Equatorial Africa: from the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to the bottom of the crater

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro is located in northeastern Tanzania, in the national park of the same name. It is the highest peak in Africa, which is actually a dormant volcano. There are three cones – Kibo, Mavensi and Shira, Kibo is the highest and youngest peak, Mavensi is the oldest cone, its height is 5891.8 meters. Despite the fact that Mount Kilimanjaro is only three degrees from the equator, because of its height, the crater of Kibo is covered by snow all year round. The name comes from the Swahili language and supposedly means “the mountain that sparkles.”

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Video: climbing Kilimanjaro


If the Himalayas are called the “roof of the world,” Kilimanjaro is the “roof” of Africa. The largest mountains of this type are in Hawaii; even more grandiose ones are on Mars. None of the Hawaiian monsters look so spectacular (it is too early to compare them to the Martian ones) . And Kilimanjaro is also considered to be the highest solitary mountain on the planet.

The difficult ascent to the mountain is rarely tiring, but we recommend climbing it for anyone looking for adventure. Experienced guides accompanied by porters take visitors to the top of the mountain along various routes, on the way you can explore different belts of vegetation – forests, alpine meadows, semi-deserts and wastelands. Such tours can be booked from Moshi or Arusha and last 5-8 days. The trip ends when at the top you see the sunrise over the territories of Kenya and Tanzania.

Sunrise at the top of the mountain Glacier at the top of the mountain

You can’t climb Kilimanjaro lightly. This mountain is the world record holder in the number of high-altitude climatic zones that change as you climb. Accordingly, all the conquerors of Kilimanjaro are record-breakers in the number and variety of outfit. All of this, excluding the strain on your freezing body, is best left to the porters. If you feel that the climb is not up to you – also not a problem. You can limit yourself to a Hemingway-style photo shoot: you, the savannah, and the mountain in the background.

There is a possibility of climbing Kilimanjaro from Kenya, as the mountain is on the border of Tanzania and Kenya. But by agreement between these countries, climbs are only allowed on the Tanzanian side. On the Kenyan side there is no necessary infrastructure and there are police posts to prevent unauthorized climbs.

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The first mention of these snow-capped mountains dates back to the second century A.D. They are marked on the geographical map of Ptolemy. But the date of discovery of Kilimanjaro is considered May 11, 1848, and the discoverer was a German pastor Johannes Rebman. In 1861 was conquered the height of 2500 m, in 1862 reached the mark of 4200 m, in 1883, 1884 and 1887 – the mark of 5270 m; all these climbs were made by the Hungarian Count Samuel Teleki. On October 5, 1889 the German traveler Hans Meyer together with the Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtschler for the first time reached the top. In 1996 in Marangu was still alive their fellow climber from the Chaga people – Msee Lauvo (Lavo), who must have been more than 120 years old. Mawenzi was conquered only in 1912. Ochler and Klute. In the book “Life, Travel and Work in East Africa” you can find a description of how its author, Charles New, tried to conquer Kilimanjaro in 1861 in tropical shorts and a light shirt, while his 13 porters were completely naked. Not surprisingly, they were unable to climb to the summit, although they did reach the snow limit. Kilimanjaro shares with our Elbrus the fame of the only one of the highest peaks of the planet, which became a real battlefield: in the fall of 1914 the fighting between the British and the Germans took place right on the slopes of the mountain near Marangu.

Aerial view of Kilimanjaro

Melting Cap

The snow cap, which covered the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro for 11,000 years since the last Ice Age, is melting fast. During the last 100 years the volume of snow and ice has decreased by more than 80 %. In 2002 many experts had already predicted the complete disappearance of the glacier within 15 years. In March 2005 it was reported that the peak was almost completely free of ice for the first time in 11,000 years. It is believed that this is not due to a change in temperature, but to a reduction in snowfall. Apparently, the clearing of forests in the last century has seriously reduced the amount of water vapor which reaches the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and falls there as snow.

