Mount Kilimanjaro is a majestic mountain situated in the east African nation of Tanzania. It is the highest free-standing mountain on the continent and stands at 5,895m. To the local Chagga people, the mountain is known as “Kilima Njaro” which translates to “White Mountain”. The summit covers a total area of 21 square km, and is encircled by three distinct volcanic cones.
Although it stands as the highest point in Africa, Kilimanjaro is not an inactive volcano. Geologically, it is a relatively young mountain having been formed approximately one million years ago. It is classified by geologists into three individual mountains which are Kibo, the highest peak (5,895 m); Mawenzi (5,149 m); and Shira (3,962 m).
Kilimanjaro has a unique and varied climate, ranging from the equator to the summit. At the base, it is mainly tropical, with temperatures between 15 and 27 C. As you go up, however, the temperature drops about 1 to 1.5 degrees for every 100 meters in altitude. For example, near the summit the temperatures can go as low as -20 C.
The weather conditions on the mountain are also highly variable. Regular storms are frequent in the forests of the lower elevation, while higher up these extremes in weather fade and travelers will become accustomed to light winds and cold temperatures. At the summit, you can never predict the type of weather conditions you will face.
Kilimanjaro’s paths are known for being steep and treacherous, however this does not make the mountain unclimbable. There are many different routes you can take, ranging from difficult and experienced only routes to simpler paths with comfortable lodges.
Regardless of the path you choose, expecting to summit the full 8 kilometers is a mistake that many make. Climbing the mountain is an extremely physically demanding challenge and low levels of fitness can actually put you in danger. It is highly recommended that you consult with a doctor or health professional before attempting a summit.
Gear and Preparation
There is a great deal of items that should be in your trekking bag, not just any items but the right ones and of course, they all depend on the path you decide to take. While trekking at high altitudes, you must be aware of the dangers of altitude sickness and prepare for the worst. This means bringing the right clothing, food, and supplies.
You should also prepare yourself mentally for the trek. This means taking into account the dangers on the mountain and reading up on the terrain and path you will take to the summit. Knowing what you are in for is the first step to a successful climb.
Wildlife and Flora
Depending on the route you decide to take on your journey to the summit of Kilimanjaro, you may come across some interesting wildlife and diverse flora.
At the forests of the lower elevations, hikers will come across a plethora of plant life. You may encounter some privately owned banana and corn plantations which are scattered along the mountain. Many different species of animal also roam the lower elevations, namely elephants, monkeys and birds.
Towards the upper elevations, the climate becomes far too harsh for any wildlife or plants to exist. Hence, you will find just waste plains.
The local Chagga community has been living on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro for centuries and still are to this day. This means that those who climb the mountain will be able to don’t just get the experience of a lifetime, but also get up close and personal to the unique culture of the local people.
There are many small tours and treks available on the lower slopes of the mountain that give you a real glimpse into the lives of the Chagga people.
Efforts at Preservation
Kilimanjaro has been a site of interest for generations and continues to be a popular tourist destination. With large numbers of people flocking to the mountain each year, efforts are being made in order to preserve its unique environment.
Organizations from around the world have been doing a number of projects such as creating unique pathways and investing in technology for weather forecasting and tracking. This helps keep climbers safe and keeps the mountain in its best condition.
Mount Kilimanjaro’s Popularity
Kilimanjaro is a very popular destination among both novice and experienced climbers alike. As its summit stands at an elevation of 5,895m, merely attempting to conquer this mountain is a feat in itself. Its summit is a unique challenge and one that must not be taken lightly.
Additionally, the natural beauty of the area and its cultural significance also attract tourists to Kilimanjaro each year. It is no surprise that the mountain is so popular, being one of the largest free standing mountains on the planet and standing at the highest peak of Africa.
Managing Climb Times
When you are climbing Kilimanjaro, it is important to manage your time effectively. Typically, the ascent to the summit should take between 5 and 8 days, depending on which route you take.
It is important to note that the conditions on Kilimanjaro can change suddenly and a clear day can quickly turn into a deadly one in a matter of hours. As such, it is important to always have a safe and reasonable time frame for the climb and to never push it.
When attempting to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro, your body will be tested both mentally and physically. Altitude sickness can be a major factor for many climbers, but with the proper preparation and physical conditioning you will be able to make the attempt safely.
Likewise, hikers should give their bodies enough time to rest and recover after a long and grueling hike day. You should take this time to relax and allow your body to adjust to the new altitude gradually. A slower and more leisurely pace during the ascent has been shown to reduce the risk of altitude sickness.
The Ultimate Hiking Reward
Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro is an unbelievable feeling and one that many hikers remember for years to come. Being able to take in the stunning views from the tallest peak in Africa is an experience like no other. On a clear day, single-minded hikers can even witness the swirl of the Indian Ocean!
Standing on the summit of Kilimanjaro marks a major milestone in your life and gives you memories that will last a lifetime.