I confess I wasn’t totally concentrating on Kilimanjaro’s geology as I wheezed up the volcano’s highest flanks. Perhaps I should have been: mulling the origins of this Rift Valley behemoth, the result of a lava spew 750,000 years ago, might have distracted from the breath-stealing altitude.
Hans Meyer was the first to make the top in 1889; now, around 35,000 people attempt Kilimanjaro each year. Many do not succeed. It’s not an overly technical climb, it’s just so high: 19,340ft, the continent’s highest point. And despite loitering a few clicks south of the equator, its summit is capped with snow.
My climb, via the Machame route, wound from cloud forest to moorland, to moon-like upper slopes – a lesson in volcanology made 3D, with the added poignancy of passing Kili’s shrinking glaciers, likely to be gone in a matter of years. It was dawn when I reached the summit, perfect for watching a timeless sunrise over Africa. Point in time: 750,000 years ago (Kilimanjaro began to form) Length: From 28 miles; 6-10 days Difficulty: Strenuous Best months: Jan-March, June-Oct