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Summit of the Kibo

Summit of the Kibo

Highest peak Kibo ( 5895  m )
location East Africa , Northeast Tanzania
at the edge of the East African Trench
Kilimanjaro (Tanzania)
Coordinates 3 ° 4 ′  S , 37 ° 22 ′  E Coordinates: 3 ° 4 ′  S , 37 ° 22 ′  E
Type Stratovolcano
particularities highest mountain in Africa , world natural heritage , national park
Location of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

The Kilimanjaro (also Kilimanjaro massif , from 1902 to 1964 Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze or Wilhelmskuppe , English Kilimanjaro or Mount Kilimanjaro ) is the highest mountain massif in Africa at 5895  m above sea ​​level . The massif in the north-east of Tanzania has the highest mountain on the African continent, the Kibo .

In 1987 the landscape was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO . Kilimanjaro National Park has existed since 1973 .


Satellite image of the Kilimanjaro massif (April 2009)

The Kilimanjaro massif is located around 350 km south of the equator in northeast Tanzania, around 500 km northwest of the city of Dar es Salaam and near the Kenyan border ( Kenya's capital Nairobi is 200 km northwest). It is just under 560 km to the northwest to the middle of Lake Victoria .

While the 750 to 1000 m high terrain around the Kilimanjaro massif gradually slopes eastwards to the 2463  m high Pare Mountains to the Indian Ocean , it goes west and north into the mountainous worlds and highlands of Tanzania and Kenya and to the south in the Maasai steppe. About 70 km southwest of the mountain range rises the 4562 meter high Mount Meru .

The highest peak of the massif and thus the highest point in Africa is the Kibo at 5895 meters. From Batian , which in Mount Kenya situated second highest mountain of the continent , the Kibo 325 km south away. It is 900 km to the northwest to Margherita Peak in the Ruwenzori Mountains .

The massif extends over an area of ​​around 80 km × 60 km.


The Kilimanjaro massif is of volcanic origin. It is located on the eastern rift shoulder of the East African rift system . In connection with continental rifts, there is mostly volcanic activity, which is due to the rise of asthenospheric material (often also mantle diapirs ) and the associated lithospheric thinning . In contrast to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden , which are traversed by a mid-ocean ridge , the East African Rift Valley is not a plate boundary . However, a continental rift represents the initial stage of the breakup of continental lithospheric plates. It does not necessarily have to lead to a complete breakup and the associated formation of mid-ocean ridges. An example of a rift valley that did not lead to the complete breakage of two continental lithospheric plates is the Upper Rhine Plain.

On the Kilimanjaro massif, which is around two to three million years old, the probably largest eruption took place around 360,000 years ago. The last time the Kibo erupted around 1700, since then volcanic activity has remained at a low level ( fumaroles and solfataras ), but has by no means been extinguished.

It remains unclear why no significant ash deposits from past eruptions were found in the ice layers of the Kilimanjaro glacier. The eruption of 1700 is not scientifically proven, but comes from oral traditions of the Chagga, who settle on the mountain. Mountaineers are currently reporting a strong smell of sulfur compounds at the Reusch crater. The smell of sulfur compounds from the still active fumaroles of the “Ash Pit” can occasionally also be perceived at Uhuru Peak, depending on the wind direction.


In addition to glaciers, the rocky mountains are home to firn and snow fields , frost rubble deserts , numerous mountain streams and lush vegetation that merges into the primeval rainforest in the lower mountain regions .

Highest peaks

Kilimanjaro massif with Shira , Kibo and Mawenzi (from left to right)

The Kilimanjaro massif essentially consists of three extinct volcanoes, the highest of which is the already mentioned Kibo (“the light one”). The summit of Kibo at 5895  m is called Uhuru Peak . The summit plateau includes the 1.9 kilometers by 2.4 kilometers large Kibo crater . In this is the Reusch crater (about 800 meters in diameter; up to 200 meters deep), on the edge of which there is a small crater, the Inner Cone ( 5835  m ).

About ten kilometers east of the Kibo and connected to it by a wide, average 4300  m high saddle , rises the rocky, 5148  m high Mawenzi ("the dark one"), which has no glacier. About 15 kilometers west of the Kibo, the Shira ( 3962  m ) can be reached via a 3700  m high saddle . The Shira is a flat peak and also without a glacier.


