“Where is Mount Kilimanjaro?”
Mount Kilimanjaro (affectionately referred to as Kili) is located in the north-east corner of Tanzania right on the border of Kenya, and adjacent to Mount Meru (3o 04’ 33’’ S, 37o 21’ 12’’ E). The closest local town is Moshi and Mount Kilimanjaro forms part of East Africa’s Rift Mountains.
“What’s so special about summiting Kili?”
We hope you’ll be able to answer this, otherwise you wouldn’t be taking on such a challenge, but we’ll do our best to answer you. The desire to summit Kilimanjaro varies from climber to climber. It may be born out of a lifelong dream, a personal challenge or even a dare! Whatever your reasoning is for navigating Kili’s slopes, there’s something extremely fulfilling about watching the sun rise over Uhuru Peak on summit day.
“Which route should I climb?”
There are five routes to Uhuru Peak (excluding the Shira Route which is a 4×4 route), so you will be spoilt for choice. This is perhaps one of the most important decisions you will make when it comes to your climb and a certain degree of thought should be given to it. Each route varies in scenery, difficulty and popularity. While we won’t be able to go into the finer details of each route in this article, you can read about the different routes by following this link.
“How long is a Kilimanjaro climb?”
This will depend on the route you take to Uhuru. Climbs vary from 5 days and 4 nights, to 8 days and 7 nights. Some routes are more challenging than others and climbers sometimes add an extra night to acclimatise and increase their chances of summiting.
“When is the best time to climb?”
First and foremost, you would want to consider the weather conditions. The months of April, May and November are not recommended for climbing. There are high chances of cloud cover and precipitation, making conditions treacherous and dangerous. Apart from those three months (as well as a portion of March), the rest of the year has favourable conditions for climbing. Your second consideration is the number of climbers on the slopes at the time of your climb. This may not phase some climbers, but if it phases you then it’s good to give it some consideration.
Climbing Conditions, Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Good conditions: June and December
Okay conditions: March
Not recommended: April, May and November (Including the end of March)
“What are the sleeping arrangements?”
There are no five-star hotels where you’re heading. Unless you are on the Marangu Route where there will be huts, accommodation on Kilimanjaro will be in tents. A warm sleeping bag is a must and a sleeping bag inner (also known as a travel sheet) will add that extra bit of warmth. After a hard days hiking, sleep will be a welcome relief. To make the most of it, make sure you have all the necessary equipment to keep you comfortable and warm.
“Are there any toilet or shower facilities on the climb?”
The toilets that are available on the slopes consist of nothing more than four walls and a hole in the ground (sometimes referred to as a ‘long drop’). These toilets aren’t cleaned around the clock and you can find them in quite a horrid state. Another option is to hire a portable toilet that’s set up at you campsite for the evening. Although this comes at an extra cost you won’t have to hold your breath and your nose, and it gives you more privacy. The final option that’s always available is to get in touch with the great outdoors so to speak (i.e. find a bush and do your ‘business’). While ‘getting in touch with nature’ is all good and well, please respect the environment, by taking any toilet paper you use and placing it in a plastic bag, so you can dispose of it later.
With rudimentary toilet facilities – you guessed it – a nice warm shower is a luxury on the slopes of Kili. Wet wipes come in handy and are highly recommended to quickly freshen up. There is also the option of a humble bucket and face cloth should you feel the need to clean up a bit. One thing is for sure though, your first shower after a 6 – 8 day climb is going to feel out of this world.
“What are the meals like during the climb?”
You definitely won’t have the kitchen pantry at your disposal, but you will still have nutritious and tasty meals prepared for you. If you have any dietary requirements, then make sure your tour operator is aware of them.
- A typical breakfast involves eggs (boiled or fried), porridge, a piece of fruit, some bread (either with jam, honey or peanut butter) and a mug or two of tea, hot chocolate or coffee.
- Lunch is usually prepared during breakfast and carried by climbers in their day packs. Usually consisting of a boiled egg, sandwiches, a piece of fruit, some bread (with jam, honey or peanut butter) and a mug of tea, hot chocolate or coffee.
- At the end of the day’s hiking, there is usually ‘afternoon tea’, served with biscuits, peanuts and salted popcorn. Dinner usually begins with a steaming bowl of soup, followed by the main course (chicken or some other meat, vegetable sauce and rice or pasta).
It’s recommended to carry some energy bars with you on your climb to snack on. This will provide added energy and help you on your way to Uhuru Peak.
“Any guidelines on tipping my porters and guides?”
Your porters are a big reason why you’ll hopefully be standing tall on the top of Africa. Apart from setting up your tents, preparing your meals and being mindful of your safety, they (more than anyone) want to see you make it to Uhuru Peak. Your tips should not be dependent on whether you made it to the summit or not. Your tips should reflect whether your supporting team were professional and had your safety and best interests in mind from start to finish. We’ve introduced a system to make sure every climber, on completion of the climb, completes a form stating the amount being given as a tip. This way the tip allocations are transparent and fair. Speak to us about this system so you can take tips into consideration for your climb.
