Introduction to Kilimanjaro
What is it like to climb Kilimanjaro? Africa’s highest peak and one of the world’s greatest natural wonders: a snow covered mountain on the equator, amidst an ocean of green forest surrounded by dry savannah. Climbing Kilimanjaro is like walking from the equator to the North Pole in a week, where travellers will experience dramatic changes in vegetation and animal life day by day. It’s like trekking through a nature documentary: every campsite on Kilimanjaro provides breathtakingly beautiful views and some much needed respite in the peaceful quiet of the end of the day.
Thinking of going on an adventure this year? Follow us to Mount Kilimanjaro in our short documentary and find out what its really like to summit the roof of Africa at 5,895m (19,341ft) above sea level. Whether you are in need of some inspiring or tips on preparing for the climb, it’s an extremely useful watch no matter where you are in the planning stages. Meet the mountain crew who make this magnificent once in a lifetime experience possible. Watch the team trek through five unique ecosystems and virtually every type of ecological system. Find out what it really takes to conquer one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. Are you up for the challenge? Lets find out!
Share stories with your guide and fellow travellers beneath brilliant stars. And when you finally stand on the roof of Africa, what had previously seemed impossible in life might suddenly seem doable. The summit is a place for reflection, inspiration and a new-found motivation for the adventures to come. You will be overwhelmed by a pure feeling of joy and satisfaction upon reaching the summit – nearly 6000m above sea level – early in the morning when the sun comes up.
“Climbing Kili is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’d highlight particularly the beautiful lodges before and after the climb and the guides with their positivity that made me feel safe all the time. I was lucky to be in an awesome group of young people that increased the fun factor of the experience massively!” Hans Ullrich
How safe is it to climb Kilimanjaro? Can anyone do it?
Climbing Kilimanjaro requires no technical climbing skills and is considered a “safe” mountain. However, the climb exposes your body and mind to a number of challenges. On your way to the top, expect to hike about 4-7h per day and around 10-14h on summit day. But that’s only the physical challenge, in addition, your body is exposed to temperature fluctuations and the altitude. Even though most Kilimanjaro routes offer a good acclimatisation profile (Machame or Lemosho route are a popular choice therefore, read more here), don’t underestimate the effect of the high altitude. Walking very slowly, having acclimatisation periods and drinking lots of water are key. Further factors that mitigate the challenges of altitude, temperature and physical exposure are experienced mountain guides, the right safety measures as well as preparation for Kilimanjaro and solid gear.
While it’s fair to say that climbing Kilimanjaro (nearly 6,000m) is not akin to climbing Everest or K2, it’s still something to be approached with care. But after all, isn’t it the challenge that makes it interesting?
Learn more about safety and altitude on Kilimanjaro.
Our lead guide Chris has been working on Kilimanjaro for over 16 years and has made it to the summit over 200 times. He has been ranked by clients #6 out of 261 guides on Kilimanjaro and has attended the WFR (Wilderness First Responder) Training with the Sentinel Outdoor Institute and acquired both, a CPR and WFR certificate. He is an incredibly knowledgeable and experienced leader who always puts safety first.
How much does it cost to climb Kilimanjaro?
Prices per person range normally from $1,500 up to $5,000 depending on the operator and the route when they choose to climb Kilimanjaro. You might wonder why prices differ so much between Kilimanjaro operators. Let’s divide the operators into three segments: low budget, value for money and luxury operators.
Budget tour operators will take you on a 6-7 day climb for as low as $1,500 to $1,900. The margins they make are as thin as it gets and as you guessed right, there is very little room to pay the porters decently, offer high quality food and equipment. Just the park fees for a 6 day climb are fixed at around $900 per trekker and can’t be lowered.
Value for money operators, as we like to call them offer trips for around $1,900 to 3200$. Most of these operators keep the cost to a minimum (with various degrees obviously) but without compromising safety, quality equipment and decent nutrition. The porters wages are fair and a higher guide to client ratio can be expected. The guides speak English well and have extensive experience on Kilimanjaro.
Everything from $3,200 upwards can be summarised as luxury tour operators. How do they distinguish themselves and how do they justify the high prices? Amenities provided by luxury tour operators for example are extensive and can include portable showers, wine, oxygen tanks etc. You’ll still be doing the same amount of work to climb up Kilimanjaro with a luxury tour operator, however there will be some goodies waiting for you at the campsite. The luxury could reduce stress by a certain amount but the marginal benefit decreases really and is not worth it for most climbers.
What should I avoid when it comes to choosing a Kilimanjaro tour operator?
