Climbing Kilimanjaro Preparation
If you are reading this, you’re probably in the process of making (or have already made) a decision that will change your life forever. Mount Kilimanjaro, or ‘The Roof Of Africa’ as it is more affectionately known, is located in Tanzania and is the highest mountain in Africa. It towers at about 4900m from its base and 5895m above sea level. It is also one of the 7 summits, which makes it a very popular ‘first climb’. But what does it really take to climb the highest peak in Africa – other than a solid pair of trusty hiking boots and a positive mindset of course? There is a lot that goes into preparing for your climb and this is why your Kilimanjaro preparation should be first on the agenda. Have a quick look at the below excerpt from our interview about safety and preparation on Kilimanjaro with our lead guide Chris. The full video can be watched here.
Come prepared and maximise your experience!
When it comes to your Kilimanjaro preparation, there are a number of factors to consider when embarking on this journey of a lifetime. Not only do you need to be somewhat physically prepared, but
- How hard is climbing Kilimanjaro?
- Best time to climb Kilimanjaro
- How fit do you need to be to climb Kilimanjaro?
- What is altitude sickness?
- Is it safe to climb Kilimanjaro?
- Kilimanjaro tour operators
- Can you climb Kilimanjaro on your own?
- How long does it take to climb Kilimanjaro?
- Which Kilimanjaro route should I take?
- What should I pack for
- Do I need a visa to climb Kilimanjaro?
- Do I need a medical check up before climbing Kilimanjaro?
- Still have questions?
How hard is climbing
While you are on your hike, you are submerged in a world far from your reality. Suddenly, the menial
Kilimanjaro is a life changing experience!
There is a fair amount of physical and practical Kilimanjaro preparation that can make your climb easier and increase the likelihood of reaching the top, but ultimately the hard part comes in when the body starts to experience altitude sickness. Unfortunately, this is the main aspect of the climb that stops people from reaching the top and can affect each person differently.
There may be points in your journey that you feel are hard, for whatever reason. The best advice is to remain positive and take it very slowly. Stop and take a deep breath, keep looking up and taking in the beautiful backdrop of this new and exciting experience.
Best time to climb Kilimanjaro
Realistically, you can climb Kilimanjaro any time of the
So why is this relevant to my Kilimanjaro preparation?
To really understand how the weather affects your climb, it is helpful to know that there are 2 main wind patterns that occur in
North-East Trade Winds
If you are looking to climb any time between March and May, you may want to reconsider. During this time, Trade Winds travelling from the North-East travel over the Indian Ocean and will arrive at the equator with rain clouds bursting at the seams. This makes mid March through to May the “wet” season and, as you can imagine, does not make for ideal hiking weather.
If you only have time between March and May to climb, you will be happy to hear that there is a route you can take to avoid the extreme rainfall and still experience the beauty of Kilimanjaro. Rongai Route is suggested for trekkers who only have a window of opportunity to climb between March and May. This is because the route resides from the North and due to the mass of rain falling mainly on the Southern side of the peak, the Northern slopes experience less rain.
South-East Anti-Trade Winds
If you are hoping for more enjoyable weather for your climb, June through to October would be an ideal time to go. During this time, Anti-Trade Winds travelling from the North-East swoop in and are considered to be relatively dry as they don’t collect and carry a lot of moisture and don’t have much to offer in terms of rain by the time they get to the
In addition to these 2 wind patterns, one also has to consider that November brings North-Eastern Monsoon winds. This means ALOT of rain and incredible
January through to March and June through to October are considered the best time to get your trek on
Have you considered a NYE Kilimanjaro climb?
Yep, we said it! Can you imagine a better way to bring in the new year?!
We’re inviting you to join us on our New Years Eve idea 2019, a unique once in a life time adventure. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro this New Years Eve and Follow Alice into 2020 with your friends above the clouds. Leave us your email and/or phone number below and we will be in contact shortly to discuss the trip with you.
How fit do you have to be to climb Kilimanjaro?
This is by far the most common question we receive from our travelers in the first stages of their Kilimanjaro preparation. First and foremost, anybody can climb Kilimanjaro. There is no age limit on this life changing adventure and as long as you have determination and a general level of fitness, don’t feel intimidated by the magnitude of the journey ahead. The youngest person to ever endure this challenge was 7 years old, and the oldest at 85 years old.
