A QUICK OVERVIEW
Found in Tanzania, Africa Mount Kilimanjaro is perhaps one of the most renowned mountains in the world and is often referred to as the average Joe’s Mount Everest. Tens of thousands of keen adventurers, trekkers, hikers and fitness enthusiasts visit Tanzania each year to reach the summit. Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa making it one of the coveted seven summits and it’s also the highest volcano in Africa making it one of the volcanic seven summits. Mount Kilimanjaro is also the highest freestanding mountain in the world, standing 5,895 m/19,340 ft tall. What does free standing mean? Freestanding means it doesn’t belong to a mountain range like most mountains. For example Mount Everest is surrounded by other mountains within the Himalayan Mountain Range, and as a result it gets a little lost amongst all the other giant surrounding mountains. Mount Kilimanjaro however being a freestanding mountain sticks out like a sore thumb, as it’s all by itself with no other mountains to steel its glory.
Mount Kilimanjaro the Volcano
Mount Kilimanjaro is actually a volcano with three volcanic cones which gives the mountain three peaks. The three cones include Kibo which is the highest summit cone, is home to Uhuru Peak (the main summit of Mount Kilimanjaro) and stands 5,895 m/19,340 ft tall (its also a dormant volcanic cone). The second tallest cone is Mawenzi which is actually more technical and difficult to reach in comparison to Uhuru Peak, Mawenzi stands 5,149 m/16,893 ft tall and is an extinct cone. The third and smallest cone is Shira which stands 3,962 m/13,000 ft tall, and like Mawenzi its extinct.
How Was Mount Kilimanjaro Formed?
Mount Kilimanjaro was formed around 3 million years ago when the African and Indian tectonic plates diverged from each other. The diversion of the tectonic plates resulted in the earths crust fracturing which created a valley we now call The Great Rift Valley. The formation of the valley allowed magma to reach the earths surface and in turn allowed the creation and formation of volcanoes within the Valley, Mount Kilimanjaro was one of these volcanoes.
Unique Climate & Environment
Mount Kilimanjaro is unique for many reasons however its 5 diverse climate and environmental zones makes the mountain especially unique and special. Mount Kilimanjaro unlike any other mountain in the world has 5 unique climate zones. It starts with a cultivated zone (800m/2,600 ft. to around 1800m/6,000 ft.) where farmland, villages and numerous fruit, vegetable and coffee crops thrive. The cultivated zone is then followed by a rainforest zone (1800m/6,000 ft. to around 2800m/9,000 ft.); within the rainforest zone tall moss covered trees are found, with thousands of other vibrant green bushes and plant life; monkeys are also often seen. Also just like any other rainforest it’s wet, sticky and humid. After the rainforest zone you come across the heather and moorland zone (2800m/9,000 ft. to around 4000m/13,000 ft.) here the vibrant green rainforest is replaced by tall heather shrubs, rocky trails and tall grasses. Once your out of the heather and moorland zone you enter the highland desert zone (4000m/13,000 ft.to around 5000m/16,000 ft.) in the highland dessert zone you’ll encounter fields of small to large volcanic rocks with little vegetation. However the vegetation you do encounter is extremely unique and obscure looking, these plants have to survive with the low amounts of oxygen and water, the oppressive and harsh sun during the day and sub-zero temperatures during the night and as a result they’ve developed into really unique looking plants . The last zone you encounter is the arctic zone (5,000m/16,000 ft. to 5,895m/19,340 ft.) (Ulhuru Peak)), here you’ll firstly encounter loose rock known as scree and depending on the weather you may get snow. As you make your way to the summit you’ll usually come across patches of snow and ice and once you get to the crater rim near the summit you’ll get to see the beautiful glaciers.
No other mountain gives trekkers, hikers or climbers such a diverse range of climates and environments, it really is spectacular.
Route to the Top
As mentioned above Mount Kilimanjaro has three peaks however we’ll focus on the tallest, most significant and most climbed peak, Ulhuru Peak (the highest point on the Kibo cone). There’s numerous established routes to Ulhuru Peak, the most common being The Marangu route, Machame route, Lemosho route, Shira route, Rongai route, Northern Circuit route and Umbwe route. All routes vary in difficulty mainly due to the time given to trekkers to allow for acclimatisation however none require much of if any technical climbing skill. Today the most common route used is the Machame Route; a brief itinerary for this route can be found below.
The Machame route is probably the most popular route. The route is a 6-7 day outing and is of moderate difficulty for the experienced hiker/trekker/climber. Starting from the south-west Machame Gate the route takes trekkers straight up to the Machame Camp (2,850m/9,350 ft.), from Machame Camp you continue to move upwards to Shira 2 Camp 3,810m/12,500 ft from Shira Camp 2 you start to move eastwards underneath Mount Kilimanjaro’s Southern ice-field. Along the way you’ll come across the infamous Lava Tower 4,630m/15,190ft before making your way down to Barranco Camp 3,976m/13,044ft. From Barranco Camp trekkers will continue to move eastward across the mountain, depending if your doing the seven day or six day route trekkers will either camp at Karanga Camp (7 days) 3,995m/13,906 ft. or continue on and move straight to Barafu Camp 4,673m/15,331 ft. From Barafu Camp trekkers stop heading East and make their way to Ulhuru Peak (the summit) 5,895m/19,341 ft. From the summit trekkers move back down past Barafu Camp (the previous nights camp) and continue straight down to Mweka Camp 3,068m/10,065 ft, the same day. From Mweka Camp trekkers continue straight down to the Mweka Gate which is the finish line for the trek/climb.