To climb Mount Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime opportunity. People travel from all over the world to stand on top of the Roof of Africa. Being properly prepared to climb Mount Kilimanjaro is the key to a successful summit attempt. In this article we discuss the 10 things you need to know before you climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
There is a common misconception that you need to be super fit to be able to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. This is simply not true. In fact many fit people struggle to reach the summit because they exert themselves too much during the early stages of the trek and therefore don’t give themselves enough time to acclimatize during the ascent.
Of course having a good level of health and fitness is important for anyone wanting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but you don’t need to be an experienced marathon runner!
On Kilimanjaro you will be trekking approx. 5-7 hours a day (summit day being a lot longer). Preparing for these treks through practice hikes in your home country is a great way to build up your fitness level. If you don’t have time to do practice hikes our recommendation is to do basic cardiovascular exercises at the gym, such as running and cycling. This article gives detailed advice on training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
To Climb Mount Kilimanjaro does not actually require any climbing skills. In fact, Kilimanjaro is just one big hike.
On the Machame, Lemosho, Shira and Umbwe Route there is one section called the Barranco Wall that requires very basic bouldering skills. No preparation is required for this section of the hike though.
We cannot stress enough the importance of having the right equipment to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
The right gloves and hiking boots are also critical.
Many hikers use trekking poles which are helpful for balance and take the pressure off your knees, especially when you descend.
The list of kit requirements is fairly lengthy. We recommend reading our detailed Kilimanjaro Packing List here.
There are seven routes from which one can climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
The Machame, Umbwe and Marangu routes approach the summit from the South. The Rongai route which starts from the North East is dryer than the other routes and therefore a little less scenic. Because it is slightly out of the way the route is never overcrowded.
Some people start their climb from the East using the Lemosho and Shira route. Both are very scenic and beautiful.
Here is a complete overview on Kilimanjaro Routes.
There are two rainy seasons on Kilimanjaro – March through to end of May and November through to February. The south is wetter than the northern slopes, making the Rongai route a favourite during the rainy months.
Typically rain is less prevalent above 3,000m, which means you are only likely to experience rain on Day 1. You may however experience snow and sleet on the upper reaches of the mountain
Here is an article on the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
Given enough time the body adapts to changes in altitude. Some people experience worse altitude sickness symptoms than others.
There is no correlation between susceptibility to altitude sickness and factors of gender, age, fitness ect.
To prepare for altitude it is important that you understand the symptoms associated with Acute Mountain Sickness. We highly recommend reading our article on acclimatisation which goes into much more detail on acute mountain sickness and the medications you can take to help prevent the onset of AMS.
The three key things to remember are:
1. Go slowly at all times, even on the lower reaches of the mountain
Do not exert yourself. You will hear the porters and guides say “Pole Pole”. This means ‘slow slow’ in Swahili. Make sure you listen and go slow
2. Drink load of fluids
Dehydration is a key cause of Acute Mountain Sickness. The more fluids you can drink the better. Daily recommended intake is 3 litres of water. You can add an energy supplement to the water to make it taste better and always remember to add purification tablets.
3. Climb high, sleep low
Climbing high, sleeping low allows your body to experience altitude for a short period before descending to sleep. On Kilimanjaro it is highly recommended to have an acclimatization day. Typically this happens on day 3 where you climb high (approx. 4,600m and sleep low approx. 3,900m)
You may also decide to take Diamox, which is a medication that helps prevent the onset of AMS. Here is a detailed article on Diamox.
Eating well on Kilimanjaro is key to your success – you’ll need the energy on summit night. Food is carried and prepared by your guiding team. Typically breakfast consists of tea / coffee, bread with spreads, porridge, sausage and eggs. Lunch usually includes soup, bread, a cooked stew or sandwiches. Dinner is similar to lunch.
Taking adequate snacks is important. Energy bars are a great idea. Plan to eat 3 a day.
One of the main symptoms of AMS is nausea and loss of appetite. If you experience these symptoms you must remember to try eat something to ensure that you have some energy reserves you can draw on during the summit. Eating a few biscuits helps!
Water is critical on the mountain.
On day one you will be given 2-3 litres from your guide. During the climb porters will be collecting water to replenish supplies.
You should aim to drink at least 3 litres of water a day. Dehydration is a key cause of AMS so make sure you remain hydrated. You can add an energy supplement to your water to make it more palatable.
You must add water purification tablets to your water.
The Kilimanjaro guides and porters are your greatest asset on the mountain. Most guides and porters are locals who speak Swahili. Guides usually have a good command of English.
Typically every climbing group has at least 1 guide, and each climber has three porters. Porters carry all gear, tents, cooking supplies and water. You will learn to respect these guys by the end of day one on your climb. – each porter carries approx. 20kg of kit on their back!!
To find out more about guides and porters including standard tipping rates, check out this article.
Getting to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro has a lot to do with determination. There will likely be a point during the summit attempt where you might feel like giving up – typically around Stella Point or Gilman’s Point. You might be feeling awfully sick and exhausted. At that lowest point it is important that you remain determined to get to the top – one step at a time!
Of course your determination must not supersede your health. Monitor AMS symptoms closely. Your guide will be monitoring you. It is important that you listen to your body and others in your group if they say that you need to descend.
Being prepared is key to success on Kilimanjaro.
Haven’t booked your Kilimanjaro hike yet and looking for the best and most affordable Kilimanjaro Tours – click here for recommendations.
You can find a complete Kilimanjaro kit list on this page.
P.S. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below and we will respond within 24 hours.
Recommended Gear for your Kili AdventureThis little Oximeter device comes in handy on Kili. Essentially an oximeter gives you a spot read of oxygen saturation and pulse rate. Although the device does not predict the onset of AMS, it does give you a good sense of how your body is responding to changes in altitude. A useful gadget to have on your trek
Hi, I'm Mark! Welcome to Climb Kilimanjaro Guide - the Web's No.1 Trekking Guide to Mount Kilimanjaro. This site is your one stop shop for everything Kilimanjaro. To date over 2 million people have visited ClimbKilimanjaroGuide.com, many of which have gone on to summit Kili! I hope you find all the answers you are looking for, but if you have any questions don't hesitate to drop a comment below! Happy Trekking!
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