Mount Kilimanjaro Frequently Asked Questions Part 1
When is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?
Although it is possible to climb Kilimanjaro all year round, generally months with good weather is recommended as adverse weather conditions such as excessive rain, winds, snow/ice and extreme cold can be draining on the body and significantly lower your chances of summiting and also increase safety risks.
Typical annual weather
During the months of January & February and also September & October are considered to be the best months in terms of dry weather and moderate temperatures.
June to August are also good months in terms of dry weather but temperatures will be much cooler. Some rain can be expected in November, December and March.
April and May are the rainiest months and climbing conditions are usually considered poor. If you are considering climbing in the wetter months, the Rongai route is recommended since the northern side of the mountain receives less precipitation.
As you can expect, the months with favourable climbing conditions are also the busiest months in terms of the number of people on the trails.
How many days does it take to climb Kilimanjaro?
The shortest route to the summit taken by most trekkers is the Marangu route which can be done in four nights, five days. Having said this, the Marangu route also has the highest failure rate when it comes to summiting. Why? Because reaching the summit isn’t just about a climber’s physical fitness level, but also whether the climber’s body has had enough time on the mountain to acclimatize to the high altitude.
There is a definite correlation between the number of days spent on the mountain and reaching the top – the longer the climb, the better the chances of summiting.
Our advice is whatever route you select add an acclimatization day and have a safe and enjoyable climb.
Opting on a short route and climbing based on the minimum number of days may seem like a good idea to save costs but in reality you significantly reduce your chances of summiting and if you are travelling all the way to Tanzania for the purpose of climbing Kilimanjaro, the additional cost of an acclimatization day is well worth it and overall will make for a safer and more enjoyable climb.
Which route should I take to climb Kilimanjaro?
There are more or less six established ascent routes – Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai and Umbwe. The Lemosho and Shira routes start from the westside of the mountain, while Machame and Umbwe routes approach the mountain from the south. The Marangu route starts from the southeast and lastly, the remote Rongai route commences from the north close to the Kenyan border.
In determining which route to select, consider the route’s difficulty, the number of days (longer is better to allow your body to acclimatize) and your preferences when it comes to traffic on the trail and scenery.
|Route||Minimum Number of Days to Climb*||Difficulty Level||Trail Traffic|
|Umbwe||5||Very High||Very Low|
*We strongly suggest adding an acclimatization day to the minimum number.
How cold is it on Kilimanjaro?
Climbing Kilimanjaro will take you through four ecological zones in only a matter of days depending on your route from rainforest, to moorland, to alpine desert, to finally the arctic zone.
At base of the mountain, the average temperature will range from 20 to 27 Celsius depending on the month of the year. The temperature will quickly decrease as you gain elevation and pass through the different ecological zones. At Uhuru Peak, the night time temperatures can drop down to – 25 Celcius or even lower depending on wind chill. The weather on Kilimanjaro can be extremely variable and change very quickly. It is advisable to be prepared for extreme weather including rain, gusty winds and cold nights.
What should I pack for my Kilimanjaro climb?
- Four season sleeping bag suitable for conditions reaching – 10 to -15 Celcius, sleeping mattress and small travel pillow
- Daypack (25-30 litres) and waterproof cover
- Large duffel bag to be carried by your porter
- Small & medium ziplock bags and plastic garbage bags. Ziplock bags are handy for a multitude of uses and large plastic bags for dirty clothes, gear, etc.
