Are you looking to take your hiking and trekking adventures to the next level or looking to sign up for a new worthy goal for 2023? We highly recommend climbing up to the roof of the African continent, Mt. Kilimanjaro. Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the most popular destinations for hikers and mountain climbers alike, offering breathtaking views of Tanzania.
If you’re planning to take on Kilimanjaro for your next adventure, then read on! From the best routes to take, helpful advice from an official Kilimanjaro guide, and how to prepare for high altitudes, we have got you covered! So let's get started and find out what makes Kilimanjaro such an amazing destination!
Mt. Kilimanjaro is Africa’s only volcano and even though it is a 19,000 feet plus tall mountain, it isn’t exactly a technical climb. There are well established trails to get you to the top of this giant. That said, it is no easy feat. The route can range from 23 miles to 56 miles, over 6-10 days, depending on the route you choose to take.
Our Kilimanjaro guide recommends that you plan your climb during the dry season for the most ideal conditions, this is from July to October and January to March. During this time, you can expect less rain and clearer skies. With fewer clouds, climbers will have better views of Kilimanjaro’s iconic summit.
Mt. Kilimanjaro has seven different routes that hikers can take to reach its summit.
1. Machame - This is the most popular route but also one of the busiest. Takes 7 days to complete
2. Lemosho- Lemosho is an upgraded version of the Machame route as it starts in the rainforest and leaves more time for acclimatization. It takes 8 days to complete.
3. Marangu - Marangu is the most direct way to summit Kilimanjaro and provides huts as accommodation. Takes 6 days to complete.
4. Rongai - Only path that allows the summit from the north. Takes 6 days to complete.
5. Shira - It approaches Kilimanjaro from the west. Quite strenuous and difficult to acclimatize. Takes 7 days to complete.
6. Umbwe - Very steep climb but direct route with dense forest all around. Takes 6 days to complete.
7. Northern Circuit - Newest and longest route with beautiful views and good acclimatization. Takes 9-10 days to complete
For more detailed information about the different routes to Mt Kilimanjaro, head over to our The Best Routes to Climb Kilimanjaro blog.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is not an easy task. It will require significant physical and mental effort from all who attempt it. However, anyone can do it if they prepare thoroughly before attempting this feat.
One way to prepare for Kilimanjaro is by training your body for the hike. You will need endurance and strength if you wish to make it up Kilimanjaro’s 19,341 feet. Depending on your baseline fitness, you may need to start training 4-5 months in advance and put in 6-8 hours of training each week, in addition to long distance walking practice.
Here are some suggestions for training:
- Start by walking at least 20 minutes each day, and slowly increase the time you walk.
- Practice carrying 10 extra kilograms while walking, this will help you get used to the load you will be carrying while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
- Climb stairs to strengthen your muscles and increase endurance.
- Increase the intensity of your walk with hills or stair climbing
- Improve your strength endurance by trying strength exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, and squats to build up your overall strength.
When climbing Kilimanjaro you don't need to target a fast pace. A slow, steady pace will do the job. In Tanzania, they use the term 'pole pole' (slowly, slowly). You don't need to rush, Kilimanjaro is not a race, as a local guide calls out. You need to take your time and enjoy the scenery as you go. This local trick will serve you well in coping with the high altitude on this climb.
Here’s what you’ll need for your climb, in addition to the group camping gear typically provided by your guiding company.
- Rain, insulation and base layers
- Warm hat, gloves, socks and socks liners
- Sun protection in the form of sunscreen, sunglasses and sun hat
- Hiking boots, preferably warm and waterproof, which should have already been broken into
- Gaiters to keep water and dirt out of your boots (optional)
- Camp shoes
- Sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner (optional)
- Personal first aid kit
- Personal hygiene kit including sanitizer, wet wipes, toilet paper, etc.
- Insect repellant
- Backpack (waterproof, if possible)
- Wide mouthed water bottle (like Nalgene) and a water bladder (recommended capacity: 3 liters)
- Quick dry towel and personal toiletries
- Stuff sacks
- Light photography gear and phone battery backup
- Mt. Kilimanjaro can be a formidable challenge for even the most experienced climbers, but it doesn't have to be. There are a few very specific things you can do to prepare your body for the physical exertion, at high altitude.
- First of all, keep on drinking plenty of fluids, and don’t overexert yourself.
- Before the start of your trip, consult your doctors to see if you have any issues with altitude. If so, they may be able to prescribe medication or other treatments to improve your ability to acclimatize.
- To help prevent altitude sickness, go slowly, take your time, drink water and relax. Try to eat as much as possible even if you don't feel very hungry.
- Use a pulse oximeter to regularly monitor your oxygen levels and heart rate. At higher altitude, a lower oxygen level can affect your breathing, so be sure to check that you’re getting enough air.
- It is also important to keep warm when climbing Kilimanjaro. The temperature on the mountain can drop quickly during the night and it is important to wear layers of clothing, preferably a down jacket and hat, to keep your body temperature up.
- Consider using medication like Diamox to prevent altitude sickness. It is a drug used to help acclimate your body to the high altitude and reduce symptoms of Altitude Sickness. Diamox is a prescribed drug in the US. Please do not consider this blog as medical advice and consult your physician before taking any drugs.
Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the most amazing places in the world and a hike to the summit should not be taken lightly. However, with the right preparation and knowledge, you can make your hike a safe and unforgettable experience. We hope that this guide to hiking Kilimanjaro has helped you get started on the path to conquering the peak.
Now it's time for you to take action, pack your bags and prepare for an amazing adventure! Check out our Mt Kilimanjaro Machame Route - 7 day trek and the Mt. Kilimanjaro Lemosho Route - 8 day trek here. Everyone who signs up through our website gets a detailed training plan, an itemized gear list and an FAQ document covering all your questions from do I need vaccination to visit Tanzania to how much should I tip the guides.
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