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    A simple guide to climbing mount Kilimanjaro: All you need to know

    12 minutes read

    Want a simple guide to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro? We hear you!

    Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a great dream for many travellers. It’s a challenging feat, so we’ve compiled this straightforward guide to help you tackle it. Every year, about 50,000 tourists set out to conquer the summit of this iconic mountain.

    It’s no wonder that Kilimanjaro attracts so many adventurers. Climbing this highest free-standing mountain in the world offers an exhilarating experience and a sense of achievement that many hikers cherish as a badge of honour.

    However, climbing Kilimanjaro involves careful planning and preparation to increase your chances of success. So, without further delay, here’s a practical guide to help you navigate to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

    Guide to climbing mount Kilimanjaro: Things you need to know

    Before climbing the tallest mountain in Africa, it’s best to know the essential things before attempting its summit. Knowing these things will equip you to reach Uhuru Peak—the highest point on Kibo’s crater rim.

    So, what do you need to know about climbing Kilimanjaro?

    Climb during dry season

    Guide to climbing mount kilimanjaro

    While you can technically climb Kilimanjaro any time of the year, it’s worth considering the weather. Tanzania’s wet season, which falls between March and May and then from November to December, can make the trails messy and prone to storms. To avoid these challenges, planning your climb for the drier months of January and February or from June to October is smarter.

    Choosing a reliable local tour operator is a good idea when booking your trek. The Tanzanian government encourages climbers to hire local guides for various reasons, including ecological concerns.

    Opting for a local outfitter can positively contribute to the country’s economy. By selecting a well-respected tour operator in Tanzania, you can ensure a top-notch experience for your Kilimanjaro adventure!

    As a bonus, consider adding a safari through the Serengeti and the famous Ngorongoro Crater for an additional cost.

    Book a tour from a reliable local tour operator

    Group of hikers

    When you go on an African adventure, it’s best to book a tour with a reliable local tour operator in Tanzania. The Tanzanian government specifies that climbers should get a local tour guide for various ecological reasons.

    It can also help boost the country’s economy if you choose a local guide outfitter to climb Kilimajaro. With the best and recognized tour operator in Tanzania, you can get the best experience in your Mount Kilimanjaro adventure!

    In addition, you can also enjoy the safari through the Serengeti and its renowned Ngorongoro Crater for a few extra thousand dollars.

    Pick your route carefully

    Tanzania - pick your route careful - a simple guide to climbing mount kilimanjaro: all you need to know

    Pick your route carefully.

    Choosing the correct route is crucial for your Kilimanjaro climb.

    This decision can significantly impact your experience, so it’s essential to choose wisely. There are seven established routes on Kilimanjaro:

    – Marangu Route

    – Machame Route

    – Lemosho Route

    – Shira Route

    – Rongai Route

    -Northern Circuit Route

    The Marangu route is the easiest, quickest, and most cost-effective among these options. However, the Machame route is known to be one of the toughest, typically taking six to seven days to reach the summit.

    The Lemosho route also offers a more scenic journey, usually seven to nine days. Remember that the longer you climb, the higher the cost.

    However, it’s all worth it, as the longer routes have more success rates than those fast ascent routes. The long journey gives your body the time to acclimatize, increasing your chances of a successful climb.

    Make sure to have sufficient money to budget

    Tanzania - money to budget - a simple guide to climbing mount kilimanjaro: all you need to know

    Climbing Kilimanjaro is a costly expedition. Although tour packages are available, they cost around $2000, and you need help finding them.

    It’s also not expected to spend up to $3,000, plus your lodging fee, to a nearby town before the trek. If you’re also thinking about a safari after your Kilimanjaro climb, it’ll cost additional fees, so make sure you have sufficient money to budget.

    Don't forget to give a tip to the porters

    Tanzania - give a tip to porters - a simple guide to climbing mount kilimanjaro: all you need to know

    After the climb, tip all the porters and guides. Although it’s not mandatory, it’s customary.

    Bring cash with you and give it to porters and guides at the end of the climb. This helps them support their families.

    Pay extra for an optional bathroom tent

    Tanzania - optional bathroom tent - a simple guide to climbing mount kilimanjaro: all you need to know

    Paying an extra $236 for an optional bathroom tent can guarantee your camp is furnished with a waterproof, zippered, and portable bathroom tent. However, you don’t have to do this if you’re okay with getting stuck with the limited shelter of volcanic outcroppings and the old hole-in-the-floor wooden outhouses scattered in the trail camp.

