How to climb Kilimanjaro – All you need to know
Updated: Jun 27, 2020
Two giraffes in the foreground with the Kili in the background. This picture was taken in Kenya by @davidmrule
Climb Kilimanjaro: Mount Kilimanjaro is an old volcano with an original shape. Culminating at 5,895 meters, it presents a surprisingly flattened summit dominating the savannah and the infinite horizons of Kenya and Tanzania. Seen from the air, the interior of its crater seems to draw a curious eye that opens towards the sky. Constituted of three extinct volcanoes, the “Kili” and its eternal snow attracts each year a crowd of courageous climbers. The reward offered by the ascent of this sacred monster is worth the effort, as the panorama is magical from the top. The first real ascent was made in 1889 by the German geology teacher Hans Meyer.
The crater of Kilimanjaro looks like an eye from that point of view. Picture from @kiliwarriors
Rich in diverse fauna and flora, Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa and the world’s highest freestanding mountain. Conquering Mt. Kilimanjaro is mostly a matter of fitness and determination mixed in with how well your body adjusts to the high altitude. The trek organizers are trained to recognize signs of altitude sickness (the biggest enemy to a successful summit).
Storytime: the First ascent
In 1887, Hans Meyer failed to climb Kilimanjaro the first time. Without having provided sufficient equipment, he renounced an overly heavy snowpack. The following year, accompanied by Oscar Baumann, the first European to have visited the crater of Ngorongoro, he was captured by rebels opposed to German colonization. A 10,000 rupees ransom must be paid to allow their release. But the third attempt was the right one. With a mountaineer friend, a Chagga guide (indigenous tribe), and the help of 60 porters, he finally reached Kibo, the highest peak in Kilimanjaro.
Considering the fact weather was already an issue in 1887 when Hans Meyer first tried to climb Kilimanjaro is interesting. It shows that we should really care about our package before flying to Tanzania. You will see the practical details later in the article.
General description of the Kilimanjaro routes
Today, several 5 to 10-day itineraries are open to thrill-seekers. The two most famous routes are the 7-day Machame and the 8-day Lemosho. Not only are these routes known for being incredibly scenic, but they also both have very high success rates as they allow your body to adjust to the altitude over several days.
Routes usually start in dense forests, where you can get wet. However, when you leave the tree canopy, the landscape becomes more and more desert and lunar, and the crossing of the clouds causes an incredible sensation. The expeditions try to reach the summit at sunrise to enjoy a view and live an unforgettable moment.
A little more difficult, the Machame route is even more beautiful because it bypasses the Kili for two days and allows you to better measure all its majesty. This is the most famous route to climb Kilimanjaro.
The different routes to climb Kilimanjaro. Picture from Savage Tanzania Adventure
What’s the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?
Every moment of the year has its advantages and its drawbacks. You just need to be ready to climb in terms of clothing and equipment (read the paragraph related to the weather for that point). To know which time you prefer to climb Kili, you have to understand the weather in the area. There are 2 seasons here.
The dry season. From mid-December to April and from June to November. The weather is mostly warm and dry.
The rain season. From November to mid-December and from April to mid-May. At this time, it often rains on the trek.
What’s the weather like during the Kilimanjaro climb?
This is probably the hardest question to answer. Indeed, Kilimanjaro is a place with a high frequency of weather changes. Sometimes, you can enjoy excellent calm weather. Sometimes, it may rain, hail, or snow. It can even change from sun to snow in a few minutes!
The temperature ranges from 30 to -30 degrees. Note that every elevation of 100 meters, the average temperature is reduced by 1 degree. Based on this, you need to prepare for the winter climbing conditions. You will need a down jacket, a hat for the sun, a balaclava to keep warm, and thermal underwear for the night. If it is warm, you can always take off your clothes. However, if you are cold, you cannot create warm clothes that you did not bring.
How much does it cost to climb Kilimanjaro
The prices for Kilimanjaro climbs vary wildly. To climb Kilimanjaro can cost you anything from $1000 to $4000.
The steep Kilimanjaro National Park fees are something that nobody can change. For a six-day/five-night camping trek, you pay about $800 in fees.
If you want to travel comfortably and not overthink every decision, the best is to get all-included packages. They generally cover:
a pick up at Kilimanjaro Airport and transfer to the hotel
a night’s accommodation before and after your climb
all the climb costs: Kilimanjaro National Park fees, salaries, and food
all transfers to the mountain and to the hotel
the transfer back to Kilimanjaro Airport for your return flights
Another view of Kilimanjaro with an elephant in the foreground. Picture from @davidmrule
How to train for the climb?
At least 2-3 months before the start of the tour, it is necessary to begin general physical training. In the mountains, stamina is most important. You will have to walk a lot, carry a backpack, and you will feel a lack of oxygen.
