19 January 2018

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro - What you need to know

While Africa’s contribution to the seven summits ranks high on the to-do list of serious mountaineers, scaling the 19,300 feet dormant volcano requires no technical skill. Climbers with a moderate level of fitness, positive attitude, and a body that adapts reasonably well to altitude have a good chance of success. 

Before you sign up for one of Africa’s ultimate adrenaline filled adventures, we’d like to help prepare you – we’ve covered a few of the most important topics when considering an expedition like this, as well as a few of our favourite insider’s tips. If you’d like more detailed information, please feel free to contact us.

When to trek

While trekking Mount Kilimanjaro (‘Kili’) is technically year-round experience, it can get fairly muddy and stormy during the two long rains seasons – March through May and November to early December.

Planning to summit between January and February or June and October is a fairly popular choice due to the dryer weather conditions. This does mean, though, that there are more hikers around!

Choose your routing

There are seven established routes to the summit, but most hikers pick from three of those:

The Marangu Route | 5 – 6 Days

This is the quickest, most economical and most comfortable route.

The Machame Route | 6 – 7 Days

This routing follows the southern flank of the peak, and if fairly tough going.

The Lemosho Route | 6 – 9 Days

The most scenic of the three routes and lasts anything from 6 – 9 days. The length of time is determined by how much time hikers would want to spend on the mountain.

Tip: It’s easier to acclimatize to the altitude with the more time spent on the mountain. This is the main reason for those opting for a 9 day hike.

Budget

This kind of trip is a fair investment – approximately USD2000 - USD5000 per person. It is fully inclusive and hosted by specialist guides and a trekking team. These trekking teams have successfully guided these hikes for the last 25 years with incredibly high safety standards.

This is a fully inclusive rate – using a local, ethical company providing the team of staff who are highly trained and experienced, all your meals (of gourmet standard, especially considering the environment!) and camping equipment.

Gear

Firstly, hydration is key, so carry two or three one-liter reusable water bottles.

Bring a light inflatable sleeping pad and a sleeping bag rated for 0 to 10° Fahrenheit.

Pack thermal leggings, warm fleece pants, and lightweight, quick-drying hiking pants. Include sunglasses, a warm head cover, and a sun-shading hat.

Most importantly, bring a good pair of waterproof hiking boots and carry a fresh pair of socks for each day on the mountain. Many hikers also opt for poles because the terrain is rocky and steep.

Chat to your medical physician about the medication you may need to consider, The lowland jungle is rife with mosquitoes; the altitude can make you dizzy; and the unfamiliar bacteria can wreak havoc upon your immune system.

Make sure you bring a tube of high-SPF sunscreen and any specialized medication or toiletries you need; they may not be readily available in rural Tanzania.

Listen to your body

Group treks include hikers of all ages and fitness levels. Acclimation affects everyone in different ways, so listen to your guides, your body, and pay attention to the mountain. If you’re tired, stop. If you’re dizzy, drink water. If someone passes you, let it go. It’s not a race to the top but a journey for yourself, so might as well take your time.

Respect the mountain

Guided tours make for a safer trek, but this is still a challenging endeavor that is not to be taken lightly.

Insider’s Tips

Wear your hiking boots in. Having the perfect hiking boots is critical, but if you’ve bought new boots for this expedition, do it well in advance and spend weekends in them!

Consider paying additional for bathroom tent. Your camp will be outfitted with a zippered, waterproof, and portable bathroom tent, Alternatively, it’s the old hole-in-the-floor wooden outhouses that are scattered around each trail camp.

Keep one or two rolls of toilet paper in your day pack. Nature calls sometimes during nine-hour hikes!

Hydration is key, and a lot of your water supply will come from stream along the way. Test a few water purification tablets before your trek, and find which ‘flavour’ appeals to you most.

Mobile phones are handy to take photos with along the way – use a hand warmer packs for your device and save battery life.

Tip the porters. It’s expected, and everyone does it. Bring USD400 - USD500 cash and tip all of the guides and porters at the end of the climb. Tanzanians come from all over the country to work on the mountain and use these wages to support their families.

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