Mount Kilimanjaro – Climbing Tips
Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest free-standing mountain in the world – has been enticing adventure-seekers for over a century. Glacier-covered peaks dissolving into alpine meadows, which- in turn- contrast the formidable mass of verdant rainforests and darker gorges that cover the slopes of this volcano make for an unforgettable experience. Here, days of enjoying the wonders of African nature through varying climatic zones culminate in the spectacular views of the morning sun gleaming off the snow-covered glaciers at the summit of the highest point on the continent.
For most of the trekkers reaching the summit is one of the pivotal lifetime achievements. Many of them are thinking a lot before making a decision to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. After all, it is a long trip to a remote country in Africa. Also, compared to other hiking trips all over the world, Mt Kilimanjaro adventures are more expensive. Together combined, all these things make it necessary to plan your trip carefully.
There are many things to consider while planning your Mount Kilimanjaro climb. Lack of information, and, consequently, failure to make proper preparations is the main and only reason why even young and fit trekkers sometimes fail to reach the summit. On the other hand, armed with the right information, climbers of all ages and physical fitness levels confidently make their way to the top.
In addition to that, numerous operators are marketing Mt Kilimanjaro too aggressively, often failing to inform the hikers about the required safety measures and preparation. The hiking challenge is often described as “easy” and hardly a thing is ever told about high-altitude acclimatization and its impacts on the climbers. Everything is made to maximize the number of clients, while the safety aspect is often forgotten.
As the number of those eager to climb Kilimanjaro is rising, we decided to make this guide so that future adventurers can avoid common pitfalls. It answers the most frequently asked questions: what is “high altitude acclimatization”; what equipment is needed; what is the best time for a comfortable and safe Kilimanjaro hike and how to get to Kilimanjaro.
Our guide also explains the differences between Kilimanjaro climbing routes, gives you a sneak peek into the inner workings of a successful climbing expedition and prepares you for the camping experience.
In short, the best time to visit Mt. Kilimanjaro is from early June to late September and from late December to late February. These times are short on rain and sunny most of the time, which goes a long way to ensure the best views.
Tanzania has two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. The first dry season starts in the middle of December and lasts until early March. After a period of long rains, dry weather returns in late June or early July. The second dry season lasts until the middle of October to complete the annual cycle.
Dry seasons are the time when there are a lot of trekkers on Kilimanjaro, especially on Machame and Marangu routes. If you want a more private Kilimanjaro experience, you should opt for Lemosho, Rongai or Northern Circuit routes.
Though Kilimanjaro climbing is more challenging during the rainy season, this choice has a number of fair advantages. First, the number of other trekkers is minimal. Secondly, everything around is lush green. Thirdly, it is the only time to see the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro. The photographers will enjoy the time!
Mount Kilimanjaro Map and Routes
While parts of some of Kilimanjaro climbing routes overlap, each has its own attraction. Varying degrees of physical challenge and acclimatization opportunities are offset by magnificent views and, sometimes, traded off for greater privacy on the less frequented treks.
Choosing the right route is critical for your summit success. Below we are giving a short description of each route, examining their pros and cons.
Machame Route Machame is the second most popular route on Kilimanjaro. It is often busy during high season. Featuring excellent acclimatization and great views it is a really good route to consider. Make sure to choose the 7-day program. A shortened 6-day version of Machame, while cheaper, has one of the lowest success rates.
Marangu Route The most popular and difficult route for a Kilimanjaro climb. Though crowded at times, it is the only route that offers huts- rather than tents- for your overnights. The fact that ascent and descent follow the same path will not be felt as a disadvantage, as the views are ever-changing under the African sky.
Lemosho Route Lemosho route combines excellent acclimatization and high scenic value. Because the route trailhead is quite remote very few local operators run this trek. 7-day option is highly recommended.
Northern Circuit Route This newest trekking route on Kilimanjaro will be ideal for those keen on seeing the northern, rarely visited slopes. This option is the longest on Kilimanjaro but you will never see crowds on Northern Circuit.
Rongai Route Rongai is the only route with a trailhead in the northern part of Kilimanjaro. It features great views and a moderate altitude acclimatization transition. Those seeking a more private experience of communing with nature away from the crowds will find this less-frequented trek an excellent option.
Umbwe Route Umbwe is the shortest way to Uhuru with the steepest ascent. Acclimatization there is challenging. Recommended for the experienced mountaineer only.