Climbing Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest 'walkable' single standing mountain in the world. The trek to the summit is breathtaking.  It is one if the greatest outdoor challenges on the planet. When we reached the summit some years ago, we had tears in our eyes of joy as it was our lifelong dream to climb Kilimanjaro.

We believe it’s all about the journey and not the destination. The journey to the summit is just as beautiful. 

We offer, together with the best climbing partner in East Africa, different climbing options from Leightweight (for the adventurous type) Luxury and VIP. You can climb privately with your own group or with a pre-set departure group up to 12 people.

Contact us for more information about climbing Kilimanjaro for some pre-climbing tips. We will help you choose which route suits you best. 

Training

Mount Kilimanjaro is not only the highest point in Africa - it is the highest free-standing mountain in the world! Any climber who attempts to climb Kilimanjaro should prepare mentally and physically with an exercise regime and an understanding of altitude.

Every year an estimated 35,000 or more climbers take on the challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately, statistics show a failure rate of anywhere from 30%, to even as high as 50% of all climbers. Meaning anywhere from a third to a half of all climbers turn back.

While Kilimanjaro is a ‘walkable mountain’ - meaning there is no need of specialized equipment to reach the top - it does not mean that it is an easy climb. Hikers should be physically fit, but at 19,340 feet (5,895 m), simply being in top physical shape may not be enough. Training for Kilimanjaro is essential for a safe and successful summit.

How to Prepare for High Altitude?

Climbing a mountain is not merely about one’s cardiovascular endurance. Lower saturation of oxygen experienced at higher altitudes have a physical effect on all bodies; even the most athletic. While cardio exercises certainly help prepare the body for the physical activity every hiker will engage in during the climb, aerobic exercise alone cannot fully prepare for the conditions at 19,000 feet/5790 meters.

Oxygen at Various Altitudes

Mount Kilimanjaro is at an altitude of 19,341 feet/5,895 meters, meaning that every breath accumulates less than half the amount of oxygen that one breathes at sea level.

Now, those who already reside at higher altitudes are at an advantage. Their bodies have adapted over time to the less saturated oxygen. However, that ‘advantage’ is not necessarily everything - because no one lives at the high altitude of the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. No matter what your normal altitude level, there will be some amount of acclimatization for all hikers.

It is imperative to allow for adequate acclimatization to a successful climb; meaning, don’t try to run up the mountain. Schedule your climb with adequate days to ensure your body is appropriately (and safely!) adjusting to the increased altitude.

Prepare for the altitude of Mount Kilimanjaro by training on a regular basis at least 8 weeks before beginning your climb. Physical exercise is important, and a routine should be at least 4 times a week, and include aerobic exercises, strength training and hiking. Also consider the use of altitude simulators to give you even more of an advantage and help you reach Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak.

Aerobic Training for Kilimanjaro

Every climber should engage in regular aerobic training to prepare for Kilimanjaro. Cardiovascular exercise or simply, ‘cardio’, can be exercises such as running, jogging, cycling, and even aerobic dance classes. Cardio is an effective method of training for climbing Kilimanjaro because it increases heart rate and breathing.

Cardio is not the only exercise to focus on, but it is an important one to get your body in good physical condition. Try to regularly participate in aerobic exercises that simultaneously develop leg muscles to get your legs toned for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Training by cycling or trail running are great options.

We suggest 3-4 days a week of 40 minutes or more of aerobic exercise to keep the heart and lungs in good shape for the upcoming trek. It doesn’t have to be grueling, even dancing can be effective, as long as it gets your heart rate up!

Strength Training for Hiking the Mount

No one climbs Kilimanjaro by heart alone (physically or metaphorically). Climbers use their legs to get them to the top, so make sure your legs are strong!

Set aside 2 sessions a week for strength training, especially for legs. However, don’t focus only on the legs. Be diverse in your exercises and include back, chest, and arms as well. You will be carrying a day pack during your trek, after all.

Kilimanjaro climbs include 6-8 hour days of ascending hikes for 5 or more days, and a very long final day descending. Your legs need to be ready for this tough climb, so ensure you are getting the muscles toned. The climb up will be a challenge on your calves and hamstrings, while the descent will put your quad muscles to the test.

You aren’t aiming for definition and bulk with this weight training; you want your muscles to be strong and able to endure hours of hiking at a steep incline.

Practice Hiking at Altitude

Hands down, the most effective activity to prepare for climbing Kilimanjaro is to hike as much as possible!

Reaching the summit is essentially a very long, multi-day hike at increasingly higher altitudes. Hiking at high altitudes is the best way to prepare your heart and lungs for what’s to come.

