Africa Travel Resource

Book ID 840

See also

Africa Travel Resource Kilimanjaro,
Page Number: 02

Origin of the name 'Kilimanjaro'

There are many unsatisfactory explanations for how the mountain got its name and no one can quite agree which is the truth. "Mountain of Greatness", Mountain of Whiteness", "Mountain of Caravans", "Small Mountain of Caravans" are all names derived from the Swahili, Chagga and Machame dialects.

From what little we know on the subject, we think it might have something to do with the swahili word 'kilima', which means 'top of the hill'. The second portion 'njaro' presumably refers to the snow in some way. We did discover that a similar word 'ngare' means water in the Meru language.

There is also a claim that the word "kilemakyaro" exists in the Chagga language, Meaning "impossible journey", but this is thought to have derived as a consequence rather than as a precidence.

Of course everyone knows that in truth the mountain was named after the legendary Tanzanian beer.

Extract ID: 4804

See also

Africa Travel Resource Kilimanjaro,
Page Number: 03


In the second century AD, Ptolemy, the Greek astronomer and cartographer, wrote of mysterious lands to the south of modern day Somalia that contained "man-eating barbarians" and a "great snow mountain". This knowledge he must have gained from the Phoenicians, who had circumnavigated Africa by this date. He may also have been drawing on ancient Egyptian writings telling of the great expeditions of the pharaoh Hatshepsut, whose ships had traded the Swahili Coast. Either way, Ptolemy's account stands as the first documented reports of Africa's highest mountain, Kilimanjaro.

The next thousand years however brings no mention of this great mountain. As the coast of East Africa rose in prominence as a trading route after the establishment of Arab rule in the sixth century, the main hub of activity centred around the island of Zanzibar and the immediate mainland known at the time as Zinj. The Arabs had at their disposal, an almost unlimited supply of ivory, gold rhinoceros horn and a far more lucrative and mobile commodity, slaves. The great slave caravans that ventured far into the interior would have passed close by to the mountain to collect water from the permanent streams but it was the Chinese traders of the twelfth century that were next to record observations of a great mountain west of Zanzibar.

Kilimanjaro was to remain a mountain of myth and superstition throughout the centuries - one of the great secrets of interior of 'the dark continent' It was actually the desire to find the source of the Nile that drove British explorers and geographers to first head inland towards the mysterious mountain around 1840 onwards. Up until then Kilimanjaro had been tall tale told by the Arab traders of Zanzibar. No one really believed that there was a snow-capped mountain on the equator. It wasn't an immediate leap from legend to clear fact though, as British geographer William Cooley cryptically reported back to London that there was indeed "a large ridge called Kirimanjara" and that it was in fact "strewn with red pebbles".

Extract ID: 4805

See also

Africa Travel Resource Kilimanjaro,
Page Number: 04


In 1844, at the instigation of the London based Church Missionary Society, Johann Ludwig Krapf, a Doctor of Divinity and his wife Rosine arrived in Zanzibar. Krapf had a dream to link the West and East coasts of Africa with a chain of Christian missionaries, but it wasn't long before he discovered his high ambitions conceived in the parlours of Europe were not going to be so easy to realize in the field. In March of that year they moved to Mombasa, where Krapf was to suffer a major test of his faith when his wife died of malaria within days of giving birth. The child died also. Krapf was plunged into depression and suffered alone for two years until the arrival of Swiss missionary, Johann Rebmann, whose fresh enthusiasm was finally able to re-kindled Krapf's ambition desire to link the two coasts.

Extract ID: 4806

See also

Africa Travel Resource Kilimanjaro,
Page Number: 04a


On 16th October 1847, Rebmann, with the help of eight tribesmen and Bwana Kheri, a caravan leader, set off for the mountain of Kasigau, where they hoped to establish the first of mission posts. The journey went well and they returned to Mombasa on the 27th of the same month. Along the way they had heard the stories of the great mountain "Kilimansharo", whose head was above the clouds and "topped with silver", around whose feet lived the mountain's people, the fearsome Jagga (now Chagga). Krapf immediately sought permission from the governor of Mombasa for an expedition to Jagga. His official reason was to find areas suitable for mission stations, but the legendary mountain was becoming of increasing interest to the two missionaries. Disregarding warnings about the 'spirits of the mountain', on the 27th April 1848, Rebmann and Bwana Kheri set off for Jagga and within just two weeks was standing on the great steppe of East Africa within sight of Kilimanjaro ... the first European to set eyes on the mountain. In his log he refers to "a remarkable white on the mountains of Jagga", which he could just make out through the haze. He asked his guide to explain what it was he was looking at and "he did not know but supposed it to be coldness". At that moment Rebmann realised that the legend really was true. There really were snowfields on the African equator. In April 1849, Rebmann's observations were published in the Church Missionary Intelligencier and although not properly substantiated until twelve years later, it remains the first confirmed report of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Extract ID: 4813

See also

Africa Travel Resource Kilimanjaro,
Page Number: 05

The First Ascent in 1889

In 1887, Professor Hans Meyer, a German geographer, made his first attempt upon the summit of Kibo. Accompanied by Baron Von Eberstein, Meyer was eventually defeated by a combination of thick snow, 30m ice walls and his partner's altitude sickness.

