Seven Summits: Kilimanjaro


Kilimanjaro, with is three volcanoes, Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira, is considered an active volcano. Rising 19,341 feet above sea level in the north-eastern part of Tanzania and is the highest mountain in Africa.

The meaning and origin of the name Kilimanjaro is unknown, but is thought to be a combination of the Swahili word Kilima and the Kichagga word Njaro. Kilima in Swahili translates to "mountain", while Njaro in Kichagga translates to "whiteness" or in some instances "our". European explorers adopted the name by 1860.

In the 1880s the mountain was called Kilima-Ndscharo, and became a part of German East Africa. Karl Peters had persuaded local chiefs to sign treaties. In 1889 the peak of Kibo was named "Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze" by Hans Meyer. He named the peak on the first ascent to the summit. This name was used until 1918, when after World War I the German colonies were given to Great Britain. The British renamed it "Uhuru Peak", meaning "Freedom Peak" in Swahili.

Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the fourth highest of the Seven Summits. It is also the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, meaning it is not in a part of a mountain range and stands alone.

Of its three volcanic cones, Kibo contains the highest summit, Uhuru Peak. Mount Kilimanjaro is described as a stratovolcano. Two of its three volcanic peaks, Mawenzi and Shira are extinct. Kibo on the other hand could erupt again, although the most recent activity recorded was over 200 years ago.

Mount Kilimanjaro has six official climbing routes: Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe and Machme. Of the routes the Machame route is the most scenic but also the steepest route up the mountain. It can be accomplished in about a week. The Rongai route is the easiest, but also the busiest.

The danger in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro comes from altitude, low temperatures and occasional high winds. Acclimatization is essential and even some of the most experienced climbers can still suffer from altitude sickness. All climbers are likely to suffer from shortage of breath, hypothermia and headaches.

The Kilimanjaro National Park states that only about 30% of climbers actually successfully reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. The mountain itself is often underestimated because it is not a technically difficult job, but it is physically demanding.

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