Can Anyone Climb Mount Kilimanjaro – Incredible Summit Stories

The short answer to the question: Can anyone climb Mount Kilimanjaro? is obviously no.

If you are super young or ridiculously old you will unlikely be able to cope with what Kilimanjaro throws at you. Equally, if you are obese or severely disabled you can probably write Kilimanjaro off your bucket-list.

For the average person though, being able to successfully climb and summit Kilimanjaro is definitely attainable. You don’t need to be particularly fit (indeed being too fit can be detrimental) and you do not need any technical climbing skills.

Children over the age of 10 can legally have a go, as can older generations in their 60s and 70s!

All you need is determination and the will to get to the summit.

The real challenge with climbing Kilimanjaro is the altitude and the rate of ascent.

Standing at 5,895 meters (19,341 feet), Kilimanjaro is firmly classified as an extreme altitude mountain trek. At high altitudes the body is susceptible to a condition called Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) or altitude sickness.

As many as 50% of people who climb Kilimanjaro suffer from AMS symptoms, often mild and moderate variants. However, more severe complications such as High Altitude Cerebral Edema and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema are also possible on Kilimanjaro, and can be fatal.

The onset of AMS symptoms is not directly correlated to factors of age, gender, fitness level etc.

We do know though, that the rate of ascent is a major contributing factor, particularly on Kilimanjaro where the ascent profile is fast.

To increase your chances of success you should apply these four principles:

  • Longer routes provide more time to properly acclimatize and therefore success rates are higher. Seven day routes are our preferred option for trekkers
  • Routes that offer a climb high, sleep low acclimatisation day are preferable – the Machame and Lemosho route provides the best climb high, sleep low opportunity
  • Go slowly through-out your trek. Do not over-exert yourself. Conserve energy at all times. You will hear your porters say ‘Pole Pole’, this means Slow, Slow in Swahili. Listen to them
  • Drink loads of fluids (2.5-4 liters of water a day)

Follow these tips and you should be fine!

Can anyone climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

We said earlier that not everyone can climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which is true; however, there have been some incredible feats over the years that are worth mentioning.

Here are three:

Armless and Legless Kyle Manyard Climbs Kilimanjaro

Kyle Maynard was born with a condition called congenital amputation – he has no arms and legs.

Despite his condition, Kyle has never let his disability stop him. In 2012 he crawled unassisted to the top of Kilimanjaro using the most technically challenging and steep route called the Western Breach.

Watch this Kyle Maynard Kilimanjaro documentary and be amazed. He is an inspiration for all able bodied people and illustrates that so much of life is dependent on ones attitude. His spirit for life is infectious!

He has also recently announced that he is going to attempt the highest mountain in South America, Mount Aconcagua, next year (2015)! Standing at 22,840 feet this will be an incredible achievement.

Esther and Martin Kafer summit Kilimanjaro, aged 84 and 85 respectively

In late 2012 Canadian couple Esther and Martin Kafer, aged 84 and 85 years respectively became the oldest people to summit Kilimanjaro.

The couple have been married since 1953 and have climbed mountains all over the world.

oldest-person-climb-kilimanjaro

Fastest ascent by mountain speed runner Kilian Jornet

Kilian Jornet, an ultra mountain runner from Spain smashed all speed records on Kilimanjaro when he ran from Umbwe Gate at 5,250 feet all the way to Uhuru Peak at 19,341 feet in 5 hours, 23 minutes; 9 minutes faster than the previous record which was held by Italian runner, Bruno Brunod.

He then ran back down the mountain, descending 13,960 feet to Mweka Gate to complete the round trip in an amazing 7 hours, 14 minutes. This crushed the previous record held by Tanzanian runner Simon Mtuy who had completed the round trip in 8 hours, 27 minutes.

Update: Amazingly, Jornet’s record was beaten in August 2014 by Swiss mountain runner, Karl Egloff, who ran to the summit and back down in an incredible 6 hours, 42 minutes. Read about his incredible record here – Kilimanjaro Fastest Ascent.

Watch this amazing Kilian Jornet Kilimanjaro documentary that shows the runner dealing with the effects of altitude at the top of the mountain and the rapid descent that he manages to achieve! (note: keep in mind that most people take 7 days to ascend and descend, and are usually buggered by the time they get back to the trail-head!)

FAQ

Are you concerned about your ability to climb Kilimanjaro? Leave us a comment below and we will respond within 24hrs. If you found this article useful and interesting please share on Facebook or Twitter using the share buttons below. Or better still if you have a blog where you sharing your Kilimanjaro adventure please link to us.

