Kilimanjaro. The name itself is a mystery wreathed in clouds. It might mean Mountain of Light, Mountain of Greatness or Mountain of Caravans. Or it might not. The local people, the Wachagga, don't even have a name for the whole massif, only Kipoo (now known as Kibo) for the familiar snowy peak that stands imperious, overseer of the continent, the summit of Africa.
Kilimanjaro, by any name, is a metaphor for the compelling beauty of East Africa. When you see it, you understand why. Not only is this the highest peak on the African continent; it is also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, rising in breathtaking isolation from the surrounding coastal scrubland – elevation around 900 metres – to an imperious 5,895 metres (19,336 feet).
Kilimanjaro is one of the world's most accessible high summits, a beacon for visitors from around the world. Most climbers, with little preparation, reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing and determination. And those who reach Uhuru Point, the actual summit, or Gillman's Point on the lip of the crater, will have earned their climbing certificates.
And their memories.
But there is so much more to Kilimanjaro than her summit. The ascent of the slopes is a virtual climatic world tour, from the tropics to the Arctic.
Even before you cross the national park boundary (at the 2,700m contour), the cultivated footslopes give way to lush montane forest, inhabited by elusive elephant, leopard, buffalo, the endangered Abbot’s duiker, and other small antelope and primates. Higher still lies the moorland zone, where a cover of giant heather is studded with otherworldly giant lobelias.
Above 4,000m, a surreal alpine desert supports little life other than a few hardy mosses and lichen. Then, finally, the last vestigial vegetation gives way to a winter wonderland of ice and snow – and the magnificent beauty of the roof of the continent.
We offer six routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Marangu, Machame and Rongai are the most popular. Shira, Lemosho and Umbwe routes are less frequented but more challenging. Although the six routes start at different points they all meet at a certain point as there are only three routes to the summit.
Marangu route, also known as the “Coca Cola” route is the most popular route of climbing Kilimanjaro through the eastern side of the mountain. This route has three camps – Mandara, Horombo and Kibo. All the camps have huts with bunk beds. Bathrooms and running water is available at the first two camps and basic latrine facility at Kibo hut. The first two camps sleep four people in each hut and the last camp is a dormitory style hut. Meals are provided in the dining hut. The climb through this route is done in 5 days or 6 days if an extra day is added for acclimatization. The extra day for acclimatization can be spent either at Horombo hut or at basecamp below Mawenzi peak. It usually takes three and half days ascending and one and half day descending.
Machame route, also known as “whiskey route” is more scenic and less crowded than the Marangu route. Machame takes you through the south west part of the mountain. Accommodation is provided in tents which will be pitched by your guide and porters. You will have basic latrine facility at the camp. In this route you will ascend from Machame gate and descend to Mweka gate. Machame route takes 6 days to climb or 7 days if you want an extra day for acclimatization.
The Rongai route is very scenic and starts from the north side of the mountain. As in Machame route, accommodation is provided in tents. The tents will be pitched by your guides and porters. They will also boil water for washing and drinking. Basic latrine facility will be provided at the camps. The climb takes 6 days through this route or 7 days if you want an extra day for acclimatization.
Lemosho route is a remote and less frequented route up to the Shira Plateau. It is a longer route taking 8 days in total - 6 and half ascending and one and half descending. Hiker traffic is extremely low on this route allowing hours of hiking in isolated and remote unspoiled wilderness. This route also offers beautiful scenery on the way to the summit. Accommodation is provided in tents pitched by your guides and porters.
The climb starts from the Londorossi Park gate passing by Lemosho glades and up to Mti Mkubwa Campsite (9000 Ft). From Mti Mkubwa you hike through the Shira Ridge and break at the Shira Campsite (11500 Ft). The climb continues across the Shira Plateau on the third day and break for overnight. On day four you hike towards the Western Breach Wall to Barranco camp (12800 Ft).
