If you’re thinking about doing a Kilimanjaro trek
, in this article we’re going to look at some interesting facts about Mt Kilimanjaro, a world famous trekking destination and one of the Seven Summits.
Where is Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa?
It stands in the protected zone of Kilimanjaro National Park, in the far north of the small country of Tanzania, in Eastern Africa. This is a poor country but famous for Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, another popular trekking mountain. Tanzania is also world renowned for its famous African safaris
, home to Ngorongoro crater and the Serengeti National Park where you can see big game animals and the famous “Big 5” (lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards and buffalo).
Kilimanjaro is known for Big Game Animals and popular among wildlife enthusiasts. Photo by Philip
How High is Mt Kilimanjaro?
The highest mountain in Africa, the elevation of Kilimanjaro stands at a mighty 5895 meters above sea level, rising from around 4900 meters at its base. In world standings it is hard to say, but it is believed to rank within the top 500 highest mountains in the world. In prominence
however, it is the 4th highest mountain on Earth. It’s also the world’s largest freestanding mountain (i.e. not part of a mountain range).
Kilimanjaro is an ancient volcano. There are three volcanic cones on the mountain named Shira, Mawenzi and Kibo - which is the highest and where Kilimanjaro’s summit, Uhuru Peak, stands. Kibo is the only remaining volcanically active cone and still has fumaroles which emit gas
, but its last major eruption occurred over 360,000 years ago
- and records from local tribespeople indicate there may have been a minor eruption around 200 years ago.
Kibo peak the only volcanically active cone of Kilimanjaro. Photo by Pius
Kilimanjaro’s name is believed to have come from the local Swahili language and in their culture the mountain has many creation myths. It was first discovered by Europeans in the colonial era, where it attracted the attention of explorers and it became a hotly contested race to reach the summit first. The first summit attempt was in 1861, but it wasn’t until many failed attempts by different explorers that Kilimanjaro was finally conquered by Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Pertscheller, accompanied by German geology professor Hans Mayer. Since then, it has remained a popular expedition destination and as tourism developed became a world-famous trekking challenge thanks to its easy accessibility and fame.
Tourism on Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro now attracts about 57,000 tourists every year who come to trek up the mountain*. The Kilimanjaro National Park is protected zone to preserve the wildlife and habitat of the region. The nearby towns of Moshi, Arusha and Marangu have become trekking hubs for visitors and are full of tour agencies and accommodations. The mountain’s tourism supports thousands of locals who flock to the mountain for work, including guides and porters
who travel up the mountain with clients to support them on their trek. Kilimanjaro is achievable by people of all ages as it doesn’t require special training to climb, so it is popular with families and elderly trekkers alike. Kilimanjaro is also popular for charity treks
and has many celebrities who have climbed it to support various causes.
Kilimanjaro’s Climate and Weather
Due to its height and isolated position, Kili has a unique micro climate. Weather on Kilimanjaro
varies throughout the year with rainy months interspersed with relatively dry seasons from January to March and June to October, which are peak trekking times. Weather can change rapidly on the mountain, especially at high altitude. Snow may fall at any time of the year near the peak as well as high winds. Temperatures can range from well below freezing at night to highs of thirty to forty degrees centigrade in the hot daytime sun. An interesting fact is that the northern slopes get much less rain than the southern slopes (see Rongai route
for more details)
Kilimanjaro has five ecological zones which you will pass through on your trek. These are rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert, and an arctic ice cap. It's possible to see colobus and blue monkeys, a variety of birdlife and even big game
on the northern route.
Climate change on Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro has an ice cap which splits into separate glaciers. These are sadly declining due to climate change. By 2040 most of the ice on the mountain is expected to be gone.
How Hard is it to Climb Kilimanjaro?
Kilimanjaro is a challenging trek but perfectly achievable with a sensible approach and training
. Due to its huge elevation, there is a risk of getting altitude sickness and so acclimatization and good pacing is vital. The high altitude also makes physical activity more strenuous. Good fitness training
in advance and allowing extra days to acclimatize on Kilimanjaro are the best ways to prepare for these.
Comfort is also a luxury that most Kilimanjaro treks don’t offer - most treks are camping only and the extreme and quickly changing weather conditions can make life difficult. However, the majority of trekkers prepare properly for this and meet the challenge head on and make it to the summit!
There are seven different routes to Kilimanjaro. Photo by Stig
The longest Kilimanjaro route, this follows the Lemosho path before branching off onto the mountain’s northern slopes. Fantastic and varied views. Tends to be the most expensive due to its length.
Average Length - 53km
Average Duration - 5 to 7 Days
The quietest route of all. It’s a very steep and fast path up Kilimanjaro, meaning that pre-acclimatization and proper training are vital. Known for the caves you can find along the way, and has some of the best views.
There is a box on the summit (Uhuru Peak) that contains a book
where most trekkers leave a comment. This must be one of the highest books in the world!
The oldest man to reach the summit is Robert Wheeler (USA) in 2015, at the grand age of 85! It took him 5 days to reach the top.
The oldest woman to reach Kilimanjaro’s summit is Angela Vorobeva (Russia) also in 2015, beating the men at 86 years old! It took her 7 days to reach the top.
This one will blow your mind… the fastest Kilimanjaro climb was in 2007 by Gerard Bavato (France) who ran to the summit in only 5 hours, 26 minutes! He must be mad - it takes most people 3 or 4 days!
The fastest unsupported ascent and descent of Kilimanjaro was in 2006 by Simon Mtuy (Tanzania). He ran up via the Umbwe route and racked up a total time of just 9 hours, 21 minutes!
Another, rather bizarre, record is the fastest ascent of Kilimanjaro in crutches, held by John Sandford Hart (UK), who hobbled his way up the mountain in 4 days and 20 hours in 2009. Not bad going at all!
Kilimanjaro must be proud to be the site of the world’s highest altitude haircut atop Uhuru Peak in 2015. Hairdresser Maurice Fiorio gave his model (or maybe the word is victim) the full works, but maybe it wasn’t a very good one as we can’t find the client’s name or photos of the end result…
If you like cricket and mountains… and who doesn’t… this is the record for you. Kilimanjaro was the site of the world’s highest cricket match in 2007, at 5,752 meters. Apparently, the thin air caused the ball to move faster and increase the number of “sixes” in the match!
The best record of all is Kilimanjaro boasts the world’s highest pizza delivery record on land. Pizza Hut delivered a pizza to their African General Manager and his staff over a distance of over 700 km, with some poor soul having to carry it all the way up the mountain!
Many famous celebrities have attempted to climb Kilimanjaro, proving that you don’t need to be a trekking fanatic to achieve it - although not all were successful, many due to altitude sickness!
Movie and TV stars: Jessica Biel, Emile Hirsh, Dragon’s Den (UK) Duncan Ballantyne, Brian Blessed, Rhod Gilbert and Fearne Cotton.
Musicians: Lupe Fiasco, Santigold, Kenna, Roman Keating, Gary Barlow and Cheryl Cole.
Sport personalities:S Martina Navratilova, Roman Abramovich, Ray Lewis and Robbie Savage.