Therefore, we put in order the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Running is the best way to train your body. Train for 1-hour at least two times a week. No need to set records, just run. It is better to choose a place where you can alternate ascents and descents.
A good way to train is interval running. For 30 minutes, run 150 meters we run at full strength and the next 150-200 meters at a slower pace.
Training with your backpack is also important. Increase the weight of it as you strengthen your body. Start with a light run, let your body get used to the load, and only then start adding interval running. It is also useful to do walking for several hours once or twice a month.
To access the climbing, you need insurance for trekking for the entire trip. Most of the trek organizers can do it for you. However, you should make sure that it is the case beforehand.
Vaccinations and Kilimanjaro
Tanzania has one of the highest levels of healthcare on the African continent. However, you should still be given some vaccinations before climbing Kilimanjaro.
The only vaccine you need to think about is the Yellow Fever vaccine. At the moment, Tanzania is considered a low-risk zone for yellow fever. You need this vaccine if you enter an epidemiologically dangerous country like Kenya for example.
The risk of catching Malaria in Tanzania is negligible (less than 0.1%), however, if you want to further protect yourself from this disease, we recommend that you take quality repellents with you, and that you make sure to use mosquito nets in hotel rooms
Where to land
Choosing where to land is always a difficult question. Depending on what you want to visit, or whether you want to include this destination inside a road trip, the choice will be different.
Currently, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Fly Dubai, KLM, Ethiopian Airlines, and other companies are flying to Tanzania. The optimal route depends on which airport you are going to fly from and at which Tanzania airport the group fee will be assigned. For advice, you can directly contact the trek organizers.
Do you need a visa for Tanzania?
Yes. You can either do it in advance or do it directly at the airport. A visa for citizens of Europe, the CIS, and the USA is issued upon arrival in Tanzania. The registration fee is $50 for Europe and CIS citizens and $100 for U.S. citizens. Check your local government website for more information.
Two different experiences of the Kilimanjaro climb
Kraig Adams and Erik Conover both went to Kilimanjaro. However, one succeeded, whereas the other failed because of altitude sickness. I recommend that you check those two videos to really represent yourself what it means to climb Kilimanjaro.
Erik Conover went to the top through Lemosho Route. This one is 8-days long. Kraig Adams tried the ascension with the Machame Route, which is 7-days long. As you can see, his single day difference can change a lot. Maybe a slower route would have helped Kraig to get used to the altitude. We will never know.
What to do if you don’t feel ready to climb Kilimanjaro
After watching Kraig Adams video, a trained climber, who fails to climb Kilimanjaro, you could feel scared about it. If that’s the case, you should not push yourself to climb Kilimanjaro. You will know when you are ready. For now, simply train your body to get used to altitude with lower mountains. Also, you can still travel to Tanzania for other reasons.
Tanzania is a country of breathtaking beauty. In the north, the national parks, which extend from the slopes of the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, reserve landscapes worthy of the Garden of Eden, both literally and figuratively. Because the region, and more particularly that of the gorges of Olduvai in the protected area of Ngorongoro, is considered as one of the cradles of humanity. Every day we spend there is a return to the roots of life, an unforgettable foray into a preserved universe.
That’s why if you are not ready for climbing Kilimanjaro, you can still enjoy Tanzania differently. There are tons of safaris in the region and joining one is a great experience.
A safari example in Kenya. Elephants are part of every safari. You could join after the Kilimanjaro climb. Picture from @davidmrule
A photographer tells you his experience in Tanzania
I had the chance to speak with Bojan, a photographer who travelled in Tanzania to take Kili in picture. Here are his words about his experience.
We spent 3 days in parks around Mt. Kilimanjaro hoping to catch a view of this peak as well as the wildlife around it. It was mostly impossible to see due to the cloud cover but our last morning, the clouds cleared and the sun’s morning rays perfectly illuminated the mountain. We caught ourselves staring at the beautiful features of the mountain as the clouds gently moved past its base. It almost looked like the mountain just emerged from the center of the earth and the smoke was surrounding it. I took my camera and waited for the clouds to clear most of the mountain but remain in the photo to give it the effect I was going for. As I look back at the image, I am still impressed by the grooves and ridges that are so clearly visible on the mountain and the small ice cap that remains as it was in the peak of the dry season here Bojan from BG Photo Studio
Patience paid out, and the picture Bojan took is incredible. Check it down below.
The picture behind Bojan’s story. If you want to see more work from him, check his Instagram @bgphotographystudio
Safety in Tanzania
Tanzania is positioning itself as a tourist country and the authorities are actively fighting against criminality, especially when it comes to tourists. In the daytime, moving around the country is absolutely safe. However, you should not walk alone during night time. At this time, it is better to use a taxi. You should listen to the following general recommendations.