How Stella Point was named after Estella Latham, the first woman to reach this point
Stella Point

Estella Latham’s incredible spirit, known for its unwavering determination and unwavering courage, is forever etched into the annals of history. It is her indomitable will that has left an indelible mark on the world, a mark that is monumentally honored by the presence of Stella Point. This remarkable and awe-inspiring landmark, situated in close proximity to the majestic pinnacle of Mount Kilimanjaro, serves as a testament to Estella Latham’s extraordinary journey. As one stands in the awe-inspiring shadow of this towering mountain, it is impossible not to be captivated by the sheer magnitude of Estella Latham’s triumphant story. Her tale of resilience, perseverance, and unyielding passion resonates deep within the core of every adventurer’s soul who seeks to conquer the great heights of Kilimanjaro. Stella Point, with its grandeur and captivating allure, has become a cherished emblem of Estella Latham’s enduring legacy. It symbolizes the triumph over adversity, the conquering of personal limits, and serves as a beacon of hope for all those who dare to dream. Over the course of time, Mount Kilimanjaro has been a silent witness to countless captivating narratives, but Estella Latham’s story radiates with a brilliance that distinguishes it from all others. Her relentless pursuit of her dreams, her unwavering determination, and her remarkable resilience have left an indelible impression upon the very fabric of this awe-inspiring mountain. In the presence of Stella Point, one can almost feel the echoes of Estella Latham’s extraordinary journey reverberating through the air. It serves as a reminder that within each of us resides the potential for greatness, and that no mountain, physical or metaphorical, is insurmountable. We are inspired to reach for the summits of our own lives, fueled by the spirit of Estella Latham and the remarkable legacy she has bestowed upon us all.

Read about Stella Point, one of Kilimanjaro’s summit point

Stella’s Early Life and Move to Africa

Estella Latham, born in the picturesque town of Youghal, Ireland, in the year 1901, embarked on a remarkable journey that would forever leave an indelible imprint on the glorious Mount Kilimanjaro’s history. Tragically bereaved at a tender age, Estella, affectionately known as Stella, found solace and guidance in the loving care of her elder sister, Kathleen. It was Stella’s unwavering passion for horticulture that eventually led her to the captivating lands of South Africa, where the fateful encounter with a notable agricultural officer, known as Kingsley Latham, would forever alter her destiny. United in love and purpose, the couple embarked on a life-changing voyage to Tanzania, a place destined to become the backdrop for their magnificent achievements.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

The Latham family had a longstanding tradition of engaging in mountaineering activities, making the sight of Kilimanjaro an irresistible temptation. Stella and Kingsley’s endeavor to conquer Kilimanjaro was driven by a simple yet compelling fact that the magnificent mountain was there, waiting to be conquered. While Hans Meyer, the first person to successfully reach the summit of Kilimanjaro in 1889, utilized the present-day Marangu route for his groundbreaking accomplishment, the Lathams opted for a more challenging and steeper trail known as the Maua trail. This particular path now serves as a direct route to Horombo Hut. The decision to choose this route was primarily influenced by the desire to avoid a smallpox outbreak that had occurred at a lower altitude along the standard Marangu route. Despite the inherent dangers and difficulties that lay ahead, Stella’s determination remained unyielding. In July 1925, they gathered a local guide, cook, and a group of porters to accompany them on their daring expedition.

Reaching Stella Point

Stella’s diary thoroughly documents the Latham’s arduous journey, outlining the numerous challenges they encountered while attempting to conquer Africa’s tallest peak. It is worth noting that during that time period, the routes to the summit were not well established, and the rugged terrain presented immense difficulties. Furthermore, mountaineering clothing was quite basic, devoid of any technical fabrics that we have today. Consequently, the alpine conditions were significantly more demanding back then, in stark contrast to the conditions climbers face on Mount Kilimanjaro today. Stella vividly described the biting cold temperature, which made it incredibly challenging for them to stay warm and consequently drained their strength. She also highlighted a substantial navigational error that they made, a mistake that further depleted their already limited energy reserves. Nevertheless, despite these setbacks, Stella and Kingsley persevered and managed to surpass Hans Meyer’s Notch by a few hundred feet. This pivotal moment marked Stella as the first woman to reach this specific spot on the rim of the crater, forever known as “Stella Point.”

How Stella Point Got Its Name

Stella meticulously documented the final moments of their ascent in her personal journal. She noted that the highest point they were able to discern was not a typical peak, but rather a snow-covered cap on a rocky cliff located opposite the Notch. With determination, they set their sights on reaching this specific location. Initially, they began by navigating the icy rim surrounding the crater. However, as they realized the treacherous nature of this path, they slowly maneuvered their way back and descended onto the rocky surface lining one side of the crater. Their progress was interrupted when Kingsley suddenly found himself overwhelmed by exhaustion and sickness. Recognizing their limitations, they made the difficult decision to abandon their pursuit of reaching the point across from the Notch. At that moment, they found themselves situated at the base of the towering rock pinnacle within the crater rim. Driven by their indomitable spirit, they bravely scaled this pinnacle, leaving behind a tangible mark of their presence in the form of a record housed within a glass jar. On their record card, they christened the pinnacle with the name “Point Stella”, on the condition that it hadn’t already been assigned a name. It was Kingsley who bestowed the title of “Point Stella” upon the highest point they managed to reach, in a gesture of admiration and tribute to Stella. Throughout their arduous expedition, her unwavering bravery and exceptional leadership qualities served as an extraordinary source of inspiration.

The record card left at the point stated:

Estella M Latham Kingsley Latham of the Mountain Club of South Africa arrived at this specific location on Monday 13th July 1925, at precisely 12.10 p.m., accompanied by two indigenous individuals named Filipos and Sambuananga. Our initial goal was to proceed towards KW Spitz, yet our endeavor was hindered by my partial snow blindness, mountain sickness, and exhaustion. Consequently, it was my wife who possessed the fitness to reach the Spitz and lead us back to this point, as my own condition rendered me incapable of leading the way. In recognition of her remarkable achievement, I decided to name the exact spot we reached “POINT STELLA”. Subsequently, Kingsley officially registered the name “Point Stella” with the mountain club of South Africa. At present, a sign board has been erected at the precise location, prominently indicating Stella Point, which stands at a staggering elevation of 18,885 feet (5,756 meters) above the sea level.

After the Climb

Stella never ventured to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro again, but Kingsley took the chance many years later, precisely in 1937. Unfortunately, his experience didn’t unfold as planned; while scaling the upper slopes, he suddenly collapsed, losing consciousness, seemingly due to an aneurysm. When he eventually regained consciousness in the hospital, he found himself gripped by nearly complete amnesia. Kingsley faced an arduous journey towards recovery, needing to rediscover basic skills like reading, writing, walking, and speaking. His health deteriorated to the point of retirement. Stella and Kingsley ultimately decided to settle down and bought a coffee plantation in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe, where they spent the remainder of their lives. Together, they raised their three sons, Patrick, Robert, and Jim.

A Tribute to Courage

According to various reports, Stella was a diminutive woman, standing at a height of less than five feet. Nevertheless, during the Latham’s expedition in 1925, her remarkable inner strength and mental resilience were on full display. In a time when women’s accomplishments were often overlooked, Stella emerged as an inspirational figure. Today, Stella Point serves as a guiding light for all climbers, symbolizing the unwavering human spirit and paying homage to a pioneering figure on Kilimanjaro. While official records may not completely capture the extent of Estella Latham’s contributions, the anecdotes and personal testimonies from those who were acquainted with her ensure that her legacy persists.


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