The Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain awaits the brave and adventurous, takes in the area above the 8,850 feet, or 2,700 meters, on the mountain. It includes the moorland and highland zones, Shira Plateau, Kibo and Mawenzi peaks.
Kilimanjaro stands a scant 205 miles south of the equator, on the northern boundary of Tanzania. Its location on an open plain close to the Indian Ocean, and its great size and height strongly influence the climate, vegetation, animal life and the climbing conditions. It is made up of three extinct volcanoes: Kibo 19,340 feet (5,895 meters), Mawenzi 16,896 feet (5,149 meters); and Shira 13,000 feet (3,962 meters).
Even though you can climb throughout the year, January, February and September are the best months, with July, August, November and December also being good. The rain period is March and June, the fact that most months of the year have so few rainy days makes it possible to climb in relatively good conditions year round. During the rainy period of March to May, clouds tend to pile up and over the summit, dropping snow on top and rain at the base. Visibility can be limited by cloud cover even when no rain falls.
The dry season, beginning in late June and through July can be very cold at night, but usually is clear of clouds. August and September are also cool and can have completely clear days, but usually a dripping cloud belt girdles the mountain above the forest and moorland. The summit can be totally clear and the successful climber looks down on a vast sea of clouds with distant mountain peaks poking through like islands.
The shorter rainy period of October to December often has thunderstorms that pass over the mountain, dropping rain as they go. Typically the clouds disappear in the evening, leaving nights and mornings clear with excellent visibility. January and February are usually dry, warm and clear with brief rain showers which make for good climbing conditions.
Mount Kilimanjaro is divided into five distinct zones, starting with cultivated farmlands on the lowest levels. Higher up is the rainforest zone, followed by heath and moorland with alpine vegetation. Just before the barren, snowy summit is highland desert. The climate and animal life is dependent on the zone, with elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard, monkey and a variety of bird life plentiful in the lower zones. Itinerary for Mt. Kilimanjaro Climbs
Before the climb
Be properly equipped
An essential part of your preparation will be to ensure that you are well equipped for your summit attempt.
Be physically prepared
It is important that your body is adequately prepared for the physical challenges of Mount Kilimanjaro.
It is possible to summit Kilimanjaro successfully. Many before you have succeeded. This should be topmost in your mind when preparing for the summit attempt. You should always remain in a positive state of mind, but not overly arrogant. Try to anticipate various different scenarios, which you may possibly encounter on the mountain and try to work out the most suitable course of action, mentally by yourself or even as a group. Your mental stamina will, without a doubt, make the really difficult sections, like from Kibo to Uhuru or from Barafu to Uhuru, easier to complete. Remember if you are properly equipped, you will be mentally confident for the physical part of Kilimanjaro.
Adequate travel insurance
Make sure that you have adequate travel and medical insurance, which will also provide you with cover for the climb up Kilimanjaro.
ON THE MOUNTAIN
Go slowly - "Pole Pole" as they say in Swahili! This is also very important during your first days of climbing. Even if you feel well, slow down and enjoy the scenery.
Drink enough water
Make sure that you drink at least 3 - 4 liters of liquid a day - preferably water. For both the Marangu and Machame routes, it is possible to buy mineral water at all the huts and camps. Although a little bit more expensive on the mountain, this is probably the most convenient option - we are however at this stage, not to sure how reliable the supply lines are.
For your first day it is recommended that you take along fresh water which may be purchased in Moshi before your climb. Try to get the bottles with the screw tops, this way you will also have containers in which to take water further up the mountain.
Running water on the mountain is safe to drink from day 2 onwards, but care should still be taken. If you are not used to fresh water in nature, prevent any inconvenience by using water purification tablets. REMEMBER! A functioning "body water balance" is one of the keys to a successful climb.
Walk high - sleep low
If possible and especially on your acclimatization day "walk high - sleep low" Try to do a short evening stroll to a higher altitude and then descend to sleep at the camp at a lower altitude. This is essential on your acclimatization day.
Climb as lightly as possible, this becomes even more important on your summit night.
Remember that you will be on the mountain for at least 5 or 6 days. You need to take enough clothing, especially socks to last for this period. Due to frequent rainfall as well as numerous streams on the routes, it is advisable to pack items individually in your bag. These individually packed items should be wrapped in plastic bags to prevent them from getting wet in case of rain or of being accidentally dropped in a stream.
