Henry Hamilton Johnston

Name ID 698

See also

Dundas, Charles Kilimanjaro and its People
Page Number: 21
Extract Date: 1889

This first conquest of Kibo

In the following years several Missionaries and sportsmen visited various parts of the mountain, while Sir H. H. Johnston studied its flora and fauna. But not until 1887 was any serious attempt made to reach the top. In this year Count Teleki climbed to a height of 15,800 feet, and in August of the same year Dr. Hans Meyer, following the route taken by Count Teleki, attained the altitude of 18,000 feet. Here he came on an unscalable glacier wall, and was compelled to turn back. Renewing his attempt Meyer finally reached the summit in 1889 in company with Ludwig Purtscheller.

This first conquest of Kibo was the severest under-taking that has been, or is likely to be, required of anyone ascending the mountain. Meyer had then not discovered the notch in the ice wall of the crater rim, which by reason of the diminishing ice makes the ascent easier year by year. His ascent was therefore made over the Ratzel glacier which could only be scaled with ice axes. Every step required some twenty strokes of the axe, and the labour entailed for this purpose at such an altitude and whilst climbing at an angle of 35, must have been immense; added to this Meyer and his companion were in imminent danger, especially as Meyer himself had no climbing irons, and any step must inevitably have buried them down into the 3,000 feet abyss which yawns below the Western side of the glacier. A former traveller, Ehlers, who had alleged that he reached the North-western summit, reported that there was no trace of a crater. Meyer may have doubted this statement, but there could be no certainty on the point until he topped the rim and suddenly saw before him the huge crater with its frozen floor 600 feet below. It must have been a thrilling moment, and the consciousness that he and his companion stood there, the first men to behold this wonder and to reveal the secret Kilimanjaro had kept concealed through ages, must have been an inspiring thought.

Extract ID: 3137

See also

Amin, Mohamed; Willetts, Duncan and Marshall, Peter Journey Through Tanzania
Page Number: 168-9

Sighting of Kilimanjaro.

It was 13 years before Rebman’s sighting [of Kilimanjaro in 1848] was confirmed by the German Officer Baron Karl Klaus von der Decken and the young British geologist Richard Thornton. Von de Decken climbed to about 14,000 feet and experienced a fall of snow. Thornton made many observations of the mountain and estimated accurately that it stood about 20,000 feet above sea level. Six years later the missionary Charles New managed to reach the snowline. Then in 1884 the naturalist Henry Hamilton Johnston made an intensive study of the flora and fauna.

Extract ID: 655

See also

Fosbrooke, H.A. The Early Exploration of Kilimanjaro: A Bibliographical Note
Page Number: 10
Extract Date: August 1884

Sir Harry Johnston

Sir Harry Johnston was however a serious contender, when, during the course of.his six months sojourn in Chaggaland in 1884 he made two attempts at the mountain. On the first, made in August/September 1884 from Moshi (Mandara's) he climbed to 9,000 feet (Johnston 1886, pp. 229-237) whilst on the second he left Marangu in October, and spent most of that month camped above the forest at nearly 10,000 feet (op. cit. pp. 259-274). From this camp, which he estimates was 4 miles from Mawenzi and 7 from Kibo.

He, unaccompanied, made a determined attempt at the latter. He reached the snow line and thought of turning back but states "Nevertheless I thought 'only a little farther and perhaps I may ascend above, the clouds and stand gazing down into the crater of Kilimanjaro from its snowy rim" . So, encouraged by this thought, he struggled on to an altitude he puts at 16,315 feet, but by 4.30 p.m. he was forced to turn back. Next day but one he made a second attempt, but was turned back by bad weather.

The interesting point about this account is the reference to the crater. To date, no one had claimed to have climed Kibo or mentioned the existence of a crater; was this just deduction on Johnston's part or had he in fact picked up a story from some local Chagga who had in fact scaled the mountain and told him of the existence of a crater ?

Some years later Hans Meyer, the Conquerer of Kilimanjaro, refutes the claim of Abbott and Ehlers to have reached the summit because they made no mention of a crater. This is logical enough but they could if they had wished, have claimed the existence of a crater merely by referring to Johnston.

Extract ID: 4553