Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa and a Challenge for climbers.


Mount Kilimanjaro.

Kilimanjaro lies on a tectonic line, east of the tectonically active Rift Valley. The activity which created this stratovolcano dates back less than a million years and the central ash pit on Kibo, the highest volcanic centre, may be only several hundred years old. Steam and sulphur fumaroles here are indicative of residual activity.

Shira and Mawenzi were two other areas of volcanic activity. Both became inactive before Kibo. The Shira volcanic cone collapsed leaving the Shira Ridge as part of its Caldera Rim. Mawenzi has been heavily eroded to leave a mass of steep-sided ridges and summits, particularly dramatic on the infrequently-seen eastern side.


Kibo is the best preserved centre at Kilimanjaro; it has three concentric craters and the outer crater rim rises to Uhuru Point the chief summit. The middle, Reusch crater contains the main fumaroles and in its centre the 130mts deep and 400mts wide Ash Pit. The outer crater has been breached by lava flows in several places, the most dramatic of these being the Western Breach.

The ash and lava covered slopes of Kibo are mainly gentle-angled from the steep, glaciated precipices which defend its southern and south-western flanks. The impressive rock walls on Kilimanjaro and Mawenzi are generally composed of lavas and ashes.

Deep gorges (barrancos) have been carved into the soft rocks and ashes of Kilimanjaro. The most impressive of these is the Great Barranco below the Western Breach and the two Barrancos on the east side of Mawenzi. Numerous parasitic cones extend east-west across Kilimanjaro; some are located near the Mandara Hut (Maundi Crater offers a fine view point), while others lie just north of the Shira Route.

At one stage most of the summit of Kilimanjaro was covered by an ice cap, probably more than 100 metres deep. Glaciers extended well down the mountain forming moraine ridges, clearly visible now on the southern flanks down to about 4000m. At present only a small fraction of the glacial cover remains.

The remnants of the ice cap can be seen as the spectacular ice cliffs of the Northern and Eastern Ice fields, and the longest glaciers are found on the precipitous southern and south-western flanks.

If the present rate of recession continues the majority of the glaciers on Kilimanjaro could vanish altogether in the next 50 years

The ascent of Kilimanjaro can be done from six routes: Mweka, Umbwe, Shira, Rongai, Machame, and the Marangu Route which is the easier and the most popular. Depending on which route one wants to use, the climb of Kilimanjaro can take between four nights to six nights on the mountain.

The two most popular routes are Marangu and Machame. On the Marangu Route, accommodation is in alpine huts while on Machame Route it is camping throughout. While expert guides and porters will accompany you on your climb, unlike Mount Everest, no technical equipment is required.

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