Sitting just south of the equator in Tanzania, Kilimanjaro towers over the nearby Serengeti and African plains. Its pristine white summit can be seen from vast distances. Rising 4900m from its base and standing at 5895m above sea level it is the highest mountain on the African continent.
Kilimanjaro is also the world's highest freestanding mountain and has recently been declared as Africa's leading tourist attraction drawing in an estimated 45,000 visitors during the 2015/2016 financial year.
The mountain itself consists of three volcanic cones. Mawenzi and Shira which are extinct and Kibo, the highest peak, which is dormant. The most recent volcanic activity was about 200 years ago and the last major eruption was around 360,000 years ago.
Consulting Google will expose a myriad of sites giving you advice, tips and reasons to climb this mighty mountain but here at Monkey Mountaineering we believe the five reasons outlined below are the best.
One – Because it's there! In 1923 whilst being interviewed for an article in the New York Times about his ambition to climb Everest, legendary climber George Mallory responded to the 'why question' with just three words; 'because it's there'. These words have been used ever since by people trying to justify what may appear to be an impossible ambition. Kilimanjaro though, is far from impossible.
Way back in the early 1800s travelers and merchants sent reports back to the UK describing a massive snowcapped mountain on the equator. These reports were generally met with comments such as 'how can there possibly be snow on the equator, ridiculous' and it wasn't until 1862 when early explorers actually climbed to Kilimanjaro’s snow line that its existence was widely recognized. From then, Europeans made numerous attempts to reach the summit. It was finally first climbed by the German Geographer Hans Meyer and Austrian Teacher Ludwig Purtscheller in 1889.
After the first ascent and in keeping with man's urge to explore, Kilimanjaro has now been climbed by multiple different routes and by hundreds and thousands of people for no better reason that 'it's there'. At Monkey Mountaineering we believe that everyone has an inner explorer so why not join one of our trips and climb Kilimanjaro with us just because it's there?
Two – Myths Busted. Before exploring the health benefits it is probably worth dispelling a couple of myths about climbing Kilimanjaro. Firstly, you may be surprised to read that you don't need to be super fit to climb Kilimanjaro. Sure, being super fit may help you take the mountain in your stride but anyone of average fitness has just as much chance of reaching the summit. The reason for this is that all successful ascents of this mountain are underpinned by a careful measured approach. Careful in that it is important to acclimatize well so as to avoid the problems associated with altitude sickness and measured in that although you will be doing physical exercise during your journey to the summit, it is at a slow, steady pace designed to give you the maximum chances of success. Secondly, the term 'climb' is a bit of a misnomer as there is no actual climbing involved. All you simply have to do is walk!
Three - Health Benefits. All physical exercise is said to bring positive health benefits. For trekking, these include improved fitness and a reduction in stress. Most people will want to do some training before attempting Kilimanjaro such as going out for regular walks which will help to improve your strength, agility and overall cardio vascular fitness. Low intensity, long duration exercise such as trekking is an ideal way to lose weight and is an excellent alternative to the gym. Trekking therefore contributes to an overall improvement in your fitness not only whilst on your trip but in the build up to it and, hopefully long after you have returned. On the stress front, recent studies have suggested that 'exposure to nature can counteract the negative effects of stress and anxiety'. Whilst trekking up Kilimanjaro you will certainly spend plenty of time outdoors exposed to nature and so it represents a great way to unwind and empty your mind of any worries and anxieties you may have been feeling at home.
Four – Amazingly Diverse Environment. As you trek ever higher on Kilimanjaro you will be exposed to a changing series of climatic zones created by the close proximity to the equator and the increasing altitude. There are five distinct zones; Cultivation, Forest, Heather Moorland, Alpine Desert and Arctic climate zones.
The cultivated zone rises up to about 1800m and mainly consists of coffee plantations, farmland and small Chagga villages where many of the porters and guides come from. All of the trekking routes on the mountain start above this zone but you will drive through it on your way to the park gates.
Above the cultivated zone is the rainforest which circles the majority of the mountain and rises up to about 2800m. The rainforest is thickest on the southerly and easterly flanks of Kilimanjaro where the majority of the rain falls. Trekking through this zone you will see a broad range of flora with majestic ancient trees twisting up from the forest floor however, the fauna is a bit more elusive. That said, you will certainly hear the birdsong and may see glimpses of both Blue and Colobus monkeys.
Breaking out above the forest you will be greeted with fantastic views over the canopy and as you leave this behind you enter a zone of heather which slowly gives way to moorland. This zone rises up to around 4000m. At the lower elevations of this zone, as well as heather there is an array of giant shrubs which can grow up to 30ft high which are followed by grasses, wild flowers and increasingly rocky ground. Day time temperatures here can be as high as 400C plunging to below freezing overnight.
Ascending beyond 4000m you enter the Alpine Desert. The landscape here is barren with abundant evidence of the violent volcanic past. It is a strange and alien place where you could easily imagine that you are on another planet. Temperatures are high during the day and there is generally little or no rain in this zone however night time temperatures can be extremely low and there is often ground frost in the morning.
The final zone, starting from around 5000m is the Arctic zone which extends all the way to the summit. On Kilimanjaro, this zone is largely rock and scree with Kilimanjaro's receding glaciers perched precariously around the summit cone. If you've made it up into this zone, and there is no reason why you shouldn't, then it is most probably dark so you need to brace yourself for one of the most fantastic sunrises you are ever likely to see!
Five – Great and Engaging Stories. As a child I was always fascinated by the stories my grandparents used to tell. I wondered if, when I finally grow up, whether I will have any great stories to tell. I don't yet have grandchildren, so the proof is still in the pudding, but I firmly believe that travel and adventure are the foundation ingredients of truly magical stories. The other ingredients are great companions and fun, enjoyable experiences. All these components can be found on a trek up Kilimanjaro, especially if it's a Monkey Mountaineering trip.
There you have it, five great reasons to trek up Kilimanjaro.
Why not join one of Monkey Mountaineering's Kilimanjaro trips or contact us for a bespoke trip? What are you waiting for?