Mount Kilimanjaro

The crown of Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa at 19,344 feet above sea level, and the highest single free-standing mountain (not part of a mountain range) in the world. Rising abruptly from the open plains, Kilimanjaro has three volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira. The latter two are extinct, while Kibo, the highest crater, is merely dormant, and could erupt again. Ominous rumbles can still be heard sometimes, and gases occasionally emerge from the fume holes in the crater. Despite being only 3 degrees from the equator, the peaks of Kibo and Mawenzi have permanent caps of snow and ice. However, these snow and ice caps are projected to disappear sometime between 2025 and 2035.

Visitors come from all around the world to climb Kilimanjaro and reach Uhuru Peak, the highest point on the Kibo crater, and the summit of the mountain. It is possible to trek all the way to Uhuru Peak without any special equipment or experience in about six to seven days, using one of seven different routes: Lemosho, Machame, Marangu, Rongai, Northern Circuit, Shira and Umbwe. Of these routes, Marangu is the easiest climb and therefore the most popular.

On all the routes, climbers first pass through lush rainforests before reaching heather and open moorland where giant lobelia and huge, cactus-like groundsel grow. Above this moorland is the almost lunar landscape of an alpine desert, which stretches between the two peaks of Kibo, the flat-topped dome at the center, and Mawenzi, a group of jagged points and pinnacles on the eastern side. The routes then lead to Uhuru Peak, with its spectacular hanging glaciers and spellbinding views of the African plains nearly 20,000 feet below.

The best time to climb the mountain is between August to October and January to March. December to February can be extremely warm, and April, May, June and November tend to be quite wet, especially in the rainforest surrounding the mountain.


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