Although the Kilimanjaro massif is located in the tropical hot regions of the world, it is the third glaciated high mountain range on the continent, alongside the Ruwenzori Mountains and the hardly glaciated Mount Kenya massif , which are also located in equatorial East Africa .

The more recent glaciation on Kilimanjaro is limited to the Kibo. Between 1912 and 2009 the ice cap shrank from 12 km² to 1.85 km², which corresponds to a loss of 85% of the area. The main reason for this decline is a regionally drier climate since the end of the 19th century. On the summit plateau, the northern and southern ice fields formed the largest units, the eastern ice field with the Rebmann glacier and the Furtwängler glacier were significantly smaller. The slope glaciers were mainly located on the southern slope of the Kibo, and remnants of the once mighty glaciation could still be seen on the western flank.

The satellite photos from 1993 and 2000, which are often cited by various media and which were supposed to illustrate the decline, are only of limited information with regard to the glacier retreat. The 1993 photo shows the situation immediately after a fresh snowfall, while the 2000 photo shows hardly any fresh snow. The striking difference between the two images is based on the spatial extent of the seasonal snowpack.


The typical climate in the region around the Kilimanjaro massif follows a pronounced annual course of precipitation with two rainy seasons (March to May, October to December) and two dry seasons, whereby the short dry season (January and February) can also be rich in precipitation in individual years. The mean monthly temperature at the base of the mountain reaches more than 20 ° C all year round. On the massif itself, the climate changes strongly, especially in the vertical direction, which is reflected in the sequence of different vegetation zones . The lower lying areas (up to approx. 3000 m) are humid, often wrapped in clouds and covered by lush rainforest vegetation. With increasing altitude, the vegetation becomes more and more sparse, temperature and precipitation decrease. The two rainy seasons are still pronounced on the summit plateau of the Kibo, but the annual rainfall is only a tenth of that in the rainforest belt. The temperature rarely rises above freezing, even in the afternoon hours. This makes the summit area a dry, icy environment.


Numerous mountain streams arise on the Kilimanjaro massif, which arise, for example, on the glaciated summit of the Kibo and rush down the mountain slopes through the dense forests. They strive away from the massif in all directions. The Pangani and the Galana later emerge from the union of such raging streams and small rivers .

Because of the steep mountain slopes, there are only small lakes on the Kilimanjaro massif . But at its southeastern foot is the Chala Lake (also called Jala Lake; 877  m ; 4 km²) and a little further south is the Jipe Lake ( 707  m ; 46 km²). Both still waters are on the border between Tanzania and Kenya. At the southwest foot of the massif, already in the Arusha National Park , are the Momella lakes .


Giant lobelias grow up to approx. 4000 m altitude on Kilimanjaro
Giant senecia on Kilimanjaro, growth up to an altitude of approx. 4500 m

Below the glaciers, snowfields and frost debris deserts there is sometimes lush grassland that turns into shrubland . In the south, the tree line extends to a maximum of 3500 m, on average it is 2700 to 3000 m above sea level.

Due to the hot and humid climate, a unique flora has not only developed in the hot, humid jungle in the lower regions of the mountain world , in which countless plant species thrive with splendid growth - they are mostly larger than elsewhere. The rainforest is between 1400 and 3000 m above sea level, with a maximum of 3300 m above sea level. In the vicinity of the mountain giant there are grass and tree savannas and swamps .

The flora on the Kilimanjaro massif and in its surroundings include:


A herd of elephants in Amboseli National Park in southwest Kenya, at the foot of the mountain. The park is right on the border with Tanzania.

The mountainous world of the Kilimanjaro massif and its surroundings contain a species-rich fauna .

Examples of mammals:

Examples of birds:


Pre-colonial period

The Chagga people living at the foot of the mountain worshiped the mountain for centuries before they were converted to Christianity. After the missionary work, altars were aligned with the mountain. According to a local legend, Kibo and Mawensi represent petrified wives of the god Ruwa. The story tells how Mawensi repeatedly abused the hospitality of Kibo, who then beat them. This explains the jagged edge of Mawensi's summit (crater) and the fog often standing at the Mawensi summit is an attempt to cover up this disgrace.

