CLIMB KILIMANJARO GUIDE

Trekkers Guide To The Kilimanjaro Hike

Welcome to
Mount Kilimanjaro Guide

Our aim is to provide free and inspiring advice to help you prepare for an amazing hiking experience on Mount Kilimanjaro, and in Tanzania in general.

Because you are reading this page you are most likely planning to climb Kilimanjaro.

Read this page in full to begin your preparations or jump to these popular sections. 

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We do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended tour operator click Get a Quote.

Mt Kilimanjaro Overview

Geography

tanzania kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro is situated in the Northern part of Tanzania, in the Kilimanjaro National Park. It covers an area of 100 kilometers long and 65 kilometers wide.

The mountain is a dormant volcano which is comprised of three volcanic cones, Shira, Kibo (on which Uhuru summit stands) and Mawenzi.

Kibo is classified as dormant but not extinct. The last major eruption from Kibo occurred 360,000 years ago. The last volcanic activity happened 200 years ago and resulted in today’s ash pit (visible from Uhuru Peak)

How High Is Mount Kilimanjaro?

Mount Kilimanjaro Peaks

Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free standing mountain in the world. By free-standing, or non-massif, we mean it is not part of a mountain range.

The height of Mount Kilimanjaro is 5,895m or 19,341 feet, and its main summit is called Uhuru Peak. To put Mt Kilimanjaro's height into perspective, Mount Everest, stands at 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) – just over 2,950 meters higher.

But here’s an interesting Kilimanjaro Fact: Both Everest Base Camp’s (EBC) – South and North – are below the summit of Kilimanjaro; however, most climbers take upwards of 8-10 days to reach EBC.

On Kilimanjaro trekkers on fast routes reach the summit within 4-5 days. The rapid ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro makes it a difficult and rather dangerous mountain to hike due to the risks of Altitude Sickness.

As the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro makes up one of the Seven Summits (i.e. highest mountains on each of the seven continents). The other mountains on the Seven Summit circuit are:

  1. Mount Everest – Asia – First ascent 1953 – 8,848 meters
  2. Aconcagua – South America – First ascent 1897 – 6,961 meters
  3. Denali – North America – First ascent 1913 – 6,194 meters
  4. Mount Kilimanjaro – Africa – First ascent 1889 – 5,895 meters
  5. Mount Elbrus – Europe – First ascent 1874 – 5,642 meters
  6. Mount Vinson – Antarctica – First ascent 1966 – 4,892 meters
  7. Mount Kosciuszko – Australia – First ascent 1840 – 2,228 meters

Here is a chart that shows the relative heights of the Seven Summits in relation to the 14 highest peaks of the Himalaya.

seven summits kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro Hike Routes

There are 7 official routes on Kilimanjaro. Check out our Kilimanjaro route overview article where we provide a summary on the pros and cons of each trail to peak.

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If you want to see detailed itineraries, maps and altitude / distance profiles; please use the individual links below.

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We do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended tour operator click Get a Quote.

Popular Southern Circuit Routes

Lemosho Route

lemosho route

The Lemosho starts on the far Western side of Mount Kilimanjaro. It is best trekked on a 7 or ideally 8-day itinerary and offers great acclimatisation. High summit success rates and awesome scenery make the Lemosho one of our favourite routes on Kilimanjaro.

Machame Route

machame route kilimanjaro

The Machame starts from the South-west at a slightly lower altitude than the Lemosho. It is typically completed on a 6 or 7-day itinerary, with the latter offering better acclimatisation and higher summit success rates. Like the Lemosho it is scenic and a great route to choose.

Unique Kilimanjaro Route Options

Marangu Route

marangu route

The Marangu is the only route with hut accomodation. It tends to be the most popular route as it is shorter and cheaper than others. Success rates are relatively low though. If you are considering the Marangu make sure you choose the 6-day itinerary (not the 5-day).