    Prepare your gear thoroughly & bring medicine

    Tanzania - bring medicine - a simple guide to climbing mount kilimanjaro: all you need to know

    To successfully climb, prepare the required gear and bring medicine. As you know, summiting a 19,000-foot mountain isn’t a joke.

    Thus, you better come prepared for anything. So, it would be best to bring the following with you:

    – Reusable water bottles

    – Inflatable sleeping bag

    – Thermal leggings

    – Fleece pants

    – Quick-drying clothes

    – Sunglasses

    – Waterproof hiking boots

    – Pair of socks and more

    – Day bag

    – Sunscreen

    – Camera

    – Trekking poles

    – LED Headlamp

    Make sure to bring some cash and your documents with you.

    It takes time to acclimatize

    Tanzania - time to acclimatize - a simple guide to climbing mount kilimanjaro: all you need to know

    Some climbers fail to climb the Kilimanjaro summit due to altitude sickness. This is why giving your body time to acclimatize better is essential, and you can get that using the longer routes.

    How hard is it to ascend mount Kilimanjaro

    Tanzania - ascending mount kilimanjaro - a simple guide to climbing mount kilimanjaro: all you need to know

    It’s not hard to climb Kilimanjaro because there are well-established and accessible trek routes, like the Marangu route. Thus, the most challenging thing you’ll face in your journey is altitude-related problems.

    When is the best time to scale Kilimanjaro

    Tanzania - best route to climb mount kilimanjaro - a simple guide to climbing mount kilimanjaro: all you need to know

    The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is between January and February or June and October, as these are Tanzania’s dry months. As much as possible, never trek from March to May or November through December, the country’s wet seasons.

    Do I need a guide to hike Kilimanjaro?

    Tanzania - guide to hike mount kilimanjaro - a simple guide to climbing mount kilimanjaro: all you need to know

    Yes. To climb Kilimanjaro, a guide must be licensed by Kilimanjaro National Park. Most climbers have a team comprising porters, lead guides, assistant guides, and cooks.

    What must I pack in Kilimanjaro?

    Tanzania - 31 technical gear - a simple guide to climbing mount kilimanjaro: all you need to know

    When climbing Kilimanjaro, it’s crucial to pack the following essential items:

    1. Clothing

    – Insulated trekking pants

    – Long-sleeve hiking shirts

    – Hiking trousers

    – Top and bottom base layers

    – Top and bottom base layers

    – Underwear

    – Short-sleeve shirts

    – Insulated winter jacket

    – Polartec fleece jacket

    – Hard shell jacket

    2. Basic Equipment

    – Daypack bag

    – Waterproof duffle bag

    – Sleeping bag

    – Trekking poles

    – Water bottles

    – Neck gaiter or scarf

    3. Headgear

    – Warm beanie

    – Sun hat

    – Headlamp

    – Sunglass

    4. Hands & feet gears

    – Warm gloves or mittens

    – Lightweight gloves

    – Trekking boats

    – Trekking shoes

    – Pairs of socks

    – Gaiters

    5. Other essentials

    – Plug adapter

    – Camera and extra batteries

    – Toiletries

    Preparation and Training

    1. Physical Fitness Requirements

    Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro requires good physical fitness, as it’s a demanding trek that can last several days. While it doesn’t require technical climbing skills, you should be prepared for long days of hiking at high altitudes.

    To build endurance, prioritize cardiovascular exercises such as hiking, running, or cycling. Incorporate strength training exercises to strengthen your legs, core, and upper body, as you’ll be carrying a backpack and traversing varied terrain.

    Additionally, practising uphill and downhill hiking on trails with similar conditions to Kilimanjaro can help prepare your muscles for the challenges ahead. Aim to slowly increase the intensity and duration of your workouts in the months leading up to your climb to ensure you’re adequately prepared for the physical demands of the trek.

    2. Gear and Equipment Checklist

    Packing the right gear and equipment is crucial for successfully climbing Kilimanjaro. Begin with the basics: a sturdy pair of hiking boots that are broken in, moisture-wicking clothing layers to regulate body temperature, and a waterproof and windproof outer shell.

    Remember essential items such as a warm sleeping bag suitable for low temperatures, a comfortable backpack with padded straps and a hip belt, trekking poles for stability, and a headlamp with extra batteries for navigating the dark. Other items include sunscreen, lip balm with SPF, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and a refillable water bottle or hydration system.

