Interesting facts about Mount Kilimanjaro 

Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the most famous mountains in the world.

It is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa.

Every year, thousands of people from all over the world come to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

But what do know about Mount Kilimanjaro?

In this blog post, we’re going to share some interesting facts about Mount Kilimanjaro that you may not know.

We’ll cover everything from the mountain’s history and geography to its climate and culture.

By the end of this article, you should have a better understanding of this fascinating place.

As of today, Kilimanjaro remains one of Africa’s most popular tourist destinations.

It is rightfully considered one of Africa’s great peaks – a true symbol of beauty and adventure.

Rising majestically above the African plains, the 20,000-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro has beckoned to climbers since the first recorded summit in 1889.

Here are 14 interesting facts to help inspire your future summit climbing of Kilimanjaro.

Since the first recorded summit in 1889, Mount Kilimanjaro has become the leading destination in Africa. Rising above 5895 meters above sea level.

Here are the interesting facts about Mount Kilimanjaro 

1. Is the tallest free-standing mountain

Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain on the African continent and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

The summit, named Uhuru Point, is 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level.

Most high mountains are part of ranges, such as Mount Everest’s Himalayan Mountain Range.

These are formed in a process called plate tectonics. Below the ground, Earth’s crust is made up of multiple tectonic plates.

These plates have been moving since the beginning of time due to geologic activity.

When plates push against each other, the edges crumple, forcing slabs of rock into the air.

These are known as fold mountains and are the most common type of mountain.

A fault-lock mountain range is caused when a fault (crack) in the Earth’s crust pushes blocks of rock up between two tectonic plates.

The uplifted blocks become block mountains.

Free-standing mountains like Kilimanjaro are usually a result of volcanic activity.

Volcanic mountains are formed when molten rock erupts, and piles upon the surface

2. Kilimanjaro has three volcanic cones

This giant mountain of Africa has three volcanic cones. Mawenzi, Shira and Kibo.

As mentioned above, Kilimanjaro was formed from volcanic activity these peaks vary in height and shape.

  • Kibo (19,340’/5,895m)
  • Mawenzi (16,893’/5,149m)
  • Shira (13,000’/3,962m)

Kibo is the tallest cone and also the central cone. This is where Kilimanjaro’s summit lies. It was formed 460,000 years ago.

Mawenzi is a craggy peak that ranks as the third highest peak in Africa, after Kibo and Mount Kenya (12,549’/3825m).

You will have good views of Mawenzi on the Rongai and Northern Circuit routes.

Shira is no longer a peak. It is estimated to have been about 16,000 feet high before it collapsed, creating the Shira Plateau on the western side of the mountain.

The Machame, Lemosho, and Shira routes trek across this feature.

Mawenzi and Shira are extinct but Kibo, the highest peak, is dormant and could erupt again.

The most recent activity was about 200 years ago; the last major eruption was 360,000 years ago.

3. World Records on Mount Kilimanjaro

Does age matter for Kilimanjaro climbing?

We always get asked ‘Am I too old to climb Kilimanjaro’? And our answer is always: no one is too old, provided they have a medical checkup and their doctor signs them off as fit and healthy enough to climb Kilimanjaro.

Oldest Person to Summit Kilimanjaro

This is a very common question to many people who wish to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

We have many records for the oldest people to set records for Kilimanjaro. The famous figures are :

From France, Valtee  Daniel stood at Uhuru Peak at the age of 87.

From Arizona, USA. Anne Lorimor, a great-grandmother from Arizona.

On July 18th, 2019 Anne Lorimor reached the summit at the remarkable age of 89 years and 37 days.

She climbed unassisted with a team on the Rongai route

From Russia, Angela Vorobeva (Russia) of the oldest people to climb Kilimanjaro.

In October 2015, Angela Vorobeva became the oldest person to reach the summit at the age of 86 years and 267 days.

From Colorado USA, The record for the oldest man to reach the summit is also held by Fred Distelhorst, from Vail, Colorado who, aged 88 years stood at Uhuru Peak on July 20th, 2017.

