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Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro, with its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, is a dormant volcano in Tanzania. Elevation: The highest mountain in Africa at 5,895 metres or 19,341 feet above sea level (the Uhuru Peak/Kibo Peak).

Geology: Kilimanjaro is composed of three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo 5,895 m (19,341 ft); Mawenzi 5,149 m (16,893 ft); and Shira 3,962 m (13,000 ft). Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo's crater rim.

Kilimanjaro is a giant stratovolcano that began forming a million years ago, when lava spilled from the Rift Valley zone. Two of its three peaks, Mawenzi and Shira, are extinct while Kibo (the highest peak) is dormant and could erupt again. The last major eruption has been dated to 360,000 years ago, while the most recent activity was recorded just 200 years ago.

 

Although it is dormant, Kibo has fumaroles that emit gas in the crater. Scientists concluded in 2003 that molten magma is just 400 m (1,310 ft) below the summit crater] Several collapses and landslides have occurred on Kibo in the past, one creating the area known as the Western Breach.

Name: It is unknown where the name Kilimanjaro originates, but a number of theories exist. European explorers had adopted the name by 1860 and reported that it was its Swahili name,with Kilimanjaro breaking into Kilima (Swahili for "hill, little mountain") and Njaro, whose supposed origin varies according to the theories—according to some it is an ancient Swahili word for white or for shining, or for the non-Swahili origin, a word from the Kichagga language, the word jaro meaning "caravan". The problem with all these is that they cannot explain why the diminutive kilima is used instead of the proper word for mountain, mlima. The name might be a local joke, referring to the "little hill of the Njaro" being the biggest mountain on the African continent, since this is a nearby town, and guides recount that it is the Hill of the Njaro people. A different approach is to assume that it comes from the Kichagga kilmanare or kileajao meaning "which defeats the bird/leopard/caravan". However this theory cannot explain the fact that Kilimanjaro was never used in Kichagga before in Europe in the mid-19th century.

An alternative theory is as follows: On November 10, 1848, the German missionary Rebmann wrote in his diary:"This morning we discerned the Mountains of Jagga more distinctly than ever." Jagga was the pronunciation of Chagga by Europeans. Kilimanjaro may also be the European pronunciation of the Chagga phrase that "Kile-lema-irho", meaning "we failed to climb it" in Kiuru, Kioldimoshi, Kimarangu, Kivunjo, Kikibosho, Kimachame and Kirombo, Kichagga in general. If so, name itself, Kile-lema-irho/Kilimanjaro, would have been the Chagga way of explaining to kyasaka (newcomers) when they asked about the shining mountain top of Kibo and Mawenzi Peak. Kibo peak is more visible from the Kibosho Area, and Mawenzi from Maranu.

The Ki- prefix in Swahili has several underlying meanings. The old Ka- diminutive noun prefix (found now only as Kadogo - a small degree), merged with the Ki class. One of its meanings was to also describe something unique of its kind: Kilima, a single peak, as opposed to Mlima, which would better describe a mountain range or undulating country. Several other mountains also bear this prefix, such as Kilima Mbogo (Buffalo Mountain), just north of Nairobi in Kenya. People with disabilities are also placed in this class, not so much as a diminutive idea; but a unique condition they possess: a blind or a deaf person, Kipofu and Kiziwi. This prefix "Ki-" in no way implies a derogatory sense. The name Kibo in Kichagga means "spotted" and refers to rocks seen on snowfields.

In the 1880s, the mountain, at that time spelled Kilima-Ndscharo in German following the Swahili name components, became a part of German East Africa after Karl Peters had persuaded local chiefs to sign treaties (a common story that Queen Victoria gave the mountain to her grandson Kaiser Wilhelm II is not true). When in 1889 Hans Meyer reached the highest summit on the crater ridge of Kibo, he named it "Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze" ("Kaiser Wilhelm peak"). That name was used until 1918, when after World War I the German colonies were handed over to the British empire. When Tanganyika gained its independence in 1961, this summit was named "Uhuru peak", meaning "Freedom peak" in Swahili.

