Climbing Kilimanjaro is no easy walk! It calls for stern determination and a great deal of training to scale Africa’s highest peak. If you’ve contemplated this challenging, but wonderful wayfaring, you may have to be thoroughly prepared for what lies ahead… So are you ready yet?
This post entails the essentials for climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro so you can prepare cautiously and enjoy a safe & breathtaking trek to Africa’s highest peak!
Basic Decision-Making for a Rewarding Kilimanjaro Hike
Let’s drill down to the basics, before heading towards the fitness levels and other essentials. You need to think about cost, route selection and even choose the best trekking agency. Before venturing into other fields, let’s go about the basic decision-making.
Before hiking Mount Kilimanjaro you need to give thought to these 3 factors:
- Hiking Date
- Mount Kilimanjaro Climb Length & Duration
- Trekking Agency or Climb Operator
Written below is an in-depth lowdown on these factors to help you make the best choice. Read along to know more.
1. What’s the Best Time for Climbing Kilimanjaro?
Thanks to the mountain’s nearness to the equator, the region goes through dry and wet seasons. Therefore, the temperature does not always hinges on the season, and is often shapen by the altitude and the time of the day.
Climbing risks are higher when the weather is foul, so choosing dry seasons for the climb is most recommended. The dry months between January-February and August-September are best for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Even the time between January to mid-March and June to October can furnish your hike with a sweet weather on the slope.
Here is a breakdown on the climate zones you may go through while trekking to the top of Kilimanjaro:
o Bushland, 800 m – 1,800 m (2,600 ft – 5,900 ft): This stage is characterized by the 1m rainfall levels where temperatures hover between 25°C and 28°C. In this period grasslands and crop fields take over the natural bush and lowland woods. Big wild animals are few.
o Rainweald, 1,800 m – 2,800 m (5,900 ft – 9,200 ft): Eclectic diversities of plants and wildlife thrive with the help of the yearly 2m rain. On the way through the thick woods climbers often spot some seldom-met species. Temperatures may drop to pretty low at night, though it's more often than not warm, wet and lush throughout the year.
o Heath and Moorland, 2,800 m – 4,000 m (9,200 ft – 13,100 ft): Walking up further, one may find mist and fog at the first stretches that open out into a clearer and cooler landscape of heather.
o Highland Barrens, 4,000 m – 5,000 m (13,100 ft– 16,400 ft): This is where the hike up Kilimanjaro gets challenging, as highland barrens are home to very little vegetation owing to scanty rainfall. The temperatures range anywhere from 35°C to below freezing.
o Ice Cap, 5,000 m – 5,895 m (16,400 ft – 19,341 ft): As you head nearer towards the highest peak, the area becomes a frost-bound land of ice, snow and stones where the flora and fauna cease to exist, nighttime temperatures often fall to −9°C (16°F). This frozen world of glittering ice and snow may make you feel like a daring Arctic pathfinder. The nights are bitterly cold and windy and the un-buffered African sun in the daytime can make things harder. The lowermost stretches of this zone is where many climbers have given up their trek to the uppermost point.
Walking across these diverse regions is rife with challenges, but it is a rewarding experience indeed!
2. Choosing the Best Kilimanjaro Climb Route & Length
There are seven established routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro – Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai, Northern Circuit and Umbwe. The Marangu, Machame, and Umbwe routes all approach from the south of the mountain (Mweka is used only for going downslope). The Lemosho and Shira routes approach from the west. The Rongai route approaches from the north. You will have to camp on all of these routes but Marangu, which is equipped with huts.
As the routes range in length and challenges, most beginners choose one of the two: Marangu or Rongai.
The Marangu Route or the Coca-Cola Route is a bit-by-bit rise on well-maintained tracks. There is a steep zigzag scree path up to Gilman's Point, the route then flattens out around the crater; Marangu is the most popular way to the top. Those who are going by this route stay in huts, though camping is not forbidden. The Marangu Route takes at least five days, but there is a much higher success rate for those who spend one more day for acclimatization.
The Rongai Route begins with a rough drive to the eastern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The path can be not easy in bad weather. The route meets the Marangu Route at Kibo Hut for the last stretch to the top. The Rongai Route is likened to the Marangu route by its low difficulty, but it takes six to seven days. It is less crowded and lies on near the northern slopes, which have the lowest rainfall level. That’s why many choose to climb Kilimanjaro by this route in the rainy season.
The Lemosho Route starts with a rough drive through western Kilimanjaro to Londrossi Gate. Lemosho is a bit harder route chosen by beginners, and it takes at least six days, while seven is the recommended days you’d need. Far-off and spectacular with stunning gorges and views of west Kilimanjaro. Lemosho and Machame fay together for the summit ascent after a tough hike on Shira Plateau (weather exposed).
The Machame Route or the Whiskey Route is is a scenic path with a high success rate thanks to the up and down nature of the climb - hiking high and sleeping low is good for acclimatization. There is a challenging, almost sheer, wall to climb – Barranco Wall. However, it's easier than it looks.