- Headlamp (bring spare batteries and spare bulb)
- Insulated water bottle or Camel Back/Platypus (the latter is recommend as it is easier to access and you will drink more frequently)
- Telescopic trekking poles
- Camera and/or video camera and extra memory cards and battery (note battery life is much shorter under freezing conditions)
- Earplugs (busy camps can be noisy)
- Pocket Knife
- Stuff sacks for sleeping bag and clothing
- Travel book, novels, deck of cards or other games for afternoon entertainment
- Waterproof trekking boots, well broken in & gators
- Extra shoes, like gym shoes or flip flops to where in camp
- Thick thermal outer socks and inner lining socks
- Waterproof/windproof breathable trousers (side zipper recommended)
- Hiking pants (convertible to shorts)
- Base layer or thermal long underwear
- Underwear, bras
- Waterproof outer gloves and inner liner gloves
- Waterproof/windproof insulated jacket
- Thick sweater or fleece top
- Base layer or thermal long sleeve shirt
- Long sleeved, light weight, moisture wicking shirt
- Scarf for cold and bandana for dust
- Wide brimmed hat for the sun
- Toque and balaclava
- Extra shoeslaces for your hiking boots
- Toilet paper
- Kleenex or facial tissue
- Sun block
- Lip balm with sun protection
- Skin lotion (the cold and wind will dry your skin more than usual)
- Wet wipes
- Small soap
- Travel towel – light-weight and takes very little space
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss
- Insect repellent
- Nail clippers/scissors
- Razor & shaving cream/gel
- Contact lens solution & extra set of lenses
- Feminine hygiene product
- High altitude medication
- Anti malarial medication
- Band aids & moleskin for blisters
- Bandages, gauze pads
- Painkiller (Tylenol, Ibuprofen)
- Antiseptic cream (Polysporin)
- Stomach ache/indigestion medicine (Pepto Bismol)
- Anti-diarrhea medicine (Imodium)
- Re-hydration salts
- Prescription antibiotic effective against a broad range of bacteria including travelers diarrhea (Ciprofloxacin)
- Any other prescription medications
- Sterile syringes & needles
- Eye rinse/moisturizing drops
MONEY & DOCUMENTS:
- Plane tickets
- Travel Insurance Policy & Emergency Contact Number
- Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate (if applicable)
- List of Emergency Contact Number from home
- U.S. dollars in large and small denominations ($20, $50 & $100 bills should be issued after 2003)
- Credit cards and ATM bank cards
- Medical history
Avoid over packing and bring only what you need. Porters are limited to carrying 15 kilograms of your personal belongings. If your duffel is overweight, you will need to hire and pay for an additional porter. If you forget anything, most gear and equipment may be rented, although the quality may be less than what you might expect.
All extra luggage items you will not use on your climb, such as clothing, gear and equipment for safari or Zanzibar can be safely stored at the hotel.
It is not uncommon for checked luggage on international airlines to be lost or delayed and accordingly, we recommend that you wear or carrying on items which are absolutely essential to your Kilimanjaro climb, including one complete hiking outfit including your hiking boots. In your carry on baggage, make sure you should bring your toiletries, medications, camera and all important documents.
What do I need to carry in my day pack?
You only require items that you may need during the day until you reach your next camp and the items may vary from day to day depending on trail conditions, weather and your mountain guide’s recommendations. Typically such items may include rain gear at the lower altitude, warm clothing & gloves at higher altitude, snacks, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm, camera gear, drinking water, lunch and all important documents including your passport and cash.
All other unnecessary items should be packed and locked into your duffel bag and be ready for the porters before setting off for the day. The porters will carry the duffel bag from campsite to campsite.
What kind of food can I expect on the mountain and what about drinking water?
All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and drinks will be provided while on the mountain. An example of what you can expect on the mountain:
|Tea, coffee, hot chocolate
Toast or crepe with margarine, peanut butter, jam, honey
Eggs and sausage
|Water or juice
|Tea, coffee, hot chocolate
|Tea, coffee, hot chocolate
Stewed vegetables with Beef, Chicken or Fish
Plenty of drinking water will be boiled and cooled each day and provided to you before setting off on your day’s hike to keep you well hydrated. When you reach your next camp in the afternoon further drinking water will be available to you. There is no need to chemically treat the water but you may wish to do so.
You may wish to bring your own favourite snacks, Gatorade powder, candy bars, etc. with you.
If you have any special dietary requirements or restrictions, please let us know at the time of booking.
What is altitude sickness and will it affect me?
Kilimanjaro is a serious mountain and the dangers associated with climbing Kilimanjaro should not be taken lightly. Although not widely discussed, it is estimated that every year nearly 1,000 climbers are evacuated from the mountain and approximately 10 deaths are reported and in the vast majority of the cases, it is due to altitude sickness.
For anyone climbing Kilimanjaro, it is essential for you to know the symptoms of altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) to avoid an emergency or life threatening situation.
Acute Mountain Sickness is caused by the failure of the body to adapt quickly enough to the reduced oxygen as the climber reaches higher altitudes. Although the percentage of oxygen (about 21%) remains the same from sea level to the top of Uhuru Peak, the barometric pressure decreases with altitude and accordingly, the amount of oxygen taken in by your lungs and absorbed by your body with every breath also decreases.
At an elevation of 3,600 metres the barometric pressure is about 630 mb (480 mmHg) while the barometric pressure at sea level is approximately 1000mb (760 mmHg) resulting in roughly 40% fewer oxygen molecules per breath.