Northern Circuit

northern circuit route

The Northern Circuit is the longest and quietest route on Kilimanjaro. The route starts on the Lemosho but then traverses the North side of the mountain and approaches the Uhuru Peak via Gilman's Point. It's a great trail if you have the time and money, and want to avoid the busier trails. 

Rongai Route

rongai route

The Rongai is the only route that starts in the north, from the Kenyan border. The trail offers some of the best low lying images of Mount Kilimanjaro. It is also a great option if you are restricted to climbing during the rainy season, as the north tends to be in a rain shadow.

Kilimanjaro Routes (Not Recommended)

Shira Route

machame route

The Shira route is the old starting point from the Western side of Kilimanjaro. Since the Lemosho gate opened, the Shira has become much less popular as it start point is relatively high, and therefore not good for acclimatisation.

Western Breach

western breach kilimanjaro

The Western Breach is a somewhat technical approach to Kilimanjaro. The route by-passes the Southern Circuit and heads north past Lava Tower. The trail is rocky and unstable. Rockfalls are common and we do not recommend this route. 

Umbwe Route

umbwe route

The Umbwe starts in the south and follows a relatively direct path up to Lava Tower, where it joins the Southern Circuit routes to Barranco. Due to it's fast and direct approach, acclimatisation opportunities are poor and we don't recommend it.

Kilimanjaro Summit Success Rates

Approx. 35,000 people attempt to hike Kilimanjaro every year.

The chances of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro is highly dependent on the number of days taken to trek the mountain.

The more days the higher the probability of success as your body has more time to adapt and acclimatize.

Here are the success rate figures as published by the Kilimanjaro National Park. These numbers are admittedly quite old and success rates are most likely higher as route configurations have improved and the number of people taking 5 day treks has plateaued.

  • All climbers, all routes 45%
  • All climbers, all 5 day routes 27%
  • All climbers, all 6 day routes 44%
  • All climbers, all 7 days routes 64%
  • All climbers, all 8 day routes 85%

Insight from two reputable tour operators we work with shows that success rates are over 85% for all the trekkers they take up Mount Kilimanjaro or Mount Meru.

How many people die annually climbing Kilimanjaro?

Many conflicting figures are banded around on the number of people who die on Kilimanjaro each year.

Based on research from a number of reliable sources, we estimate between 3-10 die hiking Kilimanjaro each year. Deaths on the mountain occur due to various reasons including AMS (such as HACE and HAPE), falls, and hypothermia.

Sometimes porters die due to the onset of malaria whilst on the trek.

Best Time To Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

There are two main trekking seasons on Mount Kilimanjaro – January-March and June-October. The former season is generally colder than the latter but is also often quieter.

January-March

January through March is a good time to climb Kilimanjaro. The weather is pretty stable and there isn't much rain. It is however colder during this period. Snowfall at or near the summit is quite likely.

April-May

April and May are the rainy season. It is not a great time to hike Kilimanjaro. Heavy rainfall on the lower reaches of the mountain is common. Cloud cover and poor visibility is also significant during this period.

June-October

June through October is the busiest season on the mountain as it coincides with summer holiday period in Europe and N. America. Weather is also very good. Generally dry and warm during the day.

November-December

November is a light rainy season. The Rongai makes for a good choice during this month as the North tends to stay dry. December is fast becoming a popular season, despite being very cold on the summit.

Check out our article on Kilimanjaro weather here. In the article we explain what physical and geographical processes drive weather on Kilimanjaro, and provide up-to-date forecast information.

Kilimanjaro Weather

But as a quick snapshot, Kilimanjaro’s weather is heavily influenced by the interaction of trade winds.

The South-east trade winds travelling over the Indian Ocean carry loads of moisture. When they hit Kilimanjaro, around March, they are forced upwards where they condense, form clouds and precipitation. This means March through to May is the wettest season on Kilimanjaro.

Anti-trade winds from the North-east carry very little moisture but blow strongly. The strength of these winds which last from April through to October keep the South-east trade winds below them, hence these months are usually dry and cloud cover and precipitation is generally restricted to the lower slopes.