Physical Kilimanjaro preparation
So how do you physically prepare for Kilimanjaro? Well, to state the obvious, the fitter you are, the more you will enjoy your trip and the higher the likelihood of a successful summit. A fit body is more likely to withstand the stress of consecutive days of hiking and camping. You’re probably going to climb Kilimanjaro once in a lifetime, so if you’ve decided to take the adventure on, be sure you make
We recommend to maintain a good level of general fitness and to add a few dedicated training session a couple of weeks in advance. During this training, you should wear the boots that you intend to climb with so that they are sufficiently broken-in (this is very important to prevent blisters!). For those who are able to hike regularly, this would of course be first prize for uphill training. For those who may not have any hiking trails nearby, hop on the treadmill and up the
What is altitude sickness?
Altitude sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), is a number of symptoms that a person may experience when climbing to higher altitudes. With Kilimanjaro being so high above sea level, it is no wonder that the majority of trekkers experience some form of AMS at some point on their journey. In fact, at over 3,000 metres more than 75% of climbers will experience at least some form of mild AMS. Mild symptoms of AMS are very common and are nothing to panic about, but it is good to know the various symptoms that may occur.
Altitude sickness can vary in stages but the most common symptoms include headaches, nausea, difficulty sleeping and general fatigue. Again, these are not symptoms to panic about, but they can make certain parts of your climb quite challenging. It is important that during these times you keep it, as the locals say, “pole, pole” (slowly slowly) and stay positive. Also be sure to always communicate with your guide about how you are feeling. Remember that AMS can happen to anybody, and it is nothing to feel embarrassed about.
During your summit, mild AMS symptoms can be minimised by taking the correct acclimatisation process. We call this process climb high, sleep low. This basically means climbing to a higher altitude during the day and sleeping at a lower altitude at night. This acclimatisation procedure is achieved through well-planned itineraries and is discussed in detail in our Kilimanjaro Safety and Altitude Sickness guide.
How to avoid altitude sickness?
In terms of pre-climb Kilimanjaro preparation – ultimately there is no real way to avoid altitude sickness. It doesn’t have anything to do with fitness and it can affect even the fittest of the fit. So even though there is no routine to avoid it all together, there are a couple of things you can do to prepare. If you are able to, try to climb
Is it safe to climb Kilimanjaro?
Kilimanjaro safety is always top of the list of questions and concerns. It goes without saying that the more you focus on physical and practical Kilimanjaro preparation, the safer your climb will be. We do however need to be realistic
First and foremost, we cannot stress enough how important it is that you choose the right Kilimanjaro operator. Make sure that whoever you settle on
As important as it is for them to do their best to keep you safe, it is just as important for you to do your best to communicate with them at all times. Always speak up if you are feeling ill. For the duration of the hike, regular readings of your vital signs will be taken. Your guide is equipped with essential equipment to monitor you throughout your Kilimanjaro climb. They will check you multiple times a day to ensure you are acclimatising well to avoid any serious stress on the body. They also have access to a first aid kit, a stretcher and bottled oxygen. Bottled oxygen is for emergencies only and should not be used as a fall back for climbers who have not acclimatised properly but want to climb higher.
A good tour operator should also make sure that there are emergency evacuation procedures in place. For instance, if someone is seriously injured or ill, Flying Doctors, also known as air ambulances will air lift the injured or ill down to ground level where they will receive the necessary medical treatment.
Kilimanjaro tour operators
Choosing the right Kilimanjaro tour operator for your hike is vital in the success and general experience of your adventure. If you have made the decision to take on this spectacular feat, you will know how daunting it can feel when figuring out the next steps. This is where a really good tour operator comes in and makes your life a bit easier. Essentially, your operator should support you through the whole process from start to finish.
How do I choose the right Kilimanjaro tour operator?
The internet, as informative as it is, can also be pretty overwhelming. Try not to get too caught up in finding the cheapest option. We’re all for saving money, but some things in life shouldn’t be compromised (climbing the highest peak in Africa being one of them). So when you are on the lookout for your operator, keep in mind that there are 2 main types of tour operators, budget operators and value for money operators.
- Budget tour operators. These are operators are considered to be the least expensive and usually charge between $1,500 and $1,900. This may sound great, but keep in mind that if you pay them less, they probably pay their guides and porters less. Budget tour operators will also charge you less, but increase the tipping amount for you to budget, so ultimately you end up spending around the same amount of money as you would for a value tour operator, minus the quality in service. We discussed the importance of good guides and porters in relation to your health and safety earlier in this post, so keep that in the forefront of your mind when making this decision. Their equipment and food will also be of a lower standard than your value operator. The importance of good, nutritious food is not to be overlooked as this is what will sustain you on this journey.