The following day, from the safety of The Saddle, Meyer estimated that the ice walls descended to just below the crater rim at an altitude of about 5,500m. The ice was continuous over the entire peak and it was evident that the summit could not be reached without some considerable ice climbing.

After an aborted expedition in 1888, Meyer returned the following year accompanied by the renowned Alpinist, Ludwig Purtscheller and a well organised support group determined to scale the peak. The climbers came prepared with state of the art equipment and established a base camp on the moorland from where porters ferried fresh supplies of food from Marangu. Daunted by the precipitous ice cliffs of the northern crater rim and the extensive ice flows to the south, the two climbers agreed that the best chance of success lay by tackling the less severe incline of the south eastern slope of the mountain. From their advance camp at 4300m the two climbers set off at 01.00hrs and reached the lower slopes of the glacier at about 10.00hrs. Although the glacier was not as steep or high as the walls encountered on Meyer's previous attempt, its incline never went below 35 degrees and ice steps had to be cut. Progress was slow but after 2 hours the men reached the upper limits of the glacier where the incline decreased. A further 2 hours of painful trekking through waist high snow and over deep weathered ice grooves found the climbers at the rim of the crater with the summit in sight. However time and strength were running out and the summit was still another 150m above them, so they returned to advance camp to try again after three days. This time the route was clearly marked and the previously cut ice steps had held their shape. The rim was reached in 6 hours and at exactly 10.30hrs Meyer became the first recorded person to set foot on the highest point in Africa.

Extract ID: 4807

See also

Africa Travel Resource Kilimanjaro,
Page Number: 05a

The Mountain Club of East Africa

Although Meyer and Purtscheller laid the trail for further ascents on Kilimanjaro, there was not an instant queue of would-be climbers. It wasn't until 1912, over 20 years later, when a path from Marangu was established and the first huts at Mandera and Horombo were built by Dr. E Forster for the newly formed German Kilimanjaro Mountain Club, that activity began in earnest.

The outbreak of war in 1918 however delayed further expeditions and the building of the Kibo Hut. The year 1929 saw the next stage in the opening up of the mountain with the formation of The Mountain Club of East Africa (now The Kilimanjaro Mountain Club). Founded by C. Gillman, N.Rice, P Ungerer and Dr.Reusch. The Kibo Hut was finally completed in 1932, hotels began to organise safaris onto the mountain and the public began to reach Gillman's Point with a few of the more hardy going on to the summit.

Extract ID: 4814

See also

Africa Travel Resource Kilimanjaro,
Page Number: 05b
Extract Date: 27 March 2000

Speed record

Most people spend between 5 and 8 days climbing the mountain.

In 1993, a Brazilian, Mozart Cat�o established the speed record by going up and down in 17 hours 30 minutes.

The current return ascent record was established on 27th March 2000 by a member of Team Kilimanjaro, Rogath Ephrem Mtuy, in a time of 14 hours 50 minutes. He began the attempt from the Marangu Park gate at 0400 in the morning. He reached the true summit at 1530 and began the descent immediately, returning to the Marangu Park Gate at 1850, thereby achieving: fastest ascent, 11 hours 30 fastest descent, 3 hours 20 and the fastest return ascent, 14 hours 50. It is possible that Cat�o's record remains as that of the fastest non-African to complete a return ascent.

Extract ID: 4815

See also

Africa Travel Resource Kilimanjaro,
Page Number: 07

two particular sightings

There are however two particular sightings that have made it into folklore ...

The Frozen Leopard

Originally discovered and recorded by the local missionary Dr Richard Reusch in 1926 and later immortalized by Ernest Hemmingway in his crap book The Snows of Kilimanjaro, no one knows quite what the leopard was doing up here. Reusch, brave man that he was, managed to cut off one of its ears before some other souvenir hunter made off with the whole thing, never to be seen again.

Wild Dog

In 1962, Wilfred Thesiger, George Webb and Effata Jonathon encountered a pack of 5 wild dogs at Hans Meyer Point (about 5,000m). As the men continued to the summit the dogs followed at a parallel distance of about 300m until Uhuru Peak when they watched the men dig out and sign the log book from the glacier crest. Fearing an attack, the men began to descend but the dogs disappeared over the crest and were not seen again.

Extract ID: 4809

See also

Africa Travel Resource Kilimanjaro,
Page Number: 08


The summit of Kilimanjaro was previously completely covered by an ice cap more than 100m deep with Glaciers ranging well down the mountain to below 4000m. At present only a small fraction of the glacial cover remains which is most visible around the spectacular Northern and Eastern Icefields and the southern and southwestern flanks. However the ice is receding at such a rate that there is concern that the ice cover may disappear completely within the next 20 years.

Evidence of this retreat was first observed by Hans Meyer, the first Westerner to make the summit, who reported in 1898 that the ice limit had withdrawn by over 100m since his first ascent 8 years earlier. This rapid change is therefore not entirely due to recent global warming but rather a result of a longer term cycle of climatic events.

Studies by Sheffield University during the 1950's reported that Kilimanjaro has had a long history of glacial advance and retreat coinciding with a sequence of eight glaciations. The present ice cap is probably the result of the world wide drop in temperature experienced between 1400AD and 1700AD and suggests that there have been several long periods when Kilimanjaro was devoid of ice. The current retreat is the result of a general increase in the temperature of the earth over many hundreds of years.

Extract ID: 4810