Mountain Top Goat

How to climb Mount Kilimanjaro – Best tips you need!

by Mountain Top Goat
Mountain Top Goat: Solo Female Travel Blog | Visit Now

Considering climbing Mount Kilimanjaro but uncertain of how or whether you’re up to the challenge? Allow me to give you some helpful tips and information to motivate and assist you in making that decision.

The majestic mountain can be found inside the Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania, near the Kenya border. It’s probably the most popular high-altitude trek on the planet because it’s the highest mountain in the world that you can “walk up.” You don’t need any special climbing equipment or previous experience. How great is that?! Well, it sure does sound promising when one thinks about conquering it.

Mount Kilimanjaro, at 5,895 meters (19,341 feet), is Africa’s highest peak and the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. “Free-standing” means it stands alone; it’s not part of a mountain range. Now, doesn’t that sound exciting?! It does indeed. Oh yeah, and it is one of the Seven Summits. 

Mount Kilimanjaro comprises three volcanic cones (Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira) and is a dormant volcanic mountain. Kibo is the summit and the tallest of the three formations. 

How Many Routes to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

Once you’ve decided to climb Kilimanjaro, you’ll need to choose which route would be best for you. There are seven established routes that provide opportunities for the ascent to the summit. Want to know more about each one? Cool, let’s dive right in!

Lemosho Route

The Lemosho trail is commonly recognized as Kilimanjaro’s most majestic, picturesque, and diverse.

It’s a 71-kilometer (44-mile) route that begins on the western slope of Kilimanjaro and takes at least six days to complete, however an eight-day plan is recommended. It has a high success rate due to long distance. It’s also the route I chose for my expedition. For more detailed information about the Lemosho route, click here.

hiker standing under lemosho gate sign
“Let the games begin!” — Lemosho Route starting point

Machame Route

The Machame route or “Whiskey route” is 63km (39 miles) long and is preferred by almost half of the hikers who want to climb the roof of Africa. You can do it in six or seven days. The ascent starts via the southwestern part of Kilimanjaro. Like the Lemosho, this route is beautiful and a great choice.

Marangu Route

The Marangu or “Coca-Cola” route is 72km (45miles) long and can take anywhere between five or six days to complete. Furthermore, it’s the only route with hut accommodation. However, it is not possible to rent a private room. The route approaches Mount Kilimanjaro from the southeast. It’s not the best choice for acclimatization; therefore, it has a low success rate, especially if you decide on a five-day tour.

Shira Route

The Shira route approaches the summit of Kilimanjaro from the west. It’s a 55km (34miles) long route that takes seven or eight days. The starting point is at 3,600 meters, meaning it’s not ideal for trekkers with little or no high-altitude trekking experience.

Rongai Route

Rongai route ascends Mount Kilimanjaro from the north-eastern side of the mountain. The total distance is 72km (45miles), with the longest day being the summit day with 21km (13miles). It’s a seven-day camping route and one of the most accessible routes; still, it doesn’t attract many visitors. Since the trailhead is very remote and tough to reach, it is rarely used.

The Northern Circuit Route

The Northern Circuit trail is Kilimanjaro’s longest route. 96km (60miles) long, which can be overcome in nine days, hiking from the mountain’s western side. It has the highest success rate, and it’s one of the best routes with 360 degrees of beautiful scenery.

Umbwe Route

The Umbwe route is a short, steep, and direct route. It’s 45km (28miles) long, and due to the quick ascent, it does not provide the necessary stages for altitude acclimatization. Therefore, it’s considered the most challenging of all routes and only recommendable for very experienced adventurers.

lemosho route with porters carrying the gear
The road that leads to the Top!

How Many Hikers Climb Mount Kilimanjaro Every Year, and What’s the Success Rate?

Every year, some 35,000 individuals attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. However, only two-thirds are successful.

The summit of Kilimanjaro falls within the category of “extreme altitude.”

At the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, there is approximately 49% less oxygen than there is at sea level.

By building in acclimatization days “climbing high, sleeping low,” and rest days, you increase your chances of adequate adaptation, resulting in a lower incidence of mountain sickness.

Kilimanjaro guides use a pulse oximeter to measure oxygen saturation and pulse rate. This helps them get a better idea of your daily situation, such as your symptoms and oxygen level.

The longer it takes to reach a high altitude, the more time your body has to adapt to it. This is something to consider while determining the ideal climbing route for your climb.

How Difficult is it to Climb Kilimanjaro?

Even though you don’t need any technical or mountaineering skills, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is still a challenge. However, you don’t need to be an experienced climber to reach the summit. It is absolutely within reach if you are healthy and have a good fitness level and mental determination.

The acclimatization method used to reach the summit is walking gradually (“pole pole” in Swahili), climbing high, and sleeping low.

Remember to always listen to your guides.

girl squad climbing Kilimanjaro
Girl squad climbing Kilimanjaro

How Can You Prevent Altitude Sickness When Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

By not taking the shortest way up the mountain, you can give yourself more time to adjust to the altitude. Take a tour that lasts at least 7 or 8 days. Besides, the more time you give your body to adjust to the altitude, the better your success chances.

Slowly make your way up. Preserve your energy. You don’t know how your body will react in conditions with limited oxygen.

Stay hydrated. Since the requirement for fluids is very high when trekking at altitude, you should drink at least 3-4 liters of water per day. Water is provided throughout the entire climb.

Altitude sickness causes nausea and lack of appetite, but you will need to eat even if you don’t feel like it. You’ll need a lot of energy, and eating high-carb meals is best for boosting endurance. Also, bring your favorite snacks from home. Something you can always eat, even if you are not hungry.

Stay warm. If you bring the right gear and layers of warm clothing, you shouldn’t be at risk of hypothermia. 

