Kilimanjaro, with its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, is a dormant volcano in Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania and the highest mountain in Africa at 5,895 metres or 19,341 feet above sea level (the Uhuru Peak/Kibo Peak).
Kilimanjaro is composed of three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo 5,895 m (19,341 ft); Mawenzi 5,149 m (16,893 ft); and Shira 3,962 m (13,000 ft). Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo's crater rim.
Kilimanjaro is a giant stratovolcano that began forming a million years ago, when lava spilled from the Rift Valley zone. Two of its three peaks, Mawenzi and Shira, are extinct while Kibo (the highest peak) is dormant and could erupt again. The last major eruption has been dated to 360,000 years ago, while the most recent activity was recorded just 200 years ago.
Although it is dormant, Kibo has fumaroles that emit gas in the crater. Scientists concluded in 2003 that molten magma is just 400 m (1,310 ft) below the summit crater. Several collapses and landslides have occurred on Kibo in the past, one creating the area known as the Western Breach.
Kilimanjaro rises from its base, and approximately 5,100 m (16,732 ft) from the plains near Moshi. Kibo is capped by an almost symmetrical cone with scarps rising 180 to 200 m on the south side. These scarps define a 2.5 km wide caldera. Within this caldera is an inner crater, the Reusch Crater. This inner crater was named after Dr. Richard Reusch. The name was conferred by the government of Tanganyika in 1954 at the same time it awarded Reusch a gold medal on having climbed Kilmanjaro for the 25th time. Reusch climbed Kilimanjaro 65 times and helped to establish the exact elevation of the crater. Within the Reusche Crater lies the Ash Pit. The Reusche Crater itself is nearly surrounded by a 400 feet (120 m) high dune of volcanic ash.
Kilimanjaro is also notable for presenting the greatest area of the Earth's surface in one view. This is due to its height in combination with the surrounding flatness of the land.
Ice: In the late 1880s the summit of Kibo was completely covered by an ice cap with outlet glaciers cascading down the western and southern slopes, and, except for the inner cone, the entire caldera was buried. Glacier ice flowed also through the Western Breach.
An examination of ice cores taken from the North Ice Field Glacier indicate that the "snows of Kilimanjaro" (aka glaciers) have a basal age of 11,700 years. A continuous ice cap covering approximately 400 square kilometers covered the mountain during the period of maximum glaciation, extending across the summits of Kibo and Mawenzi. The glacial ice survived drought conditions during a three century period beginning ~2200 BCE.
The period from 1912 to present has witnessed the disappearance of more than 80% of the ice cover on Kilimanjaro. From 1912-1953 there was ~1% annual loss, while 1989-2007 saw ~2.5% annual loss. Of the ice cover still present in 2000, 26% had disappeared by 2007. While the current shrinking and thinning of Kilimanjaro's ice fields appears to be unique within its almost twelve millennium history, it is contemporaneous with widespread glacier retreat in mid-to-low latitudes across the globe. At the current rate, Kilimanjaro is expected to become ice-free some time between 2022 and 2033.
There are six official trekking routes by which to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, namely: Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe and Machame. Of all the routes, Machame is by far the most scenic albeit steeper route up the mountain, which can be done in six or seven days. The Rongai is the easiest and least scenic of all camping routes with the most difficult summit night and the Marangu is also relatively easy, but accommodation is in shared huts with all other climbers. As a result, this route tends to be very busy, and ascent and descent routes are the same.
People who wish to trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro are advised to undertake appropriate research and ensure that they are both properly equipped and physically capable. Though the climb is technically not as challenging as when climbing the high peaks of the Himalayas or Andes, the high elevation, low temperature, and occasional high winds make this a difficult and dangerous trek. Acclimatisation is essential, and even then most experienced trekkers suffer some degree of altitude sickness. Kilimanjaro summit is well above the altitude at which high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) can occur.All trekkers will suffer considerable discomfort, typically shortage of breath, hypothermia and headaches.
High-altitude climbing clubs-citing safe ascent rate suggestions offered by organisations such as the Royal Geographical Society - have criticised the Tanzanian authorities for charging fees for each day spent on the mountain. It was once argued that this fee structure encouraged trekkers to climb rapidly to save time and money, while proper acclimatisation demands that delays are built in to any high climb. However, in response to this accusation, Tanzania National Parks Authority several years ago mandated minimum climb durations for each route. These regulations prohibit climbs of fewer than five days on the Marangu Route, and ensure a minimum of six days for the other five sanctioned routes. These minimums-particularly in the case of Marangu, which ostensibly allows that Uhuru Peak (5,895m) can be reached from a starting elevation at 1,860m within 72 hours of beginning the ascent-are reckoned by most alpinists to allow an ascent rate that will usually result in the climber failing to acclimatize adequately, by the time that Kibo Huts are reached; the launch base from which the summit is assaulted. Consequently, the incidence of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is widely deemed to be unacceptably high on Kilimanjaro, with high volumes of fit young people succumbing to the condition, having opted for a relatively rapid ascent. As a general rule, it is far safer (and more enjoyable) to avoid altitude sickness by planning a sensible itinerary that allows for gradual acclimatisation to high elevation as one ascends. Operations that typically see in excess of a thousand climbers summitting annually and are best placed to identify such patterns, usually posit that an optimal climb length should last around seven to eight days.
Tanzanian Medical Services around the mountain have expressed concern recently[when?] over the current influx of tourists that apparently perceive Kilimanjaro as an easy walk. However this is not the case. Many individuals require significant attention during their attempts, and many are forced to abandon the trek. An investigation into the matter concluded that tourists visiting Tanzania were often encouraged to join groups heading up the mountain without being made aware of the significant physical demands of the climb, although many outfitters and tour operators flaunt high success rates for reaching the summit. The Kilimanjaro National Park shows that only 30% of trekkers actually reach the Uhuru summit with the majority turning around at Gilman's Point, 300 metres (980 feet) short of Uhuru, or Stella Point, 200 (660 feet) meters short of Uhuru. Kilimanjaro is often underestimated because it can be walked and is not a technical climb. However, many mountaineers consider Kilimanjaro very physically demanding.
Some estimate that more people have died to date trekking up Kilimanjaro than Mount Everest but Everest is attempted by significantly fewer climbers. In August 2007 four trekkers died within a week underscoring the point that trekking to the summit should not be taken casually. Multiple people (trekkers, porters, and guides) die on the mountain each year. The majority of these deaths are porters, from hypothermia. Trekkers fall on steep portions of the mountain, and rock slides have killed trekkers. For this reason, the route via the Arrow Glacier was closed for several years. It re-opened in December 2007, but the park officials advise against taking that route and tell trekkers that they can climb, but at their own risk. When attempting the Arrow Glacier route, trekkers must leave early in the morning and make it past the rock face before mid-afternoon as when the sun comes out, unfrozen rock slides become quite common.