Climbing Kilimanjaro, What Makes It So Special?

I love exploring and I always like to have another adventure lined up. Even when I’m out on the road I will stay in tune with my wider plans and be thinking about where to go next. And Kilimanjaro has never left my bucket list. When it comes to feats of endurance, climbing Kilimanjaro is up there with swimming the English Channel, and it’s an activity often undertaken for charity.

But what makes it so special? Why trekkers from around the world come to Tanzania to climb this mountain? In 2009, nine celebrities climbed the mountain to raise money for Red Nose Day, and ten years on another team of famous faces scaled the mountain to raise more funds.  It’s not just the fact that Kilimanjaro is well known and used for fundraising activities that make it so special, it’s because this is the highest peak on the continent and also one of the Seven Summits.

Climbing a volcano

Mount Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, East Africa, and is the highest peak on the continent.  It is actually formed from three volcanoes, two of which (Mawenzi and Shira) are extinct, while Kibo is dormant and could theoretically erupt again.  The summit is Uhuru Peak, on the rim of Kibo, and is 5,895 metres high.

Geologically speaking, parts of the mountain are quite young, with the youngest rocks dated to about 448,000 years ago, while the last activity at the Kibo crater was around 200,000 years ago.  That sounds like a long time, but the mountain is thought to have been formed as far back as 2.5 million years ago and has been known to humans for millennia – the first modern humans are thought to have left Africa along the eastern seaboard so they would have passed Kilimanjaro on their trek. Ptomely and Herodotus both mentioned a mountain formation thought to be Kilimanjaro, while the Spanish adventurer Martin Fernandez de Enciso mentioned the “African Mount Olympus” in his 1519 notes.

What does Kilimanjaro mean?

Although the exact origins of the name are unclear, the more convincing theory is that it is a portmanteau word incorporating various words of Kiswahili and Wachagga, two of the local languages. There are various thoughts about how the local language turned up this name, as Kilima technically means a small hill while Njaro is an old Kiswahili word for “shining”.  The snows on the summit could have given rise to the shining part of the name. But nothing’s sure there.

Is there glaciers on the summit of Kilimanjaro?

Despite being in a warm continent, Kilimanjaro has a snow-capped summit all year round.  It is so tall, that at the peak the atmosphere is much colder and suitable for precipitation, which falls as snow.  Kilimanjaro also has several glaciers and an ice field that has been present for thousands of years. But the glaciers are thinning, slowly disappearing and melting down due to climate change, and the fact that the dark volcanic rocks beneath trap heat and accelerate the melting process. According to scientists, the majestic glaciers will be gone in a decade or so.

Climbing routes

Meeting the local children when I am on a trip to Kilimanjaro is such a blessing. They are full of life and happiness. I love capturing their love of life when I visit. Some of my most cherished travelling experiences are when I get to integrate with local communities. Sometimes going the extra mile on a little detour means you can discover hidden treasures.

There are seven official routes mountaineers can follow, one of which (Lemosho Western-Breach) is closed due to recent accidents. Rongai and Marangu routes are relatively easy and provide camping areas and huts for trekkers. Lemosho, Machame, Shira and Umbwe are longer and harder, taking over 7 days to complete, leaving the Mweka route for descent only.

Around 35,000 to 40,000 people climb Kilimanjaro every year, so you will be in good company if you decide to take on this challenge and although altitude training is a good idea, Kilimanjaro is an excellent first big mountain to attempt. But reaching 5895m altitude is actually pretty challenging.

A challenging climb with incredible views

I’ve been lucky to visit so many beautiful places. But I have a special feeling for this mountain. I first climbed Kilimanjaro in my early thirties. I found it hard and exhausting. But there was a surprise waiting for me at the top – a man on one knee and a proposal. We hugged and cried at Uhuru Peak, promising each other a great wedding ceremony and much more adventures. This was the start of many more mountain hikes and climbing adventures in my life.

Go out and climb it today

So every year, I travel back to Tanzania for trekking or climbing. I often come away feeling enlightened and with a stronger lust for life. I want you to see the world as I have. Grab your dream today and put yourself out there! There’s so much world out there to see! Don’t wait until tomorrow.

I usually have 2 trips planned every year, one in September when the season is still dry but the routes are less crowded and one in early February, during the short rainy season, the best time to get the chance to see snow at the top. I will join my longtime local friend and together we will venture the routes through Tanzania using his business at Kilele Savane Ltd.

Join us, and get the chance to visit the local school or hospital and meet the local communities. You won’t forget those shared moments and the help you can bring along the way can make a difference.  Who knows, you might catch the climbing bug and aim for the remaining Seven Summits in the future!

Enquire for my next trip here and use the PROMO CODE “AdventureCaroline” when booking your next trip direct. So, go out and see it today.


I am a full-time blogger, an entrepreneur and an avid traveller. I share my travel experiences and inspiring mountain and trekking adventures through stories, photos and videos to help you explore the world. As a photographer, I invite you to travel with me to some exciting corners of the world to discover your own dream destination. Life is short, keep your dreams big !

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