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  • Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Introduction

Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, reaching a height of 5,895 meters (19,336 feet), a dormant volcano last active more than a million years ago, with the diameter at its base being 40 miles. There are two main snow capped peaks, Kibo and Mawenzi.

Climbing Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime opportunity and to ensure that you have the best chance of having a successful climb and reaching the summit it is important to ensure that you use a reputable tour operator, who will have qualified guides. Climbing without a guide is not advised or allowed as the area is a controlled national park.

A guides job is very important, he/she is responsible for pacing you so that you do not go too fast up the mountain, which will give your body the best chance to acclimatise. Your guide should also be qualified to recognise if you do have altitude sickness and recommend whether you should descend. They will trek with you or be nearby and should be willing to tell you about the vegetation that surrounds you and be able to answer any questions you have. Your guide will also manage the whole team of porters and cooks.

Be wary of companies who offer cheap packages as generally they will not pay their staff a decent liveable wage and/or do not provide staff with safe equipment and clothing. Sadly this causes a few porters to lose their lives each year.

There are six main routes up the mountain ranging in degree of difficulty.

Whichever route you decide to climb, your summit day will the the toughest, most challenging and also the longest day. You will generally start your final summit push at about midnight, to reach the top at or just after sunrise. This final ascent can take 7-8 hours and then you will generally have another 7-8 hours descending. Going down can be equally challenging, especially the first few hours as the route from the top is loose scree to begin with and so can be very slippery, it's very steep, so its hard going on the knees and toes. (boots should be at least 1 size too big otherwise your toes will be damaged going down)

On any of the routes, on a clear day you have the opportunity of wonderful views of the East African plains. Just don't forget to take the time to look behind you. Remember there is no rush and the slower you go the more chance you have of your body dealing with the altitude. You will hear the guides and porters saying "Pole-Pole", meaning slowly, slowly.

Slowly slowly, or, “pole pole,” and an optimistic attitude will get you there!

No matter what time of the year you climb, it will be very cold at night at the higher elevations, but can get quite warm during the hiking day. You will want clothing for both extremes with you. When you start trekking in the morning it is best to wear layers that you can remove during the day as you get warmer

No fires are allowed on the mountain so all cooking is done with gas bottles, which the porters carry up.

With very limited water on the mountain it is difficult to keep clean. However, everyone around you is equally dirty, so you do not notice too much. The best way to keep as clean as possible is to take some wet wipes along with you. The porters will be more than happy to boil up water for you in the evening for the next days drinking water and for brushing teeth. At the camps, the toilets are generally long-drops (hole in the ground within a hut with planks over it), which can get rather smelly as you ascend higher, so be prepared. (tiger balm, menthol or eucalyptus balm dabbed around the nose before entering a long-drop works well)

Most failures are due to people physically not being able to acclimatise due to the high altitude. Altitude sickness (often known as acute mountain sickness (AMS)) generally occurs above 2000 meters and can progress to high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE), which are potentially fatal. The symptoms can range from headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, lack of appetite and inability to sleep. However when you climb Kilimanjaro, you will get many of these symptoms due to the vigorous exertion your body is going through, so it does not necessarily mean you have Altitude sickness. If you ensure you climb with a reputable company, your guide will be well trained and will be able to recognise whether your symptoms are serious and will advise whether you can continue climbing or whether you should descend. You must listen to your guides advise at all times.

To help your body acclimatise, keep hydrating by continuously drinking water in small quantities and walking very slowly. Again a good guide will pace you and ensure that you do not walk too fast. There is no rush, as when you get to camp, there is very little to do so you may as well take your time and enjoy the views and take plenty of photos.

Kilimanjaro can be climbed all year around, but the best months for climbing are January, February, March and September as they are the warmest months and almost clear of clouds, though one could easily succeed throughout the year. April and beginning of May could get heavy rain or snow. The temperatures will still be up, but massive clouds will block visibility, on top it might snow and heavy rains occur on the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro.

June to August (though colder), and November/December (could be wetter); through September and October it gets steadily warmer. October is particularly good if you want little or no rain, mild weather and few people on the mountain.

January to March is the warmest months, almost clear of clouds except of occasional brief rain showers, followed by the main rainy season during April & May.

If you plan your climb around the full moon, it will be extra special.

Our recommended Kilimanjaro climbs

Peak of Africa - Kilimanjaro climb - Machame Route
Peak of Africa - Kilimanjaro climb - Machame Route
The Machame Route is one of the most scenic routes on Kilimanjaro that allows you to experience the southwest and south sides of the mountain, since you ascend one way and descend down another route. You can add an extra day for acclimatisation if you prefer.
6 Days - USD $1,661
Kilimanjaro Climb -Marangu Route “Coca Cola Route
Kilimanjaro Climb -Marangu Route “Coca Cola Route"
The “Coca Cola” Route is Kilimanjaro’s easiest, shortest, and most popular route. The trip usually takes 5 days. You can however also add an additional acclimatization day and make it a 6-day trip
5 Days - USD $1,981
Kilimanjaro Climb - Rongai Route
Kilimanjaro Climb - Rongai Route
The Rongai Route is more scenic than the Marangu Route and is one of the least traveled routes. It is easier than the Machame Route and the success rate on the Rongai is very high. The climb starts on the north side of the mountain just south of the Kenyan border
6 Days - USD $1,945
Kilimanjaro Climb - Lemosho Route
Kilimanjaro Climb - Lemosho Route
Experience a Kilimanjaro climb along this unspoiled, remote, little-used, and beautiful way up to the Shira Plateau
8 Days - USD $2,599
Kilimanjaro Climb - Umbwe Route
Kilimanjaro Climb - Umbwe Route
This is a steep, spectacular, and direct route to Kilimanjaro’s summit. The route follows a forested ridge onto moorlands, then traverses below the southern icefields until it joins the Machame Route
6 Days - USD $1,883
Kilimanjaro Climb up the Shira Route
Kilimanjaro Climb up the Shira Route
6 day Kilimanjaro climb up the Shira Route which traverses the large Shira Plateau to join the Machame Route.
6 Days - USD $1,945
Mount Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro Climb Machame Route
Mount Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro Climb Machame Route
Challenge yourself to trek to the summit of Mt. Meru, Tanzania’s second highest mountain and Africa’s fifth highest as a warm up and acclimatization trek for the Mount Kilimanjaro on Machame route.
12 Days - USD $2,455

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