FAQs

FAQs About Kilimanjaro

Where is Kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania, Africa. It is unique not only for being the highest in Africa and one of the 7 summits but for having one of the highest stand-alone vertical gains of any mountain earth. It stands seemingly alone in the Tanzanian savannah. Most climbers fly into Kilimanjaro airport and take a cab or bus to Moshi, Tanzania to meet up with their team or guide service.

When is it usually climbed?

Being near the equator, it can be climbed most anytime of the year however the biggest consideration is the rainy season in the winter so summer is most popular with September being the prime month.

I read that Kilimanjaro is an easy climb, really just a high-altitude hike. How hard is it? 

If you are in great aerobic shape, it can be "easy" on a perfect weather day and on the normal routes. But as with most of the extreme altitude climbs, Kilimanjaro can have brutal summit weather with temperatures at 0F and if the winds are blowing, the wind chills can be very dangerous. Climbers die on KIlimanjaro. Also, remember this is almost 6,000 meters, 20,000 feet so AMS is always a risk as is HAPE or HACE.

How does the normal routes on Kilimanjaro compare with Denali since it is at a similar altitude or Rainier?

Kili is a straightforward climb via the normal routes with no real objective danger except for cold summit weather. Porters carry everything for you, as required by the park regulations, so all you carry is a simple day pack with the bare essentials. On Kilimanjaro, it is very dry and there is rarely snow down low but some snow on the summit. There is no crevasse danger like on Denali or Rainier on the normal routes. It more similar to a tough Colorado 14er than Rainier or Denali.

Is an Kilimanjaro climb dangerous?

Kilimanjaro is a relatively safe climb by the standard routes. However, there are always deaths on these big mountains. Kilimanjaro is no different. The most common cause of death is probably altitude related and that is from going too fast and not taking the time to acclimatize. This is why selecting the proper guide service is critical.

How many people had summited and how many people had died trying?

It is estimated that 25,000 climb Kilimanjaro using the various routes each year. The summit rate is around 66% with cold summit days and altitude issues being the major reasons for not summiting. I understand there is about 1 death each year thus it is relatively safe, however one climber was killed by lightning in early 2013

 FAQs About Training, Gear and communication

How did you train for this climb?

This was part of my  7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer's: Memories Are Everything® project. So I had climbed almost continuously throughout 2010 and 2011 either in training or on the climbs.  I was in excellent condition both the physically and mentally for this climb. But I suggest the usual training regime of running, light weight and aerobic conditioning. Pl ease see my training page for more ideas.

Was altitude a problem on this climb?

Yes! Anytime you are above 8,000' you can experience problems. Kilimanjaro is a serious high altitude mountain. Even though the normal routes are not technically difficult, the altitude takes it toll on climbers each year thus the 66% success rate. We had several members of our team struggle (including vomiting) with the altitude on the summit push but everyone pushed through and we had 100% success.

Can you prepare for the altitude?

Not really. The common approach is to move slowly up the mountain (1000' a day maximum) spending your days at a higher altitude than where you sleep up until your summit bid. The human body simply does not function well at high altitudes and especially above 8000m (26,300'). As you go higher, the barometric pressure decreases, although the air still contains 21% oxygen, every breath contains less molecules of oxygen.

Was altitude a problem on this climb?

Yes! Anytime you are above 8,000' you can experience problems. Kilimanjaro is a serious high altitude mountain. Even though the normal routes are not technically difficult, the altitude takes it toll on climbers each year thus the 66% success rate. We had several members of our team struggle (including vomiting) with the altitude on the summit push but everyone pushed through and we had 100% success.

Can you prepare for the altitude?

Not really. The common approach is to move slowly up the mountain (1000' a day maximum) spending your days at a higher altitude than where you sleep up until your summit bid. The human body simply does not function well at high altitudes and especially above 8000m (26,300'). As you go higher, the barometric pressure decreases, although the air still contains 21% oxygen, every breath contains less molecules of oxygen.

What kind of equipment do you use?

You can check our section packing list!

Expedition Basics

Which routes are most popular?

There are 5 main routes that meander from the jungle through five microclimates to join the three final ascent routes to Kibo. Both the Machame and Lemosho routes offer a more leisurely paced scenic climb. The Lemosho route is less crowded while the Machame route has a more difficult beginning but joins into the same route as the Lemosho. The Marangu climb is crowded since it follows a road part way. There is a technical route, the Western Breach, but is is prone to rock fall and is considered extremely dangerous and not offered by most companies unless you are willing to take the risks.

Do I need a permit to climb?

Yes you must have permit and all climbers, regardless of route or guides, must use a guide and porters, no exceptions.

Do I really need a guide for Kilimanjaro?

As mentioned, the park service requires guides and porters but they vary in skill as you would expect. The worst one rush clients to the summit to squeeze in more customers throughout the season. But the vast majority are well versed in AMS and take their time. But with local guides, if you get sick, they may not know what to do other than drag you lower. For more serious injuries, your life could be in danger so choose carefully. There is no helicopter evacuation on Kilimanjaro unless dire circumstances. You must bring a two-way radio and a sat phone in my opinion and have the frequency or number of the local rescue resources already programmed in.

Are there local guides for Kilimanjaro?

Yes, there are many quality choices based out of Moshi. and Arusha. Most are less expensive than traditional Western companies but some charge about the same price. My usual advice is to get recent references from a climber with a similar background and skill level as yourself. Get everything in writing. Especially understand the acclimatization schedule since local guides have been known to rush people up and down. Finally ask about food, group gear and language skills.