Brief Information and Questions Answered on Climbing Kilimanjaro

These notes are intended to assist you and give you a better understanding of the risks of going to altitude but still wishing to climb Kilimanjaro. As someone who has climbed Kilimanjaro over 35 times I have a lot of experience managing and executing expeditions on Kilimanjaro.
This is brief information on climbing Kilimanjaro and not designed to be comprehensive in any way. If you would like to review all our Kilimanjaro Links on one page read here.  If you decide to join one of our climbs we send you a 40 page full brief on the climb.

Some Questions Answered

I have climbed Kilimanjaro 35+ times to date and happy to go through training plans, give full detailed kit list and explain how our Kilimanjaro climbs run. CLICK HERE for our packing video. Ultimately climbing at altitude is a dangerous sport and claims many casualties each year. One of the guiding principals of mountaineering is that an individual climber takes responsible for his or her own safety. If you cannot accept this then this information and probably climbing in general is unlikely to suit you. I am happy to chat with you if you are interested.

Q: Where is Kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro is situated in the north east of Tanzania part of the East African community. The north side of the mountain borders Kenya and is close to the game drives of the Serengeti and rift valley, home to a wide range of wildlife and safari options after you climb Kilimanjaro.

Q: How do I get there?

There are two gateways to Kilimanjaro, the town of Moshi, and Arusha town. Luckily Kilimanjaro has it own international airport. The airport is nicely positioned for half way between Arusha and Moshi. Kilimanjaro airport is 50 minutes drive from Moshi and 50 minutes to Arusha where your journey to climb Kilimanjaro starts. We use the Karama Lodge in Arusha for all our Kilimanjaro adventures.

Q: How hard is it?

Climbing Kilimanjaro is not easy, but you can make it easier by spending more days on the mountain acclimatizing to the lower levels of oxygen on Kilimanjaro. The summit statistics show around 50% of people make the summit and most people are aiming to summit in 4 5, or 6 day trip.  If you decide to climb Kilimanjaro on a 7 day trip you push that up to 80%. If you pick an 8 day trek you push your chances of success above 90% if you come physically prepared. You have to walk for 50+ miles on Kilimanjaro, carry a backpack with 5kg to 7kg so you need a good level of fitness, and physical conditioning. Ideally you need to be able to do multi day trekking for 3 – 5 hours on the hills. There is a range of training you can do if you are not close to the hills and need to rely on the treadmill, stair masters, bikes and jogging. We can help you manage your time to get the best preparation possible with individual training programs. Read more. 

Q: When is Kilimanjaro usually climbed?

The best months to climb Kilimanjaro are January, February, June, July, August, September and October. CLICK HERE for our month by month breakdown. In saying that it can be climbed all year round. We choose not to climb in the rainy seasons of March, April, May. There is a mini rainy season in November and December but you can still climb in these months. 

Q: How should I prepare myself for climbing Kilimanjaro?

This all depends on where you are starting from in terms of your fitness, trekking experience, weekly hiking and training. It could take as long as a year or as little as a couple of months to prepare. The key aspects of success will come from your ability to adapt to the lack of oxygen and how you cope with living in a tent and look after your personal hygiene and stay positive in a mountain environment. You have to adapt to the environment, no showers, no TV, no real comforts and dealing living in close quarters with other people, some who you may not know. Keeping your mindset in a positive light will be vitally important to success. Hill walking is he most important training you can do, simulating the conditions you will experience on Kilimanjaro is the most important training. Also by adding extra weight to your backpack, gives excellent conditioning to the legs and body. When you get to the mountain you carry less weight and your body should know how to cope with the pressure it is put under at altitude.

Q: So what kind of gear do I need?

To start with you need well worn in hiking boots, Gortex and good enough to withstand the cold weather high on the mountain. Here are the trekking boots we recommend for your Kilimanjaro climb. You need good gloves to keep your hands warm on summit night as it can be as low as -15c you need to wear a warm hat with buff to cover your mouth. A buff keep moisture in your mouth and keeps you from getting a dry throat, it also keeps your neck warm. You will need 4 layers for your summit bit, but could be one layer for the first couple of days. It can be freezing most mornings in your tent, but once the sun comes out you can wear shorts all day. A down jacket is a great piece of kit, you can wear at night while relaxing and you can use for your summit bid. You can request a full itemized kit list from us when you sign up. Watch our Kilimanjaro packing video.

Q: What Kind of Clothing do You Need?

You need to have a wide range of cloths. 15kg/ 33lbs is your weight limit for the porters to carry. You will carry rain gear (for the many days on the trek), fleece, or down jacket, camera and 3 liters of water (depending on the day) You can get away with shorts up to high camp, but most people prefer trekking pant with a gortex shell and thermal underwear for summit night. You will need sock liners, wool socks and a couple of light layers for the first 3/4 days of the climb. Wicking layers, Light and heavier fleece layers. Get in touch and we can supply you with a full kit list. Make sure you have trainers to change into once you reach the camp each day. Merino wool from Smartwool or Icebreaker are great layering products and I highly recommend them.

Q: What About Food and Water?

You should be drinking 4 – 6 liters per day (ABSOLUTE MUST), your body dehydrates faster at altitude and you are exercising so keep drinking, your body is creating more red blood cells to carry oxygen faster around your body. Your blood thickens and therefore hydration plays a key part in keeping you healthy and your body working effectively at high altitude. You can use Disprin or Asprin in your water to thin out your blood, which will help you as you move higher on the mountain. The food is carefully chosen on different days depending on the exertion required. Loads of carbs, protein and necessary food to get your up and down with the fuel needed to sustain you. We have a full menu available on request once you sign up to one of our Kilimanjaro trips.

