At 19 336 feet, the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is Africa’s highest peak and the world’s tallest free-standing mountain. The mighty Kilimanjaro is composed of three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo (5 895m); Mawenzi (5 149m); and Shira (3 962m). Out of all the cones, it is the iconic Uhuru Peak on Kibo’s crater rim that occupies the highest summit and makes Kilimanjaro a universal landmark and an adventurer’s dream.
At 5 895m, Uhuru Peak remains the highest point in all Africa and marks the spot of the jauntily angled summit sign where weary travellers are seen snapping their ‘victory’ photograph. While there are several poignant memorials decorating the final summit, there is a surprising lack of drama, with intense relief taking prominence over theatrics.
From the top of Uhuru Peak, travellers look out onto a vast landscape of pristine white snow and towering peaks. It is this point that people from all over the world aspire to. While the weather-worn sign at the very top is notoriously unceremonious, hikers will enjoy the satisfaction of standing on top of the highest peak in Africa.
As the world’s tallest ‘walkable’ mountain, a trek up Kilimanjaro takes travellers through five different climatic zones before reaching the summit. Terrain is also varied with the generally smooth outlines of the cratered Kibo dome marking a sharp contrast to the jagged structure of the Mwensi cone.
Structurally, Kilimanjaro is a large stratovolcano; two of its three peaks (Mawenzi and Shira) are extinct while the highest peak, Kibo, is classified as dormant. The last major eruption to take place on Kilimanjaro is believed to date back between 150 000 to 200 000 years ago. Although dormant, the Kibo cone features fumaroles which emit gas in the crater.
Those travelling to Uhuru Peak can do so via a number of routes. These routes vary in degree of difficulty, traffic and scenic beauty, with the least difficult being the Marangu and Rongai route and the most difficult, the Machame, Shira and Limosho routes.