Lower air pressure at high altitude can also cause fluid to leak from the capillaries in the lungs and the brain which can lead to fluid build up and result in a life-threatening condition known High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).
There are four factors related to AMS: (1) high altitude; (2) fast rate of ascent; (3) exertion of the body; and (4) dehydration. The main cause of AMS is climbing too high too quickly. Your body has the ability to adapt to decreased oxygen at higher elevations if given enough time.
At over 3,000 metres 75% of climbers will experience at least some symptoms of mild AMS which include:
- Shortness of breath
- Increased heart rate
- Nausea & Dizziness
- Loss of appetite
- Restless sleep
Climbers suffering mild AMS may keep ascending at a moderate rate and symptoms will generally subside as the climber acclimatizes.
If you start suffering mild AMS while hiking, please communicate this to your mountain guide so that he is aware and can keep an eye on your symptoms.
Symptoms of moderate AMS include:
- Severe headache not relieved by regular headache medication
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Ataxia or decreased coordination
Normal activity becomes difficult for a person suffering moderate AMS and the person must turn around and descend to a lower elevation. Descending even only few hundred metres will result in improvement of symptoms. Continuing to higher altitude while suffering moderate AMS can lead to severe AMS and death.
Symptoms of severe AMS include:
- Shortness of breath at rest
- Inability to walk
- Loss of mental acuity (HACE)
- Fluid build-up in the lungs (HAPE)
Severe AMS requires emergency descent of 600 metres and anyone suffering from HACE or HAPE requires evacuation to a hospital for treatment.
What can I do to acclimatize properly while climbing Kilimanjaro?
- Climb pole pole (slowly, slowly in Swahili), follow your mountain guide’s lead, stop often drink and to enjoy the views. Don’t be in a hurry to get to the next camp. Include an acclimatization day into your itinerary.
- Take deep breaths and do not overexert yourself.
- Climb high, sleep low. Climb to a higher altitude during the day, then sleep at a lower altitude at night. By adding an acclimatization day, additional hikes can be incorporated into your itinerary to help your body adjust.
- Stay well hydrated. You should be sipping water continuously while you are climbing at least 3 litres while on the trail. Camelbacks or Platypus encourage drinking and is highly recommended. Make sure you eat enough food to keep up your strength even if your appetite starts to diminish.
If you begin to show symptoms of AMS, let your mountain guide know so he can monitor your symptoms. If you do not feel well, do not say you feel fine. You may be risking your life.
If your mountain guide determines that you are unwell and it is in your best interest to abandon the climb and he tells you to descend, it is an order. Respect the decision of your mountain guide and follow his instructions.
What can I do to train for climbing Kilimanjaro?
First, before you start any training, get a medical check up and ensure that you are in good physical health and also inquire whether high altitude trekking is acceptable for your age, fitness level and health condition. Determine if any pre-existing medical conditions or any medications you are taking can cause problems on the climb.
We ask that you inform us of any current or prior medical conditions that we should be aware of at the time of booking.
As for training, although Kilimanjaro can be climbed by most people with an average fitness level, the climb is a much more enjoyable experience if you have properly trained and are physically fit.
The best and only exercise that you really need to do to prepare for climbing Kilimanjaro is hiking. It’s best to start training three or four months prior to your climb. If you have never hiked before, start gradually hiking a short distance at a slow pace and gradually increase the distance, elevation gain and start carrying a day pack. Be sure to wear the hiking boots you will use for your climb. Try to get to a point where you are able to comfortably hike four to six hours with an elevation gain of 500 – 600 metres while carrying an 8 kilogram day pack on two consecutive days (over a weekend) and you will be ready.
How early do I have to book my climb and what do I need to do?
If you plan on travelling during the high season (June – October, December – March), we suggest you book your climb as far in advance as possible, 6 to 8 months, especially if you are climbing the Marangu route as there are a limited number of spaces available in the huts at each camp. We can book on short notice, however, your climb will be subject to availability and we will require full payment immediately upon confirmation.
How do I pay for my Kilimanjaro climb?
We request that your deposit to secure a climb and the balance of Kilimanjaro climb payment be made in US dollars by wire transfer into Nature Bound Africa Tanzanian U.S. dollar bank account. Unfortunately we do not accept credit card payment at this time.
All deposits and payments received into the company’s bank account will be held on your behalf and we only disburse funds to the appropriate suppliers as necessary until such time we have completed delivering our services to you.