The Umbwe Route is a thrilling and little-walked route with steep gorges, glaciers and panoramic views. The path gains altitude quickly and involves some tough scrambling. Climbers need a good level of fitness and must be prepared for a steep rise, which may heighten problems with altitude sickness.
The least number of days it takes for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro would be five, though it may take nine depending on a number of sundry factors. If you’re willing to reach the Summit with the least to no highland sickness, taking one more day for acclimatization is highly recommended.
3. Choosing the Best Trekking Agency or Kilimanjaro Climb Operator
Being the highest peak in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is warded by the Kilimanjaro National Park, which is why access is hindered. The costly fee for coming into the park is another challenge grappled by enthusiastic trekkers.
For climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, you need to accompany a registered guide or trekking agency.
A good quality and luxury climb operator would provide you with everything you need for your Kilimanjaro trek – whether you need supply guides, cooks, porters, food, water or camping equipment. By choosing the best agency or operator, you can put an end to your worries about details. All you need to bear is your backpack, and you needn’t think about food supplies or setting up your tent. Folks coming for the trek from overseas more often than not make their bookings online. Making the choice at the last minute could be a hasty decision, so it is better to make an informed choice by researching about their quality, offerings and route plans.
Statistics show that only 60% of the lede who climb Kilimanjaro make it to the Summit… but that doesn’t mean you cannot tread the top. While there are operators who boast about the high client success rates of 99%, make sure you delve deep into their background.
A trustworthy and high-quality operator can make your wayfaring easier, and help you leave aside unforeseen circumstances throughout this challenging hike. Steer clear from lower end budget operators, as pinching pennies when choosing untrustworthy agencies or operators may do more harm than good.
Preparations for Mount Kilimanjaro Hike
Once you’re through with the basic decision-making, you may need to delve deep into planning your Kilimanjaro expedition. Here’s an overview on some of the underlying aspects to think out when planning your climb:
4. Chalking Out a Travel Plan for Hiking Kilimanjaro
When you are going to hike Kilimanjaro, getting to Tanzania is the first step. You can land right at the Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO), which lies half-way between Arusha and Moshi. Good trekking agencies also book your flights for you, so you may have to confirm with your agency about whether they’d book tickets for you or if you need to do it on your own. If you’re already in Tanzania, you can find a few trekking agencies in Moshi and Arusha.
There are a few main airports in Tanzania, which will come in handy if you’re seeking a safari+climbing Tanzania trip. Folks often go on safari in another part of Tanzania right after a Kilimanjaro trek or the other way around.
5. Getting Hold of Your Tanzania Visa
Befuddled about procuring the Tanzania visa? Well, if you’re coming from overseas, getting hold of the Visa is not as odious as it appears. You can do it easily if your country of residence has a Tanzania Embassy – look over their website. If however, you do not have a Tanzania Embassy in your country, you can go for the Visa-on-Arrival in Tanzania. Getting the it could open new thoroughfares for exploration and help you unfold the amazing delights of Tanzania.
6. Getting Your Vaccinations
Before you head to the astounding Kilimanjaro Summit, you must get some vaccinations beforehand. You should start a few months earlier, so get in touch with your physician at the earliest. The Yellow Fever Certificate is indispensable before you scale your path to glory.
These vaccinations and preventive measures all hinge on the length of your stay, and the places you are going to see other than Kilimanjaro. If you fancy a safari or an extended trip, make sure your physician knows about the same.
7. Packing Essential Equipment
If you’re wondering about how to climb Kilimanjaro with a huge load, fret not. Booking a quality operator in time can spare you from the wark of gathering many essential items. The operator will lend you gears, so you don't have to buy them for a one-time use – such as sleeping bags, insulation pads or down jackets, high-quality; weather-proof clothing that shields you in the time of the highest and lowest temperatures. You would also need the best quality hiking boots that help you make the 5895 meters climb free from stress. Good operators include all of this and more in the hike cost, but don’t forget to get in touch with your climb operator to sidestep last minute hustling.
8. Getting into Shape for Hiking Kilimanjaro
Hiking Kilimanjaro needs no special knowledge or rock-climbing experience. Luckily, the climb is more of a hike where you merely need to walk your way up to the top. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Well, the walk may be simplified, but aside from rough barrens and wavering temperatures on your Kilimanjaro climb you'll have highland sickness. This is what makes the climb markedly challenging. Altitude sickness is a real thing, which plagues many fit hikers. Outfox this problem with the best training and stay fit for the wayfaring ahead, notwithstanding being in top shape, many folks have not topped the mountain as they lacked training.
It is highly recommended to go for an intensive training and take one more day of hiking for better acclimatization to beat the altitude sickness.
The more trained and acclimatized you are the greater success rate you’d have. The trek is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the trek, forget about climbing Kilimanjaro as more than a one day trip and focus on the quality of trek.
It is worthwhile to make enough research, and be prepared for the uphill wayfaring beforehand. Have fun scaling the peak by equipping yourself with knowledge!