What You Need To Know Before Climbing Kilimanjaro
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What You Need To Know Before Climbing Kilimanjaro

 

Did the Kilimanjaro bug bite you? Are you now thinking about climbing Kilimanjaro all day every day? We know how it feels. It’s a yearning for the Roof of Africa, an unstoppable hunger for conquering Uhuru Peak and a craving for the raw adventure that a Kilimanjaro climb comes with. Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the Seven Summits and although it is considered to be one of the easier ones, climbing it is by no means a walk in the park.

Mount Kilimanjaro is 5 895 meters high and has been the tough guy for the last 3 million years. For the last 130 years, the mountain has been making the lives of climbers extremely difficult, but so worthwhile. With the right preparations and having the right questions answered you can make it to the highest summit on the African continent. Are you ready to take on Kilimanjaro? This is all you need to know.

How Long Does it Take To Climb Kilimanjaro?

We know you can’t take all the leave in the world and it is very likely that you are trying to squeeze a Kilimanjaro climb into your much-deserved week’s break from work. Technically this is possible, but if you want to make it to Uhuru Peak we would advise against cutting it short. Once you are on your way to Kilimanjaro, you might as well take it easy. Life is already short and climbing Kilimanjaro could be a once in a lifetime adventure. Why wouldn’t you enjoy it?

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Climbing Kilimanjaro can take anything between 5 and 9 days. We hear you asking: “Why do it in 9 days if you can do it in 5 or 6 days?” Well, the answer to that question is not that simple if you have just started looking at your options for climbing Kilimanjaro. It all comes down to acclimatization. The guys who choose to climb Kilimanjaro in 9 days have the best chances to actually make it to the top. The guys who do it in 5 days may get super nauseous half-way and are pushed to cut things-short. These guys have chosen to the Marangu Route, and although they have had the privilege of staying in huts, their acclimatization wasn’t really text-book best practice.

If you want to have adequate acclimatization and minimize the risks of Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS), you shouldn’t be going for the fastest way up. Take the slower one. If you see a 6-day version of the Machame Route and you compare it to the 7-day version, don’t look at the price. No, look at the duration. 7 days beats 6 days. If you ignored this advice and you find yourself vomiting at Stella Point, then remember what we said.

Best Time to Climb Kilimanjaro

If you are wondering when you should climb Kilimanjaro then you should know that your options are wide open. Mount Kilimanjaro does not have closing times and you can basically start your climb at any time of the year. There are of course peak seasons and low seasons and if you are looking for the best time to climb Kilimanjaro, then you should know that most people choose to head for Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira from January to March and from June to October.

The first peak season of the year, from January to March, comes with higher chances of seeing snow on the summit. From June to October, you might not see snow, but you will definitely see a whole lot more people. This is because of the fact that many people from Northern Europe and Northern America decide to spend their summer leave in Tanzania.

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If neither of those timeframes is interesting to you, you can decide to climb Kilimanjaro in the low season. The wet months are March, April, and November. Note that during the wet season the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro can be quite muddy. If you are looking for the perfect route for these months, you should highly consider the Rongai Route. This route ascends Kilimanjaro from the Kenyan side and sees less rainfall. It is also less technical.

The seasons for climbing Kilimanjaro are determined by trade winds and the actual conditions during your ascent are controlled by the different climate zones that you can find on Kili. If you want to know about trade winds, rainy seasons and dry seasons, you should check out our blog post about the best season for climbing Kilimanjaro.

How Much Does it Cost to Climb Kilimanjaro?

Climbing Kilimanjaro is not a cheap affair but if you know what all goes into a Kilimanjaro climbing expedition, you will understand that it can definitely be done affordably. Kili is actually one of the most affordable ones of the Seven Summits. If you want to climb Mount Everest for example, you are looking at around 40.000 USD. Fortunately, trekking to Everest Base Camp is not that crazy expensive.

