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World Mountains
Kilimandscharo/Kilimanjaro - Die Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze

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Almanac > World Mountains > Kilimanjaro > More Mountains

Kilamjaro Africa's tallest mountain (der höchste Berg Afrikas) was long thought to be nothing but a legend. After all, how could there be a snow-capped peak just three degrees south of the equator? But German-speaking explorers were the first Europeans to ever see and climb Kilimanjaro—and establish the mountain's existence.

At first, London's Royal Geographical Society dismissed the 1849 report by the German (Swabian) missionary Johann Rebmann as nonsense. Rebmann and his German colleague, Johann Ludwig Krapf, had arrived in German East Africa (Deutsch-Ostafrika, today Tanzania, formerly Tanganyika) for missionary work in 1846. After hearing tales of a “white mountain” in the region, both men became the first Europeans to see Kilimanjaro with their own eyes. Soaring to a height of 19,340 feet (5895 meters) the cloud-shrouded, snow-clad peak now known as Uhuru must have been a very impressive sight. From its base at around 3,000 feet, Kilimanjaro rises another 16,000 feet into the sky, making it the highest free-standing peak in the world. Kilimanjaro is also the world's highest mountain that can be climbed by hiking, but the lower, more jagged Mawensi volcanic peak (17,564 ft) was not climbed until 1912 and requires mountaineering experience.

Although it is normally possible to hike to the top of Kilimanjaro in 5-8 days without using any mountain-climbing gear, it is still not an easy climb today. Only about a third of those who attempt to reach the summit ever make it. (It's not the climb, it's the altitude and thin air!) The first person to seriously attempt the climb was a German geographer from Leipzig. Dr. Hans Meyer's first effort was in 1887, but he encountered snow and ice that prevented him from reaching the Kibo summit. A second try in 1888 was also unsuccessful.

In 1889, accompanied by the Austrian Alpine expert Ludwig Purtscheller and a native guide, Hans Meyer became the first person known to have ever reached the summit of Kilimanjaro. Meyer and his team made the climb the hard way, cutting their way up over a glacier. Today climbers take an easier route around the base of the glacier which grows smaller each year. Meyer named the summit “die Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze” (Emperor Wilhelm Peak) for the Prussian leader Wilhelm I (1797-1888), a name still found on some maps. Today the peak is known by the African name Uhuru. The mountain itself—with its three volcanic cones, Kibo (the highest), Mawensi, and Shira—is known in German as der Kilimandscharo.

In 1886, Tanzania and Kilimanjaro were part of colonial Africa. The British monarch Queen Victoria “owned” Mount Kenya and she granted Kilimanjaro and the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze in neighboring Tanzania to her German grandson (Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert), who just two years later would become Kaiser Wilhelm II at the age of 29.

Kilimandscharo-Tatsachen - Kilimanjaro Facts

Lage: in Afrika (Tansania und Kenia)
Location: in Africa (Tanzania and Kenya)

Höhe: 5895 m (19,340 ft) - Uhuru
Height: 19,340 ft (5895 meters) - Uhuru

Erste Besteigung: am 6. Oktober 1889 durch Dr Hans Meyer (Deutschland) und Ludwig Purtscheller (Österreich).
First Ascent: on October 6, 1889 by Dr Hans Meyer (Germany) and Ludwig Purtscheller (Austria).

Related Links

Die Namen der Berge - Kilimandscharo
A detailed account of Kilimanjaro's history and Hans Meyer - in German.

Bergbesteigung Kilimandscharo
An illustrated guide on how to climb the mountain in six days - in German.

Merkmale Afrikas
Erdkunde-Online's list of mountains and other geographic features in Africa.

National Geographic Deutschland
The German edition and Web site of the National Geographic.

World Mountains | More Mountains | Almanac

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