Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, stands at almost 6000 meters above sea level. If you are a climbing enthusiast, then you already know that Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s Seven Summits, making it one of the most ideal climbing destinations in the world. Depending on the route you choose, it takes about 5 to 9 days to reach the top of Kilimanjaro from the bottom, so you’ll need to prepare well for this adventure of a lifetime. This guide helps you with the ideal preparation, what to pack and what to expect during the hike, camp, and at the summit.
The ideal preparation
This stuff is pretty basic, but it never hurts to be reminded. So when planning for your Mount Kilimanjaro hike, make sure to follow these tips:
Choose a registered tour operator
Conduct some research into the training of the guides, their health care checks, and their emergency evacuation procedure. Kilimanjaro is quite famous so you may want to book with a registered and reputable company in advance. It’s quite expensive to climb Mt Kilimanjaro but settling for cheap guides is not advised because they might lack quality trekking equipment and good health check experience.
Make sure you’re physically fit
Your level of strength and fitness matters a lot for this climb. In addition to trekking for days, you’ll be sleeping at high altitudes. That’s why a few weeks before your trip, you should prep your body by doing strength training exercises such as squats, push-ups, jogs, and sprints.
Plan ideal climbing times
Although you can climb Kilimanjaro all year round, the summit experiences more rainfall, plenty of snow and cold in certain months. The best times to climb are the driest and warmest months which are considerably from mid-June to October and December to mid-March.
What to pack for your trip
- Bodywear – It gets very cold on the mountain. You’ll need as many layers of clothing as possible. Pack some long and short sleeves shirts, skiing underwear and light cotton trousers. Fleece and Gore-Tex jackets are also essential to keeping you warm.
- Footwear – You’ll need plenty of socks, hiking boots and running shoes for the climb.
- Headgear – Warm head protection such as beanie(warm hat) and sun hat.
- Camping gear – These may be provided by your tour guide but you can take an inflatable pillow, blankets, and a sleeping bag.
- Water and snacks – You’ll be given meals but you can pack also your favorite snacks and a large water bottle.
- Miscellaneous – baby wipes, medications, toilet paper, raincoat, sunglasses, binoculars, torch and batteries, and sunscreen.
Check out our Kilimanjaro Gear Checklist for more information.
What to Expect
Expect to have the time of your life in Africa. The will be a pre-climb briefing, which is an opportunity to get familiar with your head guide, assistant guide, and camp crew. Some things to expect during the climb include:
- The climate – Mt Kilimanjaro experiences many rainy periods. Snow and rainfall occur at any time of the year. Mornings are warmer while rain tends to fall in the mid-afternoons.
- Altitude sickness – Some people get affected at high altitudes. These can come in the form of headaches, insomnia, nausea, exhaustion, and rapid pulse.
- Porter service – You are restricted to a baggage allowance of 15kg but don’t worry, the porters will help transport all of your gear up and down the mountain.
- Emergency Evacuation protocol – Your guides are there to ensure your safety. If anything goes wrong and they feel it’s best to descend the mountain, be sure to respect their decision.
What are the ideal routes?
There are seven routes available to the summit and it is your tour operator that will usually pick which one you go through.
1. Lemosho Route
It has a lower gate and gives you more time to acclimatize to the altitude. It’s also wide and offers an opportunity to see wildlife on the trek.
2. Marangu Route
Also known as the Coca-Cola route, this is the only one of the seven routes to offer sleeping huts. The huts also sell bottled cola, hence its nickname. It offers a gradual climb and very easy to ascend to the top.
3. Machame Route
Also known as the whiskey route, it’s a bit difficult to reach the top of the mountain due to it’s strenuous and steeper trails. But it offers beautiful views as you traverse through different ecosystems of Mt Kilimanjaro. This route is also very popular as it reaches the summit faster.
4. Rongai Route
This is a much milder route. It approaches the summit from the remote north where there’s less rainfall, which means you’re likely to stay dry. It takes some more time to reach the starting gate but it is very isolated. It also allows you to view wildlife on the way.
5. Shira Route
Shira has a higher gate level at 3,600 metres. This can cause altitude sickness. If you’re following this route, take time to walk up to the gate and acclimatize yourself.
6. Northern Circuit
This is a newer route than the others. It starts along the Lemosho route, crosses the Shira route and circles around the slopes at the North. It’s very isolated.
7. Umbwe Route
This is the most demanding of all because it has the steepest trails. Since it’s the shortest route, only experienced climbers are advised to follow Umbwe route due to the limited time for acclimatization.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is no mere feat but it also provides an unforgettable way to have a mind-blowing African adventure. Not only do you climb the tallest mountain in Africa, but also view the most spectacular scenery ever. So what are you waiting for? Kilimanjaro awaits!