Things to Consider Before Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, According to an Expert
Updated: Dec 30, 2022
The highest mountain in Africa is a popular hiking destination, but it is not for the faint of heart. Here's how you can get ready for a successful summit bid.
"Kili" has become a popular destination for globetrotting peak-baggers and adventure-seekers of all stripes over the last century, thanks in part to its accessibility. Most climbers reach the summit with nothing more than appropriate clothing, hiking boots, and determination. Nonetheless, the world's tallest freestanding peak is nothing to scoff at.
Here are some things you can do to get ready to climb Mount Kilimanjaro:
1. Training For The Climb
Some days will only require three to five hours of walking, whereas the longest day, the summit day, will require 12 to 15 hours. Because the climb is relatively short in duration, you must be in good shape from the start. It is critical to train for at least two months prior to the climb. People who are not in good shape will find the journey difficult, if not impossible.
2. Best Time Of Year To Climb
Due to Mount Kilimanjaro’s proximity to the equator, this region does not experience the extremes of winter and summer weather, but rather dry and wet seasons. Therefore, we generally advise that the best time to climb Kilimanjaro is during the warmest and driest times of the year, May – October or December – March.
It is generally advised to try and avoid November and April / May, which are when the short and long rains come. However, there is a caveat as the seasons are shifting and the timing of the rains is definitely less predictable when compared to the past, of course, you must be prepared (as per any mountain) for rain (and higher-up snow) at all times of the year.
“You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, remakes all the moves,” Lito Tejada-Flores.
3. Choosing Your Route
There are six common routes to the summit of Kilimanjaro. These routes differ not only in terms of length, cost, and scenery but also in terms of difficulty and success rate. One of the most important decisions you must make is which Kilimanjaro climb route to take. There is no single "best" route up Kili; rather, the best route for you is determined by a variety of factors such as time and money availability, previous experience, fitness level, time of year, and, of course, personal preference.
The Machame route is one of the most beautiful routes to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro. The climb takes 6 days but 7 days on the mountain are recommended for acclimatization. The trek begins in the lush rainforest and follows a path that offers occasional views of Mt Meru, Shira Ridge as well as the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. The Machame route contains steeper passages and higher altitudes than the Marangu route and is slightly more physically demanding.
Marangu Route, which is the easiest and shortest route to Kilimanjaro's summit and is known as the "Coca Cola" or "tourist" route. This is the only route on Kilimanjaro with the comforts of solar-powered sleeping huts and comfortable beds at every camp. The huts are communal, and each bunk has a sponge mattress and pillow. There are 60 beds at both Mandara and Kibo Huts and 120 beds at Horombo Hut. Bathrooms and running water are available at the two lower huts. Basic men's and ladies' latrines are available at the last camp.
The Umbwe route is a short, steep, and direct route. It is considered to be very difficult and is the most challenging way up Mount Kilimanjaro. Due to the quick ascent, Umbwe does not provide the necessary stages for altitude acclimatization. Although the traffic on this route is very low, the chances of success are also low. The route is offered at a minimum of six days, though seven days is recommended when attempting this route.
This route takes you into some serious altitude (11,480 feet), from Day 1, which can be tough, especially if you live at sea level and haven’t had time to acclimatize. Shira connects with the Machame route, so everything said about that route applies here as well.
Lemosho was created as an alternative Mt. Kilimanjaro hike to the Shira route. It has a lower gate that allows climbers more time to acclimatize to the altitude. Hike Kilimanjaro this way for a wilder route with there being opportunities to see wildlife on the trek, including Tembo (elephant). It also joins up with Machame on the third day.
Undeniably, Kilimanjaro treks can be expensive. Not only are there national park fees, but you’ll also have to pay for your guide. Many tour operators use porters to help carry heavy camping equipment, as well as other support staff.
Climbing Kilimanjaro often costs between $1500 and $4500, depending on the length of your route and the tour operator you use. We wouldn’t recommend going for the cheapest option you can find when searching for trekking guides - you pay for experience and this means doing things properly. Decent guides will ensure proper equipment, experience in weather and trekking conditions, good food, and a good time frame to allow for rest and adjustment.
5. Kilimanjaro: How Do You Get There?
Most hikes up Mount Kilimanjaro begin in one of two towns. Moshi is directly south of the mountain, and Arusha is southwest of it. Giant waterfalls, monkey forests, and volcanic waterholes are just a few of the wonderful and wildlife-rich national parks that can be found nearby. There is so much to discover!
Both settlements are easily accessible by air from Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). There are numerous buses available from Dar es Salaam, as well as flights from the idyllic island of Zanzibar and neighboring Kenya.
Most hikers spend a few nights in town getting ready for the trek and getting familiar with the area, but be cautious.
HAVE YOU DECIDED WHEN YOU WANT TO GO?
Have a look at our trekking itineraries or other practical tips that will help you prepare for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Like this page? Save it for later on your social media or share it directly with your friends or family!