Q: Do I Need Permission?

You can not roll up and enter Kilimanjaro National park, permit and forms need to be filled in well in advance and you will need assistance with this. Ian Taylor Trekking manages all the forms, permits, park fees associated with entering Kilimanjaro National Park, so you don’t have to worry about it. I highly recommend one route. The Lemosho 8 day route. From extensive experience I believe climbing Kilimanjaro over 8 days gives you the best  safety and chance at success. Any less than this and you run the risk of getting high altitude sickness and not making the summit. Be safe, be smart, give altitude and the mountain the respect it deserves.

Q: Which Route Should You Take?

Well there are many routes up the mountain. We have climbed them all, but only recommend the Lemosho Route for your Kilimanjaro Climb. The Lemosho is a quiet and beautiful route up the mountain is joins the Machame route at the Lava Tower on day 4, but that extra day of acclimatization and crossing the Shira plateau is an amazing approach to the climbing Kilimanjaro. The Machame route is similar and approaches from a route closer to the Moshi but it doesn’t give you the best of Kilimanjaro. Pick the Lemosho Route it is a great route up Kilimanjaro with great acclimatization and you will not be disappointed.  The Rongai route approaches from the North near the Kenya border, this route cuts across to Mawenzi peak before heading towards Kibo the main peak and summit of Kilimanjaro. The mountain has three volcano’s Shira, Kibo (uhuru peak) and Mawenzi you will be climbing Kibo the height point on Kilimanjaro.

Q: How Long Will it Take?

You can read all sorts of information on the internet. The reason people pick less days as it is cheaper. We highly recommend you spend a minimum of 8 days climbing Kilimanjaro. We have a lot of experience on the mountain and run around 30 trips per year on the mountain. If you have more days you give yourself, team and staff the best experience possible. Why not add on a 3 day safari and some days on Zanzibar and you are looking at a 2 week trip.

Q: What Kind of Weather Conditions Will I Experience?

Wide ranging temperatures from +30c to – 15c typically once you are on the mountain the day time temperatures range from 5c to 15c and typically it is – 5c to – 10c on the summit of Kilimanjaro, once the sun comes up it gets warmer and can be warm coming down from the summit. While you are in the rain forest it can rain quite a bit or not at all, so you need to be prepared. It can also rain anywhere on the mountain and this will depend on the time of year you climb the mountain. It can also be cloudier making it feel colder. Be prepared for every type of weather on Kilimanjaro. Read More.
Q: What about Altitude sickness?
Going to high and extreme Altitude is always a risk.  To ensure as safe an experience as possible you need to spend as much time on the mountain. It is as simple as that. Climbing Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime experience. Why compromise and risk failing to make the summit.  You can take Diamox on the mountain if your doctor prescribes it, keep as hydrated as possible, and cover the distances as slowly as possible and physically prepared. You don’t want to over exert yourself physically so moving slowly each day aids in the acclimatization process. The Golden Rules of Altitude Sickness If you do not feel well, you may have altitude sickness until proven otherwise, do not ascend further if you have symptoms of altitude sickness. If you are getting worse then descend immediately. Every year, people die of altitude sickness and all of these deaths are preventable. If you are travelling above 8,000 feet/ 2,500m you are at risk of altitude sickness. read more on this. 

Q: What is the Biggest Problem Most People Face?

The biggest problem most people face is their own fear.  Having a positive frame of mind is so important. If you have done all the preparation and training,  you should feel confident in your own ability and your gear. If you have more days on the mountain you should feel at ease. Other people find it hard to adjust to camping life. It is important to get into a routine, once you get into camp, clean up change cloths. Set up your tent, sleep bag and mattress and get comfortable. Tackling each day at a time is a great way to focus on the present. Just focus on each days walking as it comes and enjoy the journey rather than focusing on the top. You will get there.

Q: Can You do it?

Kilimanjaro is achievable for most people. In 2011 I brought 69 year old to the summit. In 2014 I brought a 72 year old to the summit and we have helped many people in their 60’s and 70’s to the summit.  The summit is achievable for most people if you put in the specific training and preparation we recommend. Spend the right amount of time training each week and more days  on the mountain then you have a great shot at reaching the summit.

Q: Anything Else I Should Know?

There is a lot of information you need to know. So lets chat about climbing Kilimanjaro. Go camping, get out and use your gear, get out in all sorts of weather and get training, see a personal trainer, gym instructor if you are concerned about how to physically prepare. We can also answer any questions you may have at any stage.

Q: How much will it cost me?

Depending on where you flight from in the world, the pricing will be different. You can pay anywhere from $900 – $2200 for flights. When it come to your personal insurance, clothing, Visa entry fee you can spend up to $3,000 you need proper hiking boots, gloves, thermals, down jacket, gortex etc. the cost will all depend on the amount of gear you already have. In terms of the service and amount of days you spend on the mountain the prices range from $2,000 – $7,000 depending on the service you require. We only run quality Kilimanjaro trips. We pay all our staff and porters the correct wages and do not cut corners on our service and trips. We want you to be successful and we are here to support you in your endeavor of climbing Kilimanjaro. Look forward to hearing from you.

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