- Value for money tour operators. These are your operators that come in a bit higher than your budget operators at between $1,900 and $3,200. Value operators will offer trips of about 6-8 days in duration which gives you more time to acclimatise and increase the likelihood of a successful summit. They will also ensure that your guides and porters are well paid and well prepared and don’t compromise the quality of food or equipment.
Anything from $3,200 upwards would be considered a luxury tour operator. How do they distinguish themselves and how do they justify the high prices? Amenities provided by luxury tour operators for
Can you climb Kilimanjaro on your own?
Quite simply put – there is no way for anyone to climb Kilimanjaro on their own. In fact, it is against
With between 35,000 and 50,000 Kilimanjaro climbs a year, and hundreds of guides and porters with consistent jobs, this creates opportunity within the community and grows the economy in a massive way. Because of this there is a mutual benefit between the climbers and the support
Climbing Kilimanjaro is a really beautiful experience and when shared with like minded individuals, you will find that even if your group started out as strangers, you will leave with a deep sense of connection as you make new life long friends. To make the most of this experience we suggest groups of between 4 to 8 people. It is also recommended that you take a less crowded route to avoid large crowds.
Tipping on Kilimanjaro
Firstly, here’s a fun video of the guides and porters dancing at the tipping ceremony.
Tipping is also an important factor to keep in mind when preparing for your Kilimanjaro climb. It is essential that you understand the tipping guidelines before your journey. Kilimanjaro tipping is an essential and customary way of paying your mountain crew. It
The mountain crew are an essential group of support staff that help you summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Your extensive team consists of hard-working Kilimanjaro porters, guides and cooks. They provide specially trained support throughout the climb to assist you in reaching the summit.
- Porters – carry all of your food and gear.
- Guides – guide you safely and efficiently up the mountain.
- Cooks – provide all meals (breakfast/lunch/dinner).
Tipping is discretionary and you are under no legal obligation to tip. However, it is expected. This is because it has always constituted a significant proportion of a guide or porter’s salary. Tipping may not be common practice in all countries and cultures, but it does play a large part in the financial compensation for a Kilimanjaro climb.
Tipping may not be common practice in all countries and cultures, but it does play a large part in the financial compensation for a Kilimanjaro climb.
How long does it take to climb Kilimanjaro?
Climbing Kilimanjaro is not a race. Take some advice from the experts and always take it “pole pole”. This is the Swahili term for “slowly, slowly”. Climbing the highest mountain in Africa is no overnight mission and can take between 5 to 9 days. This really does depend on the route that you decide to take. Each route is unique in it’s on way in that they can range from 5 days at high difficulty and a lower success rate, to 6-8 days at medium to low difficulty with a higher success rate. The scenery is also vastly different from one route to the next.
As we mentioned earlier in this post, the main thing that stops people from reaching the summit is the altitude. You can be as fit as anything, but if you do not take the time to acclimatise properly, the chances of you getting altitude sickness and needing to head back down the mountain are much higher. This is the main reason we like to suggest a longer route.
Why take a longer Kilimanjaro route?
Taking a route that is longer also gives you the opportunity to take in your surroundings. A diverse ecosystem of exquisite wildlife, indigenous fauna and flora decorate your adventure and taking the time to appreciate this is a definite plus when you are keeping the pace to a comfortable stroll. We particularly love the Lemosho route for this reason. The scenery is so beautiful, even humbling when you are in the presence of the earth and it’s natural wonders.
In addition to that, spending a decent amount of time at a comfortable pace also gives you the time to get to know your fellow climbers and local guides and porters. Tanzania is a wonderful country with a wealth of cultural history. A chance to connect with your local crew members gives you a window into the lives of the people of Tanzania. You will soon learn that they are full of joy and their company is greatly cherished.
Tanzania is a wonderful country with a wealth of cultural history
All Kilimanjaro routes lead to the summit! Having said that, trying to figure out which route to take should not be an afterthought, but rather the pillar of your entire experience. Choosing the right route can either make or break your climb. Each route has its own pros and considerations. It’s important that you weigh these out before making your decision.
Which is the best Kilimanjaro route?
At the end of the day, choosing a route is a personal choice, so really there is no ‘best’ route overall, but rather a best route for you and what you want to achieve. There are 5 essential factors to keep in mind when choosing your route:
- Acclimatisation profile and success rate of the route
- Diversity of the scenery, views and overall beauty of the route
- How many days are spent on the mountain
- The total cost of the climb
- How crowded does the route get
There are 7 main routes to consider. Let’s make a start by outlining the 7 different established routes on Mount Kilimanjaro.