First ascent  :In 1861, the German officer Baron Carl Claus von der Decken and the young British geologist Richard Thornton (1838-1863) made a first attempt to climb Kibo , but "got no farther than 8,200 feet" (2,500 meters). In 1862, Von der Decken tried a second time together with Otto Kersten. They reached a height of 14,000 feet (4,280 meters).

In 1887, during his first attempt to climb Kilimanjaro, the German geology professor Hans Meyer reached the base of Kibo, but was forced to turn back, not having the equipment necessary to handle the deep snow and ice on Kibo. The following year, Meyer planned another attempt with cartographer Oscar Baumann, but the mission was aborted due to consequences of the Abushiri Revolt. Meyer and Baumann were captured and held hostage, and only escaped after a ten thousand rupees ransom had been paid.

In 1889 Meyer returned to Kilimanjaro with the celebrated Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller for a third attempt. Their climbing team included two local headmen, nine porters, a cook, and a guide. The success of this attempt, which started on foot from Mombasa, was based on the establishment of many campsites with food supplies so that multiple attempts at the top could be made without having to descend too far. After Meyer and Purtscheller pushed to near the crater rim on October 3, exhausted from hacking footsteps in the icy slope, they reached the highest summit on the southern rim of the crater on Purtscheller's 40th birthday, October 6, 1889. They were the first to confirm that Kibo has a crater, which was filled with ice at the time. After descending to the saddle between Kibo and Mawenzi, Meyer and Purtscheller attempted to climb the more technically challenging Mawenzi next, but could only reach a 5096 m high subsidiary peak (later to be named Klute Peak) before retreating due to illness. On October 18 they reascended Kibo to enter and study the crater, cresting the rim at Hans Meyers Notch. In total, Meyer and Purtscheller spent 16 days above 4,200 m during their expedition.

The summit of Kibo wouldn't be climbed again until 20 years later (by the surveyor M. Lange in 1909), and the first ascent of the highest (5149 m) summit of Mawenzi was only on July 29, 1912, by the German climbers Edward Oehler and Fritz Klute, who christened it Hans Meyer Peak in Meyer's honor. Oehler and Klute went on to make the third ascent of Kibo, via the Western route over the Drygalski Glacier.

In 1989, the organizing committee of the 100-year celebration of the first ascent decided to award posthumous certificates to the African porter-guides who had accompanied Meyer and Purtscheller. One person in pictures or documents of the 1889 expedition was thought to match a living inhabitant of Marangu, Yohani Kinyala Lauwo. Lauwo did not know his own age nor did he remember Meyer or Purtscheller, but he remembered joining a Kilimanjaro expedition involving a Dutch doctor who lived near the mountain and not wearing shoes during the 8-day affair. Lauwo claimed that he had climbed the mountain 3 times before World War I. The committee concluded that he had been a member of Meyer's team and therefore must have been born around 1871. Lauwo died on 10 May 1996 at the thus reconstructed world-record age of 124 or 125 and is now even often suggested as co-first-ascendant of Kilimanjaro.

Mapping : Early maps of Kilimanjaro were published by the British Government's Directorate of Overseas Surveys (DOS 422 Y742) in 1963. These were based on air photography carried out as early as 1959 by the RAF. These were on a scale of 1:50,000 with contours at 100 ft intervals. These are now unavailable. Tourist mapping was first published by the Ordnance Survey in England in 1989 based on the original DOS mapping (1:100,000, 100 ft intervals, DOS 522). This is also no longer available. EWP produced a map with tourist information in 1990 (1:75,000, 100 m contour intervals, inset maps of Kibo and Mawenzi on 1:20,000 and 1:30,000 scales respectively and 50 m contour interval). In the last few years, numerous other maps have become available of various qualities. 3D route maps are also available online.

