The 10 Highest Mountains in Africa

January 15, 2024

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Climber descending Mount Kilimanjaro

When you picture Africa, it’s likely you think of scorching hot savannas, miles of desert, and spectacular wildlife. However, Africa’s landscape also features hundreds of mammoth mountains, such as the great Mount Kilimanjaro.

Many of Africa’s mountains have multiple peaks. For example, Mount Kilimanjaro has three peaks that all reach over 4,000 meters (13,000 feet). For the purposes of this article, we’ve looked at the tallest peak for each mountain.

So get your hiking boots on as we take a look at the 10 highest mountains in Africa!

1. Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro's snow-covered peak, surrounded by clouds
Peak of Mount Kilimanjaro
Height: 5,895 m (19,341 ft)
Mountain range: Kilimanjaro
Highest Peak: Kibo
Country: Tanzania

Not only is Mount Kilimanjaro the highest mountain in Africa, but it’s also the largest free-standing mountain rise in the world. Kibo Peak is one of three peaks that creates Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit. As the tallest peak, Kibo Peak is the goal for most climbers who ascend the mountain.

Kibo Peak is connected to Mawenzi Peak by a 4,420 meter (14,500 foot) saddle. Mawenzi Peak stands at a height of 5,149 meters (16,893 feet), while the third peak, Shira, is 3,962 meters (13,000 feet) high. The three peaks are volcanos: Kibo is dormant, whereas Mawenzi and Shira are extinct. Scientists estimate that Kibo Peak last erupted around 360,000 years ago.

German geographer Hans Meyer and Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller were the first people to reach Kibo Peak’s summit successfully. They accomplished the feat in 1889, several years before the first successful ascent to Mawenzi was made by German mountaineers in 1912.

Mount Kilimanjaro has five climatic zones: rainforest, heathland, moorland, alpine desert, and arctic.

2. Mount Kenya

A herd of elephants gathered around a lake. Mount Kenya is a silhouette in the background, partially covered in clouds.
Elephants drinking at a lake and Mount Kenya is silhouetted in the distance
Height: 5,196 m (17,047 ft)
Mountain range: Mount Kenya
Highest Peak: Batian
Country: Kenya

At 5,196 meters (17,047 feet), Mount Kenya is the second-highest mountain in Africa. The extinct volcano was last active around 3.1 to 2.6 million years ago.

In 1899, European mountaineers Mackinder, Ollier, and Brocherel made the first successful ascent. Although Mount Kenya is less famous than Mount Kilimanjaro, it’s still popular among climbers. Many consider it more challenging than Kilimanjaro. It requires technical climbing techniques and different ice, rock, and snow climbing skills.

Mount Kenya was once known for its excellent ice-climbing opportunities. Unfortunately, global warming is dramatically affecting the mountain as ice formations and glaciers melt away. There are now only 12 glaciers remaining, and some scientists predict that the remaining glaciers will have completely melted by 2050. The two most popular ice routes are the Diamond Couloir and the Ice Window route, but these are becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous as the ice melts.

3. Mount Stanley

Peak of Mount Stanely
Mount Stanley, Rwenzori Mountains
Height: 5,109 m (16,762 ft)
Mountain range: Rwenzori Mountains
Highest Peak: Margherita
Country: Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda

Mount Stanley is named after the Welsh-American journalist and explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley. It’s located in Rwenzori Mountains National Park, a UNESCO-recognized world Heritage Site. The mountain and National Park are home to diverse wildlife, including many endangered species. Mount Stanley is also an essential source of water for surrounding communities.

In 1906, Luigi Amedeo (Duke of the Abruzzi), J. Petigax, C. Ollier, and J. Brocherel made the first recorded ascent. The highest summit on the mountain, Margherita Peak, is named after Queen Margherita of Italy, Luigi Amedeo’s aunt.

Mount Stanley has two twin peaks and several smaller peaks. Margherita Peak is the highest at 5,109 meters (16,762 feet), followed by Alexandra at 5,091 meters (16,703 feet).

