(Last updated on: 09/12/2020)
Located in east Africa and standing at 19,340 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the most famous mountains in the world – and for good reason. There’s a lot to learn about Mount Kilimanjaro, and I’ve compiled a list of 10 interesting Mount Kilimanjaro facts for you. Have a read and see how many you already knew, and how many are a complete surprise!
#1 Nobody knows where the name ‘Kilimanjaro’ comes from
Thew first of my Kilimanjaro facts is that nobody technically knows the origin of the name Kilimanjaro – and it has led to multiple theories being shared throughout the years. By 1860, European explorers were using the name Kilimanjaro and reporting it as the Kiswahili (the language of the Swahili people) name for the mountain.
German explorer Johanna Ludwig Krapf claimed that Kilimanjaro meant mountain of greatness or mountain of caravans – though he did little to back up these claims, and this seems to be the pattern when it comes to all the theories of where the name Kilimanjaro comes from. J. A. Hutchinson has looked into this a lot more thoroughly, and you can read about that here. Interestingly though, Kilimanjaro is also affectionately nicknamed ‘Kili’.
#2 Mount Kilimanjaro is not actually a mountain
Although it has mountain in the name, Mount Kilimanjaro is not technically a mountain by nature. It is actually what’s known as a stratovolcano: a conical volcano created by alternating layers of lava, tephra, pumice and ash. These materials are the fallout from a previous volcanic eruption. Stratovolcanoes are one of the most common types of volcano, and they’re present across the globe; Mount Etna in Italy is a stratovolcano, and so is Mount Fuji in Japan.
#3 Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is like travelling from the North to South Pole climate-wise
There are five different ecological zones on Mount Kilimanjaro, or climate zones as they are otherwise referred to. They are known as the following: Cultivation Zone, Forest/Rainforest Zone, Heather and Moorland Zone, Highland Desert Zone and last but not least, the Arctic Zone.
Each zone has a different temperature, differing levels of rainfall, and very different – but equally breathtaking – views. In fact, they say that climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is the equivalent of travelling from the North to the South Pole!
You can click here to learn more about the different climate zones that exist on Mount Kilimanjaro.
#4 Mount Kilimanjaro is in the perfect location for tourism
Mount Kilimanjaro is located in the east African country of Tanzania and lies just 205 miles from the equator, where the Earth is divided into the northern and southern hemispheres. Tanzania is home to over 120 different African tribal groups, around 90% of whom live in rural areas, eating what they grow and harvest. The country is popular with tourists for a variety of reasons: wildlife safaris, boating and canoeing, and of course visiting Mount Kilimanjaro.
#5 Climbing Kilimanjaro is actually quite easy
Each year, around 30,000 people climb Mount Kilimanjaro and roughly 75% of these reach the summit. Mount Kilimanjaro is classed as quite an easy climb, and is definitely considered to be the easiest of the seven summits – this is the collective term for the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. A lot of serious climbers will challenge themselves to climb all seven mountains over a specific period of time. The summer and early autumn are the most popular times to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, because the winter season is incredibly rainy.
#6 There are 7 routes to choose from when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
Following on from that, my next Kilimanjaro fact is that it is generally accepted that there are actually 7 different climbing routes that lead to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro: Lemosho Route, Machame Route, Marangu Route, the Northern Circuit, Rongai Route (the route that I climbed), Shira Route and Umbwe Route.
When the Comic Relief team climbed Kilimanjaro in early 2019, they took the Northern Circuit route, which offers the best scenery and also has the highest success rate due to being longer and therefore having the most acclimatisation time. If you’re personally looking into climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, click here for more information about the different routes and see which one suits you best.
#7 Almost all of the snow on Mount Kilimanjaro has melted
The first ever attempt by a European to climb Mount Kilimanjaro was way back in 1861, when German officer Baron Karl Klaus von Decken tried it – he only made it a few thousand feet, but his climb was not in vain as it allowed scientists to settle the debate about whether or not tropical Africa, especially so close to the equator, had any settled snow or ice. It did, and still does: scientists believe that the glaciers shrink and regrow during the planet’s ice ages. However, over 85% of the snow caps have melted since 1912 (source) so one day there might be no ice up there after all.
#8 Kids can climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Another interesting Mount Kilimanjaro fact is that there is a minimum age of 10 for climbing it – but exceptions are granted for children with significant trekking experience. In late 2018, however, six year old Coltan Tanner from New Mexico became the youngest person to ever reach the summit – you can learn more about his story by clicking here. The record for the oldest person to ever climb Mount Kilimanjaro belongs to Dr Fred Distelhorst, a retired orthodontist from Vail Valley, Colorado, who was 88 years old when he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and reached the summit! A local website called Vail Daily shared his story here if you want to read more.
#9 The highest cricket game in the world took place on Kilimanjaro
The highest ever game of cricket was played at the Crater Camp on Mount Kilimanjaro at a whopping 18,865 feet above sea level. 30 cricket players made up of men and women, as well as an official, made the climb in September 2014 – they climbed to the summit and then came back down to the camp to play. They even carried a proper pitch mat up the mountain with them in order to play the game properly, and brought extra balls with them as they carry much further at Kilimanjaro altitude levels. The players used the match to raise money for various charities, such as Cancer Research and Tusk Trust, an African conservation charity.
#10 Kilimanjaro is a hot spot for bird watchers
My final Kilimanjaro fact is that other than climbers, porters and the occasional cricket players, there are approximately 179 species of birds that have been recorded on Mount Kilimanjaro including The Silvery-Cheeked Hornbill, Klaas’s Cuckoo, the Cinnamon-Chester Bee-Eater, Kingfishers and of course, many more. If you want to know more about the different birds you might spot on Mount Kilimanjaro, click here!
Interesting Kilimanjaro facts
And there you have it – 10 interesting Mount Kilimanjaro facts to impress your friends, neighbours, students, the barman, your hairdresser or any fellow climbers. Did you know any of them already? Do you have any more facts? Drop them in the comments box below- I’d love to hear them!