Talk about mountains in Africa and I can almost guarantee that the first mountain that will come to mind is Mount Kilimanjaro. Whilst this is the highest mountain in Africa, it certainly isn’t the only mountain worth knowing. With the jagged peaks in the Ruwenzori range that rise up to form the Congo/Uganda border, to dormant volcanoes that carry the scars of an explosive history; read on to discover Africa’s top 10 highest mountains. School’s in session.
1) Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro stands at a height of 5,895m whilst watching over the Kilimanjaro National Park, with no other satellite summits surrounding it. Kilimanjaro is easily (699m to be exact) the highest mountain in Africa and also takes the prize as the world’s largest free-standing mountain with its three dome-like summits named ‘Kibo’, ‘Mawenzi’ and ‘Shira’ all of which have been created from the volcanic activity on this mountain thousands of years ago.
It’s a sleeping giant, with lava activity bubbling away just 400m beneath the characteristic black rock that has been spat out from the volcano as molten hot lava, before solidifying to only add to this mountain’s enormous scale. Considered a dormant volcano as the last volcanic activity on this mountain was over 200 years ago when lava poured out of the highest summit, Kibo.
“The fastest recorded ascent up Kilimanjaro… an amazing 6 hours 42 minutes and 24 seconds”
The fastest recorded ascent up Kilimanjaro was made by Swiss runner and mountain guide Karl Egloff, who pipped legendary mountain runner Killian Jornet’s (record holder of the fastest ascent of Mount Everest) time of 7 hours and 14 minutes, to make the summit in an amazing 6 hours 42 minutes and 24 seconds. These kind of times are made even more extraordinary when you think that it takes the regular climber around 5 to 9 days to make the ascent, as they tackle the 3,535m of ascent required to reach the summit.
Being the tallest in Africa also makes Kilimanjaro one of the esteemed ‘Seven Summits’ – the highest mountains on each of the world’s seven continents. Climbing all of them is regarded as one of the most notable challenges in mountaineering.
2) Mount Kenya
The highest mountain in Kenya and the second highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kenya is a cluster of volcanos that lay just 20 kilometres north of the equator, meaning that the sun rises and sets at pretty much the same time all year round – giving a full 12 hour day, 365 days of the year.
Sir Halford Mackinder was the first to reach the summit of Mt. Kenya, along with two of his companions on 13th September 1899. After crossing a large ice sheet that they later named the Lewis glacier, this turned out to be the largest glacier on the mountain. Mount Kenya is one of the few areas that can offer snow near to the equator, but this will soon be changing. The glaciers situated on the northern sides of the mountain are receding at an alarming rate, with scientists predicting that there won’t be any glaciers left on Mount Kenya from 2050 onwards. Worryingly, millions of people are reliant on these glaciers for their source of freshwater which will soon dry out.
3) Mount Stanley
Splitting down the border between Congo and Uganda, Mount Stanley takes its place as the highest mountain in both Congo and Uganda. The first ascent was made in 1906 by Italian explorer and mountaineer Prince Luigi Amedeo and three of his companions. Since this first ascent, the summit has been made off-limits to climbers and trekkers now and then due to crevasses opening up on certain ascent paths, plus the fact that the ascent begins in war-torn Congo.
4) Mount Speke
Just missing out on the podium positions in fourth position in Africa’s highest mountains, Mount Speke sits in the same Ruwenzori Mountains National Park as Mount Stanley and so is the second largest mountain in this region and Congo/Uganda. And just like Mount Stanley, Prince Luigi Amedeo was the first to climb this peak back in 1906. The Baganda who were based within the foothills of the Ruwenzori Mountains National Park used to call Mount Speke ‘Gambaragara’ which translates to ‘My Eyes Pain’, from when they used to look up at Mount Speke and be blinded by the reflection of the sun on the alpine snow.
5) Mount Baker
Again sitting in the Ruwenzori Mountains National Park and just 2.3 kilometers from neighbouring Mount Stanley, Mount Baker reaches a lofty height of 4,844m. Similarly to all of the other peaks situated in the Ruwenzori Mountains National Park, Mount Baker is comprised of a cluster of fairly inaccessible summits joined together by a jagged ridgeline which is topped by Edward Peak, which was first climbed again by none other than Prince Luigi Amedeo.
6) Mount Emin
Location: Congo / Uganda
Mount Emin is made of up two peaks of a similar height, a north and a south peaks, with a large glacier sandwiched in between the two peaks. The south peak, named Umberto is the largest of the two and was first ascended again by Prince Luigi Amedeo and two companions in 1906, which was impressive given the fairly technical nature of climbing involved to ascend the southern ridge up to Umberto.
7) Mount Gessi
Location: Congo / Uganda
The twin peaks of Mount Gessi create another jagged ridgeline that is flanked by large glaciers on its northern side, although these are retreating fast. Prince Luigi Amedeo and his team of explorers observed that the whole of the western side of Mount Gessi had been covered by a glacier during their first ascent of this peak, these glaciers have now shrunk down to a small ice sheet.
8) Mount Luigi Di Savoia
Location: Congo / Uganda
After ascending the six highest mountains in the Ruewnzori Range, with 16 peaks bagged in total during his expedition to the region in 1906 , Prince Luigi Amedeo finally had a peak named after himself after reaching the summit of Mount Luigi Di Savoia on 18th June 1906. Mount Luigi Di Savoia is similar to the other larger peaks in the region in that it is composed of many summits all joined together to create a small massif, with the largest of these peaks being Sella.
9) Mount Meru
Leaving Uganda and Congo, the ninth highest mountain in Africa falls to Mount Meru in Tanzania. Just lying 70 kilometres west of the highest peak in this list; Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru sits at 4,566 metres. The majority of this mountain was actually lost during a volcanic eruption over 8,000 years ago that blew away much of the eastern side of this volcano. After a few recent eruptions, with the most recent being a minor eruption in 1910, Mount Meru is now considered a dormant volcano.
10) Ras Dejen
Ras Dejen is the highest mountain in Ethiopia and just makes it into the top 10 highest mountains in Africa, at a height of 4,533 metres. Due to the height of this mountain, it frequently snows on the summit during cold evening temperatures but the vast temperature differences between night and day means that this snow doesn’t last long as soon as the sun rises.