4. Mount Speke

Snow capped peak of Mount Speke
Snow on the peak of Mount Speke
Height: 4,890 m (16,043 ft)
Mountain range: Rwenzori Mountains
Highest Peak: Vittorio Emanuele
Country: Uganda

As with Mount Stanley, Mount Speke is located in Uganda’s Ruwenzori Mountains National Park. Along with Mount Baker (Africa’s fifth-highest mountain), the three mountains form a triangle that encloses the upper Bujuku Valley.

Vittorio Emanuele is Mount Speke’s highest peak at 4,890 meters (16,040 feet). Ensonga, Johnston and Trident are the next highest peaks. Each one is named after a member of the Italian Royal Family. The mountain itself is named after Englishman John Speke, who made three exploratory expeditions to Africa during the 19th century.

Mount Speke experiences heavy rainfall, which results in multiple streams and rivers. The rain also causes dense flora on the mountain. Heavy rainfall can make climbing Mount Speke more difficult and potentially dangerous.

5. Mount Baker

Mt Baker and Laku Bujuku as seen from Bujuku Camp in Rwenzori Mountains Uganda
Mount Baker and Laku Bujuku as seen from Bujuku Camp
Height: 4,844 m (15,892 ft)
Mountain range: Rwenzori Mountains
Highest Peak: Edward
Country: Uganda

The third-highest mountain in Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Mount Baker stands at 4,844 meters (15,892 feet) high. It’s approximately 1.4 miles (2.26 kilometers) from Mount Stanley in a mountainous area called The Mountains of the Moon.

The ridge line of Mount Baker was first ascended in January 1906 by Austrian mountaineer Rubert Grauer and British missionaries H. W. Tegart and H.E. Maddox. Mount Baker’s highest peak (Edward Peak) was summited by an expedition team led by the Duke of the Abruzzi in June of the same year.

Following an expedition by Klaus Thymann in 2020, it was confirmed that Mount Baker had no more glaciers. In the same expedition, the same was found of Mount Speke.

6. Mount Emin

Group of people climbing in the Rwenzori Mountains
Mountaineers ascending in the Rwenzori Mountains
Height: 4,798 m (15,741 ft)
Mountain range: Rwenzori Mountains
Highest Peak: Umberto
Country: Democratic Republic of Congo

Mount Emin is part of the Rwenzori Mountain Range in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It features two summits: Umberto, which stands at 4,798 meters (15,741 feet), and Kraepelin, which is 15,720 feet (4,791 meters). Both summits are between the Uganda and Congo border, but it’s easier to climb from the Congo side.

The mountain was named after a German doctor called Mehmed Emin Pasha (baptized Eduard Schnitzer). Dr Emin Pasha widely explored central Africa during the 19th century. Mount Emin was first ascended by the Duke of Abruzzi in 1906.

Mount Emin can be climbed year-round, although the best conditions are during the dry months. January, February, June, July, and August usually have the least rainfall.

7. Mount Gessi

View of the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda, including Mount Gessi
The Rwenzori Mountains. Mount Gessi is the peak on the far right,
Height: 4,715 m (15,469 ft)
Mountain range: Rwenzori Mountains
Highest Peak: Lolanda
Country: Uganda

Named after Italian explorer Romulo Gessi, this mountain is located in the Rwenzori Mountain Range. It has twin peaks: Lolanda is the higher of the two at 4,715 meters (15,470 feet), while Bottego stands at 4,699 meters (15,418 feet)

Mount Gessi is separated from the nearby Mount Emin by a narrow valley. As with most other mountains in the Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Mount Emin has different ecosystems from its base to peak. The mountain slopes range from luscious green vegetation at the lower elevations to jagged rocks and rough terrain at the higher elevations.

The mountain once had several glaciers near its peak, but these have melted away in recent years. This is the same fate that most of Earth’s mountain glaciers face. The route that the Duke of Abruzzi climbed when he first ascended the mountain in 1906 has also melted away.

8. Mount Meru

The peak of Mount Meru in Tanzania
The peak of Mount Meru
Height: 4,566 m (14,980 ft)
Mountain range: Mount Meru
Country: Tanzania

Sometimes called Mount Kilimanjaro’s little brother, Mount Meru is Tanzania’s second-highest mountain. Climbers often use it as a practice before they attempt to climb Africa’s highest mountain. One of the benefits to climbing Mount Meru before Kilimanjaro is that it helps climbers acclimatize before they attempt the larger mountain.