If you are fortunate to live at or near a higher elevation, take advantage of the hikes in your area. Book a weekend to climb a mountain in your vicinity, or drive up to the highest elevation possible and spend the afternoon walking (or jogging!) around in the reduced oxygen.

You will be developing your leg muscles, participating in aerobic exercise and exposing your lungs to a higher altitude.

Some trekkers climb Mount Meru (4,564 m), in Arusha National Park as preparation for Kilimanjaro. If your time and budget allow, this is a great option!

Kilimanjaro Climbing Training Plan

We recommend hiking outdoors in preparation for your Kilimanjaro climb, unless you are using an altitude simulator mask and are feeling self-conscious, get outdoors! Don’t let the weather be a deterrent - it might be raining or freezing cold on Kilimanjaro - you are training for the trek.

Try to complete two long hikes per month and shorter hikes every week. Incorporate walking alternately on heels, and then toes to target specific leg muscles. Ensure you walk both uphill and downhill during your hike to prepare your body for the ascending and descending climbs.

If you are hiking outdoors, find an area with diverse terrain that incorporates uphill and downhill climbing naturally. If you’re restrained to a treadmill, ensure each session includes the suggested amount of time walking up and down, respectively.

Routes and rates

You may climb the Mount by several routes, which have been established by the Tanzania National Parks Authority to avoid unauthorized hiking and preserve the pristine beauty of the wilderness for the generations to come.

We recommend Lemosho and Rongai routes for novices, Northern Circuit and Machame for the beginners, and Marangu and Umbwe for climbers with prior hiking experience. Camping on all routes except Marangu (where the night stops are in huts).

You can find the rates for different routes HERE.

Lemosho route

Featuring captivating scenic vistas, pristine wildlife, excellent acclimatization opportunities and low traffic of climbers, Lemosho is our personal first favorite for reaching the roof of Africa.

After a 4-hour long drive from Moshi to Londorossi Gate you'll find yourself on the western slope of Mt Kilimanjaro, from where the route will take you to the world-famous Shira Plateau. That's where you'll embark on your adventure through all the climate zones - from alpine meadows to eternal ice. The climb is smooth and gradual, featuring the highest success rate of all routes on Kilimanjaro.

Six, seven and eight-day programs are available, so you can choose depending on the amount of time at your disposal. Longer programs are always recommended over the shorter ones for better acclimatization.

6 and 7-day Lemosho programs start from a high-altitude drop-off: you’ll be transferred to the elevation of 3,500 m/ 11,500 f by an off-road vehicle and start the hike from there. This is meant to maximize acclimatization transition - the higher you start, the easier your adaptation will be.

Lemosho 8 days (6 days of trekking)

Lemosho 9 days (7 days of trekking)

Lemosho 10 days (7 days of trekking)

Lemosho 10 days (including Moir hut - 8 days of trekking)

Rongai route

Rongai is the only route starting on the northern slope of Kilimanjaro. Though this part of the Mountain is rarely visited by hikers, it is not less interesting than the popular southern and western slopes. We recommend Rongai to all those who like reclusive hiking experiences.

Getting to the trailhead - Nalemuru Gate - usually takes 3-4 hours from Altezza Lodge or Aishi Machame Hotel.

Rongai is also the only route that passes by Mawenzi, one of the three volcanic cones of Kilimanjaro and the third highest peak in Africa. The way back lies through Marangu,  and thus you will be able to see both sides of the mountain.

Though six and seven-day programs are available, a longer option is recommended for better acclimatization transition.

Rongai 8 days (6 days trekking)

Rongai 9 days (7 days trekking)

Machame route

The second most popular option among the climbers, Machame route, also known as “the Whiskey Route”, offers a wide variety of views, landscapes and experiences. The starting point of the route, Machame Gate, is only a 20-minute drive from Aishi Machame Hotel. Located on the southern slope of Mt Kilimanjaro, Machame Gate will lead you to the top along the exciting footpath which starts at the tropical forest, then runs through all the climate zones and finishes with the Arctic desert in the summit area.

Camps along the trek are favorably located for smooth and gradual acclimatization transition process. On the 3rd day Machame Route converges with Lemosho and Umbwe at Barranco camp.

You can choose between a six or seven-day climb. The latter one is highly preferred for better acclimatization transition.

Machame 8 days (6 days trekking)

Machame 9 days (7 days trekking)

Marangu route

Marangu or “Coca-Cola” route is the most popular route on Kilimanjaro today. It is the only route where overnight stays are in huts. It makes Marangu a good option for hiking during the rainy season.