Camp and the starry sky above

Climbing Kilimanjaro

Climbing Kilimanjaro should take at least 5 days – this applies to the most popular eastern slopes. There are a total of 6 routes. During the trek, climbers stay overnight in tents or huts: there are especially many on the Marangu route (aka the Coca-Cola Trail) . You’ll get to the summit in any case, but only if you meet the necessary conditions:

  • The presence of a guide and porters (at least 1-2 people), without which the climb is simply not allowed.
  • Reliable outfit, including trekking shoes, thermal underwear, wool clothes and waterproof clothing.
  • Good physical condition, reasonable distribution of energy and no hurry.
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The average cost of climbing Kilimanjaro is made up of park fees (Kilimanjaro National Park, +255-0689062309, 0767536134; adults/children 5-16 years $60/10, under 5 years free) , guide fees ($20/day) / porters ($10/day), rescuers ($20 deposit, non-refundable) and equipment rental costs – unless of course you have your own. Climbing season is the months of January to March and June to October. Equipment and other services are available at the following addresses:

  • Gladys Adventure (+255-027-2750332, +255-0787111-881; www.gladysadventure.com) . From $5 (thermal t-shirt) to $35 (backpack) per item. Dense forest at the foot of the mountain
  • Serengeti Pride Safaris & Kilimanjaro Climbs (Usa River, Arusha, +255-0785353534; www.serengetipridesafaris.com) . Climbing the Lemosho (west) and Machame (southwest) routes – from $2,400 for 7 days and longer. The program includes pickup and drop-off at Kilimanjaro airport, as well as overnight stays in Arusha.
  • Ultimate Kilimanjaro (www.ultimatekilimanjaro.com) . Climbing costs from $149 5 (Marangu, 6 days + 2 overnights in hotel) to $1995 (Lemosho, 8 days + 2 overnights in hotel) .
  • Tanzania 2000 Adventure (Arusha, +255-0786013994, 077-3478748; www.tanzania-adventure.com) . Sends daily trekking groups from Arusha – costs $1,475 per person (group of 4-6) , including transportation, escort, park fees, food, and health insurance.
  • East Africa Shuttles & Safaris (Nairobi, Muindi Mbingu St., Portal Place House, +254-020-22484-53, +254-0722348656, 073450-3953, 0710189751; www.eastafricashuttles.com) . A Kenyan firm offering a variety of options, often bundled with a safari. The most affordable is an 8-day Marangu itinerary with 1 acclimatization night at the Chorombo Hut, $1,350 for everything.

Kilimanjaro has a total altitude of 5,896m, but of that, your feet account for less. From Moshi you will be taken to the Marangu Park Gate (1980 m), where the walking part begins, consisting of several steps:

  • Mandara – Climb to Mandara Huts (Mandara Huts, 5 hours, 2750 m, $50) , first overnight stay.
  • Chorombo – Hard ascent -1 km vertically. Overnight stay at Horombo Huts (3700 m, $50), which is considered the most comfortable.
  • Kibo, the ascent from Horombo is possible on two trails, one to the east and one to the west. At Jiwe La Ukoyo, the trails merge back into one, which leads to Kibo Hut (4,700 m, $50) .
  • Uhuru Peak – The last section is considered the steepest and longest (1200 m vertically) . You leave the hut in the middle of the night: this allows you to walk on a hard, subfreezing trail and admire the sunrise at the top of the mountain. On the way you pass Hans Meyer Cave (5,180 m) and reach the volcano crater at Gillman’s Point (5,681 m) . Take the last 2 hours to the highest point in Africa, Uhuru Peak (5,896 m), then take a short break at the summit and descend. The only overnight stay on the way down the mountain is at the Chorombo Hut.
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Those who prefer to save time, energy, and money can see Kilimanjaro from below. For this you can go with a guide from Moshi to the vicinity of the Marangu Park Gate, where there are waterfalls, frozen lava fields and coffee plantations. Depending on the mode of transportation (dala-dala to Marangu village or cab) the walk costs Sh60000-100000. There is no park fee and lunch will have to be taken with you. The excursion takes a full day, as does the trip in a rented jeep to the Shire Plateau on the western edge of the massif. This plateau is about 3,700 meters high, where stony tundra stretches interspersed with lava cones and rocky ridges. The road from Moshi skirts the mountain from the south and takes about 2 hours.

Equatorial Africa: from the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to the bottom of the crater

The ascent to the summit of Kilimanjaro started at midnight. At first glance, the route to the summit seemed to be simple enough: the way to the summit, illuminated by the moonlight, serpentine winds among the rocks – it’s as plain as the eye. I wish I could sleep a little before I go out, but I can’t. Which is very annoying.

However, on the loose volcanic sand and piles of rocks we move the first hundred meters without hurry but rather briskly: any sharp movement disrupts the breath. No kidding – we have essentially reached the critical zone – at an altitude of 5500 meters obvious manifestations of mountain sickness. Some of the foreigners, having climbed a little bit upwards, could not stand it and returned to the camp, downwards. The last meters we ascend without listening to how we breathe and what is going on in our chest. It would be even more unbearable to stop and go down anyway.