Around 100 AD, the Greek astronomer and geographer Ptolemy reported a high, snow-covered mountain in the middle of Africa. About 1000 years later, more news of such a mountain followed, this time from Chinese commercial travelers.

A detailed Spanish report from 1519 was not taken seriously in Europe and was forgotten again.

It was not until May 11, 1848, when a European, the German missionary , geographer and linguist Johannes Rebmann , who came from Gerlingen , stood in front of Kilimanjaro and reported the overwhelming sight of the Schneeberg to Europe that the mountain became more widely known. Rebmann, however, did not call himself his discoverer, as he had already had several reliable reports about the mountain from stories by Africans. Rebmann, who worked in East Africa from 1846 to 1875 without interruption, stayed three times at the foot of Kilimanjaro in 1848/1849. While the English geographers did not believe his report of the Schneeberg due to its proximity to the equator for decades, he received a medal of honor from the Geographical Society in Paris. At the height, which he stated to be around 3800 m without having measured it, Rebmann greatly underestimated himself. The name of the mountain and the names of most of the peaks, which his African companion named to him, come from him.

Colonial times

View of Kilimanjaro during the German colonial era by Rudolf Hellgrewe

During the colonial occupation by the German Empire from 1885 to 1918, this mountain range formed the highest mountain range in the empire. The first to climb, Hans Meyer, renamed the Kibo as the highest German mountain in Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze. The mountain huts built at the time were given German names such as Bismarck - or Peters -Hütte. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Hanover section of the German and Austrian Alpine Club planned the construction of an Alpine Club hut between Mawenzi and Kibo at an altitude of 4900  m . The necessary building material had already been transported to the construction site. The beginning of the First World War prevented the construction of the highest hut of the Alpine Club. It was not until independence that the government of the Tanganyika Republic became aware that the Kibo mountain peak was still called Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze. In 1964 it was renamed Uhuru, which means freedom in Swahili.

First ascent

"The tip of Kilimanjaro" in the New Palace Potsdam with an original stone from the Kibogipfel (1890)

As early as 1861 and 1862, the German explorer Karl Klaus von dercken had dared to climb the mountain and only reached an altitude of 4280 meters. The next documented ascent attempts were made by the missionary Charles New on August 14th and 26th, 1871, who reached the snow line on the second attempt on August 28th, accompanied by a servant and a Chagga guide , before he had to turn back. In 1872 the unsuccessful venture was reported in a publication by the Royal Geographical Society .

The first to climb were the Leipzig mountaineer, geographer and researcher Hans Meyer and the Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller , who climbed the summit on October 6th, 1889 after two failed first attempts in 1887 and 1888 (Muini Amani served as the local mountain guide).

Meyer took a rock sample from black lava from the central point of the Kibo and brought it to Germany by ship, in order to present it to Wilhelm II as a symbol for the possession of the massif by Germany. He kept another privately owned. In 1890, the emperor had the boulder processed with other stones to make a decorative piece, previously it is said to have been kept as a simple paperweight. There are sources that say that this work of art can still be viewed in the Shell Hall of the New Palace in Potsdam. However, the stone seems to have been stolen some time ago and replaced by a simple lava block - it is no longer possible to determine whether the original was lost during the Nazi era or later in the GDR . In 1980 an investigation was carried out in which the lava stone made of biotite slate was exposed. This slate does not appear anywhere on Kilimanjaro. A lava rock from the first expedition from Meyer's collection is now stuck to the spot. The second stone is privately owned by one of Meyer's descendants.

More pioneering work

  • First descent on skis: In 1912, after climbing the summit for the third time , Walter Furtwängler and Siegfried König were the first to ski down from the Kibo summit.
  • First overflight: On January 8, 1930, Walter Mittelholzer was the first to fly over Kilimanjaro. Among other things, he made aerial photographs of the Kibo crater from a height of around 6,200 meters, which were published in magazines and caused a sensation.
  • First live television broadcast: On July 21, 2008, an ARD reporter team set out from Marangu Gate together with German mountaineers . Four days later they reached Gilman's Point and Uhuru Peak . The world's first live broadcast from Kilimanjaro was successful. The control and transmission system was stationed around 2000 meters below the Horombo-Hut.