Haven’t booked your Kilimanjaro hike yet and looking for the best and most affordable Kilimanjaro Tours – click here for recommendations.

You can also find a complete Kilimanjaro gear packing list here.

Recommended Gear for your Kili Adventure

This resistance training mask from the guys at Training Mask helps simulate the effects of altitude. Used primarily by athletes to improve performance at sea level, the manufacturers claim the mask can help prepare trekkers for altitude. We have not personally tried the mask but from our research the reviews seem rather positive. Check out the training mask on Amazon.

34 thoughts on “Can Anyone Climb Mount Kilimanjaro – Incredible Summit Stories

    • Hi Tom, quite a few people in their 70s and some in their 80s tackle Kili every year. I would seek professional medical advice to ensure your dad gets clearance from a doctor first. If you do decide to do the trek I would recommend taking one of the longer routes – 7-day Machame or 9-dy Lemosho, which provide more time for acclimatisation. Hope this helps!

  1. Hi,
    I have an opportunity to climb Kilimanjaro for charity next summer. I am obese, but have lost a large amount of weight in the past and believe I can push myself to be ready for next summer but will still be obese regardless. I noticed in this article it says if you are obese then go ahead and write this one off the bucket list-
    What would it take to physically prepare oneself for Kilimanjaro? Is for medical reasons that you imply it’s not doable for obese climbers or is it because of the level of commitment required? If the latter, what sort of training would you recommend? Do you think I should/could try? Would I be laughed off the mountain before even reaching the base camp? How intense is the bouldering part of the climb? Literally any other advice would be appreciated.

    • Hi Ashley,
      Great to hear that you are looking to take on the Kili challenge. In general I would first seek medical advice on your suitability to climb Kilimanjaro before committing. That being said, with the right determination and training I believe most people can climb Kilimanjaro. Here is a story of an obese lady who climbed Kili earlier this year: https://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/overweight-climbing-kilimanjaro/
      For training advice see here: https://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/training-to-climb-kilimanjaro/
      All the best!

      • Hi Ashley, I lost 27kg to climb Kili and was still 120kg (5’10) when I climbef and successfully summit ex last July. Its mind over matter, you can’t really train for altitude but you can get miles and height under your belt before hand.
        The support from your team is the most important part in getting you there safely, well feed & watered and a good altitude profile with training climbs.
        Go for it and be awesome!

  2. hey guys! my family and I (my dad, my brother and I ) were thinking of climbing it sometime next summer (July 2016). I’ll be 15 years and my brother 18. we haven’t had any climbing experience, but are EXTREMELY determined and passionate to do it. We’re all of average weight and plan on getting fit over the next 8 months. the problem is we don’t know which route to take, and what procedure to follow to sign up for the trek.

  3. Hi,

    My fiance suffers from mild asthma.

    He is very fit though as he goes to the gym three times a week and plays basketball weekly. He is also taking up swimming again.

    If we decide to climb mount kilimanjaro, he plans on training with the altitude training mask.

    Do you think, with all of this in mind, he should be ok to climb Africa’s tallest free-standing mountain?

    Many thanks in advance,

    Mariam

    • Hi Mariam, Thanks for getting in touch. You can find more information about climbing Kilimanjaro with asthma here: https://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/climb-kilimanjaro-asthma-good-bad-idea/. It sounds as if your husband has his asthma well under control so he should be fine, but I recommend seeking medical advise from a qualified practitioner before signing up for the climb. In terms of altitude masks, there is no evidence that suggests they help with acclimatisation. They may help with stressing the body more during training which could strengthen the cardiovascular system and help with fitness / stamina on the climb. Altitude masks are generally used athletes to train for higher altitude events. These events are usually below 3,000m though. On Kili you will be going to well over 5,000m so apart from putting yourself at that altitude during your training, it is unlikely that a mask will help simulate that environment or assist in any pre-acclimatisation. To read about acclimatisation on Kilimanjaro see here: https://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/acclimatization-kilimanjaro/

  4. I am female, 77 years old, 120 lbs , above active for my age.
    wanting to climb the 7 day Machame trip.
    Started 5x a week walking up 180 stairs- can do, but really out out breath.
    Recently got medical cardio ok.
    Can do level 3 on treadmill. 7 Min 39 sec.
    Will continue training until trip in Sept.