You will require the correct underwear, thermal hiking socks, gloves (preferably mittens), warm head protection, rain coat, sunglasses and sun protection cream. Also remember your hiking boots, hiking/running shoes (it is not necessary to walk with boots or climbers shoes until the last sections where scree and rocks are encountered), and very importantly, a walking stick / ski-pole.
One of the most critical items of clothing is an outer jacket. You want it to perform the functions of keeping you warm, protect you at temperatures of as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius, keep the wind out and yet still "breath".
Try to avoid tight fitting clothing or underwear. This will hamper circulation, causing either cold or discomfort on the mountain. A balaclava is a must, as it will protect your face against cold, wind, sun and snow.
Other clothing like shorts, sweaters and T-shirts are strongly recommended, especially during hiking on the lower slopes, when the day temperatures are still high. The only way to ensure that you are dressed warmly is to follow the principal of wearing the correct clothing layers, starting from against the body.
A common mistake made by climbers is to wear almost everything they have and to start off with cotton against the skin. Cotton absorbs moisture perfectly, and moisture trapped against the skin will result in a definite lowering of the body temperature, which could even lead to hypothermia. It is therefore very important to use proper thermal underwear with "wicking" properties (a fabric which has the ability to draw moisture away from the body) and thus enabling it to evaporate to the outside. The middle layer should provide the insulation and a product like polar fleece will be adequate in this regard. The outer layer should be windproof, waterproof and breathable. Products like Ventex, Gore-Tex or Jeantex offer these properties. Short of altitude and physical exertion, cold is one of the most serious obstacles when attempting to summit Kilimanjaro.
Take a ski - pole
A ski - pole is essential, buy one or hire one but take one.
Replace your head lamp and camera batteries with new ones on your summit night.
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
AMS commonly affects people at high altitude, who are not accustomed to high altitude conditions. AMS can be lethal if not treated immediately or if its symptoms are ignored. Probably 70% of all people climbing Kilimanjaro will suffer to some extent from AMS. You should familiarize yourself with this condition and take preventative care. Make sure to have Diamox 250mg with you to counteract this condition.
Malaria occurs below 1800 meters and you should use the recommended prophylactics. Please consult your doctor about these. Larium is very popular, but should be taken with care. Known side effects may lessen your chances of success. Currently, there are various preventative medication products available which will be effective against the malaria strains currently found in Tanzania. Women using oral contraceptives should consult their physicians before using prophylactics.
GUIDES AND PORTERS
Once on the Mountain, your well equipped guides and porters will rank second only to your mental determination, in terms of important factors contributing to a successful summit attempt. For the duration of your Kilimanjaro trek, your guide will be your advisor, he will lead you to the summit, and he will bring down safely again. It will be important that you work closely with him and take note of his advice.
Qualified and experienced guides
Guides are compulsory for all routes on Kilimanjaro. Highly trained and qualified guides, registered and approved by the Kilimanjaro National Parks Board lead all our treks up the mountain. Each of our guides has been selected over years, based on experience, safety record and through feedback from previous clients.
Support staff ratios
The average ratio of our support staff to climbers is 2 porters per climber, a cook and one guide for a maximum of 4 climbers. This excellent staff to client ratio, bolstered by our superior support equipment, will ensure your safety and enjoyment on the mountain.
Porters and Cook
The porters do not only transport your gear and the supplies up and down the mountain. Arriving at every campsite long before you, they will have already erected your tent on your arrival. In the evening they will also boil drinking and washing water and the cook will prepare dinner of a quality that has surprised many previous clients.
Weight limits for Porters
Remember that there is a weight limit of 15-kg (30 lbs.) per climber, on the gear of each climber to be portered. A soft duffel bag (barrel type) is preferred - a rucksack is not necessary, as they prefer to porter the loads balanced on their heads and shoulders.
This is "compulsory tradition" on every Kilimanjaro climb. There is no set amount, and it is usually dependent on the clients' satisfaction and discretion.
How difficult is the climb-can I do it?
About 22,000 climbers set out every year to conquer the Kilimanjaro peak. Several well-marked hiking routes lead to the summit of the mountain. To use the word "climber" is not always correct. Although none of these hikers' routes really require mountaineering skills, hiking to the "roof of Africa" is physically and mentally demanding and should not be under estimated. As much as 40% of those who set out to climb Kilimanjaro turn back before they reach Uhuru peak.