The North-east monsoon arrives in November and brings some light rains to the northern slopes of Kilimanjaro.

March, April and November are the wettest months on Kilimanjaro. January-March and June-October are the best months for trekking. Snow fall and cold temperatures are common during December-May.

The chart below shows average snowfall in cm on the summit of Kilimanjaro. As you can see it is highest during November-May.

snow-kilimanjaro

In terms of temperature, here are daily averages in degree Celsius by month at different altitudes. 

kilimanjaro-temperatures

Average Kilimanjaro temperatures (Celsius) as measured at certain altitudes within the 4 climatic zones

Climate Change on Kilimanjaro

There is scientific consensus that Mt Kilimanjaro’s glaciers have been rapidly receding for the past century, and that human-induced climate is largely to blame.

At one stage the whole mountain summit was covered by an ice cap, probably more than 100 meters deep. However, since 1912 Kilimanjaro has lost 82% of its ice cap and since 1962 it has lost 55% of its remaining glaciers.

If the present rate of recession continues the majority of the glaciers on Kilimanjaro could vanish altogether.

Kilimanjaro Trek Tips

Altitude Sickness, Acclimatization and Training

Altitude sickness (aka Acute Mountain Sickness) is a systemic issue on Mount Kilimanjaro. This is partly to do with the fact that Kilimanjaro is a high altitude trek, but more critically because the speed of ascent on most Kilimanjaro routes is relatively rapid.

Before you travel to Kilimanjaro it is vital that you understand the risks of high altitude trekking.

We have written a detailed online guide that explains how you can improve your chances of achieving proper acclimatisation on Kilimanjaro, as well as explains what symptoms to look out for in terms of altitude sickness. We also provide information on the severe and dangerous conditions of High Altitude Pulmonary and Cerebral Edema.

Finally, whether you are hiking Kilimanjaro for charity or for personal reasons, it's important you have the correct training program and fitness level. Check out this article: Training for Kilimanjaro: How to be Perfectly Prepared.

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Kilimanjaro Hike Cost and Tour Operators

Trekking Kilimanjaro is unfortunately not a very cheap activity. Prior to 1991 you could literally rock up in Moshi with a backpack, some dry food and a spirit for adventure, and be on a trail up to Kilimanjaro’s summit unsupported.

Since the early 90s, though, trekkers have had to be accompanied by a registered guide and pay entrance park fees. The latter has got relatively expensive and can cost up to $1,000 depending on the length of a trek.

Today, the standard setup for a climb involves a full support team of a guide, cook and porters, who are instrumental in getting most trekkers to the summit successfully and safely.

The combination of high park fees and full support teams mean that an average Kilimanjaro hike (excl. travel expenses like flights and off-mountain expenses) costs between $2,000-$3,000. It is possible to find climbs for as little as $1,500 but these tend to be with operators who have questionable practices, particularly with regard to how much they pay their porters.

You may want to read this article: Climbing Kilimanjaro Cost: The Financial Stuff to be Aware Of

Get a Trek Quote

We do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended tour operator click Get a Quote.

Kilimanjaro Trekking Insurance

Climbing Kilimanjaro comes with obvious risks. It is important that you get adequate insurance for your Kilimanjaro climb. Most standard travel insurance policies will not cover high altitude treks.

In our article – Kilimanjaro Travel Insurance: Better Safe than Sorry – we provide detailed advice on the type of insurance cover you need. 

Alternatively, use the quote calculator from our partner, World Nomads. World Nomads provide specific coverage for hiking up to 6000m, which is perfect for Kilimanjaro.

Kilimanjaro Packing List

The packing list for a Kilimanjaro trek includes a number of critical items. Some of these can be rented or bought in Moshi or Arusha before your trek, but there are a few very important pieces of gear that we recommend you bring with you to Kilimanjaro.

This detailed Kilimanjaro kit packing list provides a comprehensive overview on the gear you need as well as recommendations and links to specific gear outfitters.