There are quite a few things that you have to take into consideration when you are doing the financial planning of your Kilimanjaro ascent. First of all, you have to fly to either Mount Kilimanjaro International Airport, to Arusha, Nairobi or Dar es Salaam. Depending on where you are flying from and your travel class, this can be the bulk of your cost. Next, you will need accommodation in Moshi or Arusha. Then you have to consider the route that you choose. This is where the hidden costs pop up. There are park fees, food for yourself, your porters and your guide(s), the number of days on the mountain, rescue fees, conservation fees, camping fees, and hut fees. Read more about the park fees for Kilimanjaro National Park.

You also can’t leave your guide(s) and porters empty-handed once your a back down from the mountain. They will expect to receive some tips from you. Although these tips will not be the dealbreaker, you have to them into consideration. Expect to pay an additional 200 USD. It can be more and it can be less. Here you can find an extensive tipping guide for your guide(s), cook(s) and porters.

All-in-all, you could climb Kilimanjaro for about 5000 USD, 4400 EUR or 4000 GBP. Want to know more? Read this blog post about the costs of climbing Kilimanjaro.

How Hard Is It To Climb Kilimanjaro?

We will be the last persons to tell you that climbing Kilimanjaro is easy. For the last 130 years, Kilimanjaro has made the lives of climbers difficult. Some climbers were sucked up and spit out and had to trot right back to where they started. Climbing Kilimanjaro can be hard. But you can make it easy. One way to make it easy is to be here, to read this piece, to do your homework adequately. Research your route options, know everything about acclimatization and get the right trekking and climbing gear packed.

If you are very old or super young, you will probably have it difficult when climbing Kilimanjaro. Having said that, the youngest climber of Kilimanjaro is only 6 years old. If you are very much overweight or very disabled, you can probably also forget the idea of making it to Uhuru Peak. There are absolutely exceptions and our trekking experts can help you to find a tailored Kilimanjaro climbing expedition but know what you are getting yourself into if you are not the average Joe. Average Joe? That’s right. An average Joe can definitely make it to the summit of Kilimanjaro.

It all comes down to the magic words pole pole which mean slow slow in Swahili. The fittest guys tend to be haraka haraka which is definitely too fast. Make sure your cardiovascular system is healthy, you have done your lunges and squats, and most importantly: That you have done a healthy dose of hiking in the build-up to your climb. Stamina is another deciding factor. If you need some inspiration to get your headspace right for climbing Kilimanjaro, then we can suggest to read these inspirational quotes for hiking and trekking. Write your favorite ones down and keep them aside for when the going gets tough on the way to Kibo.

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Earlier we said that Kilimanjaro is for the Average Joe. True, but there are exceptional examples of people who set themselves apart from the Average Joe. Ultra-runner Kilian Jornet made it from Umbwe Gate to Uhuru Peak in 5 hours, 23 minutes and 9 seconds. Ester and Martin Kafer ascended Kilimanjaro when they were respectively 84 and 85 years old. Kyle Maynard climbed Kilimanjaro without arms and legs. He crawled to the summit of Kilimanjaro.

It turns out that climbing Kilimanjaro is only as hard as you make it yourself.

Best Route to Climb Kilimanjaro

By now you already know that climbing Kilimanjaro is not a walk in the park. You have also learned that longer you take, the more likely you will be successful. For a large part, the formula to success boils down to the route you choose. If you are thinking of climbing Kilimanjaro there are six routes to choose from: Lemosho Route, Machame Route, Marangu Route, Northern Circuit, Rongai Route and Umbwe Route. Are there any other routes? The Shira Route is another route, but after the Lemosho Route was created, this route is pretty much dead. Why? Because the Lemosho Route was specifically designed with acclimatization in mind. Longer days on the mountain, climb high / sleep low and better scenes.

Earlier we already mentioned that the Rongai Route is a great option for the rainy days and that the success rates for the Marangu Route are not great. This is a pity because many people who think of climbing Kilimanjaro think the Marangu Route is the best option. They call it the Tourist Route or the Coca-Cola Route after all, right? Yes. But those huts on the route are not that well equipped and you might actually be better of sharing a tent with your best friend than sleep dormitory-style in one of the Marangu huts. If you consider the double-layered sleeping mats and the expedition tents that porters carry for you on other climbing routes, the Marangu Route is really not that great.

