A Complete Guide to Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

This complete guide to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is for anyone who has a dream of conquering this amazing mountain. Have you ever asked yourself why this mountain is so famous? Why many people prefer to climb this mountain and what is the most useful information one needs to know before embarking on this amazing adventure? This guide offers a comprehensive list of the important tips to use when planning to climb this mountain.

Mount Kilimanjaro, known as “The Roof of Africa” is a snow-capped mountain that is the highest peak in Africa. It is also the highest free-standing mountain in the world towering at 19,341 feet/5,895meters high, above sea level. This mountain doesn’t need any technical ascending skills to reach its peak, the reason which makes it one of the top destinations for mountaineers and trekkers from different parts of the world. Another reason that makes this mountain a global mountaineer’s choice is that one has to pass through five distinct climatic/vegetation zones from the lowest part of the mountain, all the way to the summit. These zones are primarily determined by the altitude and the influence of the mountain. Here are the five distinct zones vertically from the base of the mountain to the top: Cultivation Zone, Tropical Rainforest or Montane Forest Zone, Moorland Zone, Alpine Desert Zone, and the Arctic Glaciers Zone.

Ecological - Climatic Zones on Kilimanjaro

Ecological – Climatic Zones on Kilimanjaro

The name Kilimanjaro is thought to have originated from a Chagga word Kilemakyaro to mean the mountain that is hard to conquer. Chagga is one of the Bantu – speaking indigenous African tribes known to inhabit the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro for centuries now. This tribe is the third largest ethnic group in Tanzania.

There are three peaks as parts of Mount Kilimanjaro – Kibo (19,341ft/5,895m), Mawenzi (16.893ft/5,149m), and Shira (13,000ft/3,962m). The two last peaks are said to be extinct volcanic cones while Kibo is dormant.  The base of the mountain covers an area of 3,885sq.km, with a diameter of 100km by 65km and it is 330km/205mi south of the equator. Being the tallest mountain in Africa makes Kilimanjaro the fourth tallest in the ranking of “The Seven Summits of the World” as shown hereunder:

RankContinentMountainHeight (asl)
1.AsiaEverest29,035ft/8,850m
2.South AmericaAconcagua22,834ft/6,960m
3.North AmericaDenali20,310ft/6,190m
4.AfricaKilimanjaro19,341ft/5,895m
5.EuropeElbrus18,513ft/5’642m
6.AntarcticaVinson16’050ft/4,892m
7.OceaniaCarstensz or Puncak Jaya16,024ft/4,884m

The categorization above picked up the highest mountain from each continent to form “The Seven Summits of the World”.

Reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is really once in a lifetime experience! Words cannot explain how exhilarating it is once the summit is conquered!

Is it hard to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

It can be very easy or extremely tough, depending on your way of life. If you are new to hiking or trekking in high altitudes, this could be a challenge. If hiking and outdoor activities are your types of things you always do, then this could be an average challenge. In order to reach the summit, you need to be at your best level of fitness. As explained above, reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro doesn’t need technical accent skills, but the main challenge is altitude and acclimatization.

Anne Lorimor from Arizona, USA is the oldest person to successfully climb Mount Kilimanjaro to the summit and broke the record twice – In 2015 when she was at the age of 85 years and in 2019 when she was 89years. Keats Boyd from Los Angeles is the youngest person to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro to the summit in 2008. The first people on record to have summited Mount Kilimanjaro were a German Geologist, Hans Meyer, an Australian climber, Ludwig Purscheller, and a local guide, Yohan Kinyala Lauwo, in 1889.

Before you climb this mountain, we always advise you to do extensive hiking on your own so that you can prepare your body to learn to adapt to high altitudes. This will help you to know how your body responds to high altitudes.

How long does it take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

For experienced hikers, this can take up to 5 days. In order to enjoy the hike, especially for inexperienced mountaineers, the most recommendable number of days should be at least 6 to 7 days. Reaching the summit is mostly determined by how your body can easily acclimatize with the altitude. Your mountain guide will guide you through all the steps so as to help you to reach the summit. You should also note that more number of days could increase the chance of reaching the summit as your body will be given enough time for acclimatization

In order to be sure how many days you should have in mind, talk to a destination specialist so that you can have more personalized advice based on your fitness or health conditions – this can also give your psychology a better start of your adventure on Kilimanjaro!

Which is the best route to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro via marangu route

How Walking Trails look-like on Kilimanjaro

Did you know that Mount Kilimanjaro Summit can be accessed through different routes? Yes, there are seven main routes that can lead you to the summit. Kilimanjaro National Park Authority has created alternative routes to create different experiences as well as to prevent overcrowding on fewer routes. This also gives options to the interested climbers to choose the route that suits their climbing aspirations better. The known routes for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro are:

  • Marangu Route
  • Machame Route
  • Lemosho Route
  • Northern Circuit
  • Shira Route
  • Rongai Route
  • Umbwe Route

The most used routes are Marangu, Machame, and Lemosho. Marangu Route is more popular and it often becomes crowded especially in peak season. Marangu is the only route where mountaineers sleep in huts whereas the Machame route is known for having the highest success level of reaching the summit.

