Mount Kilimanjaro climb

Mount Kilimanjaro is often called ‘The Roof of Africa’; as it is Africa’s highest point and the world’s highest free-standing mountain; in Tanzania. Rising in absolute isolation, at 5,895 m (19,336 ft), Kilimanjaro is one of the highest walkable summits on the planet.

Kilimanjaro, commonly called Kili, is located near the town of Moshi and is a protected area; carefully regulated for climbers to enjoy without leaving a trace of their presence.

Mount Kilimanjaro scenery
Mount Kilimanjaro scenery

There is, however, so much more to Kilimanjaro than the summit. A journey up the slopes takes visitors on a climatic world tour; from the tropics to the arctic. The grassy and cultivated lower slopes turn into lush rainforests; inhabited by elusive elephants, leopards, buffalo, the endangered Abbot’s duiker, and other small antelope. Higher still, heath and moorland, covered with giant heather; becomes a surreal alpine desert and, finally; there is ice, snow, and the biggest view on the continent.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

Just three degrees south of the equator, Kilimanjaro is made up of 3 peaks; namely Shira, Mawenzi, and Uhuru. Most reasonably fit and properly guided climbers can experience the triumph of reaching the crater rim; with little more than a walking stick, warm clothing, and determination. Those who reach Uhuru Point, the actual summit; or Gillman’s Point on the lip of the crater (Kilimanjaro is a dormant, but not extinct, volcano); will have earned their climbing certificates and their memories.

It is certainly not cheap to climb Kilimanjaro. It is best to book it in advance and not take your chances on arrival. You need to choose your dates and how many nights you would prefer; (we would recommend rather taking a minimum of 5 or 6; so you can acclimatize). On the climb; you don’t need to do anything except carry your day pack and your chosen trekking company will do the rest. It is vital to choose a good company so you don’t have issues with any of this; hence where we come in to assist you with this.

Only about 50% of people who climb Kilimanjaro make it to the top; so it is important to be prepared in terms of fitness. But choosing the right operator is the most crucial thing; as cheap fly, by night operators are what bring the success rate down. The top operators may be slightly more expensive, but their experience and assistance will definitely help you get to the top. They also treat their staff well and this is critical for your best experience.

Kilimanjaro porters
Kilimanjaro – porters will carry all your belongings

Climbing Routes on Kili

What makes the climb such a heavy challenge, is more from the rigors of altitude; than the actual difficulty of the hike itself. The climb, which takes on average five nights (you’re more likely to reach the top if you pace yourself); takes hikers through thick forests and alpine grasslands, desolate rockface, and brilliant white glaciers.

The key to success is to always remember not to hurry and always keep a comfortable pace.

Different routes up the mountain vary in the number of days; so choosing one based on your level of fitness and experience is important. All of the routes except the Marangu route (accommodation is in huts) require you to camp.

Marangu Route

Often considered the easiest and one of the most popular routes to the summit; the Marangu route is used by almost 40% of all climbers and uses comfortable mountain huts with solar power lighting. It is suitable for those adventurers who are not particularly experienced in the mountains; therefore classified as a moderate trek rather than a climb. Although the trail can be a little crowded at certain times of the year; the views are beautiful and each day of walking progresses through a different climate zone; adding considerably to the interest of the trek.

The real highlight is the walk from Gillman’s point along the crater rim to Uhuru Peak; passing close to the spectacular glaciers and ice cliffs that occupy most of the summit area. The views as the sun rises behind Mawenzi on a clear morning are absolutely magnificent; The Rift Valley, Mt. Meru, and the Masai Steppes stand out from the endless plains, almost three vertical miles below. The Marangu Route does however have a low success rate; as unprepared travelers usually chose this route due to its reputation of being the easy route. Don’t be fooled; you still need to be prepared and fit.

Machame Route

Very scenic and popular as it offers good acclimatization due to walking high in the day; and sleeping lower at night. The success rate is fairly high. It is a difficult route better suited for more adventurous folks with some level of fitness.

Rongai Route

This is the only route to approach the mountain from the north and descends on the southeast; via the Marangu route so you get to see both sides of the mountain. Less crowded and a little more expensive but it has a higher success rate. The other benefit of this route is the leeward side receives little precipitation; so you won’t get soaked on the first few days of the climb; especially if it is the wetter time of year. It is one of the easiest routes but perhaps not as scenic.

Shira Route

Approaches the mountain from the west and then joins the Machame Route so has good scenery; but it has the highest starting point and therefore; we recommend it for hikers who are used to mountain climbing, or live in high altitudes; so they can acclimatize better. To accommodate this some operators slow down the pace on day 2.

Lemosho Route

Also approaches the mountain from the west and then joins the Machame Route. This route is usually around 7 or 8 days so a good success rate but slightly more expensive. Very beautiful, remote, panoramic views on various sides of the mountain.

Umbwe Route

It is the most spectacular and direct way to reach Uhuru Peak. It is the steepest and the toughest route; as a result, used by very few people. The success rate is very low and it is only recommended for seriously experienced mountain climbers.

Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
Climb Mount Kilimanjaro – camp

Best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Most people recommend climbing Kilimanjaro in January to February or August to September; when warmer temperatures and clear skies are most likely. But these are also the most crowded months. Climbing in March or October, just before each of the two rainy seasons; is the best hedge to avoid both crowds and foul weather.

December to February is the warmest and clearest months to visit, with July to September being colder but also dry. From April to June and in November; it is wet in the rain forest.