Who is the youngest person to summit Kilimanjaro?

The official minimum age to be allowed to climb the mountain (by the National Parks Authority) is 10.

However, by special permission, certain younger people have been allowed to join an expedition.

A current record holder is a young man from Albuquerque called Coaltan Tanner.

Ever since his parents read him a book about mountains he was obsessed with climbing Everest.

His parents gave in and obtained permission for him to travel with them to Kilimanjaro instead.

At the tender age of 6 years old, he stood at Uhuru Peak with his parents in October 2018.

The previous record-holder was Montannah Kenney, a girl from Arizona who was 7 years

4. Climatic Zone on Kilimanjaro 

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a unique experience. It gives you a chance to cut across different climatic zones.

Walking from the bottom of the mountain to the top is like walking from the equator to the North Pole.

There are five climatic zones on Mount Kilimanjaro :

  • Cultivation Zone (2,500 feet – 5,900 feet)

The lower slopes of the mountain would once have been rolling savanna grassland but are now mostly cultivated by small-scale farmers, and used as grazing land for livestock.

  • Montane Rainforest (5,900 feet – 9,200 feet)

The humid rainforest receives the most rainfall and was once home to a variety of wildlife.

Due to the increase in tourism, you’d be hard-pressed to see anything other than the odd antelope and some monkeys. But the bird life is spectacular!

  • Low Alpine Heath and Moorland Zone (9,200 feet – 13,000 feet)

The temperatures are cooler here and it is much drier than in the forest. The vegetation is a mixture of heathers and large grasses.

Giant senecios and lobelias are in abundance as you get higher in this zone.

  • Alpine Desert (13,000 feet – 16,400 feet)

As you climb higher, out of the heath and moorland zone it gets a lot bleaker. Much colder at night, and baking hot during the day, it is an inhospitable place.

There isn’t much precipitation here and as a result, the landscape is rocky with little soil to support vegetation.

  • Ice Cap Zone, the Arctic Tundra (16,400 feet – 19,340 feet)

This area comprises mostly rocks and volcanic scree with glaciers higher up.

There is very little water, as most precipitation falls as snow and is absorbed by porous rock. It is bleak and very cold. But it is spectacular!

Read more about the climatic zone for Mount Kilimanjaro 

5. Disability is not a limitation for climbing Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro is the best spot for climbers. In 2003 Bernard Goosen from South Africa reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro with a wheelchair only for nine days.

Four years later he challenged Kilimanjaro for only six days. Born with cerebral palsy, Goosen used a modified wheelchair, mostly without assistance, to climb the mountain.

6. Kilimanjaro is on the equator

The equator is an imaginary line that divides the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere.

It passes through the exact center of the Earth and divides it in half.

The equator is distinct from the rest of the globe due to the high amount of solar radiation it receives.

The equatorial climate stays nearly the same year-round. The dominant patterns here are either warm and wet or warm and dry.

Mount Kilimanjaro lies just 205 miles from the equator, in the country of Tanzania.

When early explorers reported seeing glaciers on the top of Kilimanjaro, people did not believe them as the ice couldn’t form so close to the hot, equatorial sun.

Scientists now believe that the glaciers shrink and then regrow during the planet’s ice ages.

7. Summit Success Rates is less than 60% 

At least 2000- 3200 people attempt to climb Kilimanjaro. That’s a lot, right? So you’d think the summit would be pretty crowded.

You’d be wrong! It is hard to get actual statistics about what percentage of people who set out to climb make it to the summit.

Kilimanjaro National Park authority does not publish these figures, so we rely on evidence from other tour operators.

What we do know, is that the longer routes have the greatest success rates.

This is because by far the biggest reason for people not making the summit is due to complications with the altitude.

Longer routes allow more time for the body to acclimatize and in the absence of medical conditions or injury, well-acclimated climbers have the best chance of success.