    I want to enjoy this challenging trip, but not f its above my level.

    is this within reasonable fittness to enjoy this trip ??

    • Hi Rikki, As you know Kilimanjaro is a big undertaking even for young and very fit people, however, there are a number of people in there 70s and even a handful in their 80s who summit Kilimanjaro every year. In terms of route, I think you are on the right track with the 7 day Machame – it provides good acclimatisation and has in my opinion the easier approach via Stella Point to the summit. The most challenging parts for you are going to be the Barranco Wall (https://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/barranco-wall-mt-kilimanjaro/) and of course summit night, which is very long and very challenging because of the altitude. From what you have said about your fitness level I would say you have some way to go, you should be able to do 30-40 minutes on the treadmill at a decent pace and not feel too out of breath. I suggest doing some real hill walking / hiking in preparation for Kili. Each day you will be walking 5-8 hours, much more on summit night so getting your boots on and going walking over the weekends is great preparation. Beyond that, Kili is as much mental as it is physical. A positive attitude can go a long way. For inspiration see this: https://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/angela-vorobeva-become-the-oldest-woman-to-climb-kilimanjaro/. I wish you all the best and be safe!

  5. Hi there, I am hoping to finally attempt kili this year. I’ve been using the mountain local to me to prepare, however it has occurred to me I may not be able to as I have hereditary spherocytosis, and wondered if this would predispose me to altitude sickness?

    • Hi Janine, thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately we don’t have the medical expertise to advise you on your condition. I recommend seeing a medical practitioner to get an expert opinion. Best regards!

  6. Hi Guys
    I am thinking of giving Kilimanjaro a go. I have a paralysed right leg and walk long distances with crutches. Possible? What’s the best route?

  7. Hi,
    Am planing to go up Kilimanjaro in a couple of weeks but the closer I get to the date the more questions I ask myself.
    In 2010 I suffered a severe Brain Injury. Am lucky to still be here and in relatively good condition. I have since my illness often spent time at around 4’000 meters altitude (sometimes a week or two). A bit tiring but ok. I also went to Tibet and two times took a route in a train or in a car at 5’500 meters altitude. A bit tiring also, but ok.
    How big is the difference in feelings between 4’000 meters altitude and Kilimanjaro Summit ?
    Many thanks in advance and best regards,
    Kevin

    • Hi Kevin, The way people respond to altitude changes is so variable that it is very difficult to predict how you will do. As a rule of thumb, I would recommend taking one of the longer routes, like the 8 day Lemosho or 9 day Northern Circuit to give yourself as much time to properly acclimatise. The altitude variation from 4,000m to the summit (5,895m), is considerable! The summit push generally begins at 4,600m, and you will spend on average 10 hours above this altitude (ascending to the summit and returning to base camp). Key is to monitor your progress closely by taking spot oxymeter readings. The fact that you have spent some time at altitude without experiencing AMS is a positive sign, but AMS can strike even the most experienced high altitude trekkers and mountaineers. I wish you the best of luck with the trek. Please note: this information should not be construed as medical advice, it is purely educational. I recommend you consult a qualified medical practitioner for professional advice.

  8. I am 57 in very good shape. Weight lifter and light cardio.
    For past 2 years my routines are 1-1/2 hrs long.
    5 to 6 days per week.
    2 years ago I was 35lb overweight.
    I have bad knees. I have not had knee replacement surgery. It is not to that point yet, but I imagine someday. Squats and stair climber with no pain.
    But Long hikes in the past bother my knees. Recently started taking glucosamine and condroiden and after 2 months noticed pain has ceased and can now walk long distances with no pain. Very noticeable because for quite a few years I’ve had pain during long hikes. This could also be the result of my continues exercise and my new lighter weight.
    With my exercise routine I continue to get stronger. Lifting heavier weights and cardio has become a breeze. I could push myself much more with the cardio. I do continue to increase weights on all of my routines.
    My brother in law, sister in law and niece have just moved to Moshi. I plan on visiting next year and the Kilimanjaro trek looks amazing. Just nervous about my knees.
    Rick S.

    • Hi Rick, Kili does take a beating to ones knees, especially on the descent. Sounds like you are making good strides though with your training so continue strengthening up your joints and hardening off your muscles and Kili should be in your sights! I would definitely use a pair of good trekking poles if you decide to trek Kilimanjaro. All the best!

  9. I am 17 years old, and female. Is that a suitable age to climb? I will climb with my 28 year old cousin, but need to convince my parents!

