Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest peak in Africa and is among the most famous mountains on earth. The summit of the dormant volcanic mountain attracts hikers from around the world and has earned its place in culture, travel and tourism, and even climbing culture, with adventurers attempting to conquer the summit. But who first climbed Mount Kilimanjaro? Let’s find out.
Mount Kilimanjaro was first recorded in 1848 by an expedition led by German explorer Johann Rebmann, who recorded its location and described it as a snow-covered mountain. It wasn’t until 1889 that Europeans first attempted to summit the mountain, however, it was unsuccessful. Shortly afterward, German geographer Hans Meyer, along with Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller, set up the first successful ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro on 6th October 1889.
Meyer and Purtscheller were both experienced mountain climbers and had previously ascended many mountains in Europe. The two men started their expedition at the base of the mountain in the Tanzanian town of Moshi. The expedition included multiple porters, cooking crews and guides.
Their first challenge was scaling the mountain’s western breach, which they accomplished by building stairs with the help of their porters. From there, they made their way up the Northern Ice Field with the help of the guides. After five attempts, the team finally summited on October 6th. The climb to the summit was one of the first to be documented with photographs, thanks to Purtscheller’s camera.
Meyer and Purtscheller made the ascent despite facing numerous obstacles. This included thin air and extreme cold due to the altitude as well as difficult terrain, which made for very slow progress. It is also noteworthy that the guides of the time used no equipment and dared to climb without being roped up, something that would be considered unsafe today.
The ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro excited the public, with some wondering how the climbers managed to ascend such a challenging mountain with such heavy weight and inadequate equipment. The team received a hero’s welcome upon return, with a celebration in Berlin to commemorate the historical ascent. This was the beginning of a new era of climbing culture in Kilimanjaro, one that would lead to the mountain becoming an iconic destination for climbers and explorers from all over the world.
Long term impacts
Beyond its cultural reverberations, Mount Kilimanjaro’s first ascent had a significant impact on the field of mountaineering. The success of the expedition showed that exploring difficult and treacherous terrain was possible and that such a feat could be accomplished with relative safety. This laid the foundations for modern climbing culture on the mountain and for the development of mountain safety and technology.
In modern times, there are hundreds of stories of successful climbs of Kilimanjaro each year. Climbers come with the intention of summiting the mountain, but many come simply to experience the breathtaking scenery and take in the unique culture of the mountain. As such, there has been a steady increase in the number of people attempting to summit Kilimanjaro in recent years.
The Mount Kilimanjaro National Park
The popularity of the mountain has also led to the establishment of the Mount Kilimanjaro National Park in 1973. The park is home to thousands of species of animals, plants, and birds, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moreover, the park has become a haven for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, mountain biking, camping, and much more.
Who first climbed Mount Kilimanjaro? The answer is German geographer Hans Meyer and Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller. On October 6th, 1889, the two men successfully summited the iconic peak after a grueling five-day expedition, laying the foundations for modern climbing culture on Kilimanjaro and inspiring adventurers from around the world to attempt the summit.