WAY UP HIGH

Tanzania 2018 | TOURISM | PHOTO ESSAY: MOUNT KILIMANJARO

At 5,895m above sea level, the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro stands tall and proud: Africa's tallest peak, and one of Tanzania's top tourist hotspots.

There has been much debate about the origin of its name, most popularly believed to be a corruption of the Swahili word kilima, meaning mountain, and the KiChagga word njaro, meaning great.

What is not debatable, however, is Mount Kilimanjaro's enduring allure, as it continues to draw around 25,000 tourists each year. Standing at a momentous 5,895m above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the world, Africa's tallest peak, and Tanzania's second-most popular tourist attraction.

Actually a dormant volcano, whose last major eruption took place some 360,000 years ago, Mount Kilimanjaro owes its distinctive shape to the formation of three volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira.

The first documented ascent was in 1889, when Hans Meyer and Ludwig Purtscheller made their way defiantly to the top. The highest point, on Kibo ridge, they named “Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze," or Kaiser Wilhelm Peak. In 1964, after independence, this was re-named “Uhuru Peak," using the Swahili word for freedom.
These days, climbing one of the seven routes that wind their way up to the top is not for the faint-hearted, nor for the budget traveler. A study from 2005 showed that 63% of all intrepid hikers successfully reach the summit, but 77% suffer from Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) at some point during the trek. More worryingly, around three to seven people die on average per year, many of altitude-related afflictions, though in 2013, one tourist was reportedly struck by lightning half way up the peak.
In that same year, records show that Mount Kilimanjaro National Park generated USD51 million in revenue, making it the second top earner of all the country's national parks. A standard guided hike up the mountain, which lasts around one week, costs a ballpark USD1,000.
The visitors' book kept in a wooden box on Uhuru Peak is testimony to many weird and wonderful events that have graced Kilimanjaro's snow-capped summit. The youngest visitor was just seven years of age, the oldest 85. The fastest ascent to date was achieved by 22-year-old Spaniard Kilian Jornet, who raced up in just five hours, 23 minutes, and 50 seconds.
In 2014, the mountain was host to a Tour de France bonding trip, as a team of well-known cyclists including Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan took to its slopes. The same year saw a team of cricketers scale the mountain to complete the world's highest cricket match. In 2017, a ladies football team broke a similar record for football. And, most weird and wonderful of all, in 2016 Pizza Hut took a slice of the action: to celebrate its entry into the Tanzanian market, it orchestrated the world's highest-ever pizza delivery, carting a pepperoni 8-incher 745km from its place of inception all the way up to Kilimanjaro's summit, and bringing a whole new definition to the phrase, “pie in the sky."