Population and cities

Hut of the Chagga on Kilimanjaro

The Chagga live in the settlements and places on and around the Kilimanjaro massif, who live mainly from agriculture, but also partly from tourism.

Cities in the region are:

  • Arusha - city 80 km southwest of the massif; There is an international airport 50 km east of the city.
  • Marangu - city on the massif, about 25 km from Moshi; ideal starting point for mountain tours on the Marangu route
  • Moshi - big city on the massif with regional airport



The economy on the Kilimanjaro massif is still characterized by agriculture , so that the local Chagga live from agriculture as well as from plantations and cattle breeding . Bananas , coffee , corn , wheat and sisal are all grown .


The region around the Kilimanjaro Massif and Kilimanjaro National Park is very popular with tourists and nature lovers. Many tourists also come to Mount Kilimanjaro to climb mountains.

Moshi, a little south of the massif, offers a variety of tourist facilities. The massif and about 30 km west of the city is located towards the neighboring town southwest Arusha the Kilimanjaro International Airport , from the tourists in the Kilimanjaro and Serengeti National Park can get.


Path and forest on the Marangu route
Petershütte ( Horombo Hut )
View from Uhuru Peak ( Kibo Summit) over the rest of the Furtwängler Glacier to the northern ice field
Kilimanjaro 3D

The ascent of Kibo or Uhuru Peak offers the climber minor technical difficulties, which is why, despite the great physical exertion, more and more people are trying to climb. In the mid-1990s it was around 15,000 a year, but around ten years later that number had risen to 25,000. Among them are many who have never hiked for several days before. But as a result of associated with high altitude decrease in oxygen - partial pressure frequently occurs for altitude sickness , so due to the physical effort, only about half of all summit aspirants reach the highest point. At the summit, the partial pressure of oxygen is half as high as at sea level. In addition, there are sudden changes in the weather and significant temperature differences between the foot of the mountain, where the thermometer regularly shows above 30 ° C, and its summit, where the temperature can drop below −20 ° C. The wind chill factor can make the perceived temperature appear even lower.

Five to seven days should be planned for the ascent because of the adaptation to the high altitude climate. In the NZZ, however , the altitude physician Oswald Oelz described the five days that are normally intended for ascent and descent on most routes as "physiologically attempted murder". Anyone who does not properly acclimate themselves beforehand runs the risk of developing pulmonary or brain edema. "It is not without reason that dozens of people die every year on the highest mountain in Africa," explained Oelz.

The ascent is subject to a fee, and the appointment of a Chagga guide and the employment of local porters are required. The total fee in 2008 was US $ 650 per person and is payable at the gates at the entrance to the national park. An additional US $ 170–250 is added for the guide and porters. The national park administration has announced non-binding guide prices for tips. For every tourist, depending on the organization, there are two to five porters, including guides and cook (“Regulations and Fees”, on the Tanzania National Park website).

Marangu route

While the five routes Mweka, Umbwe, Lemosho, Shira and Rongai are rarely used, the Marangu and Machame routes are much more popular. According to park statistics, the most traveled Marangu route ("Coca-Cola route"), which runs in the southeast of the Kilimanjaro massif, is the only route that offers overnight stays in huts instead of tents and has a maximum of 70 guests per day.

The Marangu Trail begins on the southern slope of the massif and initially heads north via Marangu ( Marangu Gate ; 1879  m ), which is often used as a starting point for mountain tours, and through the tropical rainforest to the Bismarck Hut ( Mandara Hut ; 2720  m ). Then - above the tree line - through the initially lush, sprouting grass and shrubland, ascending towards the northwest, the Petershütte ( Horombo Hut ; 3719  m ) is reached, which is about five kilometers south of Mawenzi. From there it goes in thinner air to the 4300 m high saddle, further west through the frost rubble desert to the Kibo Hut ( Kibo Hut ; 4720  m ) built in 1932 (for the first time ) on the eastern flank of the Kibo. From there after 987 m and a maximum of six hours uphill through numerous serpentines and through a scree landscape , Gilman's Point ( 5681 m according to the inscription of a sign posted there  ) on the edge of the Kibo crater is reached only a few kilometers away . On the southern rim of the crater, another 214 m upwards, reaches the Kibo summit called Uhuru Peak ( 5895  m ).