The route takes its start at the south-east of Mt Kilimanjaro. The entrance to the route, Marangu Gate, is quite close to our climbing base at Aishi Machame Hotel. The ride there takes about 1.5 hours.

The well-trodden trail running through all the climate zones - from tropical rainforest to eternal ice - will treat you to scenic African landscapes.

Being the most popular and the least expensive, the route may be crowded in July-September and December - March.

A 6-day option is strongly recommended over the 5-day one for better acclimatization.

Marangu 1 day (1 day trekking, no summit)

Marangu 2 days (2 days trekking, no summit)

Marangu 3 days (1 day trekking, no summit)

Marangu 4 days (2 days trekking, no summit)

Marangu 5 days (3 days trekking, no summit)

Marangu 7 days (5 day trekking)

Marangu 8 days (6 days trekking)

Northern Circuit

The longest and the newest route on Mount Kilimanjaro, Northern circuit is known for excellent acclimatization and breathtaking views of the Kilimanjaro northern slopes. For the present moment a very limited number of travelers have set foot on this trail, and the route is hardly ever crowded.

It is recommended to those who enjoy long trekking experiences in remote wilderness with a minimal number of other trekkers around.

It takes at least eight days to climb Kilimanjaro through Northern Circuit which is why the route boasts very high summit success rate. 9-day extended version with crater camping is also available.

Northern Circuit 10 days (8 days trekking)

Northern Circuit 11 days (9 days trekking)

Kilimanjaro Crater

The extended version of Northern Circuit route includes two extra days to get proper acclimatization before overnighting at Crater Camp. Situated close to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro at the altitude of 5790 m, this is the highest overnight possible at the equator, so we will do our utmost to make your Kilimanjaro climb comfortable, as well as unforgettable. Only a lucky few can lay claim to having seen the night skies at this altitude and they are indeed a sight to behold: Kilimanjaro Glaciers against the backdrop of the Milky Way! While such ascents are never without their risks, our team has both the expertise and equipment to ensure your safety at Kilimanjaro Crater Camp.

Northern Circuit 12 days via Crater Camp route (10 days trekking)

Umbwe route

Daring experienced climbers seeking adventure and challenge will find just what they want on Umbwe. A short steep climb traversing all the climate zones - from tropical rainforest to eternal ice - will put your strength and endurance to the test. Like no other route on Kilimanjaro Umbwe gives a sense of achievement to those who reach the summit.

Your first day on the mountain will start from Umbwe Gate and continue with a lengthy trek to the first camp on your way - Umbwe camp. In spite of the challenge that Umbwe poses to hikers, well thought-out location of camps will contribute to proper acclimatization.

The trek through Umbwe is available only as a 6-day program. Recommended only to experienced hikers in good physical shape.

Umbwe 8 days (6 days trekking)

When to climb and what to bring

When choosing the most suitable time for climbin mount Kilimanjaro, you should consider several factors: the temperature, the views, the density of climbers streaming on the trek, difficulty level and safety. The main factor that affects all the rest on the Mount is weather. Mount Kilimanjaro lies in equatorial climatic zone, as opposed to habitual summer, winter, spring and autumn, has wet and dry seasons only. Wet seasons are in April-May and November. Similarly to other tropical countries predicting when the rain starts and stops is nearly impossible. Allother months are the “dry season”, when most of the days are sunny, but still it does not mean a 100% guarantee of clear skies.

There are two main climbing seasons: July-August-September and January-February. Many travelers have their summer or Christmas holidays at that time, while the weather conditions for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro are perfect.

Rain seasons scare off the majority of climbers. In April, May and November the probability of trekking under the drizzle is very high. Rain softens the soil and makes the rocks slippery, turning your climb into a slower and more risky adventure. However, landscape photographers are particularly addictive to the rainy season in Tanzania. More precipitation means more snow on the peak, which makes it possible to shoot the snow-capped summit of Kilimanjaro. Moreover, it is the only time when you can avoid the “rush hours” on the routes, and enjoy some privacy walking virgin-snow-covered treks.

APRIL – MAY
The “big” rainy season starts at the end of March and continues until the middle of May. April marks the beginning of the coldest time of the year in Tanzania. These months are so dank and drizzle that some operators simply do not offer climbs in April/May at all.

JUNE – JULY
The frequency of rain gradually decreases. The weather on Kilimanjaro is fairly dry and clear but the nights are still bitter cold. June is usually quiet, sunny, and, in our opinion, much underrated in terms of climbing. It is an excellent idea to choose June for your adventure because of great weather and almost climbers-free routes.The number of climbers will be increasing as the year progresses. Starting from July the majority of the routes will be quite busy.

