Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa at 19,341 feet (5,895 meters). It is a giant stratovolcano whose formation dated to about a million years ago and is composed of many layers of hardened volcanic ash, lava, pumice and tephra — fragmental material that is the fallout from a volcanic eruption.
A number of theories exist about the meaning and origin of the name. One theory is that the name is a mix of the Swahili word Kilima, meaning “mountain,” and the KiChagga word Njaro, loosely translated as “whiteness.” Another is that Kilimanjaro is the European pronunciation of a KiChagga phrase meaning “we failed to climb it.”
One of the Seven Summits (the highest peaks on the seven continents), Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania in east Africa. Kilimanjaro lies within the 292-square-mile (756 square kilometers) Kilimanjaro National Park. Kilimanjaro rises from its base approximately 16,732 feet (5,100 meters) from the plains near the Tanzanian municipality of Moshi, making it the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.
In August 1861, the Prussian officer Baron Karl Klaus von der Decken accompanied by English geologist R. Thornton made a first attempt to climb Kibo but “got no farther than 8,200 feet (2,500 m) owing to the inclemency of the weather.” In December 1862, von der Decken tried a second time together with Otto Kersten. They reached a height of 14,000 feet (4,300 m).
In August 1871, missionary Charles New became the “first European to reach the equatorial snows” on Kilimanjaro at an elevation of slightly more than 13,000 feet (4,000 m).
In June 1887, the Hungarian Count Sámuel Teleki and Austrian Lieutenant Ludwig von Höhnel made an attempt to climb the mountain. Approaching from the saddle between Mawenzi and Kibo, Höhnel stopped at 4,950 meters (16,240 ft), but Teleki pushed through until he reached the snow at 5,300 meters (17,400 ft).
Later in 1887 during his first attempt to climb Kilimanjaro, the German geology professor Hans Meyer reached the lower edge of the ice cap on Kibo, where he was forced to turn back because he lacked the equipment needed to handle the ice. The following year, Meyer planned another attempt with Oscar Baumann, a cartographer, but the mission was aborted after the pair were held hostage and ransomed during the Abushiri Revolt.
In the autumn of 1888, the American naturalist Dr. Abbott and the German explorer Otto Ehrenfried Ehlers approached the summit from the northwest. While Abbott turned back earlier, Ehlers at first claimed to have reached the summit rim but, after severe criticism of that claim, later withdrew it.
In 1889, Meyer returned to Kilimanjaro with the Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller for a third attempt. The success of this attempt was based on the establishment of several campsites with food supplies so that multiple attempts at the top could be made without having to descend too far. Meyer and Purtscheller pushed to near the crater rim on October 3 but turned around exhausted from hacking footsteps in the icy slope. Three days later, on Purtscheller’s fortieth birthday, they reached the highest summit on the southern rim of the crater. They were the first to confirm that Kibo has a crater.
The first ascent of the highest summit of Mawenzi was made on 29 July 1912, by the German climbers Edward Oehler and Fritz Klute, who christened it Hans Meyer Peak. Oehler and Klute went on to make the third-ever ascent of Kibo, via the Drygalski Glacier, and descended via the Western Breach.
In 1989, the organizing committee of the 100-year celebration of the first ascent decided to award posthumous certificates to the African porter-guides who had accompanied Meyer and Purtscheller. One person in pictures or documents of the 1889 expedition was thought to match a living inhabitant of Marangu, Yohani Kinyala Lauwo. Lauwo did not know his own age. Nor did he remember Meyer or Purtscheller, but he remembered joining a Kilimanjaro expedition involving a Dutch doctor who lived near the mountain and that he did not get to wear shoes during the climb. Lauwo claimed that he had climbed the mountain three times before the beginning of World War I. The committee concluded that he had been a member of Meyer’s team and therefore must have been born around 1871. Lauwo died on 10 May 1996, 107 years after the first ascent, but now is sometimes even suggested as co-first-ascendant of Kilimanjaro.
Fastest male ascent and descent
The fastest ascent-descent has been recorded by the Swiss-Ecuadorian mountain guide Karl Egloff (born 16 March 1981 in Quito), who ran to the top and back in 6 hours and 42 minutes on 13 August 2014. Previous records were held by Spanish mountain runner Kílian Jornet (7 hours, 14 minutes on 29 September 2010) and by Tanzanian guide Simon Mtuy (9 hours, 21 minutes on 22 February 2006).
Fastest female ascent and descent
The female ascent record is held by Anne-Marie Flammersfeld. On 27 July 2015, she climbed to the summit in 8 hours, 32 minutes via the Umbwe Route, which is about 30 kilometres (19 mi) long. Born in Germany but living in Switzerland, she broke the record of Britain’s Becky Shuttleworth who climbed to the summit in 11 hours, 34 minutes on 20 September 2014.
Flammersfeld then needed 4 hours, 26 minutes to run down to the Mweka Gate, for a combined ascent and descent time of 12 hours, 58 minutes. That broke the previous record of 18 hours, 31 minutes held by Debbie Bachman.
Kilimanjaro Prices and Costs
There are a wide range of prices charged for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro by different outfitters, and whichever way you look at it, the cost of climbing Kilimanjaro is very expensive. There are more than 200 licensed operators on Mount Kilimanjaro. The choices may be overwhelming.
However, do not base your decision on price alone. Price should be only one component of the overall decision. High altitude trekking is not the place to shop for a cheap “deal”, nor is it the place to overpay needlessly. What you should look for is high quality service at a reasonable price.