Here are the statistics for each climbing route for Kilimanjaro 

  • The summit success rate for all climbers through all 5 days of routes is 27%
  • The summit success rate for all climbers through all 6 days of routes is 44%
  • The summit success rate for all climbers through all 7 days of routes is 64%
  • The summit success rate for all climbers through all 8-day routes is 85%

8. In 1927 the first woman  summited the peak of Kilimanjaro 

The Scottish lady was the first woman to get to on summit of Kilimanjaro.

She was a lady who had spent a lot of time in her childhood scaling Scottish peaks with her father.

After climbing Mount Etna in Sicily, traveled to Africa to visit relatives.

She joined a group of adventurers and embarked on her expedition up Kili.

Reportedly, she drank champagne and whiskey to keep her strength up – even after her traveling companions abandoned their attempt at the summit, she pushed on, reportedly succeeding on the 27th of September 1927.

9. First Summit: Hans Meyer and Yohani Lauwo

The first recorded attempts by European explorers to climb Kili started in the mid-late nineteenth century.

A German explorer, Baron Carl Claus von der Decken made the journey to the interior in 1861 and met a British geologist, Richard Thornton.

Together they took the dangerous journey to Kilimanjaro.

They surveyed the area, apparently climbing to around 8,200 feet.

They estimated that the mountain was around 20,000 feet high. Interestingly, Richard Thornton was the first person to say that the mountain was a volcano.

Hans Meyer claimed the first actual summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Not without some difficulty though. His first attempt was in 1887 when he reportedly got to around 18,000 feet and had to turn back – as he couldn’t climb the immense ice wall in front of him.

Not to be deterred, Meyer enlisted the help of Ludwig Purscheller – a very experienced Alpine climber – and returned to Tanzania in 1889.

He established a team of porters and his guide, a young man called Yohani Lauwo, who lived in Marangu.

On 6th October 1889, they stood on the summit for the first time.

Yohani Lauwo went on to guide expeditions on Kilimanjaro for 70 years, living to the remarkable age of 125.

Interestingly, after this initial summit in 1889, it took another 20 years for the next successful attempt, in 1909.

Read more about Mount Kilimanjaro’s history.

10. Pro athletes have climbed Kilimanjaro fast

World records for fast climbers for Mount Kilimanjaro will amaze you.

Below is the list of iconic climbers who have climbed Kilimanjaro in a very short time in human history.

The first fast ascent was done by Spanish mountain runner Killian Jornet’s ascent to Uhuru Peak in just 5 hours 23 minutes and 50 seconds in 2010.

The other fasted verified ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro occurred in 2001 when Italian Bruno Brunod summitted Uhuru Peak in 5 hours 38 minutes 40 seconds. 

Kilimanjaro has been tackled at a pace that will amaze you.

The third fast ascent and descent of Kilimanjaro was completed by Swiss Karl Egloff in just 6 hours and 42 minutes in 2014

German Anne-Marie Flammersfeld holds the record for the fastest ascent and descent by a woman on Kilimanjaro,

She climbed to the summit in 8 hours 32 minutes and reached the bottom in a total time on the mountain of 12 hours 58 minutes in 2015.

The fastest roundtrip was accomplished in 2004 when local guide Simon Mtuy went up and down the mountain at 8:27.

11. Kilimanjaro is one of the seven Summits

Apart from being the highest peak in Africa. Mount Kilimanjaro is also one of the “Seven Summits”-

The seven mountains on each of the seven continents.

The desire for mountaineers to conquer these peaks is of the highest demand.

What are the other six summits?  These are : 

  • Asia: Mount Everest (8,848 meters)
  • South America: Mount Aconcagua (6,961 meters) 
  • North America: Mount McKinley – also known as Denali (6,194 meters) 
  • Europe: Mount Elbrus (5,642 meters) 
  • Antarctica: Mount Vinson (4,892 meters) 
  • Australasia: Mount Kosciuszko (2,228 meters)

Taking a closer look at the data above, you will realize Mount Kilimanjaro is 4th on the list of the seven summits.

