Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: Questions Answered
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Mount Kilimanjaro is, for me, the mountain that started me on this crazy travel blogging journey. You can read all about my first time climbing Kilimanjaro here.
A few weeks ago, via my social media channels - you can follow me my clicking the links below - I asked my followers what they wanted to know about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Here are all the questions they asked, along with a few other bits of information I thought might help.
Where is Kilimanjaro?
Mount Kilimanjaro is located in northeastern Tanzania, a country in East Africa. Kilimanjaro rises out of the African plains 205 miles south of the equator. The northeastern part of the mountain skits the border of Kenya.
In Tanzania, the closest major cities to Mount Kilimanjaro and Kilimanjaro National Park are Arusha and Moshi. To get to the area climbers usually fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). Several airlines fly to this airport, but KLM has a large flight daily that arrives from Amsterdam.
How Tall is Mount Kilimanjaro?
Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa making it one of the Seven Summits. It is also the tallest freestanding mountain in the world peaking at 5,895 meters or 19,340 feet above sea level.
To put the height into perspective: If you stacked 63.4 Statue of Liberties on top of each other you’d have the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
How long does it take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
The time it takes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro all depends on which route you choose. On average, it takes most climbers 7 days to reach the Roof of Africa. Read the next section to see the specific length of time and distance for each route.
What are the Kilimanjaro Routes?
There are 7 standard routes up Mount Kilimanjaro. Many of these routes have options for going to different camps on the way up. Each route is completely different from the next, but they all offer amazing views and an unforgettable experience.
Here is a little bit of information on each of the routes. However, before you book your route make sure to confirm with your local outfitter that the trail you choose is the right one for your experience level and what you’re looking for in a climb.
7-9-day Lemosho Route
Most of this route has very little traffic and for several days you’ll see little to no other hikers. Once you get to Barranco Camp you’ll be joining the Machame Route and will see plenty of other hikers. Sometimes trekking companies add a night after the summit at High Crater Camp. While this is an amazing camp, to me it doesn’t make sense to sleep there because you’ll already have summited, but staying this high 18,500' can be unsafe.
7-8-day Shira Route
The Shira Route uses many of the same camps as the Machame Route, but the major difference is the starting point. The downside of this route is that it begins at Shira Gate which is at 11,800’ above sea level. This can make for difficulty acclimatizing.
6-7-day Machame Route
The Machame Route is the most popular of all the trails up Mount Kilimanjaro. Around 15,000-20,000 people do this route each year, so depending on the season it can get a little crowded. Hiking through some of the most scenic parts of the mountain, this is the first route I did when climbing Kilimanjaro. For this and many of the other routes base camp is at Barafu Camp, summit day begins at 12am hiking in the dark. Most climbers reach Stella Point at sunrise and hike another hour to Uhuru Peak (the summit).
6-7-day Rongai Route
This is the other route that I hiked up Kilimanjaro the second time. The Rongai Route starts in the north from the Kenya side of the mountain. The first few days are a bit easier than southern side of the mountain, but summit night is much more challenging. For anyone that climbs the Rongai Route will hit all 3 peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro, Gilman’s Point, Stella Point, and Uhuru Peak. However, once you get a Gilman’s Point it is another 2 hours to Uhuru Peak.
6-7-day Umbwe Route
This route is only recommended for experienced climbers. Umbwe has an extremely steep assent making for challenges with altitude sickness. For those who do hike this route there are amazing views from the first few days that few hikers see. This route also summits from Barafu Camp.
4-6-day Marangu Route
The “Cocoa Cola” or the “Tourist” Route is the shortest route on the mountain. The Marangu Route isn’t scenic, it’s overcrowded, and pretty much the worst way to go up Mount Kilimanjaro. Out of all the routes up Kili it has the lowest success rate because most suffer from altitude sickness as a result of the quick ascent.
What is the Kilimanjaro Climb Cost?
The cost of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro varies depending on the route you take and the outfitter you choose.
Being a traveler who is all about being on a budget I know that looking at the outfitters that are less expensive may seem appealing. However, there are some trekking companies that do not take care of or pay their employees very well. When looking for a company to trek with please make sure they’re members of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP). They ensure the ethical treatment of porters on the mountain. I’m so happy that I work for a company that supports and works with a KPAP outfitter. Props to all my ladies at WHOA Travel! Find out more about or to support the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project click here.