Here are links to specific sections within the packing list:

  • Clothing: Weather conditions on Kilimanjaro fluctuate significantly and rapidly from lower altitudes to higher altitudes. In this section we provide detailed advice and recommendations on the type of clothing you require and the important mechanism of layering
  • Headgear: From hats, beanies and balaclavas, to headlamps and sunglasses, we cover it all in this section
  • Footwear: Your feet are what get you to the top of Kilimanjaro. Read this section to understand what type of hiking boots you need, as well as which trekking socks are required
  • Gloves and Trekking Poles: Your hands will be the first to freeze on the trail up to Kilimanjaro’s summit. Make sure you get the right gloves and invest in trekking poles to protect you knees
  • Bags and Daypacks: There are two types of bags you need for a Kilimanjaro trek. Read this section to understand which bags are ideal for your hike
  • Sleeping Bags: In this section we outline the key characteristics to look for a in a sleeping bag for Kilimanjaro
  • Other Accessories: Here we provide an exhaustive list of all the other accessories you need to climb Kilimanjaro. From water bottles and zip-lock bags to spare batteries and earplugs, we cover it all in this section
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Guidebooks

There are a number of very interesting and useful books and guidebooks that have been written on Mount Kilimanjaro.

We recommend having a look at our Kilimanjaro library where we review some of our favourite Kilimanjaro literature.

The most comprehensive and authoritative guidebook, Kilimanjaro: The Trekking Guide to Africa’s Highest Mountain, which is written by Trailblazer author and Kilimanjaro expert, Henry Stedman. If you are looking for a very detailed and informative guide, then we recommend you go for this one.

Alternatively, our lead editor has written a short guide called Mount Kilimanjaro: Trekkers Guide to the Summit, which provides all the essential information you need to know at a smaller cost.

In terms of fun and entertaining works of fiction from previous climbers, we suggest either Rick Ridgeway’s book, The Shadow of Kilimanjaro, or Tim Ward’s Zombies on Kilimanjaro: A Father/Son Journey Above the Clouds.

Mount Kilimanjaro FAQ & Facts

The Climb Kilimanjaro Guide has a very active blog. Here are links to some of our most popular content.

Amazing Kilimanjaro Facts

When was the first ascent of Mt Kilimanjaro?

German geologist, Hans Meyer, Ludwig Purtscheller and a local called Lauwo were the first people to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in October 1889.

However, it is possible that Kilimanjaro’s summit was reached by locals prior to Hans Meyer, but was never recorded.

What is the fastest ascent / speed record on Kilimanjaro?

The fastest ascent and descent of Mount Kilimanjaro is held by Swiss mountain runner, Karl Egloff, who ran to the top the summit and back in 6 hours and 42 minutes in August 2014.

This incredible feat beat the previous record which was held by Spanish mountain runner, Kilian Jornet and set in September 2010. At the time, the Spaniard was 22 years old. He reached the summit in a record time of 5 hours, 23 minutes and 50 seconds – beating the previous ascent record from Kazakh mountain runner, Andrew Puchinin, by one minute! He then ran back down for a total round-trip time of 7 hours and 14 minutes, beating the previous round-trip record set by local Tanzanian guide Simon Mtuy of 9 hours and 21 minutes!

Check out this awesome video of Kilian Jornet’s record ascent of Kilimanjaro.

The fastest Kilimanjaro ascent by a women was held by German born Anne-Marie Flammersfeld, who in July 2015 climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in 8 Hrs 32 Minutes, smashing the previous record held by Becky Shuttleworth by over 3 hours. In total it took Flammersfeld 12 hours 58 minutes to ascend and descend, breaking the ascent and descent record of 18 hour 31 minute record set by Debbie Bachmann. Read more about Anne-Marie’s record here.

In 2017, Brazilian Fernanda Maciel smashed Flammersfeld’s record by over an hour, recording an ascent time of 7 hours 8 minutes.