We are aware that, other peaks are even higher than Kilimanjaro, particularly in the Himalayas.

Though Kilimanjaro is still an incredible summit to reach in Africa. Read more about seven summits

12. Kilimanjaro routes to the summit

Moving on from history to more modern times, there are currently seven official routes up the mountain to the summit.

Climbers have to use one of these routes, it is not possible to make your route!

Kilimanjaro Southern Routes 

Marangu route

The Marangu Route begins in the southeast and approaches Uhuru Peak via Gilman’s Point.

It is possible to climb via the Marangu route for 5 days or 6 days.

Machame route 

Machame route is also known as the Whisky route,  Machame Route is one of the most popular routes on Mount Kilimanjaro.

This scenic route provides hikers with incredible views and varying landscapes.

You can climb Kilimanjaro via the Machame route for 6 days or 7 days depending on time, budget, or fitness.

One of the attractions you can see on the Machame route is the Shira caves.

Umbwe route 
This route was before used to pass through Western Breach and Arrow’s Glacier path to the summit.

But due to a tragic rock fall, the approach via the Western Breach closed. This route offers a six-day or seven-day climb for Mount Kilimanjaro. 

Kilimanjaro Western Route

Lemosho route
Lemosho route is the most beautiful route on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Visitors start hikes in the rainforest and cross the spectacular Shira Plateau

Climbers who want to spend many days on the mountain should use the Lemosho route. This route offers eight (8) and seven (7) days of climbing.

Northern Circuit (which starts in the west, but circles around the north)

Kilimanjaro Northern Route 

Rongai route

Rongai Route starts from the North-East and passes through the Saddle.

Which is situated between Kibo and Mawenzi Peak to approach the summit via Gilman’s Point.

Rongai is very beautiful as it passes through the rainforest and remote wilderness.

Yet it is not as varied as Machame and Lemosho. It is possible to climb for 6 days or 7 days.

All these routes end up at one of three main base camps from which the summit attempt starts.

The three main routes to the summit are:  

  • From the south via Stella Point (the most usual route)
  • From the east via Gillman’s Point
  • From the west up the more technical Western Breach

There are two descent routes: Marangu and Mweka (which are only used to descend).

Check out Kilimanjaro climbing packages

13. Oxygen decreased by 50% at the summit 

The amount of oxygen at the summit of Kilimanjaro ( 19,340 feet)  decreased by 50% compared to the amount of oxygen available at sea level.

This is because, as you get higher up, there is less atmospheric pressure. The actual air still contains 20.8% oxygen.

It’s not that there is less oxygen, just that it is less available.

This lower atmospheric pressure, combined with less available oxygen is what causes complications such as

Acute Mountain Sickness, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, and High Altitude Cerebral Edema.

To read more about the effects of altitude on Kilimanjaro. You can read our guide on mountain sickness.

14. Glaciers on Kilimanjaro are destined to disappear

The glacier on Mount Kilimanjaro is estimated to be around for more than 11,000 years old.

By the end of the 19th century, the entire summit of Kibo was covered by ice compared to this time.

In the study done by the European Geosciences Union, between the years 1912 and 2011, as much as 85% of the glacial ice disappeared.

Numbers still show the threat of the disappearance of the glacier on this peak of Africa. In 1912 the coverage was 11.4 square kilometers.

By 2011 a mere 1.76 square kilometers of glacial ice remains.

The estimates show that, if the present climatic condition continues, there is a higher chance of losing all the ice on Kibo by 2050- 60.  Is scary news but thus how it is.


Overall, Mount Kilimanjaro is an amazing place that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

It has a rich history, diverse geography, and unique climate that make it a truly special place.

Not to mention, the people of Mount Kilimanjaro are some of the most friendly and hospitable people you will ever meet!

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip to Mount Kilimanjaro today! Contact us for details. 

Read more about How much does it cost to climb Kilimanjaro?

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