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Several Facts About Africa’s Highest Mountain

Kilimanjaro has Africa’s highest peak, 5895 metres. The summit is called Uhulu, which mean “freedom” on Swahili language. It holds an important significance for the African society, because it symbolizes their freedom. It’s located in Tanzania, on the National Park Kilimanjaro. It bears a remarkable flora and fauna that can be found nowhere else along the planet.
It has got the position in the group of highest mountains in world’s seven continents. And it’s not the fact that it’s the highest mountain in Africa that makes it so popular, but it’s the highest free standing mountain in the whole world as well because it’s not a part of a mountain range. The mountain itself is a dormant volcano, having three volcanic cones. The last volcanic activity was 200 years ago. Let’s hope it stays this way.

03-Kilimanjaro via flickr by Weixiang Ng licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

We can all tell that the climate in the world is constantly changing, and in the past few years a remarkable change was noticed. Well, it changes in Africa as well. And those climatic changes make the ice melt on the mountain. The once known ice caps are beginning to disappear. Since 1912, 82 % has been lost of the ice cap, and from 1962 till today, nearly 55 % of the remaining glaciers were lost. Climbers can see how the ice vapours in the air. And the scientists are making examinations discovering what is the main issue that makes these changes.

There are six routes that bring to the top of Kilimanjaro. Three are from the South (Machame, Umbwe and Marangu), two from West (Shira and Lemosho), and one from the North-East (Rongai). Some observe a seventh route to the top, that goes through Gilaman’s Point, starting from the West, and encircling along the North side. There are many people that take some of these treks to the top of this mountain each year. About 35,000 people attempt to climb this summit every year, and almost all succeed in that. This stands as the most easiest mountain climb in the globe. It can be climbed in 4-5 days. But it’s safer to take a longer day route in order to habituate the body at first to the altitude difference, and acclimatize it so that it stands this change better.

The first person that has climbed this mountain is recorded to be Hans Meyer, along with Ludvig Putscheller, and a local Lauwo. They were actually the first people that have made the climb, all together. The summit was conquered by them for the first time in 1889, in October. There might be some other people that have made the climb previously, but that was never recorded, and they might stay unknown.

02-Kilimanjaro via flickr by Fredi Bach licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

There are many people that visit mount Kilimanjaro every year. And it’s not only the fact that they want to feel the freedom that it offers, or because they want to mark a special change in their lives. Mount Kilimanjaro gives freedom to everyone to come and see it. Even to people that have learned only the basics of mountaineering. But there are some that have already been there, and are visiting it for the hundred time, but now it’s for something else. They want to be remembered in the history of Kilimanjaro for doing something no-one else did, or repeating an action but this time faster.

There are people that are competing themselves, for example, who will make the fastest ascent and descent. In September, the Spanish climber Kilian Jornet made this attempt to see for how much time would he ascent Kilimanjaro if running. He did that in 5 hours, 22 mins and 50 seconds. But on his way back, he has broken another record, for making the fastest ascent and descent, all at once. The whole time to the top and back was 7 hours and 14 minutes. He has broken two records at once. That’s incredible for a 22 year old, don’t you think so.

I don’t want to sound as a feminist, but there is a “fastest” woman ascent as well, that was made in September 2011, by a Tanzania resident (Debbie Bachman, originally from Zimbabwe) in 11 hours and 51 minutes. And on her way back, her full time ascending and descending was recorded to be 18 hours and 31 minutes, making her the fastest woman that has reached the top and back. She’s now a Kilimanjaro guide to the summit.

Even though there is an age limit and the youngest that can participate a journey is a ten year old, there are some that don’t abide by these principles. It was not the rules that were broken only, but the world record of the youngest person that has ascended a mountain was broken as well. And it took place on this very mountain. Keats Boyd has made his journey to the top and back safe and sound, even though he was only seven years old. This took place on the 21st of January in 2008. The altitude change can cause severe damages to the kid’s brain and cells, according to many scientists, that’s why kids under ten are not allowed to climb up. But luckily, this expedition turned well, and no one was damaged.

On the contrary, there is no age limitation for the oldest person allowed to climb the mountain. The record for the oldest man and woman is held by a Canadian-Swiss couple since October 2012. Martin Kafer (age 85), and his wife Esther (age 84) are the oldest man and woman, that have climbed Kilimanjaro. And since there is no age limitation, the next effort might be hit by a 100 year old. I wonder who would break that afterwards. There are controversies that a Frenchman has reached the top of Africa once at age 87, but the climb was not verified and the lack of documentation confute this controversy.
Likened to the number of climbs every year, the number of deaths is not even significant. Since there are 3-7 deaths in the year compared to the 35,000 climbs a year. That’s still less than 1 % death rate, which puts this mountain next to the safest mountains to climb on in the universe.

01-Kilimanjaro via flickr by Marc van der Chijs licensed CC BY-ND 2.0

In a year to two we are expecting to see these records beat and new ones set up. Perhaps you will be one of these people that will make such courageous steps in their lives. That’s the most important factor in order to do something like this, to have a willingness and courage to do it. Having these two you will mount every mountain in the world and beat every record possible. Trusting in yourself will make you proud of your successes afterwards.

We will return with a new article after some of these records get beaten and we discover some new facts connected to this mountain.

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