala Lauwo (Tanzania), and Ludwig Purtscheller (Austria) on October 5, 1889.
- The meaning and origin of the name Kilimanjaro is unknown. It is thought to be a combination of the Swahili word Kilima, meaning “mountain,” and the KiChagga word Njaro, loosely translated as “whiteness,” giving the name White Mountain. The name Kibo in KiChagga means “spotted” and refers to rocks seen on snowfields. The name Uhuru translates as “freedom,” a name given to commemorate Tanzanian independence from Great Britain in 1961.
- Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa and fourth highest of the Seven Summits, is considered the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, rising 15,100 feet (4,600 meters) from base to summit.
- Kilimanjaro is composed of three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo 19,340 feet (5,895 meters); Mawenzi 16,896 feet (5,149 meters); and Shira 13,000 feet (3,962 meters). Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo’s crater rim.
- Kilimanjaro is a giant stratovolcano that began forming a million years ago when lava spilled from the Rift Valley zone. The mountain was built by successive lava flows. Two of its three peaks—Mawenzi and Shira—are extinct while Kibo, the highest peak is dormant and could erupt again. The last major eruption was 360,000 years ago, while the most recent activity was only 200 years ago.
- Kilimanjaro has 2.2 square kilometers of glacial ice and is losing it quickly due to global warming. The glaciers have shrunk 82% since 1912 and declined 33% since 1989. It may be ice free within 20 years, dramatically affecting local drinking water, crop irrigation, and hydroelectric power.
- Kilimanjaro lies within the 756-square-kilometer Kilimanjaro National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the few places on earth that encompasses every ecological life zone including tropical jungle, savannah, and desert to montane forests, subalpine plants, and the alpine zone above timberline.
- Kilimanjaro was first climbed on October 5, 1889 by German geologist Hans Meyer, Marangu scout Yoanas Kinyala Lauwo, and Austrian Ludwig Purtscheller. After reaching the summit, Meyer later wrote that they gave “three ringing cheers, and in virtue of my right as its first discoverer christened this hitherto unknown—the loftiest spot in Africa and the German Empire—Kaiser Wilhelm’s Peak.”
- Kilimanjaro has five common routes to its highest summit: Marangu Route; Machame Route; Rongai Route; Lemosho Route; and Mweka Route. Machame and Lemosho routes are popular and scenic. Marangu is easiest and busy although the last ascent to the crater rim is difficult.
- Climbing Kilimanjaro is easy and requires no technical climbing or mountaineering experience. The biggest challenge and danger is the high altitude. Climbers die from improper acclimatization and altitude sickness rather than falls.
- Kilimanjaro is not a peak you can climb on your own. It is mandatory to climb with a licensed guide and have porters carry your equipment. This sustains the local economy and allows local people to reap the rewards of tourism.
- The fastest verified ascent time was by Italian Bruno Brunod in 2001. He climbed Uhuru Peak from Marangu Gate in 5 hours, 38 minutes, and 40 seconds. The fastest round-trip time was by local guide Simon Mtuy who ran up and down on December 26, 2004 in 8 hours and 27 minutes.
- Mount Meru, a 14,980-foot volcanic cone, lies 45 miles west of Kilimanjaro. It is an active volcano; has a snowcap; lies in Arusha National Park; and is often climbed as a training peak for Kilimanjaro.