Finding interesting facts about Mount Kilimanjaro isn’t difficult. After all, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with fascinating ecology, millennia-long history, and mind-blowing sceneries!
These interesting Mt. Kilimanjaro facts will show some of the lesser-known things about Tanzania’s famous attractions and dig into eccentricities travel nerds will love.
And who knows? This compilation of Mount Kilimanjaro trivia could help you win the next quiz night at the local pub. Ready to learn more facts about Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak? Let’s dive in!
20 mind-blowing mount Kilimanjaro facts
Mount Kilimanjaro certainly isn’t a place for the faint of heart. This towering peak is located in Tanzania and is considered to be one of the most challenging mountains to climb in the world.
With that said, its majesty is well worth the trek. If you’re up for the challenge, here are some amazing facts about Kilimanjaro that will make your ascent all the more worthwhile:
1. Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest freestanding mountain in the world
Mount Kilimanjaro’s biggest claim to fame is, without a doubt, its height. Standing at a majestic 5,895 meters above sea level, it holds the title of Africa’s tallest mountain.
But the highest freestanding mountain in the world? What does that mean, and what happened to Everest? Kilimanjaro isn’t part of any mountain range. It’s in an entire league of its own.
Everest, on the other hand, is a peak in the Himalayas mountain range.
2. There are 5 major climate zones on Kilimanjaro
The start of your trek up Mount Kilimanjaro will look completely different by the time you summit. And no, it’s not the icy caps of “Everyone’s Everest” that make the difference.
Kilimanjaro is home to five different climate zones:
- Cultivation Zone: Lowland forest and farmland.
- Montane Rain Forest: Dense, damp tropical forest home to plenty of flora and fauna.
- Heath/Moorland: Small scrubs replace the forest, and temperatures start to drop.
- Alpine Desert: Little water and hardly any plants. Expect high daytime temperatures, which drop to below freezing at night.
- Ice Cap Zone: Also known as the Arctic Zone, it has half of the available oxygen you’ll find at sea level.
It’s like walking from the Equator to the North Pole. Pretty incredible that you get to experience all those climates in one climb, right?
3. Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the seven summits
As Africa’s highest peak, Kilimanjaro is one of the Seven Summits. What are the Seven Summits? These are the highest mountains on each continent. For mountaineers around the world, conquering each one is the ultimate goal.
The other six mountains are:
- Mount Everest in Asia: 8,848 meters
- Mount Aconcagua in South America: 6,961 meters
- Mount Mckinley in North America: 6,194 meters
- Mount Elbrus in Europe: 5,642 meters
- Mount Vinson in Antarctica: 4,892 meters
- Mount Kosciuszko in Australasia: 2,228 meters
4. Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano
Kilimanjaro is a stratovolcano, a large volcano made of ash, lava, and rock. It’s made up of three volcanic cones Shira, Mawenzi, and Kibo. While the other two are extinct and cut off from the flow of lava, Kibo is dormant.
If you hike to the Ash Pit (a 2-hour trek across the crater floor), you can smell the sulfurous gases.
What does this mean? You’re hiking a volcano, and one day it could become active again. However, there has been no volcanic activity for hundreds of years.
5. Kibo's last eruption was 360,000 years ago
For most of us, we don’t think about the threat of volcanic eruptions in our day-to-day lives, but when you want to climb Kilimanjaro, it gets you thinking, “When was the last time Mount Kilimanjaro erupted?”
Well, according to scientists, the last time Kibo released some steam was 360,000 years ago, but the dormant volcano cone did stir up some activity as recently as 200 years ago.
What about Shira and Mawenzi? Shira became extinct 2.5 million years ago and collapsed to form the Shira Plateau. Mawenzi erupted with Kibo one million years ago, forming “The Saddle” and went extinct 450,000 years ago.
6. It's home to Africa's tallest tree
It might come as a surprise (or not) that Kilimanjaro not only boasts the title of Africa’s highest peak but the tallest tree as well!