The hike continues on day five towards the Karanga Valley and break at Karanga Camp (13700 Ft). The route then joins the Mweka route after passing through the intervening ridges and valleys before breaking at Barafu Camp (14930 Ft). Ascent to the summit is made from here at midnight passing through the Rebmann and Ratzel glaciers to Stella point and then joining the Marangu route to Uhuru Peak. You start descending back to Mweka Campsite for overnight and back to Mweka gate to end the climb and transfer back to your hotel.
The Shira Route starts from the Western side of Kilimanjaro passing through the Shira Plateau and joins on to the Machame route. The Shira Plateau is remnant of Kilimanjaro’s first volcano lying between the Mawenzi Peak and the Kibo Peak. The Shira route offer spectacular views of Mount Meru and Rift Valley on the west.
The climb begins at the Shira Gate passing through the mountain forest upto Shira Camp. The hike continues through the Shira Plateau reaching the Western Breach Wall and break at Barranco camp (12800 Ft). The route after here is similar to the Lemosho route to the summit and descent back to Mweka Camp and back to Mweka gate.
This route takes 6 days in total with 3 and half days ascending to the summit and 1 and half days descending. Umbwe route is a very challenging route suitable for professional mountain climbers. The climb starts from Umbwe gate and later joins the Machame route en route to the summit. The climb first goes through the thick rain forest and breaks at Umbwe camp for overnight (9000 Ft). On the second day the hike continues through the semi desert breaking for overnight at Barranco Camp (12800 Ft). From here the route joins the Machame route en route to the summit. Descent is made back to Mweka gate passing through the Mweka camp.
Mt. Meru is the second highest mountain in Tanzania rising to 14,977 Ft. Meru’s upper slopes were shattered by a volcanic eruption forming a caldera that is open towards the East side. The summit is perched on the western side of the caldera with the active ash cone inside the caldera. Accommodation is provided in huts with bunk beds.
The climb usually takes 3 days however an additional day can be added to acclimatize. The climb starts from Momella Gate in the Arusha National Park passing through forests and open grassland. Buffalos, giraffes, Colobus monkeys and elephants can be seen while climbing through the forest. First overnight is at the Miriakamba Huts (8250 Ft).
Hike begins on day two passing through the Elephant ridge climbing steeply towards the saddle between Little Meru and Meru. Break for overnight at the Saddle Huts (12,500 Ft).
Wake up at midnight and start hiking towards Rhino Point at 12400 Ft and continue climbing along the ridge to the summit – Cobra point (14271 Ft). The views of the ash cone in the caldera, view of Kilimanjaro and the Rift Valley are spectacular especially during sunrise. Descent back to Saddle Huts for lunch and continue hiking back to Momella gate.
Climbing Mt. Meru can be combined with a wildlife viewing safari at the Arusha National Park.
Climbing Kilimanjaro does not require professional mountain climbing skills however you will need to be reasonably physically fit to make it up to the summit. A good measure would be running for about two miles preferably on an incline. Besides working on your cardio we also recommend you work on your quads and calf muscles. Training for three or four months prior to the climb would be ideal.
Most climbers experience some form of mild altitude sickness while climbing Kilimanjaro. Acute mountain sickness is caused by the body’s failure to adapt fast enough to the reduced levels of oxygen as you climb to higher altitude. The occurrence of altitude sickness depends on several factors such as rate of ascent, elevation and individual’s susceptibility.
The process of allowing your body to adapt to reduced levels of oxygen is called acclimatization. It is very important that you ascent at a rate which allows your body to acclimatize. Our itineraries are designed to give you enough time to acclimatize so as to enable you to summit successfully. Our guides are also trained to make sure that the climber’s ascent “pole pole” meaning slowly slowly to acclimatize better.
It is normal for most climbers to experience mild altitude sickness on the second and third day of the climb. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea. Symptoms of mild acute mountain sickness should be considered normal. The symptoms usually subside as the body acclimatizes. It is however important that you tell your guide of any symptoms immediately.
