Is Mount Kilimanjaro The Highest Mountain In Africa

Geographical Overview

Mount Kilimanjaro is an immense stratovolcano located in northern Tanzania on the East African Rift and is the highest mountain in Africa. The three volcanic cones stand at an elevation of 5,895 meters above sea level—making it the highest peak on the continent, towering over its surroundings with an impressive 8,000 feet of prominence. Though the mountain is not particularly tall when compared to the world’s highest peaks in the Himalayas and Andes, it stands out due to its spectacular equatorial location, making it one of the most sought-after climbing destinations in the world.
The area around Kilimanjaro is divided into three distinct regions, all characterized by specific topographical features. The lowest and flattest region—at an elevation of around 8,000ft—is the cultivated montane forest. Above this, the mountain’s mid slopes house the deep alpine heath, while the highest reaches of the mountain ridge contain snowfields and glaciers. Though the vast majority of Kilimanjaro’s glacial cover has receded in recent years due to climate change, the sheer size and majesty of the mountain remains awe-inspiring for climbers.

History and Climbing

Kilimanjaro’s known history goes as far back as the 15th century when it was first explored by the Swahili people of southeastern Africa. It wasn’t until the 19th century that it gained international fame from the travels of British missionary and geographer, Daniel Hoskyn. Hoskyn was the first European to summit Kilimanjaro, though the first official record of a full-fledged expedition was in October 1889 by German cartographer Dr. Hans Meyer and Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller.
Since then, Kilimanjaro has become an increasingly popular destination to attempt a summit, seeing an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 climbers each year. It is quite feasible to conquer the mountain with the right preparatory planning and support, as the trekking route is considered a moderate climb when compared to the world’s larger peaks. But one must remain mindful of the extreme temperatures, altitude sickness, and the possibility of developing hypothermia or frostbite during the journey to the summit.

Highest Peak in Africa

Often referred to as the roof of Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain on the continent with an elevation of 5,895 meters. What is interesting about Kilimanjaro is that it is the only freestanding mountain in Africa and it is also the highest peak in proximity to the equator. As such, it stands out prominently amidst its surroundings and commands an impressive 8,000 feet of prominence.
Comparing Kilimanjaro to other popular peaks worldwide, it is the tenth highest mountain in the world. While the highest peaks in the world—such as Mount Everest (8,848m) and K2 (8,611m)—are located in the Himalayas, Kilimanjaro, however, stands above all other African mountains, making it the undisputed highest peak on the continent.

Climate on Mount Kilimanjaro

Typically, Tanzania has a warm, tropical climate but this changes dramatically as you ascend Kilimanjaro, in part due to the effects of extreme altitude. As such, the weather can be unpredictable and varies from season to season. Generally, the mountain enjoys two rainy seasons (short rains in November and long rains from March to May) as well as two dry seasons (a short dry season from December to mid-February and a long dry season from June to October).
The lower slopes of Kilimanjaro are tropical and boast thick vegetation, while the subalpine zone is cold and can be experiencing light to heavy snowfalls during winter. Venturing further up, climbers will find a barren alpine desert that is arid, windswept and icy. Extreme cold, snow and fierce winds at the summit characterize by temperatures that may reach as low as -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit).

Environmental Threats on Mount Kilimanjaro

Unfortunately, due to its alpine nature, Mount Kilimanjaro—like many of the world’s tallest peaks—is highly exposed to the effects of climate change. Over the last century, Kilimanjaro’s once ice-laden slopes are now moraines and largely scrubby grasslands as the mountain has lost more than 85% of its mass—due to deforestation, overgrazing and air pollution.
In addition, the growing number of climbers each season has also posed a great threat to Kilimanjaro’s prized ecosystem. While the Tanzanian government has taken steps to protect the environment and promote waste management, the ascent of thousands of tourists can still spell disaster for the delicate environment of the iconic mountain. By educating climbers and taking preventative measures, the mountain can be further protected and preserved for generations to come.

Conservation Efforts on Mount Kilimanjaro

Various local and international organizations actively monitor Kilimanjaro and strive to protect it from human interference. The Kilimanjaro National Park, established in 1973, is internationally recognized and holds several protected settlements within its boundaries. As such, the park strives to limit the size of the climbing parties and implement strict rules for descending climbers with the objectives of limiting pollution and protecting the environment.
Moreover, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has vocalized its support for Kilimanjaro’s preservation and is currently encouraging global action to address the mountain’s environmental degradation. In 2017, the Tanzanian government declared an indefinite ban on single-use plastic bags in the mountain’s national park, with the goal of mitigating its environmental impact.
It is with hope that through concerted action, the global community will join forces to protect this beloved African landmark.

Flora and Fauna on Mount Kilimanjaro

The unique temperatures and climate zones of Mount Kilimanjaro provide conditions suitable for a diverse range of flora and fauna, making it home to a variety of plant and animal species. The lower slopes of the mountain—known as the Montane forest—host a variety of lush vegetation and wildlife. It is here that tourists can spot endangered species such as blue monkeys, tree hyraxes, and forest elephants, as well as the remote dry forest of giant Hershewood Tree that can reach up to 60 feet in height.
As the elevation increases, the vegetation changes to alpine meadows with abundant wildflowers and grasses. The higher elevations above 4,000 meters are home to peculiar species of plants such as lobelias and “groundsels” that can survive in extreme conditions. These high-altitude vegetation fields, shrouded in mist and fog, have become a popular sight for climbers.

The Summiting Experience

The view from the summit of Kilimanjaro is truly breathtaking as it offers a breathtaking 360-degree panorama of the African landscape. The sky is often clear and you’ll be able to spot the magnificent Mount Meru, Kilimanjaro’s volcanic neighbor.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a feat many will remember for a lifetime and is an experience that comes with unique and extremely rewarding challenges. With the right preparation, support and a healthy dose of courage, conquering this amazing mountain will offer a journey like no other.

Alternative Trekking Routes

When it comes to summitting Kilimanjaro, most climbers tend to stick to the popular routes. There are, however, several alternative trekking routes that offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of the crowds and even more spectacular views. For those looking for a less traveled path, the Lemosho and Northern Circuit routes are less crowded and provide wide-ranging views of the great Tanzanian mountains. The Lemosho route, in particular, is aimed at accommodating more experienced climbers and takes a minimum of 8 days to complete.
The Shira Plateau route is another off the beaten path trail yet gains a lot of attention. This particular route offers the best exposure and is a great option for those wanting to enjoy the natural diversity of the mountain going from the crater floor, to the enchanting forest, to jagged ridges, and even across the top of a place before finally reaching the summit.

Technological Gadgets for Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

If you’re planning on conquering the highest peak of Africa, you’ll need the right technical equipment. While traditional mountaineering clothing, boots and tents are the go-to items for climbing the mountain, the latest gadgets aid in making your journey to the summit even safer and more memorable.
For starters, a Trekking GPS device is an essential tool to ensure your safety and help keep you on the right path. A solar powerbank can prove quite useful, keeping your electronics working despite being out of range and supplying an extra boost of energy during the toughest parts of the climb. For extreme cold weather, heated gloves and insulated winter jackets are essential. And if you want to document your journey, a headtorch camera can be added to provide a light while capturing your most memorable moments.

Hazards and Precautionary Measures

As with any activity, there are certain hazards and safety precautions that should be taken into consideration. While Kilimanjaro does not have any technical climbs involved, it is important to be aware of the dangers associated with altitude sickness, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the mountain.
Altitude sickness occurs because of the decrease in air pressure and oxygen at higher altitudes and can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue and breathing problems. As such, it is important to ascend Kilimanjaro slowly in order to give the body time to adjust—allowing for about 5-7 days for the summit trip makes for the safest route.
Furthermore, a guide must be taken as well as the right supplies to prevent and treat any mishaps. Proper preparation, knowledge of the area and the right equipment can help ensure that the journey is safe and enjoyable.

Herman Shaw is a passionate traveler and avid photographer who has seen many of the world's most awe-inspiring monuments. He has developed expertise in various aspects of world architecture and culture which he enjoys sharing with his readers. With deep historical knowledge and insight, Herman's writing brings life to these remarkable artifacts and highlights their importance in the grand scheme of human history.

Leave a Comment