Andreas Hemp from Germany spent 20-years studying the trees in Kilimanjaro’s remote valleys when he stumbled upon the Entandrophragma excelsum. Using laser technology, Hemp measured the tree and found it stands a whopping 81.5 meters tall. To put that in perspective, Rome’s colosseum is only 48 meters.
But the shocking facts don’t stop there.
Hemp estimates the tree is around 600 years old!
7. There are 7 official routes to the summit
One of the biggest choices you have to make when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is the route.
There are seven established routes to the Rooftop of Africa:
- Marangu: The only root with hut accommodation.
- Machame: The most popular route.
- Lemosho: The most beautiful route.
- Shira: Approaches the summit from the west.
- Rongai: Approaches the summit from the north.
- Northern Circuit: The newest and longest route to the top.
- Umbwe: The shortest, steepest, and hardest route.
How do you find the best Kilimanjaro route for you? It depends on the route’s scenery, difficulty, altitude acclimatization, success rate, and foot traffic.
8. 30,000 people attempt to climb Kilimanjaro each year
Is summiting Mt Kilimanjaro on your Tanzania bucket list? You’re not alone. Every year, 30,000 people attempt to trek up to the Rooftop of Africa. Sounds like the summit would be full of people, right? Wrong!
Despite the high volume of climbers, not everyone makes it to the top. Acute mountain sickness is usually the main culprit, which is why the longer routes have the greatest success rates.
9. The first recorded successful summit of mount Kilimanjaro was in 1889
Humans love a good challenge. Since the mid-late nineteenth century, recorded attempts by European explorers to climb Kilimanjaro started to kick off.
While some inevitably failed, as Hans Meyer did in 1887, he didn’t give up. Instead, he met with Ludwig Purscheller (an experienced Alpine climber) and returned to Tanzania in 1889. Hans assembled a team of porters and a local guide, Yohani Kinyala Lauwo.
On 6 October 1889, Yohani and Hans became the first recorded people to climb Mount Kilimanjaro successfully.
Two bonus Kilimanjaro facts came out of this expedition:
- Yohani led expeditions on Kilimanjaro for 70 years and lived for 125 years.
- After the 1889 summit, it took 20 years before the next successful climb.
10. Sheila MacDonald was the first woman recorded to summit Mt Kilimanjaro
On 27 September 1927, Sheila MacDonald became the first woman (that we know of) to summit Mt Kilimanjaro.
Of course, it’s possible local women in Tanzania could have scaled the mountain before her, but with no written record, it’s hard to know for sure.
Sheila spent her childhood climbing mountains in Scotland with her father. After scaling Mount Etna in Sicily, she came to Tanzania to visit family and decided to give Mount Kilimanjaro a try.
Despite her traveling companions abandoning their attempt to the summit, Sheila pushed on and earned her spot in the record books.
11. The oldest person to summit mount Kilimanjaro was 89 years old
Don’t let your age hold you back from conquering your goals. If Anne Lorimor (an Arizona grandmother) listened to the naysayers, she wouldn’t currently hold the world record for the oldest person to summit Mount Kilimanjaro.
On 18 July 2019, Anne summited (unassisted) with a team via the Rongai route.
As for the men? The current record holder is Fred Distelhorst from Colorado. He reached Uhuru Peak on 20 July 2017 at the age of 88.
12. The youngest person to summit mount Kilimanjaro was 6 years old
What were you doing at six years old? Probably playing Pokemon cards and re-enacting Power Ranger battles. Well, not Coaltan Tanner.
Ever since his parents told him about Kilimanjaro, he became obsessed with climbing Africa’s highest mountain. And in October 2018, his dreams came true.
Along with his parents, Coaltan joined an expedition, and on 22 October, he stood at Uhuru Peak, breaking the previous record held by 7-year old Montannah Kenney.
13. The fastest summit attempt record is 4-hours and 56-minutes
For most of us, summiting Mount Kilimanjaro would be enough of an achievement, but not for Karl Egloff.
In August 2014, the Swiss ultra-marathon runner ran (yes, you read that right) the Umbwe route and reached Uhuru Peak in 4-hours and 56 minutes. His total round trip time was 6-hours and 42-minutes.
