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Ever wonder how Mount Kilimanjaro got its name? To be quite honest, the origin of the Kilimanjaro name is a matter of some debate.

First, let’s take a closer look at the mountain itself. Mount Kilimanjaro isn’t a traditional mountain. It is a dormant volcano located in Tanzania, Africa. Kilimanjaro is actually a giant stratovolcano made up of three distinct volcanic cones. They are Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Of the three cones only Kibo is dormant and potentially could erupt again.

Kilimanjaro name

In fact, even though Kibo is currently dormant, it is still emitting gas. This has caused several collapses and landslides. The most extensive ones created the area known as the Western Breach. That is why Peak Planet does not guide the Western Breach. We have personally witnessed rock slides along this route while eating lunch at Lava Tower.

Uhuru Peak is the highest point along Kibo’s crater rim. It is the summit of Kilimanjaro and the highest point in Africa at 19,341 feet above sea level.

So how did Kilimanjaro get its name?

A number of theories exist about both the meaning and the origin of its name. One theory is that the name is a mix of the Swahili word Kilima, meaning “mountain,” and the KiChagga word Njaro, loosely translated as “whiteness.” Another is that Kilimanjaro is the European pronunciation of a KiChagga phrase meaning “we failed to climb it.”

History of Climbing Kilimanjaro

  • 1861: The German officer Baron Carl Claus von der Decken and British geologist Richard Thornton made a first attempt to climb Kibo, but had to turn back at 8,200 feet.
  • 1862: Von der Decken tried a second time the following year, and with Otto Kersten got as far as 14,000 feet.
  • 1887: During his first attempt to climb Kilimanjaro, German geology professor Hans Meyer reached the base of Kibo, but was not properly equipped to handle the deep snow and ice and retreated.
  • Oct. 5, 1889:  Meyer, Marangu scout Yoanas Kinyala Lauwo, and Austrian Ludwig Purtscheller were the first team to reach the summit. They were the first to confirm that Kibo has a crater, which was filled with ice at the time.
  • July 20, 2017: Dr. Fred Distelhorst became the oldest person to reach the summit at 88 years of age.
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