Two African Lions
Kilimanjaro - Introduction to the Mountain
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Kilimanjaro!  Just the name conjures up all sorts of emotions.  Most everyone has heard of Kilimanjaro but relative few have conquered it. The world is full of two kinds of people - those who have stood on its summit and those that have not.  Are you ready to become one of the privileged individuals to have reached the “roof of Africa”?   If so, you have come to the right spot, just settle down and read about one of the greatest adventures in the world that is attainable by almost anyone.  It is the highest “walkable” mountain in the world.  It is magnificent and climbing it is truly a spectacular undertaking.

Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and is also one of the world’s highest free standing mountains with its bulk looming 4800 m above an undulating plain that averages around 1000 m above sea level.  The mountain measures about 60 kms across and 40 kms wide.

It is made up of three volcanic cones, Kibo 5,895 m (19,341 ft), Mawensi 5,149 m (16,890 ft), and Shiro 3,962 m (13,000 ft).  All of which are inactive volcanoes in NE Tanzania.  They are classified as stratovolcano or composite volcanoes. There is no known record of eruption in all of history.  There are about 20 other nearby volcanoes, the best known of which is Mount Meru.  .
Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak on the Kibo volcano at 5,895 m (19,341 ft) is the highest point in Africa and one of the Seven Summits (seven highest points in the seven continents).  Kibo is a 1.5 mile wide crater.

Kilimanjaro was first ascended in 1889 by Hans Meyer, Ludwig Purtscheller, Yohanas Kinyala Lauwo.

There is much confusion surrounding the name Kilimanjaro.  European explorers had adopted it by 1860 and reported it as a Swahili name.  It may come from Kilima (Swahili for “hill”) and Njaro (ancient Swahili for “white” or “shining”) although there are other theories and other names translated from various dialects of Tanzanian and Maasai people are "Small Hill", "Caravan Hill" and "Mountain of Water", none of which can be confirmed as the original source.

Possibly the best thing about Kilimanjaro is the ability for the average man to experience the beauty of this natural monumental structure. Various routes are available for climbers ranging from novice to the highly experienced.

CLIMBERS
Kilimanjaro experiences about 11,500 climbers each year of which there is about a 65% success rate for those to reach the summit. The chances of success are dramatically improved if climbers take an extra day to climb the mountain. This allows the body to acclimatize and therefore there is less reaction to the harsh conditions. Children aged 12 years old have successfully reached the summit, but this does not mean that potential climbers should take the task at hand less seriously, because the whole process is extremely tough, but certainly well worth it.

THE SLOPES
The journey to the summit of Kilimanjaro involves long strenuous walks through 5 distinct zones. These are:
• The Cultivation Zone (800m or 6000ft)
• Forest (2700m or 9000ft)
• Moorland (4000m or 13000ft)
• High Desert (5000m or 16500ft)
• Summit (6000m or 20000ft)
Each zone is approximately 1000 m and a temperature drop of 1ºC for every 200 m should be experienced. There is a strange interaction between altitude, rainfall, temperature, plants and wildlife that can be felt and seen as you ascend to the top.

CULTIVATION ZONE
Altitude: 800 m to 1800 m
Rainfall: 500 mm/yr on plains and 1,800 mm/yr on the forest border
Most of this zone is like walking through a tropical farmland where local people use the land for livestock to graze and cultivated farmlands. There are no large wild animals, but many smaller ones such as Galagos and the Tree Hyrax. If you are lucky you may also see a genet. Please by not buying hyrax blankets, you will be helping with the conservation of this area. Bird life is abundant here with species such as the Bronze Sunbird and Tropical Boubou.

THE FOREST
Altitude: 1,800 m to 2,800 m
Rainfall: +/- 2,000 mm/yr on the southern slopes and less than 1,000 mm.yr on the western and northern sides.
This is by far the richest zone on the mountain where beautiful montane forest encircles the whole of Kilimanjaro. Much of the rain that falls is absorbed by the thick carpet of leaves and percolates through the soil and porous lava rock, to emerge as springs lower down the mountain. 96% of the water on the mountain originates through the forest zone. Due to all the moisture wide bands of cloud form around this zone, thus preventing evaporation and promote areas of high humidity. In the forest you are most likely to see some wildlife as this is the most inhabited area. Monkeys are the most common with many Blue Monkeys, Black and White Colobus Monkeys found in most parks. If you are very lucky you will come across leopard and the occasional civet or genet. Buck is common in the area, the most popular species being Duiker, Suni, Bushbuck and Klipspringer.

MOORLAND
Altitude: 2,800 m to 4,000 m
Rainfall: +/- 1,000 mm/yr
This area consists of two parts Heath and Moorland. The heath is characterized by the heather and heath-like scrubs. From Mandara Hut you will see the giant heather Erica Arborea. This whole area consists of strange vegetation, all unique and very beautiful. When entering the moorland you will see clusters of Giant Lobelias and Senecios. The Senecios have tall stems which act as reservoirs of water. Their cabbage like leaves protects them from the sub-zero temperatures. Some Senecios can grow up to 5m high. You are not likely to come across much wildlife in this area due to the cold temperatures and the altitude; however the vegetation is somewhat eerie but fascinating as it is unlike anything you have ever seen before.

HIGHLANDS DESERT
Altitude: 4,000 m to 5,000 m
Rainfall: 250 mm/yr
The name says it all, this area is like a desert. There is intense radiation, high evaporation and huge daily fluctuations in temperatures with nights well below 0ºC and days in excess of 40ºC. Water is very scarce so the soil maintains very little moisture. The conditions are extreme and this makes it exceptionally difficult for any pant life to exist. Only about 55 species of higher plants live above the 4,000 m level Lichens are one of the most successful plants having the ability to live and encrust on the lava rocks. Animals are very rarely seen in the area, but leopard, eland and wild dogs have been spotted here. The desert itself is not very spectacular, but the view of the two great peaks is beyond your wildest imagination.

THE SUMMIT
Altitude: Above 5,000 m
Rainfall: Less than 100 mm/yr
Extreme conditions dominate this arctic zone with temperatures well below freezing and intense burning sun during the day. Not much can survive here, except again for the lichens. These grow very slowly at not more than 1mm per year, so the grey and red one’s you will see are very old. The oxygen at this level is half that at sea level. There is virtually no liquid and the little that does, immediately enter the porous rock. The rest is locked up in snow and ice. Most people when climbing Kilimanjaro wind up at Gilman’s Point. This however is not the end as there is still plenty more if you have the energy and is well worth the additional walk. Should you continue you would eventually reach the "real" summit Uhuru Peak. From here you look down into Reusch Crater, the Eastern Icefield and the Northern Icefield.  Not many people go into the crater, as this is for serious and experienced climbers only. The view from here is truly spectacular, and as we said, is well worth the walk. Not so long ago, along your trek to the summit, you would be greeted by a huge icecap. Sadly global warming is melting this away and experts reckon in a couple of years there will be very little left. Possibly for those interested in climbing this gigantic beauty, it is well recommended that you go earlier than later.

Western Breech from Shiro

Western Breech from Shiro

Barranco Wall

Barranco Wall

Lunch at Lava Tower

Lunch at Lava Tower

Kibo from Machame Forest

Kibo from Machame Forest

Machame Forest Trail

Machame Forest Trail

Meru from Moorlands

Meru from Moorlands

Trail Karanga to Barafu

Trail Karanga to Barafu

Team at Summit

Team at Summit

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Video from Summit
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