After a total of around 34 km of march, you are on the edge of the crater of Kibo, from which large parts of Tanzania and Kenya can be seen - if the sometimes unpredictable weather allows. For example, Mount Meru ( 4562  m ) can be seen, which often towers above the cloud cover and is around 70 km away.

Other routes

In addition to the Marangu route, other paths lead to the Kilimanjaro massif, which are among the difficult routes. These include:

  • Barafu Route - steep partial route from or over the Barafu Hut ( 4600  m ) to the Kibo
  • Lemosho route - starting point Londorossi ( 2250  m )
  • Machame route - starting point Machame ( 1800  m )
  • Mweka route - starting point Mweka ( 1700  m )
  • Rongai or Kikelewa route - starting point Nalemoru ( 2020  m )
  • Shira route - starting point Londorossi ( 2250  m )
  • Umbwe route - starting point Umbwe ( 1700  m )
  • Western-Breach-Route - steep partial route from or past the Lava Tower ( 4600  m ) to the Kibo
  • Thomas Glacier Route - route leads over the glacier of the Northern Ice Field - first ascent 28/29. October 2009

Oldest and youngest climbers of the mountain

At the beginning of July 2018, the American Montannah Kenney from Texas became the youngest climber of the mountain at the age of 7.

The oldest person to reach Uhuru Peak was Angela Vorobeva, aged 86 years and 267 days.

The oldest man on the mountain was the American Robert Wheeler, who was 85 years and 201 days old when he climbed the summit on October 2, 2014.

Current research

Among other things, the University of Bayreuth has been operating a scientific research station on the Kilimanjaro massif for many years. It is primarily dedicated to the study of flora and the distribution of precipitation in the rainforest belt. In the past few years, unique data on the climate history of the past millennia has been collected through glacial cores (ice drilling). The Universities of Innsbruck and Massachusetts have been carrying out a climate research project since 2002 with the aim of understanding the climatological reasons for the retreat of glaciers. The multitude of scientific studies suggests that the shrinking of the Kilimanjaro glaciers is a direct result of a regionally drier climate since the late 19th century. The lack of snowfall reduces the inflow to the mass of the glaciers , and lighter fresh snow that reflects sunlight well protects against solar radiation. To what extent and since when the regionally dry climate has benefited from global warming is not yet completely clear. The rarer occurrence of strongly positive events in the Indian Ocean Dipole probably plays a decisive role , as a result of which the supply of moist air masses to East Africa is reduced. While climate change does not have a major impact on the mass balance of the glaciers via a direct increase in air temperatures on Kilimanjaro, it is likely that it will affect the dynamics of the Indian Ocean and thus change the precipitation pattern on Kilimanjaro.

Reception in literature and art

At the foot of the mountain, Ernest Hemingway wrote his short novel Snow on Kilimanjaro (The Snows of Kilimanjaro), which Henry King filmed in 1952 as Snow on Kilimanjaro . With Gregory Peck , Susan Hayward , Ava Gardner and Hildegard Knef in the lead roles, the film was a Hollywood -Klassiker.

Carl Falkenhorst wrote in the story about Adler's war and hunting adventures in East Africa , in the non-fiction book Auf Bergeshöhen Deutsch-Afrikas (1890) and in the 1896 novel Zum Schneedom des Kilimanjaro about Kilimanjaro.

Pascal Danel had a number 1 success with the chanson Kilimandjaro (also called Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro ) in 1966 .

The painter and sculptor Walter von Ruckteschell not only climbed the Kibo with his wife Clara and Carl von Salis , he also painted the Kibo as a colored watercolor (it is now in the German Historical Museum Berlin). Ernst Platz painted his picture of Kilimanjaro during Hans Meyer's fourth Kilimanjaro expedition in 1898, accompanying Meyer. The painter Rudolf Hellgrewe also made some gouache paintings with the motif of Kilimanjaro.

Kilimanjaro can be seen on a 2000 Tanzanian shilling banknote .


