Mount Kilimanjaro

First Person to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

The German professor/geographer/mountaineer's 1889 expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro didn’t miss any kind of preparations. He had considerable backup parties with him including his friend, Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller.

German geographer and explorer Hans Meyer and Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller were the first individuals to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

The German Austrian duo successfully conquered the first-ever recorded climb of the tallest mountain in Africa in 1889.

Before the successful conquest of the summit, the German colonization of East Africa saw many attempts to scale the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. In a rush wave to record the name in history, many European mountaineers tried to scale this massive mountain.

Two years prior to the successful conquest by Meyer and Purtscheller, another Austro-Hungarian mountaineer Count Samuel Teleki tried scaling the freestanding mountain in 1887. However, due to sustaining an ear injury, and straining the membrane of the tympanum, Teleki had to withdraw from the conquest.

First Person to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro | Who was Hans Meyer?

First Person to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro | Who was Hans Meyer?

Born on 22nd March 1858, Hans Meyer was a German geographer, professor, and explorer from Hildburghausen. After the Germna’s colonial rule expanded to East Africa, Myer was among the expeditioners who wanted to set their name in history as the climber of the tallest mountain in Africa. The German geographer/professor was the first person to successfully scale the Uhuru and Kibo peak at the summit of Kilimanjaro.

But before his victory in 1889, Meyer had tried scaling the tallest peak in Africa in 1887 as well. During his first ascend of the mountain, he reached to the lower edge of the ice cap of the Kibo peak. However, the German professor/geographer wasn’t prepared for the ice segment on the mountain. So, he was forced to turn back because he lacked the equipment to conquer his dream of scaling Kilimanjaro.

Meyer was also planning an expedition to Kilimanjaro in the following year after his first attempt. But, his second ascent to the mountain with cartographer Oscar Baumann met an unexpected turn. Both Meyers and Baumann were held hostage for ransom during the Abhushiri Revolt (1888-1889).

Son of Wealthy Editor

Hans Meyer, the first person to climb Mount Kilimanjaro came from a wealthy family. He was the son of a wealthy editor based in Leipzig. The German geographer/professor himself had joined the editorial board inheriting his father’s will. But, he retired from the board in 1888 to become the professor of Colonial Geographic at Leipzig University, just a year before his successful conquest of the one and only freestanding mountain Mt. Kilimanjaro.

After reaching the elevation point of 5,400 meters during his first ascend, so around the time Meyer quit his father’s editorial board, he teamed up with his African traveler friend Oscar Baumann for the second expedition on the mountain in 1888.

However, amidst the Abhushiri Revolt, both Meyer and Baumann were held hostage by Sheikh Abhushiri himself, the leader of the Abhushiri War (Arabs led a revolt against the Germans on the East African Coast). 10,000 rupees was paid to free the duo explorer from the captivity of Sheikh Abhushiri. Thus, the successful conquest took place in 1989 not in 1988.

First Successful Scaling of Mount Kilimanjaro

Hans Meyer's 1889 caravan on its way to Kilimanjaro (Meyer 1891 Public domain)
Hans Meyer’s 1889 caravan on its way to Kilimanjaro (Meyer 1891 Public domain)

Determined to make it all the way to the top in his third attempt, the German geographer/mountaineering pioneer launched a full-scale assault on the tallest mountain in Africa. This time around the German mountaineer and geographer knew what was the biggest obstacle that got in the way of a successful ascent to the summit, lack of food.

Thus, addressing this significant issue, the German professor/geographer established camping zones on the various points of the mountain. His designated camping sites on Kilimanjaro mountain varied from the altitude of 3,894 meters at Abbots’ slightly scaling to 4,263 meters at Kibo, from Kibo to a small camping site beside a magma cave at 4,700 meters and the final stretch to the camping site below the glacier line at the altitude of 4,578 meters.

But, despite establishing several base camps throughout the massive mountain in Africa, Meyer’s victory was immediate. However, due to his strategic location of the base camps throughout the routes to the summit, food and beverages were brought to the German professor/geographer. Thanks to the food brought by the porters to the base camps in the span of a few days, Meyer was able to make multiple attempts to push all the way to the top.

History of Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

The German professor/geographer/mountaineer’s 1889 expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro didn’t miss any kind of preparations. He had considerable bacup parties with him including his friend, Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller. The expedition team was backed up by two local headmen familiar with the region, nine porters to carry the luggage, equipment, and food to the established base camps including one guide and one cook by his local-chief friend Mareable, with whom he bonded during the first adventure in the mountain.

For his remarkable achievement in the history of mountaineering in Africa, Hans Meyers received recognition from the Tanzanian authority. The cave named after him ‘Hans Meyer Cave’ is recognized by the Tanzanian government as the top attraction on the Kilimanjaro expedition. The Hans Meyer Cave, a famous volcano rock and cave on the Kilimanjaro slopes is at an altitude of 5,150 meters.

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