Today, hikers make up the bulk of all those who conquer Kilimanjaro, and the mountain is in fact one of the highest peaks accessible to hikers in the world. Of course there are extremely severe climbs available, including some grade 3+ climbs, but those we leave to the professional alpine climbers and experienced mountaineers.
The information on this website is primarily concerned with the hiking routes, which "the average hikers" can follow successfully. Preparation both physically and mentally are the keywords for success-- this page contains valuable and comprehensive information obtained from over 10 years of experience and through the feedback from more than 3000 clients. We believe it will positively contribute to your chances of successfully conquering Kilimanjaro.
Choosing a Route
The main tourist route and by far the most popular route and some claim the easiest route to Uhuru Peak. The 5-day option, which is available on this route, makes it the least expensive route on the mountain. A 6-day option with an extra day of acclimatization is however also available. This is the only route which provides comfortable sleeping huts, equipped with beds and mattresses at every campsite. Mineral water, soft drinks, beer and chocolates are also sold at every camp. All the camps on this route have radio contact with the Park Headquarters.
This is probably the most scenic and most beautiful route to the summit. The 6-day route is however physically more challenging than the Marangu route. The day walks are longer and steeper, however the summit night is one hour shorter. The scenic traverse of the Western Breach offers some stunning views! Only tented accommodation available, which can be less comfortable and will require a good sleeping bag and hiking mattress.
This route is one of the shorter but also one of the more difficult routes to reach Uhuru peak--but quite spectacular. Umbwe is known for its caves. The first night you actually sleep at the Umbwe Cave Camp with two more caves that can be visited en route the following day. Also sometimes used as a descending route.
The Shira Plateau is one of the most scenic and most fascinating areas on Kilimanjaro. Depending on the weather conditions you can drive by 4-wheel drive vehicles, to within a 1/2 hours walk of Shira Hut (4000m). Even this drive is very spectacular indeed and offers some magnificent views of Mt Meru and the Great Rift Valley in general. Game is often sighted and the road features some striking vegetation changes ranging from forest, grassland, and heath to moorland. The fast ascend by vehicle to about 4000m will require additional acclimatization, after which it will be possible to ascend Uhuru Peak either via the Western Breach or via the Barafu hut.
This route can only be use as a descending route for all the western routes.
It is a remote, unspoiled and very beautiful route to the Roof of Africa. The forest around the Lemosho Glades is rich in big game animals such as elephant and buffalo, which may sometimes require a game ranger to accompany climbers on the first day. This route is however a long route which requires 7-days for a comfortable completion, which also makes it more expensive.
Rongai (Nalemoru) Route
You can start this route from both the Tanzanian side of the border or from Rongai in Kenya, but all park fees and arrangements must be made at the Marangu gate. The route may only be used for the ascend and the Marangu route must be used for the descend. The are several big caves along the route, which are used by the porters to overnight for the first two nights.
Western Breach / Arrow Glacier
An alternative final ascend route which can be taken from all of the western routes, sleeping at magnificent Arrow Glacier on your summit night. The western Breach poses a very difficult walk up steep scree with some rock scrambling occasionally required. Snow cover makes scree easier but an ice axe is then required. It is also possible to sleep an extra night inside the Kibo Crater!
Other technical grade 3 climbs to Kibo
These include the Breach Wall which has been compared with the North Wall of the Eiger, the Heim Glacier, the little Penck Glacier, the very complex route via the Kersten Glacier and finally the Decken Glacier.
At 14,976 feet Mount Meru is the second highest mountain in Tanzania and a very underrated mountain climb due to its close proximity to Kilimanjaro. It is a horse-shaped volcanic crater with a spectacularly narrow ridge and superb all round views. The cliffs of the inner wall below the summit are over 4,900 feet high, and inside the caldera is a subsidiary peak called the Ash Cone (12,180 ft) that erupted only 100 years ago.
There is an immense variety of tree and plant life, adding considerably to the interest of the trek. Mount Meru is part of the Arusha National Park, and the lower slopes of the mountains shelter a variety of wildlife. The routes below Miriakamba Hut are more like walking safaris than mountain climbs and your guide is an informed and armed Park Ranger. You are almost certain to see buffalo, warthog, monkeys and a variety of bird life. Giraffe and elephant are also quite common.
Accommodation is in two well-maintained wooden huts that have spectacular views of Kilimanjaro rising above the clouds.
The climb of Mount Meru is very much justified on its own merits but is also a great way to get acclimatized for Kilimanjaro.