Six things you didn’t know about Kilimanjaro - By Mark Whitman
Many people know that Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and one of the seven summits. But what about some of the more obscure Kilimanjaro facts?
In this article, Mark Whitman from the Climb Kilimanjaro Guide, uncovers six things you might not know about Mount Kilimanjaro and in doing so hopefully inspires you to make it a challenge for your next adventure
No 1. Highest freestanding mountain in the world
Standing at 5,895 metres (19,341 feet), Mount Kilimanjaro, is by no way as high as some of the 8,000 metre behemoths in the Himalayas. However, unlike its larger cousins in Asia, Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. By free standing I mean it stands alone and is not part of a mountain range. Typically these types of mountains are volcanoes, which brings me onto my second point
No 2. Volcanoes and Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro is in fact a dormant volcano comprised of three volcanic cones or vents – Shira (the oldest), Kibo (the youngest) and Mawenzi. Kibo is classified as dormant but not extinct. The last major eruption from Kibo occurred 360,000 years ago. The most recent volcanic activity happened 200 years ago and resulted in today’s ash pit, which is visible from Uhuru Peak – the summit of Kilimanjaro
No 3. Climate change
At one stage the whole mountain summit was covered by an ice cap, probably more than 100 meters deep. Since 1912 Kilimanjaro has lost 82% of its ice cap and since 1962 it has lost 55% of its remaining glaciers. If the present rate of recession continues the majority of the glaciers on Kilimanjaro could vanish altogether
No 4. Number of climber and summits
As many as 35,000 people travel to Mount Kilimanjaro every years with at least 25,000 taking on the challenge of climbing the mountain. Success rates are however, relatively low. Only 45% of all climbers on all routes on average reach Uhuru Peak. But don’t let low success rates deter you; even 85 year olds can climb the Roof of Africa!
No 5. Oldest people to climb the mountain
The oldest people to reach Uhuru Peak are Canadian-Swiss couple, Martin and Esther Kafer, who stood atop Kilimanjaro in September 2012 aged 85 and 84 respectively. Esther overtook previous record holder Bernice Buum who reached the summit aged 83 in September 2010, and Martin’s achievement narrowly pipped Richard Byerley who managed to climb the Roof of Africa in October 2011 at the age of 84 years and 71 days. However, if you think that is impressive then prepare yourself for the next fact
No 6. Fastest ascent
For most normal human beings, climbing Kilimanjaro and reaching the summit in 4-5 days is a gruelling feat. However there are some people who have extra special powers. For Kilian Jornet, Kilimanjaro proved to be a walk in the park (excuse the pun). In September 2010, the Spanish mountain runner reached the summit in the record time of 5 hours, 23 minutes and 50 seconds - beating the previous record held by Kazak mountain runner, Andrew Puchinin, by one minute. He then ran down the mountain to base camp reaching it in a total time (up and down the mountain) of 6 hours 29 minutes!
So, do you think you have it in you to conquer the highest free-standing volcanic mountain in the world? And if so, will you get there in time before the glaciers that cap it completely retreat? Success or failure is real concern on Kili, but take inspiration from Martin, Esther and Kilian, and who knows this just might be you!
Mark Whitman runs the Climb Kilimanjaro Guide, a leading website that helps prospective climbers prepare for Mount Kilimanjaro.
Feel free to ask him anything in the comments below.