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The Machame Route, also known as the Whisky Route, is also a good option. It is wildly popular as well, and that makes that the prices of trekking expeditions on the Machame are relatively low. The Northern Circuit is known for its longer time on the mountain. with nearly 90 kilometers of hiking, it is definitely the longest walk in the park. Northern Circuit climbers are rewarded with the highest success rates and the most beautiful views of the mountain. If you ask us the Northern Circuit Route is the best route to climb Kilimanjaro. But, if you don’t want to spend too much time on your legs, we would say that the Northern Circuit shares first place with the Lemosho Route.

Looking for an overview of all Kilimanjaro climbing routes and maps? Here you go.

Can You Climb Kilimanjaro Without a Guide?

No, you can’t. It’s as simple as that. Even if you are completely on your own and you have done all the major peaks in the rest of the world with ease, you can not climb Kilimanjaro on your own. By Tanzanian law, you must have at least two porters and a guide by your side. Fair enough, the guy who ran in little over 5 hours to Uhuru Peak wasn’t accompanied by porters or a guide, but by default, you can not climb Kilimanjaro without support staff. If you think you should climb Kilimanjaro just to save on the price, then you should know that almost 70% of Tanzanians live below the poverty line. The fact that you are reading about climbing Kilimanjaro probably means that you could make a plan to rake together that little bit of extra money for a guide and porters.

What is the Cheapest Way to Climb Kilimanjaro?

By now we have discussed the best routes, the total cost of a Kilimanjaro climb and the non-possibility of ascending Kilimanjaro completely solo. If you are looking for the cheapest way to climb Kilimanjaro then you have to forget about the high success rates of the Lemosho Route and the Northern Circuit and you must focus on the Machame and the Marangu Route. Especially the latter is an affordable option. You can book a 6-day version of the Marangu Route for as little as 1345 USD. This includes everything you would normally expect on a Kilimanjaro climb transfers from the airport to your accommodation and the gate, guide(s), porters, cook(s), hot meals daily when on the mountain, treated and filtered water, hot water for washing, first aid kids, accommodation in huts, fees and a fair salary, food and insurance for guide and porter(s).

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Prices for the Machame Route can be as low as 1405 USD and for that amount, you will be staying in four-season mountain tents, sleepings mats will be provided and you can enjoy everything else that you would normally enjoy on a Kilimanjaro ascent.

How To Train for Climbing Kilimanjaro?

If you are wondering about how to train for your Kilimanjaro climb, you can use these five steps to become the best version of yourself. Fitness is not as important as the right acclimatization, but it can definitely make things easier and help you on your way to Uhuru Peak.

  1. Aerobic fitness: You best get moving as soon as you have your mind set on your Kilimanjaro climb. With the right aerobic fitness, you will have an improved heart rate, healthy muscles, and great lung capacity. Do power walking, running, hiking, trekking, cycling and/or swimming. Don’t worry. you don’t need to train for a marathon. One hour, 3 to 4 times a week is plenty of exercise.
  2. Endurance: When you are comfortable doing exercise a few times a week, you can fire it up by doing some longer sessions. The best thing you can do is walking long distances, at least once a week. If you can hike comfortably for a prolonged time, you are good to go.
  3. Gear: Don’t use your backpack and shoes that you purchased for your Kilimanjaro climb for the first time after your land. Break them in and use this equipment when you are working on point 1 and 2.
  4. Altitude: If you can, you can mimic the altitude by hiking and trekking in the hills and mountains. If you do not live in the right area for that, then don’t panic. The first two points are most important.
  5. Know your body: This is perhaps the most important part. If you are questioning your physical capabilities, you should perhaps go see a professional for monitoring. It is important to know your body, so you can notice any warning signs when you are on your way to the Roof of Africa.

What to Pack for Kilimanjaro Climb?

When you are preparing for your Kilimanjaro climb it is important to have the right bags, the right clothes, the right shoes or boots, the right gloves, the right headwear, the right sleeping bag and all the extras. If you are spending some extra time in Moshi or Arusha, then you can buy a lot of gear there, but don’t push your luck.