That’s how long it usually takes to hike some of the routes up Table Mountain in South Africa. Mind-blowing!
14. Bernard Goosen climbed Kilimanjaro in a wheelchair twice
Think you can’t climb Africa’s highest peak? Think again. South African Bernard Goosen proved to the world that almost anything is possible when you have the will and mindset to conquer your dreams.
In 2003, Bernard (who has cerebral palsy) scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro with a modified wheelchair and hardly any assistance. How long did it take? Only nine days.
Bernard crushed his previous record on his second expedition four years later by summiting in only six days.
15. The glaciers on mount Kilimanjaro are 11,700 years old
We hear all the time about trees and fossils, which are thousands of years old, but who would have thought ice sticks around for that long too.
In 2000, Lonnie Thompson led an expedition to Kilimanjaro and made the first modern measurements of the mountain’s ice.
After drilling samples from the three glaciers surrounding the summit, he found that the ice dates back at least 11,700 years. Talk about impressive!
This is why the next Kilimanjaro fact is so alarming.
16. The mountain's snow caps are diminishing
Over the last 100 years, Mt Kilimanjaro has lost 82% of its snow. It’s estimated the mountain will be ice-free by 2030, changing the appearance of Africa’s highest peak forever.
The cause? Global warming.
17. Kilimanjaro is on the equator
Yup. The Rooftop of Africa is almost on the Equator. If you’re finding that hard to believe, you’re not alone. When early explorers first laid eyes on the mountain, many did believe the snowcaps were ice. Why? No one thought ice could form under the boiling hot equatorial sun.
18. The origin of the name "Kilimanjaro" is unknown
This is probably the strangest Kilimanjaro fact. The mountain’s name is steeped in mystery, with no one sure where exactly the peak got its name. Sure, there are theories. The most popular one comes from linguists analysing the dialects of Tanzania. They believe it’s a combination of Swahili and a Chagga tribe’s local language. In Swahili, the word “Kilima” means mountain. In the local language of the Chagga tribe (who lived near the mountain), ‘Njaro” means whiteness.
When you combine the two words, you get the name Kilimanjaro and a word that perfectly describes Tanzania’s majestic mountain.
19. It's hosted the highest cricket, and rugby matches in the world
While most trekkers want to summit Kilimanjaro and go home, some athletes take the climb to the next level. In 2014, two cricket teams played the highest game of cricket (at 5,752 m above sea level) to raise money for the Mt. Kili Madness charity project.
Not only did the game raise $150,000, but it smashed the previous Mt. Everest record.
In 2015, the highest rugby match took place on Mt Kilimanjaro. The game was held in a dormant volcano crater and raised money for the Steve Prescott Foundation.
20. The first written mention of Kilimanjaro dates back to the 2nd century
Historical evidence suggests the first recorded (and surviving) mention of Kilimanjaro dates back to the 2nd century.
Greek mathematician Ptolemy of Alexandria wrote about the “great snow mountain”, and later on, Oriental traders made reports of a “great mountain west of Zanzibar”. But mentions don’t stop there.
Fernandez de Enciso (a Spanish writer) called Kilimanjaro “an Ethiopian Mount Olympus”.
In 1844, William Desborough Cooley (an Irish explorer) wrote: “the most famous mountain of Eastern Africa is Kirimanjara” and is the first written mention of the mountain’s name.
Despite these reports, British geographers didn’t believe a snow-capped mountain in Africa existed until 1848.
How high is Kilimanjaro?
Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in the African continent at 19,340 feet or 5,895 meters above sea level and about 4,900 meters above its plateau base.
Book your mount Kilimanjaro expedition
Ready to set your sights on Kilimanjaro and climb Africa’s highest peak? With Kilimanjaro trekking packages starting from 8-days, choose your route, and let us handle all the logistics. Our professional and experienced mountain guides will help you make it to Uhuru Peak. All you need to do is pack your gear, catch your flight to Tanzania, and we’ll handle the rest.