The Complete Guide to Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro, located in Tanzania, is the highest mountain in Africa and one of the most iconic peaks in the world. Known as the "Roof of Africa", it is a dormant volcano with three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Climbing Kilimanjaro is an incredible adventure for trekkers and mountaineers, attracting many attempts each year.
Kilimanjaro is not only a natural wonder, but it is also a cultural and ecological treasure. The mountain is situated in a national park, which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, and it is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna. The slopes and lowlands of Kilimanjaro provide habitat for many species of wildlife, including elephants, buffalos, leopards, and colobus monkeys. Additionally, the mountain is sacred to the local Chagga people, who have lived on the mountain for centuries and have developed a unique culture and way of life.
While climbing Kilimanjaro is a challenging endeavour, it is a rewarding one, offering breathtaking views and a huge sense of accomplishment. Whether you are an experienced mountaineer or a novice trekker, climbing Kilimanjaro is an adventure of a lifetime that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural significance, and personal achievement.
Personally, I think the most important thing to take on a trip to Kilimanjaro is a sense of adventure and aptitude for trying something new! A positive mental attitude will also get you a very long way too. However, the brief list of essential items below is also really important to ensure your enjoyment and comfort on the mountain.
NB. A full/comprehensive kit list will cover all the items you need in more detail, and you may also need additional gear depending on the route and time of year you are climbing.
Waterproof GORE-TEX jacket and trousers
Down jacket: big, warm, down (or synthetic) jacket
Warm hat and thick gloves/mitts
sunglasses and sunscreen
Hiking boots: comfortable and with good ankle support
Warm socks: a few pairs
Headlamp with extra (lithium) batteries
Sleeping bag rated for cold temperatures (-5°C / 23°F comfort)
Inflatable sleeping pad
Backpack with a capacity of at least 30 litres
Hydration system and 2 x 1 litre water bottles (hydration system will freeze on summit night)
First aid kit with medications for altitude sickness
Personal toiletries and wet wipes
Comfortable, lightweight quick-drying clothing for warm temperatures during the day
Thermal underwear for cold temperatures at night
The Kilimanjaro Routes
There are several routes to the top of Kilimanjaro, each with its own unique features and level of difficulty. The best and most popular routes to the top of Kilimanjaro are:
Marangu Route: Also known as the "Coca-Cola" route, it is the oldest and one of the most popular routes to the summit of Kilimanjaro. It is a relatively straightforward route with huts along the way, making it a good choice for those who prefer more comfortable accommodations.
Machame Route: This is one of the most scenic routes to the summit of Kilimanjaro, passing through diverse landscapes such as rainforests, heathlands, and alpine deserts. It is also one of the more challenging routes, with steep sections when passing the legendary Baranco Wall and Lava Tower.
Lemosho Route: This is a slightly longer and more remote route to the summit, offering stunning views and a higher chance of seeing wildlife. It is considered one of the most beautiful routes, with a gradual ascent through varied terrain. It is a good choice for those who want to avoid crowds and enjoy a more challenging climb.
Rongai Route: This is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the northeast side, offering a different perspective and fewer crowds. It is a relatively easy route with a gradual ascent, but it is also a longer route which is less naturally diverse.
Northern Circuit Route: This is the newest and longest route to the summit of Kilimanjaro, taking around 9 days to complete. It offers a high chance of success due to the longer acclimatisation period, and also provides stunning views and the opportunity to see wildlife.
Overall, it’s difficult to pinpoint the best route for climbing Kilimanjaro as it depends on individual preferences and fitness levels. It is important to choose a reputable tour operator and to take time to properly acclimatize to the high altitudes.