Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano in Tanzania. It has three volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. It is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest single free-standing mountain in the world: 5,895 metres (19,341 ft) above sea level and about 4,900 metres (16,100 ft) above its plateau base.
Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo’s crater rim. The Tanzania National Parks Authority, a Tanzanian government agency, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization lists the height of Uhuru Peak as 5,895 m (19,341 ft), based on a British survey in 1952. The height has since been measured as 5,892 metres (19,331 ft) in 1999, 5,902 metres (19,364 ft) in 2008, and 5,899 metres (19,354 ft) in 2014.
Kilimanjaro is the fourth most topographically prominent peak on Earth. It is part of Kilimanjaro National Park and is a major climbing destination. Because of its shrinking glaciers and ice fields, which are projected to disappear between 2030 and 2050, it has been the subject of many scientific studies.
The volcanic interior of Kilimanjaro is poorly known because there has not been any significant erosion to expose the igneous strata that comprises the volcano’s structure.
Eruptive activity at the Shira centre commenced about 2.5 million years ago, with the last important phase occurring about 1.9 million years ago, just before the northern part of the edifice collapsed. Shira is topped by a broad plateau at 3,800 metres (12,500 ft), which may be a filled caldera. The remnant caldera rim has been degraded deeply by erosion. Before the caldera formed and erosion began, Shira might have been between 4,900 and 5,200 m (16,100 and 17,100 ft) high. It is mostly composed of basic lavas, with some pyroclastics. The formation of the caldera was accompanied by lava emanating from ring fractures, but there was no large scale explosive activity. Two cones formed subsequently, the phonolitic one at the northwest end of the ridge and the doleritic Platzkegel in the caldera centre.
Both Mawenzi and Kibo began erupting about 1 million years ago. They are separated by the Saddle Plateau at 4,400 metres (14,400 ft) elevation.
The youngest dated rocks at Mawenzi are about 448,000 years old. Mawenzi forms a horseshoe-shaped ridge with pinnacles and ridges opening to the northeast, with a tower-like shape resulting from deep erosion and a mafic dike swarm. Several large cirques cut into the ring. The largest of these sits on top of the Great Barranco gorge. Also notable are the East and West Barrancos on the northeastern side of the mountain. Most of the eastern side of the mountain has been removed by erosion. Mawenzi has a subsidiary peak, Neumann Tower, 4,425 metres (14,518 ft).
Kibo is the largest cone on the mountain and is more than 24 km (15 mi) wide at the Saddle Plateau altitude. The last activity here, dated to 150,000–200,000 years ago, created the current Kibo summit crater. Kibo still has gas-emitting fumaroles in its crater. Kibo is capped by an almost symmetrical cone with escarpments rising 180 to 200 metres (590 to 660 ft) on the south side. These escarpments define a 2.5-kilometre-wide (1.6 mi) caldera caused by the collapse of the summit.
The climate of Kilimanjaro is influenced by the height of the mountain, which allows the simultaneous influence of the equatorial trade winds and the high altitude anti-trades; and by the isolated position of the mountain. Kilimanjaro has daily upslope and nightly downslope winds, a regimen stronger on the southern than the northern side of the mountain. The flatter southern flanks are more extended and affect the atmosphere more strongly.
Kilimanjaro has two distinct rainy seasons, one from March to May and another around November. The northern slopes receive much less rainfall than the southern ones.
Large animals are rare on Kilimanjaro and are more frequent in the forests and lower parts of the mountain. Elephants and Cape buffaloes are among the animals that can be potentially hazardous to trekkers. Bushbucks, chameleons, dik-diks, duikers, mongooses, sunbirds, and warthogs have also been reported. Zebras, leopards and hyenas have been observed sporadically on the Shira plateau. Specific species associated with the mountain include the Kilimanjaro shrew and the chameleon Kinyongia tavetana.
When you summit Mount Kilimanjaro the highest point in Africa, it’s always an extraordinary adventure which sees you making your way through beautiful cloud forests, passing ridges and valleys and otherworldly, lunar landscapes towards the snow capped peaks of the Roof of Africa, where you are rewarded with breathtaking sunrises, star-filled skies and far-reaching views across the wild plains of Tanzania.