    To fuel your trek, pack high-energy snacks such as nuts, dried fruits, and energy bars. Consult your tour operator or guide for a comprehensive gear list tailored to your specific route and season.

    3. Mental Preparation Tips

    Climbing Kilimanjaro is not just a physical challenge—it’s also a mental one. Prepare yourself mentally for the journey by setting realistic expectations and understanding that the climb will push you beyond your comfort zone.

    Visualize yourself successfully summiting the mountain and focusing on the sense of accomplishment that awaits you at the top. Practice mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques, like meditation or deep breathing exercises, to remain calm and focused during challenging moments on the trail.

    Surround yourself with a positive support system of fellow climbers, guides, and porters who can offer encouragement and motivation along the way. Embrace the spirit of adventure and approach the climb with an open mind, ready to embrace whatever challenges and experiences come your way.

    Remember that overcoming obstacles and setbacks is part of the journey and can make the summit victory even sweeter.

    Choosing the Right Route

    1. Overview of Kilimanjaro Routes

    Mount Kilimanjaro offers several routes with unique features, landscapes, and challenges. Among the most popular routes are the Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, and Rongai routes. The Marangu route, often called the “Coca-Cola” route, is known for its gradual ascent and hut accommodations, making it a popular option for those seeking a more comfortable trek.

    The Machame (Whiskey route) is famous for its scenic beauty and varied terrain, including lush rainforests and alpine deserts. The Lemosho route is prized for its stunning vistas and gradual acclimatization profile.

    In contrast, the Rongai route offers a more remote and less crowded experience, with the possibility of spotting wildlife along the way. Each route varies in duration, difficulty, and scenery, allowing climbers to choose the option that best suits their preferences and abilities.

    2. Factors to Consider in Route Selection

    Several factors must be considered when opting for a route to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. First and foremost is your level of hiking experience and fitness. Some routes, such as the Marangu route, are less physically demanding but may have a higher success rate due to their gradual ascent profile.

    Other routes, like the Machame route, require incredible stamina and endurance but offer more diverse landscapes and a higher chance of summiting Kilimanjaro. Additionally, consider the time of year you plan to climb, as weather conditions can vary depending on the season.

    Routes like the Lemosho and Rongai routes are less affected by crowding and provide a more tranquil experience, while routes like Machame may be busier during peak climbing seasons. Lastly, logistical considerations such as transportation to and from Kilimanjaro International Airport, as well as the availability of tour operators and support services like the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project, should be considered.

    3. Popular Route Comparisons

    Comparing the popular Kilimanjaro routes can help you make a more informed decision based on your preferences and priorities. The Marangu route, for example, is often favoured for its shorter duration and hut accommodations, but it tends to be more crowded and less scenic than other routes.

    The Machame route is renowned for its stunning vistas and challenging terrain, including the infamous “Barranco Wall” and the exhilarating summit night ascent. The Lemosho route offers a more gradual acclimatization profile and panoramic views of Kilimanjaro’s glaciers.

    In contrast, the Rongai route provides a quieter and more remote experience with the opportunity to traverse multiple climate zones. When comparing routes, consider factors such as the cost of climbing Kilimanjaro, the level of support provided by tour operators, and the likelihood of summiting Kilimanjaro to ensure you choose the option that aligns with your goals and expectations.

    Understanding Altitude Sickness

    1. Symptoms and Risks

    Altitude sickness, also called acute mountain sickness (AMS), can occur when ascending to high altitudes too quickly, such as when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Common symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping.

    In severe cases, altitude sickness can progress to more serious conditions like high altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE), which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Climbers must be aware of the signs of altitude sickness and monitor their symptoms closely, especially during the critical summit push when the risk of AMS is highest.

    2. Acclimatization Strategies

    Proper acclimatization is critical to reducing the risk of altitude sickness during a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. Climbers should follow a slow and gradual ascent profile, allowing their bodies time to adjust to the decreasing oxygen levels at higher altitudes.

    This may involve incorporating rest days into the itinerary, climbing slowly, and spending nights at progressively higher elevations to facilitate acclimatization. Hydration is also essential for acclimatization, as dehydration can exacerbate symptoms of altitude sickness.

    Additionally, certain medications, such as acetazolamide (Diamox), may be prescribed to help prevent or alleviate symptoms of AMS.

    3. Emergency Procedures

    Although altitude sickness can still occur despite taking precautions, climbers should be prepared to respond effectively in an emergency. If experiencing severe symptoms of AMS, it’s crucial to descend to a lower altitude to seek medical attention immediately.