“Should I train for my Kilimanjaro climb?”
Kilimanjaro doesn’t discriminate when it comes to climbers. You could be the fittest person in your group and it will still be one of the most physically (and mentally) demanding challenges in your life. Good preparation will ensure a comfortable climb and a higher chance of successfully summiting. We recommend putting together a program of light aerobic fitness coupled with strengthening exercises (particularly leg and core strengthening). Please speak to us if you don’t know where to start in putting together a training regime.
“Should I be concerned about altitude sickness?”
You’ve probably heard the term ‘altitude sickness’ being thrown around in climbing circles, or amongst your friends and family. Perhaps you saw it while watching Vertical Limit. Altitude sickness occurs when the body is unable to acclimatise adequately to a rapid increase in altitude. Some symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, headaches, lack of appetite, exhaustion, muscle aches, rapid pulse even at rest (+/- 120 beats per minute) and insomnia. Here are some tips and precautions when it comes to altitude sickness:
- Consider adding an extra night prior to booking your hike. This will give your body more time to adequately acclimatise. Some routes are longer, which means they cost a bit more, but this may just ensure a better chance of successfully summiting.
- Maintain a slow and steady pace. It’s not a race and there’s little point in trying to out-climb everyone.
- Drink at least 4 – 6 litres of water each day.
- Always listen to your porter. They will be a great judge of whether you are going too fast. They are also very familiar with the symptoms of altitude sickness.
- Medications are available to combat altitude sickness. Consult your doctor on the availability of these medications.
“Should I bring any medication?”
We’ve put together a short list of some medications and suggested items for a medical kit:
- Sun protection – You’re already competing with the slopes of Kili, so you don’t want to make it more difficult by competing with the sun too. Bring sunscreen (SPF 30 and above) and lip-ice (balm), applying it regularly. A good pair of sunglasses or hiking goggles is a must. Snow blindness is very painful and it’s one memory you don’t want to take home with you.
- Pain killers and headache tablets – Make sure they are not too strong, as they could mask other symptoms.
- Basic anti-septic and plasters – Mostly for cuts and blisters. Especially for your feet and hands.
- Anti-nausea tablets – Great to have on you in case you encounter altitude sickness.
- Water purification tablets – Mountain streams may look unspoiled, but they may not be. Make sure you have enough tablets for 5 – 6 litres of water a day, multiplied by how many days your hike will be.
- Eye drops – These are great for protecting your eyes against dust and other particles, as well as against the glare of snow and ice.
- Rehydrate salts – Can be used in cases of dehydration, but they are also good for replenishing the salts your muscles have lost during your hike.
- Malaria prophylaxis – Mainly for pre- and post-hike nights in Moshi. Consult your doctor and let them know you are climbing Kilimanjaro as some medicines have side-effects and may affect your climb.
- Anti-inflammatory tablets – For aching muscles and joints. Particularly when you have to make the descent.
“Can I hire climbing equipment?”
Climbing equipment can be hired from most tour operators. At Wild Frontiers we will send you an ‘Equipment Hire Agreement’ which you will fill in and send back to us. Upon receipt of your agreement we will allocate the equipment to you which will be available in Moshi prior to your climb.
Check once and twice (and three times if necessary) to ensure that you have everything you need before your climb.
“Any other nuggets of wisdom I should be aware of?”
- Your first two days are the most crucial. It’s important to go slowly, very slowly… even if you are feeling well.
- When you start layering up considerably, it becomes difficult to keep track of how much you’re sweating and this means dehydration can sneak up on you. Stick to the recommended 4 – 6 liters (1 – 1.6 gallons) of water a day.
- Don’t compromise on your warmth or sanity. Bring enough warm clothing! Your tour operator will recommend items of clothing to bring.
- Avoid saving a few extra dollars. It’s better to spend a bit extra to make sure you have all that you need on Kili’s slopes. When you skimp on a few dollars you may also be putting your safety and summit chances at risk.
- Choose a reputable, local and experienced tour operator. There are some ‘fly-by night operators’ looking to make a few dollars at the expense of your safety and enjoyment. Do your homework on the tour operator you’re thinking of partnering with.
- Preparation. Guided tours have meant that summiting Kili is not as difficult as it once was, but this still doesn’t make it a cake-walk. Preparation for your Kili climb cannot be stressed enough. From making sure you have all the necessary equipment (and more) to ensuring that you’re fighting fit once you set foot on the slopes.
Towering over Tanzania’s sunlit plains, Mount Kilimanjaro has welcomed tens of thousands of climbers ever since it was first summited in 1889. Not everyone has made it to Africa’s highest point though and it’s for this reason why climbers continue to take on Kili’s slopes. Armed with a little more information (hopefully with a few of your questions answered), you can now look forward to your Kili climb, feeling a little more prepared for what’s ahead. For a look at our Kilimanjaro packages click here, or to make a reservation please email firstname.lastname@example.org.