It is not only the highest mountain in Africa, rising 4,877m above the surrounding plains to 5895m, but also one of the largest volcanoes in the world, covering an area of some 388,500 hectares.
The mountain has three main peaks of varying ages with clusters of small cones around the base.Kibo, the highest and most recently formed peak still show signs of minor activity in the centre. It consists of a crater within a crater with an ash pit in the centre.
Uhuru Peak is on the southern rim of the outer crater, the sides of which are 2 kms apart. Kibo still retains permanent ice and snow, although the area covered is rapidly diminishing, with one glacier extending as low as 4500m. The oldest peak, Shira, rises to 3962m, with only the western and southern rims remaining. The remains of the northern and eastern rims are covered by later materials that have erupted from Kibo.
This has led to the formation of the relatively flat Shira Plateau which covers 6200 hectares between the two peaks.
The rugged Mawenzi peak at a height of 5149m lies to the east. It's erosion-carved form has a steep 1000m eastern face with a complex series of gullies and rock faces, rising above two deep gorges, the Greater Barranco and Lesser Barranco. Linking Mawenzi to Kibo is The Saddle a vast plateau that forms the largest area of high-altitude tundra in tropical Africa.
Mount Kilimanjaro Trekking Routes
Marangu RouteThis is the most famous and most popular of the various routes with the trailhead on the south-eastern side, the main tourist route and by far the most popular route and some claim the easiest route to Uhuru Peak. Just outside the small market town that gives the route its name. The straight trek lasts five days with overnights at Mandara Hut at 2700m, Horombo Hut at 3720m (acclimatization days are spent here) and Kibo Hut at 4703m, from where the attempt on Uhuru Peak starts at midnight, before returning to Horombo. The Mandara and Horombo huts are A-Framed alpine huts with bunk beds, Mineral water, soft drinks, beer and chocolates are also sold at every camp.
Machame RouteThis is probably the most scenic and most beautiful route to the summit. The 6-day route is however physically more challenging than the Marangu route. The day walks are longer and steeper, however the summit night is one hour shorter. Whilst guidebooks and the Park Authorities, use the rather grandiose term "huts" to describe the accommodation, it is primarily a camping route. Camping is permitted only in allotted areas, which have been cited by the Parks for the convenience of water and firewood supplies. The descend route is via Mweka Route.
Shira (Lemosho) RouteThe Shira Plateau is one of the most scenic and most fascinating areas on Kilimanjaro. The trailhead for Shira is approached from the west of Kilimanjaro at the village of Londorossi. Depending on the weather conditions you can drive by 4 wheel drive vehicles, to within a 2/3 hours walk of Shira Hut, we recommended starting the ascent from the trailhead. Despite Shira hut, this is also a camping route. The route joins the Machame trail after Shira Hut, the advantages of the Shira Route lie in its approach from the west through the Londorossi Glades and as a base for trips to Platz Cone, Shira Ridge and Shira Needles.
Rongai RouteThe Rongai route ascend Kilimanjaro from the northeastern side of the mountain, along the border between Tanzania and Kenya. This route retains a sense of un-spoilt wilderness and offers a different perspective on Kilimanjaro by approaching it from the north.
This route is one of the shorter but also one of the more difficult routes to reach Uhuru peak--but quiet spectacular. Umbwe is known for its caves. The first night you actually sleep at the Umbwe Cave Camp with two more caves that can be visited on route the following day.