    Guides and tour operators are trained to recognize the signs of altitude sickness and can give assistance and guidance in an emergency. Guides typically carry portable oxygen and first aid kits to provide initial treatment for altitude-related illnesses.

    In extreme cases, evacuation via helicopter may be necessary, so climbers should ensure adequate travel insurance coverage, including emergency medical evacuation.

    Logistics and Planning

    1. Booking Guides and Permits

    When planning a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, it’s essential to book reputable guides and obtain the necessary permits in advance. Many tour operators offer guided treks up Kilimanjaro, providing experienced guides, porters, and logistical support throughout the journey.

    Researching and selecting a reliable tour operator is critical for ensuring a safe and enjoyable climb. Additionally, climbers must obtain permits from the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) to enter Kilimanjaro National Park, with fees varying depending on the route and duration of the trek. Booking guides and permits well in advance are recommended, especially during peak climbing seasons.

    2. Accommodation Options

    Accommodations during the Mount Kilimanjaro climb typically consist of mountain huts or tents provided by tour operators. The Marangu route is unique because it offers dormitory-style accommodation in mountain huts along the trail, a more comfortable option for climbers.

    Alternatively, most other routes involve camping in tents at designated campsites, with tour operators providing all necessary camping equipment and support staff. Climbers should be prepared for basic accommodations and willing to adapt to the rustic camping conditions on the mountain.

    3. Transportation and Arrival Detail

    Kilimanjaro International Airport is the primary gateway for climbers travelling to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Many tour operators offer airport transfer services to transport climbers from the airport to their starting point for the trek.

    Coordinating transportation logistics with your tour operator in advance is essential to ensure a smooth arrival and departure process. Depending on the route chosen, climbers may start their trek from various trailheads near the mountain base, with transportation provided to and from these starting points as part of the tour package.

    Climbers should plan to arrive in Tanzania at least a day or two before the start of their climb to allow time for rest, acclimatization, and final preparations.

    Safety and Environmental Considerations

    1. Leave No Trace Principles

    Practising the Leave No Trace principle is essential for minimizing the environmental impact of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. These principles include packing trash and waste, staying on designated trails, minimizing campfire impacts, and respecting wildlife and natural habitats. Tour operators and guides are crucial in educating climbers about Leave No Trace practices and prioritizing environmental stewardship throughout the trek.

    2. Weather and Seasonal Variations

    The weather on Mount Kilimanjaro can vary significantly depending on the time of year and altitude. Climbers should be prepared for various conditions, from hot and humid temperatures in the lower rainforest zones to freezing temperatures and strong winds near the summit.

    The rainy season, typically from March to May and November to December, brings increased precipitation and lower visibility, making climbing conditions more challenging. Conversely, the dry season from June to October offers clearer skies and more stable weather conditions, making it a popular time for climbing Kilimanjaro.

    Regardless of the season, climbers should dress in layers and prepare for abrupt weather changes and temperature fluctuations.

    3. Health and Safety Guidelines

    Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro poses inherent risks, including altitude sickness, extreme weather, and physical exertion. Climbers need to prioritize their health and safety throughout the journey. This includes staying hydrated, eating nutritious meals, taking breaks as needed, and communicating openly with guides and fellow climbers about any concerns or symptoms of illness.

    Climbers should also be aware of the potential for altitude-related illnesses and familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms of conditions such as acute mountain sickness (AMS), high altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE), and high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE).

    Following a slow and steady pace, allowing for proper acclimatization, and adhering to the guidance of experienced guides can help mitigate these risks and increase the likelihood of a successful and safe summiting of Mount Kilimanjaro.

    Conclusion

    So, there you have it! These are the things that you should know about climbing Kilimanjaro. So, start packing up for your next African adventure with this guide in mind. If you have any questions about climbing Kilimanjaro, visiting Tanzania, or planning your dream safari, get in contact with Easy Travel today to turn your dreams into reality.

    Musaddiq Gulamhussein - Owner - Easy Travel Tanzania

    About the author: Musaddiq

    Meet Musaddiq Gulamhussein, owner of Easy Travel Tanzania, a tour company creating life-changing safari experiences for over 35 years. Musaddiq has explored Tanzania, developing a deep understanding of the local cultures and traditions. Follow his journey and gain insights into the African Safari experience through Easy Travel's social media and blog.

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