Lemosho, Shira, and North Circuit are the routes that lead you to the summit from the west of the mountain. These routes are endowed with unbeatably very beautiful views that can be enjoyed on your hike.

Rongai Route takes you through to the summit from the northern part of the mountain, near the Tanzania and Kenya border.

When is the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

The summit of Mount Kilimanjaro can be accessed throughout the year. As most mountaineers would like to climb in the drier season, the best time is January, February, and between the end of May and October.

If you are planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in the dry season, expect to meet with large crowds of people. If you don’t want to meet a large crowd of people, routes like Lemosho and Northern circuit are highly recommended.

The heavy rain season is between March and May while in November and December there is generally little rain and some days the rains might be very heavy like in the heavy rain season.

If it happens you are interested to climb Kilimanjaro during the rainy season, Rongai Route would be the best option to use as it receives less rain compared to other routes – Rongai route is more on the leeward or the shadowed side of the mountain.

Do you need a guide to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

Yes, you do need a guide. You can’t climb Mount Kilimanjaro without a well-trained Mount Kilimanjaro Professional Guide. Mount Kilimanjaro National Park Authority wants all trekkers to climb the mountain accompanied by licensed and registered mountain guides and porters.

Trekkers must be registered by the Parks Authority before beginning the hike and they are required to sign when they arrive at each camp.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with a registered guide is very important to both trekkers and the authority as this is meant to positively impact the safety and experience of the client. It also the administration of the whole process easier, ethical, accountable, and more professional. Your guide is very useful especially in case of any sickness that might cause you not to reach the summit.

How much does it cost to climb Kilimanjaro?

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is not cheap. When planning for the climbing of Mount Kilimanjaro, avoid looking for the cheapest price. This is because tour operators who charge cheap prices mostly avoid certain expenses so that they can only win your wallet. They are not really into your final experience of mountain climbing.

Let’s show you why you should avoid a cheap/budget price.

In order to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, you will need a professional mountain guide accompanied by more than three porters who are responsible to carry your luggage, extra climbing gears, gas stove, sleeping bags, tents, and much more! The luggage weight by a single porter is limited to between 15 – 20kgs. All these porters and guides need salaries to support their families which might never see them for almost a week or so! So if you are looking for a cheap price and find the advertised price of less than $1200 per person, just avoid it for a very good reason. Your professional planning on Kilimanjaro should be paramount and this will give you a better success rate to reach the summit.

The cost of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro ranges between $1600 to $5000 per person, depending on the route and the number of days you are willing to include. Also, the price depends on the quality of services that will be delivered to you by the tour operator. For most of the standard trips of 6 days hiking, the average price of most tour operators is around $2200 per person which is inclusive of the price for your hotel, entrance fees, rescue fees, and salaries.

What to Pack for Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

If you are an experienced trekker you might already know what we want to talk about here. The packing list for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro would not be the same as other mountains that you might have summited. This is essentially caused by different climatic variations on the mountain as well as the rules and regulations of the Authority overseeing this activity.

When packing for Mount Kilimanjaro climbing, avoid plastic bags as they are strictly prohibited in the country. Tanzania has banned the usage of plastic bags since June 2019.

The most important items that should be included in your packing list include:

  • Top Base & Bottom Base Layer clothing for cold weather hiking
  • 2-4 Long Sleeve Hiking Shirts
  • 3-4 Short Sleeve
  • Insulated Trekking Pants
  • Polartec Fleece Jacket
  • 2-4 Hiking Trousers
  • Hard Shell Jacket
  • Insulated Winter Jacket
  • 5-8 pieces of Underwear

During the hike, most of your personal items, gears, and equipment will be carried by porters who will hike at a faster pace to prepare the camp and meal for your next overnight. Your hiking day will be accompanied by your professional guide, so you will have to prepare your daypack before porters have left in the morning. Your packing list depends on what you may need during that day depending on the climate or weather condition. Your mountain guide will be giving you briefings every day for the next day.

To be precise about what to pack, we advise asking your trip organizer to get the detailed information including rentable climbing equipment and gears, for example, walking/hiking stick, that you do not have to buy from your home country or before the trip.

Where do you stay when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

There are only two accommodation options when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. On most routes, trekkers sleep in tents, except the trekkers who will be using the Marangu route where you have the privilege of sleeping in the huts.

Are you now ready for Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing?

Are you looking for the best and specialized Mount Kilimanjaro climbing Tour Operators? Maasai Magic Safaris has years of experience helping more than 1000 trekkers to reach the summit. It is our great pleasure to assist you in planning all the way through, from scratch to the point that you celebrate your “dream come true” on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Contact us today to start planning your trip of a lifetime to Kilimanjaro. You can combine your adventure on the mountain with Tanzania Wildlife Safari or Zanzibar Beach Holidays or both in a single African Safari.