AUGUST – OCTOBER
The peak climbing season on Kilimanjaro is on August-September. The weather is particularly good for climbing: the days are clear and somewhat warmer than in June/July. At the same time it may be cloudy in the forest/moorland zone, as well as it may be rainy on the southern routes (Machame and Umbwe). However, once you leave the rain forest behind it will be sunny.
October is another unfairly ignored season: nice weather conditions last into mid-October and the number of climbers drops dramatically, giving you a good chance to enjoy Kilimanjaro treks almost alone. At the end of October, the weather becomes more changeable. As long as you are equipped to withstand the occasional shower, this should not present any major challenges.

NOVEMBER
November is the “small” rainy season. The rainy weather may last into mid-December. The temperatures have dropped and the moisture mist covers the Mount, making your climb more tricky and risky, yet more challenging and exciting. November might not be the best pick in terms of weather, but gives a great opportunity to enjoy the breathtaking views of misty-covered Mount with its snow-capped peak, and to make some terrific pictures.

DECEMBER – JANUARY
Christmas and New Year are the second peak climbing season on Kilimanjaro. The climbers traffic is extremely high, although there is a high chance of raining and thick clouding in the lower altitudes of Kilimanjaro.

JANUARY – MARCH
Mid-January to mid-March are very popular among climbers. The weather is perfectly balanced: it is neither too cold, nor too wet. The days are generally dry, though occasional rains may happen. The possibility of rain increases in the second half of March because the “big” wet season advances.

Kilimanjaro Temperature

The temperature on the Mount Kilimanjaro correlates with the four distinct climatic zones:

The rainforest zone (800m-3,000m) is warm and humid. Densely covered with green vegetation this zone temperatures average 12-15 °C (20-25 °C during daytime) at 2,900 m. This is where you are going to spend the first one or two days of your climb, depending on the route. The low alpine zone (3,000m-4,200m) is a semi-arid area. The higher you climb – the scarcer the vegetation becomes. Depending on the route, here you will spend one or two days with average temperatures range 5-10 °C (15-20 °C during the daytime) at 3,600 m. The high alpine zone (4,200m-5,000) is desert-like. You will spend your fourth and fifth day on the Mount here, as well as the final arrangements for summiting will be at those altitudes. Here the temperatures average around the freezing point at 5,000m, but during the daytime, when the sun is shining, it is still quite warm and comfortable. The summit of Mount Kilimanjaro lies in the glacial zone (above 5,000m) and its temperatures average around -6 °C. However, keep in mind that all summiting attempts usually start at midnight in order to reach the Uhuru peak by dawn. You will be trekking at night when the temperature can drop to – 20°C. When the harsh gusts of wind are torturing you, you will be likely to feel as if the temperature is below -40 °C. However, it’s totally worth it, because on the top you will see one of the best pictures you have ever witnessed in the light of the uprising sun.

There are a few more things worth mentioning about the weather on Kilimanjaro.

You may decide to climb at a less than perfect time, be it because you want to avoid the main rush or because that is the only suitable timing for you holidays. If you do so, consider Northern Circuit Route or the Rongai Route. The northern side of the mountain is much drier than the other Kilimanjaro routes. Moreover, if you want the best weather on Kilimanjaro but hate crowds, the same applies. Choose your route wisely. There is less traffic on Rongai, Lemosho and Northern Travers Route than on the popular and always busy Machame and Marangu routes.

We at JorAfrica believe that you can enjoy the Mount Kilimanjaro all year round. The difference is that when in September you might need just one set of thermal underwear, Gore-Tex membrane gaiters and boots, two months later in November you should better taking three sets of each to make sure that you can continue your climb comfortably in case you get soaked to the skin. Anyway, whatever route and season you choose, we will do our best to make your Kilimanjaro climb the journey of a lifetime!

Equipement

Everything you need to know about gear for climbing the highest mountain in Africa can be found HERE.

If you would like to rent some gear, you can find the equipment list HERE

Useful Climbing Tips

For all those climbing with us and with other tour operators, we have prepared the following insider tips:

  1. It is not about your level of fitness only. Determination, motivation and well-planned acclimatization transition are more important.
  2. Do not save up on your personal equipment. Branded high-quality clothes and sleeping bags often have decisive impact on successfulness of your climb. All personal equipment is available for rent in our office.
  3. Be ready to have no shower for a week or so. Portable showers are, however, available for extra fee.
  4. Public toilets may be uncomfortable, especially for the ladies. Thus, renting a portable toilet makes sense.
  5. Taking an mp3 player or an Ipod is a good idea. Enjoy the sceneries on the way and better preserve battery for the summit rush.

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