Hiking Kilimanjaro Basics

Tips for Hiking Kilimanjaro

There are 6 routes to the top, with 4 primary ones that tour operators use.  Typical length is 5 to 6 days worth of hiking for the trip, if going with a tour group.

Courtesy of G Adventures

There are multiple tour operators, including G Adventures, which offers multiple group tours.

VentureFar recommends the following 5 factors as key when considering the tour operator:

  1.  Trekking Style:  Do you want to go with a group or by yourself?  Luxury or bare-bones?  Fees to hike are estimated at around $800 for the trip and are the #1 cost to tour operators.
  2. Quality:  I would not trust any reviews on Tripadvisor as operators are notorious for ensuring that bad reviews get scrubbed.  Bribes are common.
  3. Registration:  Ensure that the company has the proper credentials to lead and guide tours.
  4. Payment Terms:  Do they want cash at booking or when you arrive and meet with the guides?
  5. Time of Year to Go:  Good months are January-March and June-October. January-March is generally colder than June-October and there is a higher probability of encountering snow on the summit.

Some other basic information on the hike for anyone considering the journey:

Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world,is a truely legendary. Located just 200 miles (325 km) from the equator, the mountain’s gleaming glaciers are a sight to behold. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro does not require any technical skills or special equipment. In fact, it is the highest summit that can be climbed without special technique and gear. Because of this, it is an extremely popular adventure. Every year, over 35,000+ people attempt to climb Africa’s highest peak. However, the journey is not to be taken lightly. You need to understand what lies ahead.

All climbers on Kilimanjaro are required to climb via one of only six officially sanctioned routes. From west to east, the ascending routes are: Shira, Lemosho, Machame, Umbwe, Marangu, and Rongai. The western routes, (Shira, Lemosho, Machame and Umbwe), are required by Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA) to descend via the Mweka Route, a descent-only route, while the eastern routes, (Marangu and Rongai), must descend via the Marangu Route. Tour operators are required to inform the park authorities which route their group will utilize, and are not permitted to switch routes while on the mountain.

Due to its location so close to the equator, Mount Kilimanjaro does not experience wide temperature changes throughout the year. Instead, the temperatures on Mount Kilimanjaro are determined more so by the altitude, cloud cover and time of day. Near the base of the mountain, the average temperature is around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius). From there, the temperatures will decrease as you move through Mount Kilimanjaro’s ecological zones. At the summit, Uhuru Peak, the night time temperatures can range between 0 and -15 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 to -26 degrees Celsius). Due to Mount Kilimanjaro’s great height, the mountain creates its own weather. It is extremely variable and impossible to predict. Therefore, regardless of when you climb, you should always be prepared for wet days and cold nights.

As mentioned, during the course of the climb, you will pass through distinct ecological zones. These are:

Bushland
Altitude: 2,600 to 6,000 ft (800 to 1,800 m)
Precipitation: 20 to 70 in (500 to 1,800 mm)
Cultivated land, grasslands,villages and towns.
Rain Forest
Altitude: 6,000 to 9,200 ft (1,800 to 2,800 m)
Precipitation: 79 to 40 in (2,000 to 1,000 mm)
The forest receives 6 feet of rain annually, resulting in a lush variety of plants. Wild animals may be encountered. Clear skies may produce low temperatures after sundown.
Heath
Altitude: 9,200 to 13,200 ft (2,800 to 4,000 m)
Precipitation: 10 in (250 mm)
The alpine desert receives little water and only light vegetation exists here. The temperature can vary from over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees C) during the day to below freezing at night.
Arctic
Altitude: 16,500+ ft (5,000+ m)
Precipitation: Less than 4 in (100 mm)
Characterized by ice and rock, there is virtually no plant or animal life at this altitude. Nights may be bitterly cold and the daytime sun results in strong UV radiation. Dark sunglasses are required. The oxygen level is half that of sea level.

Map:

Information and map courtesy of Shayo Trek tour operator website.