Trekking : Kilimanjaro There are six official trekking routes by which to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, namely: Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho,Shira, Umbwe and Machame. Of all the routes, Machame is by far the most scenic albeit steeper route up the mountain, which can be done in six or seven days. The Rongai is the easiest and least scenic of all camping routes with the most difficult summit night and the Marangu is also relatively easy, but accommodation is in shared huts with all other climbers. As a result, this route tends to be very busy, and ascent and descent routes are the same.

People who wish to trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro are advised to undertake appropriate research and ensure that they are both properly equipped and physically capable. Though the climb is technically not as challenging as when climbing the high peaks of the Himalayas or Andes, the high elevation, low temperature, and occasional high winds make this a difficult and dangerous trek. Acclimatization is essential, and even then most experienced trekkers suffer some degree of altitude sickness. Kilimanjaro summit is well above the altitude at which high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) can occur. All trekkers will suffer considerable discomfort, typically shortage of breath, hypothermia and headaches. High-altitude climbing clubs - citing safe ascent rate suggestions offered by organizations such as the Royal Geographical Society - have criticized the Tanzanian authorities for charging fees for each day spent on the mountain. It was once argued that this fee structure encouraged trekkers to climb rapidly to save time and money, while proper acclimatization demands that delays are built in to any high climb. However, in response to this accusation, Tanzania National Parks Authority several years ago mandated minimum climb durations for each route. These regulations prohibit climbs of fewer than five days on the Marangu Route, and ensure a minimum of six days for the other five sanctioned routes. These minimums - particularly in the case of Marangu, which ostensibly allows that Uhuru Peak (5,895m) can be reached from a starting elevation at 1,860m within 72 hours of beginning the ascent - are reckoned by most alpinists to allow an ascent rate that will usually result in the climber failing to acclimatize adequately, by the time that Kibo Huts are reached; the launch base from which the summit is assaulted. Consequently, the incidence of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is widely deemed to be unacceptably high on Kilimanjaro, with high volumes of fit young people succumbing to the condition, having opted for a relatively rapid ascent. As a general rule, it is far safer (and more enjoyable) to avoid altitude sickness by planning a sensible itinerary that allows for gradual acclimatization to high elevation as one ascends. Operations that typically see in excess of a thousand climbers summiting annually and are best placed to identify such patterns, usually posit that an optimal climb length should last around seven to eight days.

Tanzanian Medical Services around the mountain have expressed concern recently over the current influx of tourists that apparently perceive Kilimanjaro as an easy walk. However this is not the case. Many individuals require significant attention during their attempts, and many are forced to abandon the trek. An investigation into the matter concluded that tourists visiting Tanzania were often encouraged to join groups heading up the mountain without being made aware of the significant physical demands of the climb, although many outfitters and tour operators flaunt high success rates for reaching the summit. The Kilimanjaro National Park shows that only 30% of trekkers actually reach the Uhuru summit with the majority turning around at Gilman’s Point, 300 metres (980 feet) short of Uhuru, or Stella Point, 200 (660 feet) meters short of Uhuru. Kilimanjaro is often underestimated because it can be walked and is not a technical climb. However, many mountaineers consider Kilimanjaro very physically demanding.

Some estimate that more people have died to date trekking up Kilimanjaro than Mount Everest but Everest is attempted by significantly fewer climbers. In August 2007 four trekkers died within a week underscoring the point that trekking to the summit should not be taken casually. Multiple people (trekkers, porters, and guides) die on the mountain each year. The majority of these deaths are porters, from hypothermia. Trekkers fall on steep portions of the mountain, and rock slides have killed trekkers. For this reason, the route via the Arrow Glacier was closed for several years. It re-opened in December 2007, but the park officials advise against taking that route and tell trekkers that they can climb, but at their own risk. When attempting the Arrow Glacier route, trekkers must leave early in the morning and make it past the rock face before mid-afternoon as when the sun comes out, unfrozen rock slides become quite common.