Inform your guides if you have headache, nausea, or any other symptoms, and don’t climb higher if so.

Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills, or any narcotic pain killers.

Diamox or Acetazolamide is effective prophylaxis for preventing symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). Still, ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any concerns about taking this medicine.

hiker point toward mount kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro acclimatization hike

How Much Does Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro Cost?

Well, the prices for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro vary widely. From 1500-5000$. It’s not a cheap activity. I advise against using tour operators that charge anywhere below 2000$. Cheaper Kilimanjaro hikes are certain to skimp on the quality of their service.

The operators need to cover the park fees (800-1200$), food, accommodation, porters, guides, transfers, etc. 

In addition to the cost of the climb, you’ll need 1000$ for your international flight ticket.

Tipping the team 250-300$ at the end of the adventure.

Travel insurance 100-200$ (you need one that covers hiking up to an elevation of 6000m).

Travel visa 50-100$ (50$ single-entry 90-day visa covering mainland and Zanzibar, 100$ for American passport holders valid for a year, and allow multiple 90-day entries into the country). In addition, you can apply for a Tanzanian visa online.

Vaccine 100-200$. Before visiting Tanzania, you should be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and rabies.

When Should You Climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

The dry seasons are ideal for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. January to early March and June to October are the best months to climb.

They are also the busiest seasons on the mountain. Clear skies, beautiful vistas, and sunshine make for pleasant hiking conditions. However, regardless of the season, the weather has the potential to change rapidly.

sunset over moshi from above the clouds
Sunset over Moshi with Mount Meru in the distance

Climate Zones on Mount Kilimanjaro

There are five distinct ecological climate zones that you will experience while climbing your way to the summit of Kilimanjaro.

  • Bushland/Cultivated Zone: 800m – 1,800m (2,600ft – 5,900ft)
  • Rainforest Zone: 1,800m – 2,800m (5,900ft – 9,200ft)
  • Heath/Moorland Zone:  2,800m – 4,000m (9,200ft – 13,100ft)
  • Alpine Desert Zone: 4,000m – 5,000m (13,100ft– 16,400ft)
  • Arctic Zone: 5,000m – 5,895m (16,400ft – 19,340ft)

What is Kilimanjaro Summit Success Rate?

The overall success rate of climbing Kilimanjaro is between 50% and 70%. If you don’t want to set yourself up for failure, don’t choose a shorter itinerary than a week.

Four routes with the highest success rates are; Lemosho, Machame, Northern Circuit, and Rongai routes. Estimated success rates on these routes are above 80%.

hiker standing on the top of mount kilimanjaro
On Top of Africa!

What Insurance do I Need for Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

Mount Kilimanjaro is high altitude trek, so insurance that covers trekking up to 6000m is required. High-altitude trips are not covered by most regular travel insurance plans. I recommend using World Nomads Travel Insurance because it provides specific coverage for hiking up to 6000m. Do not go on any expedition without travel insurance.

What Equipment Should I Bring to Kilimanjaro?

You’ll get a packing list from your trekking company detailing everything you’ll need to carry on your trek. Meanwhile, you can check out my packing list for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

What’s the Best Training Plan for Kilimanjaro?

Long-distance mountain trail walking, hiking for at least 3-4 months before the trek. Furthermore, endurance training and leg strength workouts are also vital components. The best way to train is by hillwalking while carrying weight – as this is the closest simulation of what you’ll be doing during the trip. If you can’t get out in the mountains, cardio gym workouts combined with strength training are a terrific alternative.

What is the Minimum Age Requirement to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

The minimum age to climb Kilimanjaro is ten years; however, it is possible to get approval for exemptions from Kilimanjaro National Park.

Can You Climb Mount Kilimanjaro Without a Guide?

Unfortunately, it is not permitted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro without a licensed guide. Back in 1991. the Tanzanian government changed its policy to require that all climbers be accompanied by a registered and licensed guide when climbing the mountain. Before starting their journey, hikers must register with the Parks Authority and check in at each camp along their selected route.

two hikers with a guide on mount kilimanjaro
Nowhere without the guide

Tipping on Kilimanjaro

Typically, gratuities are given at the end of a trek after reaching the last checkpoint and signing out with the authorities.

Unless advised otherwise, it is customary to pay tips individually in separate envelopes (some tour companies suggest you pay your lead guide, who then re-distributes the money).

Toilets on Kilimanjaro

There are public restrooms at every camp stop on the Kilimanjaro trek, but if you decide to use them, keep your expectations low. Most climbing companies offer climbers the option of taking a portable toilet. The toilet is carried by a porter and set up at each camp. Mobile toilet costs around 25-30$ a day for the whole group, and they come with their mini tent. Don’t forget to bring your toilet paper (2 rolls should be more than sufficient) and some baby wipes.

Portable toilet on Kilimanjaro
Portable toilet on Kilimanjaro

Things to do After the Kilimanjaro Trek?

Going on a safari in Tanzania is a lovely way to relax and enjoy wildlife as a reward for your hard work.

Another option is to fly out to Zanzibar to chill on the beach. Alternately, if you’re up for more trekking through an ancient forest, you could fly out to Uganda and see the mountain gorillas.

Last but not least, when you finish the Kilimanjaro trek – treat yourself and celebrate!

To climb Mount Kilimanjaro is truly an unforgettable experience and well worth it! When you reach the bottom and sign out, there’s a small kiosk where you can buy a beer. Even if you’re not a beer lover, buy one for yourself, for your guide, and treat your group members too. Get together, take a photo, and do some Hakuna Matata signing and dancing. Remember, be proud of yourself because you’ve just accomplished something extraordinary.

hikers celebrating finishing mount kilimanjaro trek
Mission accomplished!

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