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Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain on the continent of Africa and is well-known for this reason. Although you've heard the name you probably couldn't answer the question of what country it's in or how it compares to the other great peaks of the world. Read on to find out the answer to these questions and take a tour of one of the most beautiful mountains in the world.
Mount Kilimanjaro is an inactive stratavolcano located in Tanzania near its border with Kenya. Mount Kilimanjaro actually encompasses three volcanic cones, Shira, Kibo and Mawenzi. The summit of the peak of Uhuru on the Kibo cone stands at 19,340 feet. Interestingly, while it is only fourth among highest continental points and well down on the list of the world's highest peaks, Kilimanjaro represents the largest freestanding mountain rise in the world--15,100 feet from its base to summit.
Mount Kilimanjaro is known for extremely diverse ecology with 6 distinct ecological zones. The lowest realms are cultivated croplands in which people have settled and vegetation thrives due to the rich soil. Between 6000 and 9200 feet, terrain turns to lush rainforests, which receive over six feet of rain a year. As is true of rainforests in general, Kilimanjaro's rainforest is rich with both plant and animal life including monkeys, leopards and antelope. From 9200 to 11000 feet a heath zone dominated by heather, grasses and flowers exists. Ascending to the 11000 to 13200 foot range, the ecology transfers to moorland, where various small, thick plants like senecios and lobelias grow and birds and scant wildlife inhabit. Above the moorland and up to 16500 feet is alpine desert known for blinding glare, scarce water and significant temperature swings often ranging from below freezing at night to over 100 degrees F in the day. Only certain plants and moss are able to survive there and animals pass through but do not make a home. The final zone is the summit, which is marked by glaciers and a thin atmosphere. Few animals or plants live in the uppermost reaches of Kilimanjaro.
As one of the seven summits (highest peaks on each of the continents), Mount Kilimanjaro has long been a symbolic climb for mountain climbers and trekkers. The geography of the peak lacks technical features making it an easy climb unlike many of the other seven summits such as Mount Everest and Denali. The summit can be reached with a gear pack as simple as a walking stick. Thin air can still hinder some excursions; however, those in decent shape and conditioning should find the summit relatively easy. A dozen routes service the peak and allow for jaw-dropping, diverse scenery. Mawenzi, though lower Kibo, offers a more difficult climb requiring climbing gear and technique.
Oddly, the origins of the name Kilimanjaro are disputed and there is no clear history. Several theories exist as to how the name was derived; however, there is no prominent agreed upon origin.
A large controversy surrounding Mount Kilimanjaro is the rapid retreat of its summit glaciers. In a prominent article in 2003, National Geographic outlined the issue of the receding glaciers stating a glacial loss of 82 % since 1912 and going on to predict that glaciers could be gone as early as 2020. Heavy deforestation and slash and burn around Kilimanjaro and, to a smaller extent, global warming are cited as key contributors to the glacial decline. Further recession threaten valuable scientific information and the important tourism industry in Tanzania.