Unique vegetation : Being an Afromontane sky island, Kilimanjaro has an enormous biodiversity while low in endemic species. However endemics include the giant groundsels in the bunchgrass tussock grasslands, and other flora adapted to living in alpine plant conditions.

Kilimanjaro has a large variety of forest types over an altitudinal range of 3,000 m (9,843 ft) containing over 1,200 vascular plant species. Montane Ocotea forests occur on the wet southern slope. Cassipourea and Juniperus forests grow on the dry northern slope. Subalpine Erica forests at 4,100 m (13,451 ft) represent the highest elevation cloud forests in Africa. In contrast to this enormous biodiversity, the degree of endemism is low. However, forest relicts in the deepest valleys of the cultivated lower areas suggest that a rich forest flora inhabited Mt Kilimanjaro in the past, with restricted-range species otherwise only known from the Eastern Arc mountains. The low degree of endemism on Kilimanjaro may result from destruction of lower elevation forest rather than the relatively young age of the mountain.

Another feature of the forests of Kilimanjaro is the absence of a bamboo zone, which occurs on all other tall mountains in East Africa with a similarly high rainfall. Sinarundinaria alpina stands are favored by elephants and African Buffalos elsewhere. On Kilimanjaro these megaherbivores occur on the northern slopes, where it is too dry for a large bamboo zone to develop. They are excluded from the wet southern slope forests by topography and humans, who have cultivated the foothills for at least 2000 years.

This interplay of biotic and abiotic factors could explain not only the lack of a bamboo zone on Kilimanjaro but also offers possible explanations for the patterns of diversity and endemism. If true, Kilimanjaro forests would serve as a striking example of the large and long-lasting influence of both animals and humans on the African landscape.

Unusual spotting of animals A decade ago, a dog was spotted at Baranco Camp (3,960 metres above sea level) and in 2011, a rust-colored dog was seen at Uhuru peak where temperatures range from minus 4 to 15 degrees Celsius. How it survived in such freezing conditions and what it ate during that time remains a mystery.

Physical features: Kilimanjaro rises from its base, and approximately 5,100 m (16,732 ft) from the plains near Moshi. Kibo is capped by an almost symmetrical cone with scarps rising 180 to 200 m on the south side. These scarps define a 2.5 km wide caldera. Within this caldera is an inner crater, the Reusch Crater. This inner crater was named after Dr. Richard Reusch. The name was conferred by the government of Tanganyika in 1954 at the same time it awarded Reusch a gold medal on having climbed Kilmanjaro for the 25th time. Reusch climbed Kilimanjaro 65 times and helped to establish the exact elevation of the crater. Within the Reusche Crater lies the Ash Pit. The Reusche Crater itself is nearly surrounded by a 400 feet (120 m) high dune of volcanic ash. Kilimanjaro is also notable for presenting the greatest area of the Earth's surface in one view. This is due to its height in combination with the surrounding flatness of the land.

Ice: In the late 1880s the summit of Kibo was completely covered by an ice cap with outlet glaciers cascading down the western and southern slopes, and, except for the inner cone, the entire caldera was buried. Glacier ice flowed also through the Western Breach.

An examination of ice cores taken from the North Ice Field Glacier indicate that the "snows of Kilimanjaro" (aka glaciers) have a basal age of 11,700 years. A continuous ice cap covering approximately 400 square kilometers covered the mountain during the period of maximum glaciation, extending across the summits of Kibo and Mawenzi.The glacial ice survived drought conditions during a three century period beginning ~2200 BCE.

 

The period from 1912 to present has witnessed the disappearance of more than 80% of the ice cover on Kilimanjaro. From 1912-1953 there was ~1% annual loss, while 1989-2007 saw ~2.5% annual loss. Of the ice cover still present in 2000, 26% had disappeared by 2007. While the current shrinking and thinning of Kilimanjaro ice fields appears to be unique within its almost twelve millennium history, it is contemporaneous with widespread glacier retreat in mid-to-low latitudes across the globe. Unless trends change, Kilimanjaro is expected to become ice-free some time between 2022 and 2033.

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