The Kilimanjaro sign is featured in my book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, which chronicles my attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The book is on sale now as an e-book for $3.99 and in paperback for $9.99 from Amazon and other booksellers.
The Kilimanjaro Sign. It’s what every climber tries to reach when they attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Not only does it make a great photo op, it symbolizes achievement. They did it. They made it to the top of Kilimanjaro!
Until recently, the summit was marked by an iconic wooden sign with yellow lettering, covered with stickers left behind by climbers who wanted to leave their mark.
The old Kilimanjaro Sign was more than a marker erected by the Tanzanian government on the top of Uhuru Peak, the highest point on Kilimanjaro. To many, it symbolized that they had beaten the odds and achieved something remarkable – standing on the rooftop of Africa. Thousands of photos of climbers next to the sign adorn desks or hang on walls around the world. Thousands more dream of taking their own photo with it.
The wooden sign, in English, read:
YOU ARE NOW AT
UHURU PEAK TANZANIA 5895 M A.M.S.L.
AFRICA’S HIGHEST POINT
WORLD’S HIGHEST FREE STANDING MOUNTAIN
A fourth plank on the sign that read “One of World’s Largest Volcanoes. Welcome” disappeared by 2010. A box containing a logbook next to the sign vanished by 2007.
At 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above mean sea level (AMSL), Mount Kilimanjaro bears many distinctions. Among them:
- It is the highest mountain on the continent of Africa and in the country of Tanzania.
- It is fourth highest of the Seven Summits, the highest mountain on each of the world’s seven continents.
- It is one of the world’s largest volcanoes, active or extinct.
- It is arguably the highest mountain you can climb without technical gear.
- It is arguably the highest free-standing mountain on Earth. Some say that Mauna Loa in Hawai’i is the highest based on its height from the ocean floor, although that is subject to debate. Of course, none compare to the volcano Olympus Mons on Mars, which, at more than 22,000 meters (72,000 feet), is three times higher than Mount Everest.
The old Kilimanjaro Sign listed all of these records. But now the iconic wooden sign is gone!
The New Kilimanjaro Sign replaced the old one at the summit in January 2012. The metal sign is bright green with yellow lettering. Reports suggest that the new sign was erected to commemorate Tanzania’s 50th birthday. (Then-Tanganika declared independence from Great Britain on December 9, 1961. The island of Zanzibar, which became independent in 1963, united with Tanganika to form Tanzania on April 26, 1964.)
What do you think of the New Kilimanjaro Sign? Will it replace the old one as an enduring symbol of Kilimanjaro in the hearts and minds of those who have reached the summit or long to climb it? Only time will tell.
More About Mount Kilimanjaro:
Click here to learn more about the book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill about the author’s attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.
Click here to learn about the fauna and flora on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Click here to read about the dedicated guides, porters, and cooks who work on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Click here to read about the vanishing glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Click here to read about The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the 1936 semi-autobiographical short story by Ernest Hemingway, the 1952 film, and the main character, Harry Street.
M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He recently published a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an ebook and in print on Amazon.com. His upcoming book, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, will be available in March 2012. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.
For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.
Copyright note: Photo of the new Kilimanjaro sign courtesy of Pendaely Lauwo, Zephyr Adventures guide.
22 thoughts on “The Kilimanjaro Sign–Old and New”
And it already has stickers on it! Well, how do YOU feel about the sign being replaced? I’ll probably never get to see the [new] sign in person, so I really can’t say how I feel. I am going to print this and mail it to our sponsored boy in Tanzania.
i find it a bit heartbreaking, actually. i am climbing Kili this summer and cringe a bit at the thought of that green monster standing behind me in my photos. oh well, i won’t cancel my trip, will just have to live with it. poor decision though, IMHO, on the part of the local authorities.
Interesting post, Mike, and very informative. The old, weathered signs looked much more poetic and natural. This new collage is a bit too…. lime green and artificial, IMHO.
But who knows, when the memory of the old signs fades, people will probably be just as proud to stand under these, new signs. They do look neater, though. But I bet, that’s not what people long to see, when they reach the rooftop of Africa. 🙂
Thanks for your comments! How do I feel? I like the old sign much better. It had character and was known around the world. The new one looks like a highway road sign, to be honest. Colin, I don’t think it should deter you from climbing Kilimanjaro. There are other great shots you can take without the Green Monster. All the best with your climb–I hope you reach the summit. Let me know how it goes!
How heartbreaking to see that brash and vulgar metal sign on top of one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. The old wooden sign was an iconic symbol of Kili but over the years it has certainly deteriorated and it was not unexpected that it may need replacing but a more hideous replacement could not have been found. It is so disappointing for future climbers to reach their destination and be confronted with this metal monstrosity. Maybe a few of the trekking companies could pool their resources and approach the Tanzanian government with a more eco friendly alternative. its just AWFUL!
I too find it heartbreaking! When I first saw a picture with one of our local bands from my home country (South Africa) after their climb I was horrified. It looks awful and the charm and rustic look of the old one is certainly missed. The pics I have seen with the new sign all have a glare and half the time you couldn’t see the actual wording on the sign. I am climbing Kili in July and maybe if I wasn’t climbing it wouldn’t bug me so much and if I make it to the top the sign should seem so unimportant in the grand scheme of thing. I guess I’ll find out in July…
But my vote is definitely, without a doubt, for the old sign!
The new sign is awful…!
Such a shame to have replaced the original with something so cold and soul-less… 😦
I hope the Tanzanian govt see sense and put something more appropriate in place…
I saw the new sign on a video of the man who summited Mt. Kilimajaro without any legs. At first glance at the picture, I laughed as I was convinced it had been photoshopped. I even had to open my Mt. Kili Summit pictures, just to remember the feeling I had at having achieved this goal. Thanks for the article, as now I can see this is the new sign. A bit cold and not as much character and meaning to me. The old sign brings back memories, and perhaps if I do summit Mt. Kili again, I may change my views. I still love the old sign, much better then this highway road sign in the middle of heaven itself. 🙂
I climbed in 2008, visualized that wooden sign for years. The new one is disappointing, but we will get used to it. In 20 years it will be the sign would-be climbers will visualize and celebrate when they finally reach the summit
Thanks, Cindy, for your comment. You may be right. Climbers were used to the wooden sign and found it symbolic in their quest to reach the summit, but the next generation will have a different icon to visualize. I imagine that in 50 years someone will be unhappy because they replaced the metal sign!
I climbed Kili in Jan 2000 and although I agree the new sign doesnt have the same rustic character as the old sign I dont think it’s bad at all. Maybe it will just take some getting used I guess.
Hi, thanks for your comment and visiting my blog. I still have mixed feelings about the sign. I’m glad the old one was still there, but it was falling apart and needed to be replaced. Maybe the new one will grow on future climbers. All the best in the new year.
I have literally just returned from summiting Kili earlier this week! The green sign may not have the charm that that the old wooden one did however one year later it is now covered in stickers and bits of bunting left by successful climbers and the green (in my opinion) isn’t quite as vivid and garish as it was when new! It certainly didn’t disappoint me when I reached the top and if anything at least it will withstand the vicious and fluctuating weather conditions up there.
Congratulations, Georgiana, for reaching the summit! It’s quite an accomplishment. It’s good to hear that the climbers are starting to leave their marks on the new sign like they did with the old. The green sign might not be the same as the old one, but it can still be personalized. Again, congrats! A job well done. 🙂
They replaced an iconic wooden sign that you knew by its appearance that someone had carried each piece up on his back with a road sign that could be on any highway on the planet. To make it worse the yellow on green is hard to read in many photos! I am so glad I reached the summit two months before this change!