The crew you climb Kilimanjaro with is the backbone of any Kilimanjaro adventure. Check out the video I’ve posted here from my most recent climb of Kilimanjaro. This was the last dance party we had as we were saying good-bye to our mountain family. It went on for nearly half an hour. Our entire trek was full of singing and dancing because of the amazing humans that helped us explore the Roof of Africa.
A good company will charge you around $2,500-$3,500 depending on the route, and what is offered before and after the trip.
When is the Best Time to Climb Kilimanjaro?
It is possible to climb Mount Kilimanjaro all year your. However, some months have loads of rain, colder temperatures, and the potential for snow on the summit making for an extremely difficult climb.
There are 2 time periods throughout the year that are the best time to climb Kilimanjaro: January-March and June-October. June-March is going to be colder, but it also tends to have less hikers. June-October will have warmer weather, but coincides with summertime for most western countries meaning there will be more people on the mountain.
March, April and November are the wettest months on Kilimanjaro. If you need to climb during those months you’ll still be able to, but be prepared to get wet.
What is the Kilimanjaro Weather?
The weather on Mount Kilimanjaro is dependent on the altitude. One things is for certain that the high you acend the cooler and drier the air will be.
Kilimanjaro, being a freestanding mountain, creates its own weather patterns. Because of this it can rain or snow at anytime. Be prepared with layers and rain gear in your day pack at all times.
Here is a list with approximate daytime temperature information for different altitudes:
7,500’ to 12,000’: 50º to 70º Fahrenheit
12,000’ to 16,000’: 40º to 60º Fahrenheit
16,000’ and above: high teens to low 40ºs Fahrenheit, but if the sky is clear and the sun is out it can be much warmer.
In the evenings, when climbers get above 12,000’ temperatures begin to drop below 15º Fahrenheit or lower. When reaching 16,000’+ nighttime temperatures will be below freezing and can be below zero.
What should I pack for Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?
Packing for Mount Kilimanjaro is a task. You need to have the right gear or your climb is going to be extremely uncomfortable. You can see my full Kilimanjaro Packing List here.
What do I do for Training for Kilimanjaro?
The first thing any climber needs to know is that no matter how hard you climb altitude sickness can hit you and derail your trip. More on altitude sickness in the next 2 sections.
Anyone looking to climb Mount Kilimanjaro should train. You should start training at least 3 months before your trip.
Here are a few tips about training:
Diversify your workouts - strength training and cardio.
Push yourself - if it’s easy you’re not getting a workout.
Do yoga to help stay limber - try these yoga poses for hikers.
Don’t forget to hike.
I’m working on a full post about training for Kilimanjaro check back soon to see it.
Will I get altitude sickness on Mount Kilimanjaro?
The answer is maybe. Sorry to be so vague, but you never know how the altitude will affect you. I was once told before a climb, “altitude doesn’t care who you are, how hard you’ve trained, or what you body looks like,” and I think that is an amazing way to put it. During my first climb I felt sick and vomited nearly every day. However, once I acclimatized I felt amazing and luckily it was summit night. On that same trek, another woman on the trip felt great the entire time, vomited on summit night and turned around because she felt terrible - she was a marathon runner.
What are the signs of Altitude Sickness?
I have to preface this section with, I am not a medical doctor and you should consult your medical professional for more information on this subject. I have my Wilderness First Aid Certification and we had a section on it during my training.
The signs of Altitude Sickness are:
Fatigue and loss of energy.
Shortness of breath.
Problems with sleep.
Loss of appetite.
If you’re Altitude Sickness is more severe you’ll also have:
Loss of coordination and trouble walking
A severe headache that doesn’t get better with medication
A tightening in your chest
If any of the symptoms in the section list start happening and don’t improve you should descend the mountain for your own safety.
Can you share a Mt Kilimanjaro Map?
I purchased this Mt Kilimanjaro Map while I was in Moshi the first time I visited Tanzania for my climb. They’re available in many places in both Moshi and Arusha. Or you can purchase it before your trek on Amazon.
Below is a Google Map of Mount Kilimanjaro. If you click on it you’ll be able to see the locations of many of the camps. You’ll notice that the glacier on the summit is nearly all gone. At one time the entire area around the crater was completely covered by the glacier.