Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest Mountain in Africa, is located in northern Tanzania (formerly called Tanganyika). It is located around 200 miles south of the equator. Mount Kilimanjaro, an extinct volcanic Mountain, is 19,341 feet in height. Kilimanjaro.

The name itself is a mystery wreathed in clouds. It might mean Mountain of Light, Mountain of Greatness or Mountain of Caravans. Or it might not. The local people, the Wachagga, don’t even have a name for the whole massif, only Kipoo (now known as Kibo) for the familiar snowy peak that stands imperious, overseer of the continent, the summit of Africa.

Kilimanjaro, by any name, is a metaphor for the compelling beauty of East Africa. When you see it, you understand why. Not only is this the highest peak on the African continent; it is also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, rising in breathtaking isolation from the surrounding coastal scrub land – elevation around 900 metres – to an imperious 5,895 metres (19,336 feet).

Mount Kilimanjaro is located within the boundaries of Mount Kilimanjaro National Park. The National Park, 756 square kilometers is size, was originally established as a game reserve in the early 1900’s. In 1921, the government of Tanganyika renamed the game reserve to a forest and game reserve.

In 1957, the Tanganyika National Parks Authority with support from many local and international conservation organizations and interest groups formally proposed the establishment of a national park at encompassed Mount Kilimanjaro.

The area above 2700-meter contour was established as Kilimanjaro National Park and was officially opened for tourism in 1977. In 1989, the World Heritage Convention declared the Park a World Heritage site.

The People Of Tanzania And Peaks

Mount Kilimanjaro has 3 peaks: Shira Peak at 12,999 feet (3,962 meters), Mawenzi at 16,893 feet (5,149 meters), and Kibo at 19,341 feet (5,895 meters). In Tanzania, Kibo Peak is known as Uhuru Peak and old Tanganyika maps refer to the peak as Kaiser Sp itze Peak; Mawenzi is referred to in old maps as Hans Meyer Peak.

The Chagga people have resided near the Mountain for centuries but were not responsible for naming Kilimanjaro; the Swahili of the coast were. Instead, the Chagga referred to the Mountain by its individual names, Kippoh (kee-poh) and Kimawenzi (kee-mah-wen-zee). Because the Mountain was snow capped and reflected light when the sun was shone, the name “Kilimanjaro” was created from the Kiswahili words “Mlima” (single hill) and “Ngara” (shine). Also, despite this naming convention is frequently agreed upon in East Africa, other communities like the Kikuyu and Maasai have their interpretations of what the name means and how it came about.

The Mountain’s Vegetation

Mount Kilimanjaro’s volcanic soil has promoted the growth of a variety of vegetation types on the Mountain. The following table represents the vegetation type and approximate percent coverage.

Forest Vegetation And Coverage In Percentage

Lower Zone – Grassland – 20%
Montane Zone – Forests – 21%
Heath and Moorland – Shrubs and Slim Trees – 19%
Alpine Desert Zone Lichens growth – 20%
Summit Zone Arctic Vegetation – 20%

Famous Mount Kilimanjaro Climbers

Although big mountains had been known to exist in Northern Tanzania, no one had actually traveled inland to actually account for it until 1800’s. Mount Kilimanjaro had been thought to be the source of River Nile and a Mountain of mystery – the mystery being a snow capped Mountain in Africa. Africa was thought to be a continent of savages, thus stories about the continent were often down played. With colonization came European missionaries, who traveled inland to preach their religion.

1n 1846, Dr. Ludwig Krapf and Johann Rebmann landed at the coast of Kenya and set up a missionary at Rabai, close to the town of Mombasa. In 1849, both Krapf and Rebmann confirmed their sightings of the great Mountain on their trip inland. Reports about the Mountain were received by the Royal Geographical Society, which prompted a great debate about the accuracy, about the height and possibility of snow capped mountains in Africa.

In 1861, Richard Thornton attempted the first climb. The Mountain was new to him and thus had a difficult time penetrating through the second zone. Also the weather did not cooperate, which eventually forced him down.

In 1862, Otto Kersten and Baron Von der Decken attempted the climb. They climbed over 15,000 feet but were forced down because of bad weather.

In 1887, Hans Meyer attempted the climb and was successful in reaching Kibo.

In 1889, Hans Meyer and Ludwig Purtscheller arranged an expedition to reach the summit of Kibo. It is stated that there were over 60 people in total including porters. Meyer and Purtscheller were successful in their climb. They named the summit Kaiser Wilhem Spitze, a record that is still displayed in many maps found in Tanzania, a former German colony.

In 1900’s, many climbers attempted and succeeded in completing Kilimanjaro, namely Reinhold Messner and the first woman, Ms. S. MacDonald, who climbed to the Kibo Summit.

Fact & File
Size: 1668 sq km 641 sq miles).
Location: Northern Tanzania, near the town of Moshi.

Getting there
128 km (80 miles) from Arusha.
About one hour’s drive from Kilimanjaro airport.

What to do
Six usual trekking routes to the summit and other more-demanding mountaineering routes.
Day or overnight hikes on the Shira plateau. Nature trails on the lower reaches.
Trout fishing.
Visit the beautiful Chala crater lake on the mountain’s southeastern slopes.

When to go
Clearest and warmest conditions from December to February, but also dry (and colder) from July-September.

Huts and campsites on the mountain.
Several hotels and campsites outside the park in the village of Marangu and town of Moshi.