We love this route. The Lemosho route is 70 km in length and is the most beautiful Kilimanjaro route. It has a high success rate and is considered medium in difficulty. This route takes between 7-8 days.
The Machame Routespans over 62 km is the most popular Kilimanjaro route. This is our second
The Marangu Route is low in difficulty which makes the success rate high. 72 km is covered in 5-6 days and this route only offers hut accommodation.
The Rongai Route is considered the easiest of all the Kilimanjaro routes but it has a medium success rate. The route is 73 km and will take between 6-7 days.
The Shira Route is 56 km and approaches from the Western side of Kilimanjaro. This route takes between 7-8 days and has a high success rate.
The Northern Circuit route is the newest and longest Kilimanjaro route and at 98 km considered one of the most difficult routes. It does however have a high success rate and takes between 9-10 days.
The Umbwe Route is the shortest, steepest and hardest Kilimanjaro route and thus has a low success rate. 53 km is covered in 6-6 days.
Read about the routes in detail here to help make your decision:Kilimanjaro Routes
What should I pack for Kilimanjaro?
When preparing for your Kilimanjaro climb, gear is key! With a climate that changes daily, having the right clothing is essential for a successful and somewhat comfortable summit. From the humid
- A water bottle
- Warm hiking socks, gloves and a hat
- Broken in and warm hiking boots
- A 30-40 litre day backpack (this will be carried by you)
- A 80-100 litre duffel bag (this will be carried by a porter)
- Warm outer layers to protect your extremities from the cold
- Water and windproof jackets and trousers
- Inner layers (2-3 base and 1 x mid)
- Thermal underwear
If you have made the decision to take on this magnificent mountain you will know that there is a lot more to add to this packing list. We have put together an extensive packing guide to help you prepare for your Kilimanjaro climb – the adventure ahead.Packing guide
Do I need a visa to climb Kilimanjaro?
Practical Kilimanjaro preparation is important for your trip. Be sure that you have a passport that is valid for at least 6 more months as well as a flight card which you will receive on the plane to Tanzania or upon arrival.
Do I need a medical check up before climbing Kilimanjaro?
Although it is not an entry requirement to have a medical check up or certificate, it may give you piece of mind if you are feeling nervous or unsure about whether you are willing to push your body to new limits. The only real entry requirement to factor in your Kilimanjaro preparation is that you have medical insurance. This is a general rule of thumb and is taken very seriously.
In terms of vaccinations – there are no specific vaccine requirements needed to enter Tanzania. However, be aware that the government of Tanzania requires proof of yellow fever vaccination upon arrival if you are traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever. We suggest you talk to your doctor about getting the following vaccinations: Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, Tetanus, Polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and Meningococcal Meningitis (Africa/Asia). Please check the Fit For Travel website for more up to date information.
One thing we love, is getting feedback from our
- Firstly, get an idea of what it is really like to climb Kilimanjaro and follow our very own Salo on his journey to the summit with this documentary:
- We have said it a million times, but take it slowly. You will often hear the guides and porters say “pole pole” which is Swahili for “slowly, slowly”.
- Listen to your guides when they give you advice. They know what they are talking about and have only your best interest at heart.
- On that note, learn a few basic Swahili phrases. Your guides and porters will love it if you throw in a word here or there.
- Your guides and porters are your support system. Make friends with them and learn all you can about Tanzania.
- Pack biodegradable wet wipes. This
speakfor itself really. Luxuries such as a warm shower are non existent here, so wet wipes are your best friend for keeping yourself clean.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen! When you are immersed in temperatures well below 0, it may not feel like you need the extra protection but the UV index increases rapidly the higher you climb and sunburn can be really uncomfortable for the rest of your summit.
- Don’t shy away from eating all the food that is given to you. This is what will sustain you on your journey. Even if you don’t feel hungry – eat eat eat!
- Drink water. LOTS of water! Hydration is essential for your body on a Kilimanjaro climb.
- Come equipped with yummy treats! Quite simply, everyone loves a good snack and the more calories you consume while on your summit the better. Never underestimate the importance of comfort food when you’re not in your comfort zone.
Lastly, and take it from our lead guide, Chris – be positive. Chris has reached the summit over 300 times and a positive
Still have questions about your Kilimanjaro preparation?
- Have a look at our Kilimanjaro FAQ page
- Join our free Webinar every Wednesday and Sunday! We would love to chat with you about your Kilimanjaro preparation.