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Kilimanjaro: Highest Mountain in Africa

Fast Facts About Kilimanjaro


Kilimanjaro is a relatively easy walk-up that requires little technical climbing skill.

A giraffe crosses savannah grasslands below snowcapped Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.

Photograph © Digital Vision/Getty Images
Kilimanjaro: Highest Mountain in Africa

Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, towers over elephants on the Tanzanian savannah.

Photograph copyright Grant Faint/Getty Images
Kilimanjaro: Highest Mountain in Africa

Lakpa Rita Sherpa stands atop Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain.

Photo courtesy Joe Puryear


Elevation: 19,340 feet (5,895 meters)

Prominence: 19,308 feet (5,885 meters); Most prominent mountain in Africa.

Location: Tanzania, East Africa

Coordinates: -3.075844 S / 37.353312 E  or 03°04′33″ S / 37°21′12″ E

First Ascent: Hans Meyer (Germany), Yoanas Kinyala Lauwo (Tanzania), and Ludwig Purtscheller (Austria) on October 5, 1889.




Meaning of Mountain's Name

The meaning and origin of the name Kilimanjaro is unknown. It is thought to be a combination of the Swahili word Kilima, meaning “mountain,” and the KiChagga word Njaro, loosely translated as “whiteness,” giving the name White Mountain. The name Kibo in KiChagga means “spotted” and refers to rocks seen on snowfields. The name Uhuru translates as “freedom,” a name given to commemorate Tanzanian independence from Great Britain in 1961.

Africa's Highest Summit

Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa and fourth highest of the Seven Summits, is considered the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, rising 15,100 feet (4,600 meters) from base to summit. Kilimanjaro is also the most prominent mountain in Africa.

Three Volcanic Cones

Kilimanjaro is composed of three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo 19,340 feet (5,895 meters); Mawenzi 16,896 feet (5,149 meters); and Shira 13,000 feet (3,962 meters). Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo’s crater rim.

Dormant Stratovolcano

Kilimanjaro is a giant stratovolcano that began forming a million years ago when lava spilled from the Rift Valley zone. The mountain was built by successive lava flows. Two of its three peaks—Mawenzi and Shira—are extinct while Kibo, the highest peak is dormant and could erupt again. The last major eruption was 360,000 years ago, while the most recent activity was only 200 years ago.

Kilimanjaro is Losing Glaciers

Kilimanjaro has 2.2 square kilometers of glacial ice and is losing it quickly due to global warming. The glaciers have shrunk 82% since 1912 and declined 33% since 1989. It may be ice free within 20 years, dramatically affecting local drinking water, crop irrigation, and hydroelectric power.

Kilimanjaro National Park

Kilimanjaro lies within the 756-square-kilometer Kilimanjaro National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the few places on earth that encompasses every ecological life zone including tropical jungle, savannah, and desert to montane forests, subalpine plants, and the alpine zone above timberline.

First Ascent in 1889

Kilimanjaro was first climbed on October 5, 1889 by German geologist Hans Meyer, Marangu scout Yoanas Kinyala Lauwo, and Austrian Ludwig Purtscheller. After reaching the summit, Meyer later wrote that they gave “three ringing cheers, and in virtue of my right as its first discoverer christened this hitherto unknown—the loftiest spot in Africa and the German Empire—Kaiser Wilhelm’s Peak.”

5 Routes to Kili's Summit

Kilimanjaro has five common routes to its highest summit: Marangu Route; Machame Route; Rongai Route; Lemosho Route; and Mweka Route. Machame and Lemosho routes are popular and scenic. Marangu is easiest and busy although the last ascent to the crater rim is difficult.

Relatively Easy to Climb

Climbing Kilimanjaro is easy and requires no technical climbing or mountaineering experience. The biggest challenge and danger is the high altitude. Climbers die from improper acclimatization and altitude sickness rather than falls.

Climb Only with a Guide

Kilimanjaro is not a peak you can climb on your own. It is mandatory to climb with a licensed guide and have porters carry your equipment. This sustains the local economy and allows local people to reap the rewards of tourism. Read more about how to climb Kilimanjaro from local guide and expert Lema Peter.

Fast Ascent Times

The fastest verified ascent time was by Italian Bruno Brunod in 2001. He climbed Uhuru Peak from Marangu Gate in 5 hours, 38 minutes, and 40 seconds. The fastest round-trip time was by local guide Simon Mtuy who ran up and down on December 26, 2004 in 8 hours and 27 minutes.

Mount Meru is Nearby

Mount Meru, a 14,980-foot volcanic cone, lies 45 miles west of Kilimanjaro. It is an active volcano; has a snowcap; lies in Arusha National Park; and is often climbed as a training peak for Kilimanjaro.



Compare prices and buy a guidebook:
Kilimanjaro & Mount Kenya by Cameron Burns
Kilimanjaro & East Africa: A Climbing and Trekking Guide by Cameron M. Burns
Kilimanjaro: The Trekking Guide to Africa's Highest Mountain by Henry Stedman
Explore Mount Kilimanjaro by Jacquetta Megarry

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