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Good preparation is half the work and if you land in Moshi without having looked at our packing list for climbing Kilimanjaro, then you either have climbed Kilimanjaro before or you got it wrong. Don’t overpack, don’t bring jewelry, don’t bring a classic towel, jeans, or cotton t-shirts. Do things right and check out our packing list for Mount Kilimanjaro.

Combine Kilimanjaro Climb with a Safari

While in Africa you might as well do a safari. Right? Absolutely. If you want to get the most of your experience on African soil, you can combine your Kilimanjaro climb with a safari. You can do this in, for example, Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Crater or Lake Manyara National Park. Although we may not have the options published on our website, our trekking experts know the best places and have some affordable safari options ready for you. Get in touch with our trekking experts and combine your Kilimanjaro ascent with a safari.

Where Do I Book My Kilimanjaro Climb?

Be cautious when you want to book your Kilimanjaro climb online. There are dozens of companies who offer their services online, but many are not transparent in their ways of handling your booking and their ways of treating their porters and guides. At Bookatrekking.com we have curated our partners and their offers carefully. We only work with partners who take good care of their staff and the environment. At Bookatrekking.com they offer their lowest price so you can enjoy customer service in your mother’s tongue while booking with a local company. Here you can find all our offers for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

 

Other Facts and Questions About Mount Kilimanjaro

Who Was the First Person to Climb Kilimanjaro?

In 1889 Ludwig Purtscheller and Hans Meyer from Germany were the first to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Hans Meyer had already tried it before in 1887, but had difficulty making it past the ice that he found close to the peak. Ludwig and Hans were assisted by Yohani Kinyala Lauwo who was only 18 years old at the time. Yohani lived in Marangu, the village on the lower slopes after which the Marangu Route was named after. Yohani had just lost his job in construction and was keen to help the two Germans out. Yohani made it to the age of 125 and led many more climbers to Uhuru Peak. He never resumed his career in construction.

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Earlier failed attempts of ascending Kilimanjaro were in 1861 and 1862 by Baron Carl Claus von der Decken and Richard Thornton. In 1871 it was attempted by Charles New and in 1887 by Count Samuel Teleki and, on a separate occasion, by Dr. Abbot.

The first woman to summit Kilimanjaro was then 22-year old Sheila MacDonald in 1927. It is said that her male companions gave up while she drank champagne to keep going.

Famous Points on Mount Kilimanjaro

Gilman’s Point: This point is named after Clement Gillman. He established the East African Mountain Club with Richard Reusch in 1926.

Stella Point: This is named after Kingsley Latham’s wife. Kingsley Lathman was a member of the South African Mountain Club. In 1925 they reached what is now Stella Point together.

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Reusch Crater: The first man to see the inner crater of Kilimanjaro was Richard Reusch. The Reusch Crater was named after him. Surely, there were quite a few porters who were there as well.

Leopard Point: A frozen leopard was found at this point. You can find it on the western side of the crater rim.

Uhuru Peak: Uhuru is Freedom in Swahili. After Tanzanian independence in 1961, the government changed the name from Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze (Spitze = Peak) to Uhuru Peak. It is the highest point of Kilimanjaro.

How Many People Climb Kilimanjaro Every Year?

About 50.000 people try to climb Kilimanjaro each year. Official data on the number is not released by the park authorities. An estimated 60 to 70 percent make it to the peak.

Why is the Mountain Called Kilimanjaro?

No one really knows why the mountain is named Kilimanjaro. If you will ask this question on your way to the peak, you will hear a different answer every time. Some claim it is Swahili, others say it is Chaga or Maasai. We don’t know.

 

About the author
Sierd

In 2012 Sierd hitchhiked from The Netherlands to South Africa and that is where he returned a year later. He currently lives in Cape Town and spends his free time running on Table Mountain. You can wake him up with a good cappuccino and ask him to write about mountains. He would hitchhike back to the Netherlands so he can climb Mount Kenya.