Amazingly this was beaten again in February 2018 by Danish ultra-runner, Kristina Schou Madson who set an astounding record at 6 hours 52 minutes and 54 seconds.

Who is the youngest person to hike Kilimanjaro and summit? 

The youngest person to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro is Albuquerque resident, Coltan Tanner. He summited Mount Kilimanjaro in October 2018 at the tender age of 6 years and 1 month old. The previous record was held by Keats Boyd, who summited at the age of 7 years old.

The minimum age to climb Kilimanjaro is 10 years or older, however it is possible to get special permission from the Tanzanian government to take children younger than 10 years old on a Kilimanjaro expedition.

The youngest British person ever to trek to Kilimanjaro summit is Zain Akrim at 9 years of age on the 8th of August, 2015. And the youngest female to climb Kilimanjaro is 7 year old Montannah Kenney, who broke Roxy Getter’s record, aged 8, in March 2018.

Who is the oldest person to trek Kilimanjaro and summit? 

Richard Byerley was ‘officially’ the oldest person to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. Byerley reached the summit in October 2010 at the ripe old age of 84 years and 71 days.

However, his record was surpassed, incredibly, by Martin Kafer (85) and his wife Esther (84) in October 2012. The Canadian-Swiss couple now hold the record as the oldest man and oldest women to climb Kilimanjaro. Esther’s achievement surpassed the previous oldest woman to reach the summit, Bernice Bunn, who climbed to the Roof of Africa at age 83.

oldest person climb kilimanjaro

Martin Kafer (85) and his wife Esther (84) in October 2012

Update: Robert Wheeler has now become the oldest person to climb Mount Kilimanjaro at age 85 and 201 days. He reached the summit on 2nd October 2014. Read about his incredible feat here.

Update: Angela Vorobeva (Russia, b. 4 February 1929) has now become the oldest person and women to reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, aged 86 years 267 days, on 29 October 2015.

Nonetheless, there is some controversy around who is the oldest person to have reached the summit. Frenchman, Valtee Daniel, reached the summit at the age of 87; however, the climb was not independently verified and did not have sufficient documentation to be verified (i.e. logbook notes, photographs and film).

Have any disabled people participated in a Kilimanjaro hike?

Yes, many disabled people have hiked to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Here are two of our favourite stories: 

Wheelchair-bound South African, Bernard Goosen, scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in 2007, taking six days.

Kyle Maynard, who has no arms and legs, crawled unassisted to the top of Kilimanjaro in 2012. Watch this documentary about Kyle and his Kilimanjaro achievement – it’s amazing!!

Get a Trek Quote

We do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended tour operator click Get a Quote.

Other Extraordinary Mount Kilimanjaro Facts

Highest Cricket Match

In September 2014, 30 cricket players and official climbed to the top of Kilimanjaro and then descended to Crater Camp to play the highest game of cricket ever recorded. The previous record was held near Everest Base Camp in 2009.

Read about the highest cricket match here.

highest cricket match kilimanjaro

Highest Pizza Delivery

In May 2016, Pizza Hut set an official Guinness World Record by delivering the highest altitude pizza to the top of Kilimanjaro. Read more about their trek and record here.

Highest Football Match

In June 2017 a group of 30 female footballers from 20 nations played the highest game of soccer on record. The game was played in Kilimanjaro’s volcanic pit and lasted a full 90 minutes. An incredible achievement. Read more about the amazing record click here.

Africa’s Tallest Tree Discovered on Mount Kilimanjaro

Measuring an almighty 81.5m in height, Africa’s tallest tree was discovered on Mount Kilimanjaro in 2016. The tree is of the Entandrophragma Excelsum species and could be up to 600 years old! Read more about the finding here.

Team Building for Tour de France on Kilimanjaro

In October 2014, the Russian-backed Tour de France team, Tinkoff-Saxo, climbed to the top of Kilimanjaro. Cycling stars Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan were part of the team that reached the summit. Read more about their trek here.

Recent Kilimanjaro News

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