There are certain Kilimanjaro websites that are only sales agents. Meaning they take a local operator (normally in the budget segment) and add their margin on top. Those should be avoided in any case when planing to climb Kilimanjaro. If you are happy with a budget climb, make sure that you book directly with a local budget operator. On the other hand, if you would like a higher level of safety and well-trained and experienced guides, make sure you do your due diligence and don’t just book with a higher priced company that forwards you to a budget operator.
Even though there might be plenty of people that had great experiences with a budget operator, we would not recommend scraping away the last few dollars. Damaged equipment and inexperienced staff will expose you to risks that will make your journey not only less enjoyable but also potentially dangerous. To climb Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime experience for most people so make sure it’s a great one!
Why should I go with a ‘value for money’ Kilimanjaro tour operator?
We would put ourselves in the category of value for money operators. Our approach to pricing is determined by offering an affordable price, without cutting costs on the important factors such as safety, quality of the equipment, hygiene and our staff when we guide clients to climb Kilimanjaro. To give an example: we have a private camping toilet on all our climbs, but we decided against a portable shower which only some of the “luxury” operators might have in the higher price segment. With regards to toilets, there are either none on the campsites or they are in bad hygienic conditions.
What equipment do I need to climb Kilimanjaro?
On all routes up to the top, temperatures vary significantly, so the best clothing is several thin layers. Be prepared to experience a range from 30 degrees Celsius at the beginning of the trip down to -25 degrees on summit on very cold days. Layered clothing is much easier to adjust as the temperature fluctuates and is more effective. All clothing should be fabricated out of synthetic wicking material (stay away from cotton as it absorbs moisture and dries very slowly on Kilimanjaro). Protect your extremities from the cold, most heat gets lost on extremities and they are most vulnerable to frostbites. We provide most of the equipment, such as tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, trekking poles to make sure the quality is appropriate for the conditions on Kilimanjaro. Here is a detailed list of gear needed.
Do I need special training to climb Kilimanjaro and how do I need to prepare?
So how do I prepare for my Kilimanjaro climb? We get this question asked a lot and googling the internet leads to a wealth of different views.. To state the obvious: the fitter you are, the more you will enjoy your trip and the higher the likelihood of a successful summit. You’re probably going to climb Kilimanjaro once in a lifetime, so if you’ve decided to take the adventure on, be sure you make most out of it! The climb is definitely an adventure to remember… expect breathtakingly beautiful views, fresh mountain air under clear skies on Kilimanjaro, but also a physical and mental challenge. So for the physical part, we recommend to maintain a great level of general fitness and to add a few dedicated training session a couple of weeks in advance.
What do you mean by general fitness and dedicated training sessions before climbing Kilimanjaro?
By general fitness we mean regular sport or exercises 2 to 3 times a week at higher intensity and being able to run comfortably at least for 1-2 hours. A fit body is more likely to withstand the stress of consecutive days of hiking and camping on Kilimanjaro. Why not taking it as a goal for 2 to 3 months to maintain a sporty and healthy lifestyle?
We also recommend in addition to general fitness at least a few training session where you simulate walking uphill. During this training, you should wear the boots that you intend to climb with so that they are sufficiently broken-in (this is very important to prevent blisters!). Additionally, you should wear the day pack you intend to carry so your shoulders/back/hips get used to the points of contact and weight (to minimise chafing and soreness). Don’t use your day to day hiking equipment the first time when you are on Kilimanjaro. Being used to it will give you a good feel before the climb and if you realise that hiking a few hours a day might be a challenge you can still increase your level of training. For those who do not have access to trails, a good alternative can be to look out for a treadmill in your gym that allows to adjust the gradient.
Your longest/hardest workouts should be performed two to four weeks before your departure. For the last two weeks, you should taper off your training and in the final days, rest so that your body has time to recover before your actual climb.
Make the trip a motivation to change bad habits before you climb Kilimanjaro
Physical training is just one part of getting in shape. If you have an unhealthy lifestyle, use the climb as your motivation to change. Pimp your diet up and reduce your McDonalds visits. Reduce drinking and smoking and get enough sleep! You can even make the Kilimanjaro climb as a unique New Year’s eve idea or give the trip as a gift.
That being said…
Good fitness and preparation are great, but not a guarantee for a successful Kilimanjaro summit. Some people don’t train much, aren’t very fit and fare very well, while others engage in a disciplined training program and succumb to the altitude in a few days. People react differently to high altitude. While you can’t rule out that element, being in an excellent physical shape will definitely help your body to acclimatise faster and higher the likelihood of a successful and enjoyable climb!
And at last but not at least, stay happy and positive when you climb Kilimanjaro!
Finally, a positive mental attitude can work wonders for you when fatigue and doubts arise. Stay happy and positive. Trust in our lead guide Chris’ motto: Laughing is the best medicine on Kilimanjaro! He must know, he has been on the summit more than 200 times!