Symptoms for moderate acute mountain sickness include severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, weakness, shortness of breath and decreased coordination. At this stage the only way to subside the symptoms is to descend to lower altitude. The guide will prepare to evacuate the climber to lower altitude as soon as the condition develops.
Severe form of acute mountain sickness may result into shortness of breath, inability to walk, fluid buildup in the lungs, loss of coordination, disorientation, loss of memory and psychotic behavior. There are two forms of high altitude sickness – High altitude cerebral edema (HACE) and High altitude pulmonary Edema (HAPE). Any climber suffering from severe AMS must descend to 1000m altitude immediately and will be evacuated to the hospital for treatment.
Travelers are advised to consult their physicians for proper vaccination and medication before traveling to Tanzania. Malaria is prevalent so it is important for all travelers to take proper precaution. We recommend you take a course of anti malarial treatment before your departure and use insect repellents during the safari. It is also recommended to get vaccinations against hepatitis A, polio, typhoid and yellow fever. If you pass through Kenya (or other country where yellow fever is endemic) en route to Tanzania, an International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever is required at the border crossing to prove that you have had the yellow fever vaccination.
Drinking water during the climb is boiled and purified with water purification pills. We don’t provide bottled water. If you will require bottled water then a porter to carry the bottled water will be provided at an additional charge.
What to Pack
The golden rule is “travel light”. The less you can pack the better. Following is a list of cloths we suggest you bring on your safari.
- Comfortable boots or shoes
- Cap or hat
- Sun block/screen
- Comfortable safari clothing
- Long sleeved shirts
- Sweater or Jacket (heavier sweater/Jacket if the safari is during the cold season)
- Personal Medicine
- Binoculars, Camera, batteries
- Money and valuables holder or belt
The list is not exhaustive so you may want to bring extra stuff as per your personal needs.
During the safari avoid wearing bright colored cloths that might distract the animals. If you have an internal flight in Tanzania then the luggage restriction is often as low as 10 to 15 Kg. per person.
Clothing for Kilimanjaro Climb
You will need to bring extra cloths and equipment if you are going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Following is a list of what you should pack in addition to the above list.
- Mountain climbing back pack/rucksack
- Day pack
- Water proof walking boots with a good ankle and arch support
- Poncho/rain coat
- Warm upper body layers
- Waterproof jacket and trousers
- Lightweight walking trousers (avoid jeans or heavy cotton)
- Warm socks
- Sunglasses & Cap
- Warm gloves
- Scarf & warm hat
- Warm sleeping bag
- Hiking stick
- Other necessary mountain climbing gear
- Toothpaste, toothbrush & deodorant
- Wet ones or travel wipes
- Kleenex tissues or toilet paper
- Vaseline to prevent chafing skin and heel friction blisters
- Lip salve
- Other sanitary products as deemed necessary
- Factor 30+ sun cream
- Personal medicine
- Pain killers
- Diamox (if you choose to use this)
- Blister pads
- Diahorrea tablets
- Camera and film or Digital camera
- High energy snacks (cereal bars)
- Flash light and batteries (preferably head torch)
- Water bottles
- Plastic bags (for wrapping, dirty laundry etc)
Adventure provides utensils, tents and other basic necessities during the climb. We also provide climb support crew including trained guides and porters. Climbers can also rent the above mentioned items locally in Arusha at an additional cost. If you will need to rent any equipment please notify us when making reservations. We however recommend you bring your own equipment.
Your backpack will be carried by a porter during the climb. The weight of the backpack is limited to 35lb (15kg) per porter so please make sure you pack light. You are expected to carry your own day pack during the climb.
When to Climb
Mount Kilimanjaro can be climbed at any time of the year but the best time to conquer it is from July to October and January to March. From April to June, it is the rainy season so it is wet especially in the rainforest and very cold. The short rains start in November through December though it is warm during this time.