    • Hi Meg, Many teenagers climb Kilimanjaro every year, so at 17 you should be absolutely fine. The minimum at is 12. Obviously you are still a minor though so you will need to seek approval from your parents and potentially your GP. Hope this helps!

  10. Ok, so some of the most terrifying snakes (puff adders and mamba come to mind) in the world are in Tanzania. What are the odds of encountering any of these during the various treks at lower rain forrest sections? Is there particular trail that would minimize rain forrest encounter?

  11. hi
    am thinking of climbing kili with my wife for her 50th birthday next july,
    we are both of average fitness, we walk quite a lot but live in suffolk where its very flat … we both very determined people and want to make it to the top…
    just very concerned about AMS and the more i read then the more it puts me off, we were hoping to do a 4 or 5 day safari as soon as we come down and poss 3 days on zanzibar but dont want to end up so ill that it ruins the rest of our time in tanzania, any advice ? thank you

    • Hi Trev, unfortunately AMS is a risk on Kilimanjaro and part and parcel of the experience. I recommend following the guidance on the site – see acclimatisation section. Most people are generally fine on Kilimanjaro, but mild symptoms of altitude sickness are however common. Make sure to choose a respectable company – use our recommendation service. As for doing a safari / Zanzibar after the climb you don’t need to worry about latent effects of altitude sickness as they generally subside as soon as you descend. All the best!

  12. Hi, my husband and I have just started talking about climbing Kili and going in safari in 2017 so still have so much research to do but my first concern is I have a fear of heights! I have no problems at the Grand Canyon and could easily do the rim to rim hike but doing Half Dome or Angels Landing in Zion are out of the question due to the fear of falling. How are the trails on Kili with regards to plunge to your death view and is there any particular route to avoid? Thanks!

    • Hi Angie, there are no big exposures on Kilimanjaro. There are a few steep sections, but I wouldn’t say they give death fall sensations. The southern routes, like the Machame and the Lemosho, go over the Barranco Wall (see: https://www.climbkilimanjaroguide.com/barranco-wall-mt-kilimanjaro/), which is a 257m scramble with a few minor exposures, but nothing too scary. It looks a lot more ominous than it actually is once you are on it. If you want to skip the Barranco wall you will have to do one of the Northern routes, like the Rongai or Northern Circuit. Or the Marangu from the South East. All the best.

  13. I climbed Kili last August via 7 day Lemosho route – so it is incredible impressive that someone can do it in 7 hours. It is not that strenuous a hike if you have good fitness and used to hiking – 2 – 3k vertical feet/4-5 hours total in a day. Trails are in good shape and really no difficult scrambling at all except a short section on Barranco wall. Day 2 is a long day (17 km) with good vertical change in elevation as well as summit night/following day.

    It really comes down I think to how you react to altitude (which you won’t know until you are there if you have never been at altitude before). I struggled quite a bit on day three (Lava tower) and summit night with altitude sickness and fever (extremely severe hangover symptons). I made it but was feeling so poorly all I wanted to do was get off the mountain. I felt fine once I got back down to the low camp (3100M). Lost over 10 lbs during the week.

    I few comments from my expereince
    1) I am a light sleeper and had issues with noise at the camping areas a few nights. Guides/porters causing this, not hikers. Suggest having headphones for phone and relaxing music with charged battery packs.
    2) I think doing an 8 day trek if you have time would help. Would cut the hike on day 2 in half and slow down the ascent.
    3) Lemosho is a nice route on first two days in forest but takes two hour (very bumpy) drive to get to trail head. It links up with Machame for final days.

  14. Hi,

    I’m 26 female and am keen to set myself a physical and mental challenge for myself…
    However I have no high altitude experience and am working on my fitness levels and weight loss.
    I live in Cornwall so the moors are on my doorstep which is very helpful for getting out on.

    I basically ask do you think kili is to big for a first goal?

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Georgie, Yeah, I totally recommend Kili. For many climbers Kilimanjaro is their first high altitude multi-day trek. As long as you are fit and mentally prepared then I’m sure you will have a blast. All the best!

  15. Hello. I read your article with great interest. I am a 50 yr old and just got back from the Everest Base Camp trekking with my husband. We think we could survive Kili but we usually trekked just us (with guide and porter) because I am very slow and like to take my own pace and trekking with big groups intimidates me as I feel I need to keep up with the others…..although I feel safer to trek in larger groups.
    Can you recommend good / respectable companies / agents to do Kili?
    Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *