Mount Kilimanjaro: A Massive Mountain
Mount Kilimanjaro, a mountain located in Tanzania, stands as one of the tallest mountains in the world. It rises an impressive 19,341 feet above sea level and is home to some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife. Many mountaineers have attempted to climb this great peak, with fewer still succeeding in their endeavor. Over the years, an argument has been made as to whether or not Mt Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in the world; an answer that can only be clarified by exploring the geology of the mountain itself.
Mt Kilimanjaro is part of the African Rift Valley, which runs roughly in a north-south line along the eastern side of Africa. It is not actually a mountain in the traditional sense, instead being composed of three volcanoes – Shira, Mawenzi, and Kibo – which were each formed through the same process of crustal stretching roughly 30 million years ago. Mount Kibo- the tallest of the three volcanoes, stands as the peak of Mt Kilimanjaro and as the highest point in Africa.
In terms of total elevation, Mt Kilimanjaro does rank as one of the highest points on earth; however, when we consider the sheer elevation above sea level, it falls short of its competitors. Mt Everest, which towers in the Himalayas at a height of 29,035 feet, takes out the title of the world’s highest mountain with ease. Other mountains, such as Kanchenjunga (28,169 feet) and Lhotse (27,940 feet), follow closely behind.
Experts argue that “real mountains” are those composed of various layers of shale and sandstone and are not formed in the same process as Mt Kilimanjaro’s volcanoes. However, its unique assemblage of sandstone and sedimentary rocks remains an indelible part of the mountain’s structure. Almost all of its high peaks are robed in snow and ice, even though the summit itself lies in the rain shadow of the Kilimanjaro forest.
The Tanzanian National Park Authority has established the highest point of Kilimanjaro – Uhuru Peak – and its surrounding area as a protected national park. This park is home to numerous animals, birds, and plants, including the fiercely protected Kilimanjaro elephant. Besides offering a rich habitat for animals, the park has a wealth of natural hot springs, waterfalls and clear streams, making it a popular destination for hikers, climbers, and nature lovers alike.
Mt Kilimanjaro attracts many adventurers due to its challenging terrain, including the infamous snowy peak. Its proximity to major cities in Tanzania, together with its picturesque landscapes, make it a popular destination for tourists. While scaling the mountain may be an intimidating prospect, the slower less technical routes can be achieved by anyone within a few days. While at the summit, the view of the African continent is one to behold.
Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro
Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is one of the most popular activities amongst adventurers, climbers and hikers who flock to the majestic mountain every year. Sadly, many hikers underestimate the difficulty of the hike and the importance of acclimatization. This often leads to altitude sickness, which is a serious problem that can have dire consequences. Acclimatization to the altitude requires a steady and careful ascent, with ample rest days, allowing the body to adjust to the changing environment.
A good plan when climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is to stop regularly. Not only does this give your body a chance to rest, but it also allows you to admire the scenery and take advantage of the breathtaking view. A popular path to take is the Seven-Day Lemosho Route. This route has achieved immediate success and it is now the most popular route up the mountain. It provides access to many spectacular view points and visits iconic locations, including Shira Plateau, Karanga Valley, Lava Tower and Barranco, to name a few.
Another popular option is the Machame Route. This route is known as the “Whiskey Route” due to its steep climb and steep descent as well as its lengthy hike. This path also has a higher chance of success as compared to the Lemosho route, and it provides amazing scenic views during the climb. Regardless of the route you decide to take, the final destination, Uhuru Peak, remains the same – and it is a sight to behold.
Kilimanjaro’s Impact on the Global Climate
Mt Kilimanjaro is a massive part of Tanzania’s natural ecosystem, and as such has a profound effect on not just the local climate but its global impact as well. Studies have found that the ice cap covering Mount Kilimanjaro has decreased by 80 percent since the beginning of the 20th century. This steep decline has been contributed to a combination of natural factors, such as increased temperatures and decreased precipitation.
As the ice cap decreases due to these factors, the incoming solar radiation reflected off the snow and ice decreases with it. This reduces the overall cooling effect in the atmosphere, creating a feedback loop that warms the environment even more.
On a larger scale, this effect can have a significant impact on global climate patterns. This can be seen with the reduction in rainfall in the continents surrounding the mountain. As the amount of snow and ice decreases on the mountain, the surrounding communities experience a noticeable reduction in rainfall.
Knowing this, the subsequent effects of this global warming can manifest in a variety of ways. It can increase the risk of drought, although other factors may also play a role; reduce the ability of reservoirs to hold a supply of usable water; and lead to an increase in vegetation fire risk due to the dry conditions.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is helping the Tanzanian government protecting the mountain against further deterioration by partially covering the cost of eco-friendly solutions and encouraging behavioural change amongst the locals.
Mt Kilimanjaro is a crucial part of Tanzania’s natural heritage and is home to a vast array of species. In order to address the increasing environmental pressures on the mountain and its inhabitants, the Kilimanjaro National Park has implemented several protective measures. The first of which is the banning of all fire within the bounds of the park. This is due to its ability to disrupt the natural ecology of the environment, as well as its toxins’ ability to spread across a large area. To help combat this, the park staff promote the use of gas stoves over their biomass counterparts.
The park also works to protect the mountain’s iconic wildlife. This includes reducing the impact of poaching, managing hunting, and monitoring the population of endangered species such as the Kilimanjaro antelope. To ensure the security of the wildlife, the Tanzanian government has imposed an armed patrol system on the mountain, as well as a full-time anti-poaching unit.
Other conservation efforts include the restoration of the mountain’s unique forests. This includes reforesting areas that were previously impacted by human activity, replanting and managing indigenous species, and ensuring that fires are extinguished immediately, or prevented from occurring in the first place.
The Rich Culture
The people of Kilimanjaro have a rich and vibrant culture, which is an amalgamation of several different peoples and beliefs. These include the Chaga, Pare, and Maasai people, as well as the traditional religions of the local Khoisan population.
The culture of Kilimanjaro is one of respect and appreciation for the environment and those who inhabit it. The locals of the area have a strong connection with the land and nature around them, and hold to a tradition of conservation. For example, it is said that the locals will never harm any of the animal and plant life they come across while in the park.
The locals of Kilimanjaro also have a tradition of singing and playing music, with the Chaga tribe being especially well known for its unique ‘akiwisa’ singing style.
Over the centuries, Kilimanjaro has acted as a meeting point for many cultures, and the locals’ connection to their land remains as strong today as ever.
The Humanitarian Angle
The locals of Kilimanjaro have always relied heavily on the mountain for their water and food, as well as for the other vital necessities of life. Unfortunately, due to the degradation of the environment and the effects of global warming, the ability to sustainably cultivate crops and graze livestock is becoming increasingly difficult.
The Tanzanian government has put in place several initiatives in recent years designed to mitigate the impact of the environment on the locals. These include the controversial Subsistence Rights program, which provides rural farmers with access to land for agricultural and grazing purposes. Despite their success, steps need to be taken to ensure that the conservation of the environment and its biodiversity is not compromised.
A new approach is being advocated in recent years. This includes teaching locals sustainable farming and conservation practices. This includes the reintroduction of traditional agricultural methods, while also taking into account the impact of climate change and its detriment to the environment.
These initiatives, while highly beneficial, need to be implemented on a larger scale and supported by the Tanzanian government. This is the only way to secure the future of Mt Kilimanjaro and its inhabitants.
Mount Kilimanjaro is home to Tanzania’s most popular tourist destination and is an important area for local businesses. Not only does the mountain generate tourism revenue, but it is also an important source of income for many local businesses such as accommodation providers, tour operators, and rental companies.
Tourism to Mt Kilimanjaro is estimated to be worth around $20 million a year, and Tanzanian businesses rely heavily on this for their success. Small-scale accommodations and tour operators may be especially vulnerable to any disruption in tourism and show the most severe hit during pandemics such as Covid-19.
In the face of the current global pandemic, the Tanzanian government has had to take strict measures to ensure the safety of visitors to the mountain. These include both domestic and international travel restrictions as well as stringent safety protocols, such as the requirement of a negative Covid-19 test before entering the country.
The future of Mt Kilimanjaro and its inhabitants will ultimately depend on reliable and successful tourism, which is why it is so important for the Tanzanian government to ensure the safety of visitors. The implementation of these measures during the pandemic is an essential first step in the overall safeguarding of Mt Kilimanjaro and its inhabitants.
Mount Kilimanjaro stands out due to its unique geological makeup and preeminent biodiversity. It is not the tallest mountain in the world, yet it remains the highest national peak in Africa and the moon-like vistas at the summit lend it its awe-inspiring charm.
The mountain is seen as both a national and global asset and initiatives are being put in place to protect it both environmentally and economically. As the world’s population grows, so too will the demand placed on resources such as water, wood and food, and Mt Kilimanjaro will remain instrumental in the balance of these necessary commodities.
Many locals have called the majestic peak their home for centuries, and their culture, which respects the mountain and its wildlife, further enriches the landscape. It is for these reasons that all those who live near Mt Kilimanjaro will strive to protect it for generations to come.