Since the existence of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania first became known to the western world in the 19th century, countless people have attempted to climb the peak. Nowadays there are guided trips allowing keen hikers to complete the trek – but it wasn’t always this straightforward.
We’re going to take a look at some of the most famous – and most interesting – people to have climbed Kilimanjaro. If you want to learn more about hiking up the mountain yourself, check out the itineraries offered by Walks Worldwide.
Dr. Hans Meyer and Ludwig Purtscheller
Dr .Hans Meyer, a German geology professor, and Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller were the first people to successfully reach the top of Kilimanjaro in 1889. This followed several attempts by various parties over the preceding 40 years, none of which were successful. However, they all gathered valuable information about the mountain and a possible route to the summit that ultimately allowed Meyer and Purtscheller to succeed.
Their expedition was a much tougher affair than the Kilimanjaro climb is today, with the two men setting out on foot from Mombasa with a small team of porters. The secret to their success was to establish a series of small camps close to the summit of the mountain, allowing them to make multiple pushes to the top without having to descend for more supplies.
Simon Mtuy holds an incredible record for the fastest unsupported ascent and descent of Kilimanjaro, completing the round trip in nine hours, 21 minutes and 47 seconds back in 2006. He ran up the Umbwe trail and descended on the Mweka route – a truly breathtaking feat.
Of course, you should certainly not try to emulate his ascent, with most people advised to take at least five days (if not longer) to reach Uhuru Peak. When you’ve reached the top of Kilimanjaro, you’ll wonder how on earth he managed to do the climb so quickly.
Esther and Martin Kafer
There are several records for Kilimanjaro climbs, but another one that will blow you away is that held by Esther and Martin Kafer – experienced Canadian mountaineers – who hold the honour of being the oldest couple to have completed the ascent.
Esther was 84 and Martin was 85 when they successfully reached Uhuru Peak and in the process raised a considerable amount of money for the Alzheimer Society of BC.
Moving on now to a name that’s likely to be more familiar to you – Gary Barlow. The Take That singer organised a group of celebrities to make the climb in aid of Comic Relief back in 2009 and the nine-strong group (which also included Cheryl Cole, Chris Moyles, Denise Van Outen, Alesha Dixon, Kimberley Walsh, Fearne Cotton, Ben Shephard and Ronan Keating) raised more than £1 million for the cause.
They all made it to the Roof of Africa, although some of them suffered from severe altitude sickness during the climb. On the day they made their final push for the summit, they were buffeted by gale-force winds as they hiked, making the last stretch that bit tougher.
Another celebrity who has used the Kilimanjaro climb to raise awareness of an important issue is US recording artist Kenna. He collected a team of celebrities, educators and experts for the expedition in 2010 to draw attention to the global water crisis.
The initiative called Summit on the Summit gained worldwide attention and Kenna has since ascended the mountain for a second time – in 2013 – again to put the spotlight on the issue of clean water availability. Among those to join him on the most recent expedition were singer Mark Foster, actor Justin Chatwin and photographer Chase Jarvis.
Of course, there are many other people who have climbed up this massive mountain, but these are some of the most interesting stories. Kilimanjaro is a stunning mountain and climbing to the top is no easy feat!
Have you ever climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro?! Was it difficult? Share with us below!