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Introduction to Mt. Kilimanjaro

Description

At 5,895 metres (19,344 ft) Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest mountain and attracts hikers from all over the world. No mountain experience or specialist equipment is needed to climb Kilimanjaro but the ascent is still challenging: climbers cover over fifty miles during the trek and at the top the breathable oxygen is less than half the amount at sea level. There are a number of routes up the Kilimanjaro, the most common being Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe and Machame. Machame is the steeper but most scenic of all the routes up the mountain, while the Rongai route is the easiest camping route and the Marangu route offers accommodation in huts. Despite its growing popularity Mount Kilimanjaro retains a certain mysticism, although some legends appear untrue – the Chaga people who live in the foothills of the mountain believed there were spirits who guarded treasure at the mountain’s centre, rendering ill and frozen anyone who dared to venture onto its slopes.
Kilimanjaro’s huge snowcapped summit dome,rising high above the sarounding savannah, often with a giraffe conveniently posing in the foreground,is one of Africa’s all time classic images.At 5896 m( 19344 ft),Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, and one of the highest volcanoes in the world. The lure is irresistible, and a trek up ‘Killi’ is an essential part of a visit to Tanzania. The trek is even more attractive because, with the right preparation, you can walk all the way to the summit without the needs of ropes or technical climbing experience.

 

History

Mount Kilimanjaro has always been revered by the Chagga people who live and farm at the foot of Kilimanjaro. When Johannes Rebmann reached this area in 1848, and became the first European to see Kilimanjaro, he reported that his guide had once tried to bring down the ‘ silver’ from the summit, which mysteriously turned to water on the descent. A later explorer Charles New, who reached the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro in 1871, heard the stories from the local chief,Mandara,about spirits on the mountain jealously guarding piles of silver and precious stones.It was said that anybody trying to reach the summit would be punished by the spirits with illness and severe cold.

 

New was later followed by other explorers Gustav Fisher and Joseph Thompson both reached the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro, and in 1887 Count Samuel Teleki managed to get to a point only 400m below the top of Kibo. The summit was eventually reached in October 1889 by Hans Meyer, a German professor of geology accompanied by Ludwig Purtcheller an experienced alpinist, and Yohannes Lauwo , a local guide from the village of Marangu. Meyer named the summit Kaiser Wilhelm Spitz, after the German emperor. When mainland Tanzania gained independence in 1961, the name of the summit was changed to Uhuru ( freedom ) Peak.

 

The derivation of the name Kilimanjaro has never been satisfactorily explained.Johannes Rebmann believed that the name translated as ‘Mountain of Greatness’ or ‘Mountain of caravans’ ( on the premise that slaving caravans traveling between the coast and the interior would have used the mountain as a landmark ). Other writers have since suggested that the name means ‘ Shining Mountain’, ‘White Mountain’ or ‘Mountain of Water’.

 

There is certainly a reliable source of water which, together with the rich volcanic in the area, makes the foothills of Kilimanjaro ideal for cultivation. Of course, the Chagga knew this and a group of British settlers, led by Sir Harry Johnstone, who arrived here in 1884 also took advantage of these conditions. They cleared and planted an area of land near Taveta to the east of Kilimanjaro’s foothills. Johnston had a vision of the area becoming the second Ceylon.

In 1886, when the government of Germany and Britain a greed on border to officially define their territories , the line they drew from Lake Victoria to the coast – was perfectly straight, broken only by an untidy curve around Kilimanjaro. This divided the original British territory claimed by Johnston, now in Kenya, from the rest of the area around Kilimanjaro, now Tanzania.

 

You maybe told that the border curves around Kilimanjaro because Queen Victoria gave the mountain to Kaiser Wilhelm ( her grandson ) as a birthday present. While such an action would have been no different to the arbitrary partitioning of East Africa by these to monarchs’ own governments, there is no evidence that this story is true. But it remains one of many popular myths that add to the mystique and attraction of Kilimanjaro.

Geography

The massif of Kilimanjaro is roughly oval in shape , 40km t0 60km in diameter , and rises almost 5000m around the surrounding plains. Kilimanjaro is even more distinctive it is not part of a chain or extended range. As well as being the highest mountain in Africa, Kili is the highest free standing mountain in the world. The Mountain has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

 

Mt. Kilimanjaro has two main peak areas namely , Kibo, the flat –topped dome at the centre of the massif, and Mawenzi , a group of jagged points and pinnacles on the eastern side of the mountain. In fact, the top of Kibo is not flat, but dips inwards to form a crater which cannot be seen from below.The tow peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi are separated by a a broad plain called saddle. A third peak area, shira , lies at the western end of the massif but is lower and is less distinctive than the other two peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi.

 

The highest point on Kibo and the whole mountain is Uhuru peak at 5896m ( 19,344ft ), the highest point in Africa reaching this point is the wish of every climber. The highest point on Mawenzi is Hans Meyer point, at 5149m (16,894 ) but this cannot be reached by trekkers and is only rarely visited by mountaineers.