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Mountain climbing enthusiasts around the globe regard Mount Kilimanjaro in hushed tones. The mountain drives African tourism like no other attraction on the continent. Here are several reasons why the lure of Kilimanjaro cannot be contained.
1: Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain (not part of a mountain range) in the world. This is also Africa’s tallest mountain and clocks in at 5895 meters (19,341 feet) tall. The mountain is known as the “roof of Africa.”
2. The name Kilimanjaro may have originated from the Swahili term meaning “mountain of caravans” or “mountain of greatness.” Some scholars believe that it comes from the Kichagga term meaning “which defeats.”
3: Kilimanjaro is a stratovolcano with three volcanic domes and a glacial cap. Two of the volcanoes — Mawenzi and Shira — are extinct. The Kibo volcano is dormant; its last major eruption was approximately 360,000 years ago, but minor activity occurred as recently as 200 years ago.
4: The entire mountain of Kilimanjaro contains five different ecosystems. These include savanna bushland, sub-montane agro-forest, montane forest belt, sub-alpine moorland (and alpine bogs), and the alpine desert.
5: Mount Kilimanjaro is infamous for its remarkable biodiversity. The mountain boasts a cloud forest, montane ocotea forests, cassipourea and juniperus forests, and subalpine Erica forests.
6: The glacier cap on Kilimanjaro has lost 82% of its area since 1912. Some scientists believe that the entire glacier cap will disappear by the year 2035.
7: The first successful ascent of Kilimanjaro happened in 1889. A German man named Hans Mayer reached the summit after a full six weeks of climbing.
8: The fastest ascent of Kilimanjaro was completed by endurance runner Simon Mtuy. At the age of 16, Mtuy ran all the way up and down the mountain in 9 hours and 22 minutes. He has climbed to the top of the mountain over 300 times, and he leads several tourist treks every year. His current roundtrip record is 8 hours and 17 minutes.
9: Nowadays about 15,000 climbers attempt to ascend Kilimanjaro every year. Approximately 40% of these tourists succeed. Those who cannot complete the ascent either lack endurance or fail to properly acclimate to the altitude while climbing. Weather can also be a factor.
10: Kilimanjaro is a deadly mountain and no joke of a climb. Every year, about 10 deaths occur as a result of falls, altitude sickness, or hypothermia.
11: Those trekkers who do suffer from severe altitude sickness above 4000 meters may succumb to either altitude pulmonary edema or high altitude cerebral edema. Every climber experiences milder effects including headaches and shortness of breath.
12: On average, a person will take anywhere from 6 to 9 days to climb all the way to the top of Kilimanjaro. The time spent climbing differs depending upon athletic ability but especially upon which of the 6 available routes one selects for the climb.
13: Kilimanjaro is huge business for the Tanzanian economy. Tourism generates over $50 million every year, which is almost half of the revenue generated by all of Africa’s national parks on an annual basis.
14: In 2003, Bernard Goosen ascended this mountain in a wheelchair. His trip to the top took nine days. In 2007, he made another voyage in only 6 days. Goosen suffers from cerebral palsy, but he pushes himself for the entire trip without help.
15: Uhuru Peak is the highest summit point on the Kilimanjaro. The peak is located at the Kibo crater rim, which contains a special book in a wooden box. Most climbers sign this book and leave a brief written impression of their climb.
16: An 87-year-old Kilimanjaro climber, Valtee Daniel, hails from France. He currently holds the record of being the oldest person to successfully climb to the summit.
17: Mount Kilimanjaro appears throughout popular culture. Ernest Hemingway wrote a short story called “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”; in 1982, Toto mentioned in their “Africa” sing; in 1994, the mountain earned a place in The Lion King‘s “Circle of Life” song; in 2008, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa disgraced the mountain with a scene; and in 2004, English band Babyshambles wrote of the mountain as “Killamangiro.”