Equatorial Africa: from Kilimanjaro Peak to the bottom of the crater - Photo 2

Equatorial Africa: from the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to the bottom of the crater

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And finally – oh, the miracle! – as if through a fence, we fall over a stone ridge and step into a completely different, paradoxical even for Africa world, with views resembling the Arctic panoramas. Here is also the first wooden marker on Kili – GILMAN’S POINT – 5681 m. A little lower is the crater, glaciers, ice walls and thousands of years of snow.

Equatorial Africa: from Kilimanjaro Peak to the bottom of the crater.

Equatorial Africa: from the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to the bottom of the crater

Many tourists, exhausted on this crossing, this is where they stop climbing. After all, this altitude – an undoubted achievement! But we, enduring the exhausting fatigue, understand that it is not the summit yet. And our feet walk by themselves along the snowy trail.

It took us about two hours to reach the last 200 meters. Here it is, Uhuru Peak, the roof of Africa! The early morning snowstorm, frost and freezing wind try to knock us down. In the snowy fog the huge sun appears to be red-orange and crawls over the equator. We hurry, before our hands get completely stiff from the wind and frost, to take at least a dozen or two pictures and run down. Everything that happened afterwards was of no importance.

Equatorial Africa: Kilimanjaro Peak on the Crater Floor -Foto 4

Equatorial Africa: from the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to the bottom of the crater

Heard and read warnings about yellow fever and malaria in equatorial Africa, passed the mandatory vaccinations before departure, took the recommended pills, we never had a chance to meet with the insects, which are the causative agents of severe disease in both domestic animals and humans (what happened, for example, a fly with an interesting name tsetse, which we have heard of since school?) All sorts of aerosols and ointment-repellents would be glad to use, but, alas, did not. This topic is like an anecdote, entertained us constantly during the trip.

Equatorial Africa: Kilimanjaro Peak on the Crater Floor -Foto 5

Equatorial Africa: from the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to the bottom of the crater

Nothing was flying and no buzzing even when we went on safari in the famous national park Ngorongoro. Its main territory is located in the bowl of the volcano with the same name, which was formed 2-2.5 million years ago. After a powerful lava eruption the top of the volcano collapsed and in its place formed a caldera – a depression about 600 m deep and 16 to 20 km in diameter.

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Equatorial Africa: from Kilimanjaro Peak to the bottom of the crater.

Equatorial Africa: from the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to the bottom of the crater

The extremities of the crater rise to a height of 2286 m and on its giant natural bottom live thousands of wild animals that never leave this paradise habitat and do not disturb each other (except that lions and cheetahs sometimes break this idyll with their predatory appetites).

The eyes admire and the soul sings, contemplating this splendor and miracles in a natural environment. You get the impression that since childhood, fascinated by the fabulous “African giraffe”, you have been preparing to meet this wild beauty.

Equatorial Africa: photo 7 from Kilimanjaro Peak to the bottom of the crater

Equatorial Africa: from the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to the bottom of the crater

A couple of dozen meters away from our jeep, two lions are peacefully lounging in the sun, lazily casting absolutely peaceful glances in our direction. In its quiet swamp clumsily turns from back to stomach, waving away annoying insects and searing sun, a massive hippopotamus. A little farther along, the “large-capacity” white rhinoceros and its cub stroll away from us, as if to demonstrate that its species is endangered.

Equatorial Africa: Kilimanjaro Peak down to the bottom of the crater.

Equatorial Africa: from the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to the bottom of the crater

By the way, black and white and rhinoceroses in this “mitten” is not much left – only about twenty individuals. Armed rangers protect them from poachers, and above all, from semi-nomadic, a few aggressive tribes of Maasai, which have long inhabited various parts of the volcanic area and often add to the troubles of the Tanzanian authorities. It is said that crocodiles were once found here, but the same Maasai exterminated them under the pretext of protecting their cows. There are so many elephants, antelopes, giraffes, zebras and buffalos, all kinds of monkeys and baboons, that they do not hesitate to cross the road right in front of our noses, almost touching the car.

Equatorial Africa: from Kilimanjaro Peak to the bottom of the crater - Photo 9

Equatorial Africa: from the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to the bottom of the crater

These birds like an unexpected meeting with dear friends in a foreign land reeked of warmth and nostalgia. Storks! There are probably our Ukrainian storks among them, as many of them fly to Africa for the winter. To gain strength and to flutter their wings in spring.

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