Last month I posted on this blog about Africa's six tallest peaks, so I thought I'd follow up with more about the highest and most famous of those: Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro (dubbed "Kili," for short). And reaching a maximum 5,895 meters (19.341 feet) in height, not only is it Africa's tallest but also one of the tallest freestanding mountains (i.e. not part of a larger range) in the world.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Located 320 kilometers south of the Equator, in northern Tanzania's Kilimanjaro National Park near the Kenya border, this stratovolcano has been dormant for 200 years and has a base around 25 miles across. Vertically, it has three volcanic cones, called Shira, Mawenzi, and Kibo, and it's from Kibo that the summit, called Uhuru, rises. Uhuru (above) is a chilly place, with temperatures as low as -18 Celsius (even colder with wind chill factor).Even so, thanks to climate change Kili's snow caps have diminished by 80 percent since 1912, and its glaciers by 64 percent since 1962.
The Flora and Fauna of Kilimanjaro
Beyond its geology and meteorology, this Tanzanian titan is also complex biologically, with five distinct ecosystems including cloud forest alpine desert, and heathlands, which are home to around 180 species, including for example 25 species of antelopes and 25 types of bats. Up near the cold, dry summits, the only living things are species of lichen.
The Ascent of Kilimanjaro
There are seven official trekking routes up the mountain, which must be done with a licensed guide and takes six to nine days (gradual ascent is recommended to acclimatize and not fall victim to altitude sickness, which can be quite uncomfortable). The two easiest (and therefore more popular) are called Rongai and Marangu. Every year around 35,000 people attempt to climb this mountain, of which 66 percent manage to reach the summi.Though other mountains are more challenging to climb, here a certain fitness level is still recommended, for trekking long distances at high altitude.
One of the fastest ascents was made by a Swiss-Ecuadorian mountain guide named Karl Egloff, who in 2014 made his way to the summit back in just six hours and 42 minutes. The oldest person to reach the summit of Uhuru peak, at age 89, is one Anne Lorimor, in 2019.