Mount Meru is a 14,980 feet (4,566 meters) high dormant stratovolcano. It’s located approximately 43 miles (70 kilometers) west of Kilimanjaro in the Meru Mountain Range. The mountain’s height was dramatically reduced around 7,800 years ago following a summit collapse. Its most recent eruption was in 1910.

In 1904, the mountain was first ascended by German geologist and explorer Fritz Jaeger. Unlike Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru doesn’t attract large crowds and therefore offers a more peaceful hiking experience.

Due to the fertile land on its slopes, there is an abundance of wildlife on Mount Meru’s slopes. It hosts nearly 400 different species of birds, monkeys and leopards.

9. Ras Dashen

Ras Dashen in the Simien Mountains
View of Ras Dashen
Height: 4,533 m | 14,872 ft
Mountain range: Simien Mountains
Country: Ethiopia

Although only the ninth-highest mountain in Africa, Ras Dashen is the highest peak in Ethiopia. It’s located in the Simien Mountain Range in the northern region of the country. The first recorded ascent of the mountain was by French officers Ferret and Galinier in 1841. Although no official records exist, locals may have made ascents before this due to the relatively calm climate and conditions.

Heavy snowfall often occurs during the night, but it usually melts within a few hours due to the hot temperatures during the day.

It usually takes climbers around 12 hours to ascend the mountain and climb back down. Most mountaineers spend two or three nights on the mountain’s lower slopes to acclimatize to the higher altitude before they properly begin the ascent.

The Simien Mountain Range is famous of its endemic Gelada monkeys (sometimes called Gelada baboons), which are found in the highlands of the park. They are the only species of grass-grazing monkey and are the most terrestrial primate (apart from humans).

10. Mount Karisimbi

Thick cloud passing over Mount Karisimbi
Mount Karisimbi partially obscured by cloud
Height: 4,507 m | 14,786 ft
Mountain range: Virunga Mountains
Country: Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda

Mount Karisimbi is an active stratovolcano in the Virunga Mountain Range. It lies on the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Its name originates from the word ‘amasimbi’, which means ‘snow’ in the local language. Snow is usually found on the mountain peak in the dry season (June to August).

This mountain is the highest of the eight major mountains in the Virunga Mountain Range. Hiking up Mount Karisimbi is physically challenging and mountaineers are required to be of a good fitness level before attempting it.

The mountain is perhaps best known for its gorilla population. There were approximately 10 gorillas recorded when the group was last documented in 2016. Visitors who participate in gorilla trekking safaris in the national park often stop by the grave of Dian Fossey, an American primatologist and conservationist who extensively studied gorillas.

Overview: Africa’s highest mountains

RankMountainHeight (m)Height (ft)Mountain RangeCountry
1Mount Kilimanjaro5,89519,341Mount KilimanjaroTanzania
2Mount Kenya5,19617,047Mount KenyaKenya
3Mount Stanley5,11916,794Rwenzori Mountain RangeDemocratic Republic of Congo, Uganda
4Mount Speke4,89016,043Rwenzori Mountain RangeUganda
5Mount Baker4,84415,892Rwenzori Mountain RangeUganda
6Mount Emin4,79815,741Rwenzori Mountain RangeDemocratic Republic of Congo
7Mount Gessi4,71515,469Rwenzori Mountain RangeUganda
8Mount Meru4,56614,980Meru Mountain RangeTanzania
9Ras Dashen4,53314,872Simien Mountain RangeEthiopia
10Mount Karisimbi4,50714,786Virunga Mountain RangeDemocratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda

Africa’s highest mountain is Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, which stands at 19,341 feet (5,895 meters). Mount Meru (the eighth-highest mountain) is located nearby. Several of Africa’s highest mountains are found in the Rwenzori Mountain Range in Uganda. These mountains are collectively known as Mountains of the Moon.

Hundreds of different species, such as the endemic Gelada monkeys and mountain gorillas are found on and around the mountains. There are often several different ecosystems found on the mountains, ranging from luscious vegetation at lower elevations to rocky terrain near the peaks.

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