  • Kurt Brunner: Early Maps of Kilimanjaro - A Contribution to Expedition Cartography . In: "Cartographica Helvetica", issue 30 (2004), pp. 3–9 ( full text ).
  • Richard Crane; Nicholas Crane: Kilimanjaro by bike: Up the highest mountain in Africa by mountain bike. Schneider, Munich 1987, ISBN 3-505-09602-4 .
  • Jörg Diergarten: Kilimanjaro - ascent via the Marangu and Machame routes. Series SYRO-Individual-Travel Guide Volume 30, SYRO, Göttingen 1983, ISBN 3-921885-07-8 (with a map).
  • Christof Hamann , Alexander Honold: Kilimanjaro: The German story of an African mountain. Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-8031-3634-3 .
  • P. Werner Lange: Kilimanjaro - The white mountain of Africa. AS Verlag, Zurich 2005, ISBN 978-3-909111-16-9 .
  • P. Werner Lange: Kilimanjaro dream mountain: From rainforest to tropical ice. A travel report , AS Verlag, Zurich 2008, ISBN 978-3-909111-51-0
  • Hans Meyer; Heinrich Pleticha (Ed.): The first ascent of Kilimanjaro , Ed. Erdmann, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-522-60281-1 (= old adventurous travel reports).
  • Fritz Rodulph, Percy Stulz: Jambo, Africa. Brockhaus Verlag Leipzig 1970

Web links

Commons : Kilimanjaro  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Kilimanjaro  Travel Guide
Wiktionary: Kilimanjaro  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. PC Spink: Further Notes on the Kibo Inner Crater and Glaciers of Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. In: The Geographical Journal, Volume 106, No. 5/6, November - December 1945, p. 213.
  2. UNESCO World Heritage Center: Kilimanjaro National Park. Accessed August 21, 2017 .
  3. a b Pointdexter, Joseph: Between heaven and earth. The 50 highest peaks. Könemann, Cologne 1999, ISBN 3-8290-3561-6 , p. 94
  4. ^ Brian Vastag: The melting snows of Kilimanjaro. In: Nature . 2009, doi : 10.1038 / news.2009.1055 .
  5. Georg Kaser , Douglas R. Hardy a. a .: Modern glacier retreat on Kilimanjaro as evidence of climate change: observations and facts. In: International Journal of Climatology. 24, 2004, p. 329, doi : 10.1002 / joc.1008 .
  6. Thomas Mölg: Solar-radiation-maintained glacier recession on Kilimanjaro drawn from combined ice-radiation geometry modeling. In: Journal of Geophysical Research . 108, 2003, doi : 10.1029 / 2003JD003546 .
  7. Thomas Mölg: Ablation and associated energy balance of a horizontal glacier surface on Kilimanjaro. In: Journal of Geophysical Research. 109, 2004, doi : 10.1029 / 2003JD004338 .
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  12. ^ Carl Claus von der Betten, edited by Otto Kersten: Reisen in Ost-Afrika in the years 1859 to 1865 , narrative part 1871, volume 2, p. 52
  13. ^ Charles New: Ascent of Mount Kilima Njaro. Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, July 16, 1872, pp. 167-171 (English)
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  15. Pointdexter, Joseph: Between heaven and earth. The 50 highest peaks. Könemann, Cologne 1999, ISBN 3-8290-3561-6 , p. 92
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  17. Alexander Honold: Kaiser Wilhelm tip. World Museum of Mountains, 2009, archived from the original on July 24, 2010 ; Retrieved September 21, 2010 .
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  21. Alexander Stewart: Kilimanjaro: A Compete Trekker's Guide . Cicerone Press Limited, 2004, ISBN 978-1-85284-413-4 , pp. 12 f., 22 ff . ( Excerpts online [accessed on October 19, 2010]).
  22. Kilimanjaro overview and area map. Retrieved August 25, 2010 .
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  34. Summary of the research results 2003-2012 (English)
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  38. Christof Hamann, Alexander Honold: Kilimanjaro: The German story of an African mountain , Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin 2011, p. 133
  39. a b Christof Hamann, Alexander Honold: Kilimanjaro: The German story of an African mountain , Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin 2011, p. 135