How to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

By: Ultimate Kilimanjaro

More than 20,000 people per year try to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak. Less than half succeed. Here are tips for standing on the roof of Africa.

How do I Choose an Operator? There are hundreds of companies who service the mountain; selecting an operator can be a daunting task. You want to be sure that your operator staffs experienced, competent guides, who practice high safety standards and treats porters well. Don't select strictly based on price. Avoid the cheapest operators - someare downright dangerous. But do not assume a high budget operator is superior either.

When Should I Climb? The best times to climb Kilimanjaro tend to be the warmest and driest months - January, February, and September. The primary issue is safety, as the risks associated with climbing increase significantly when the weather is foul. The effects of rain, mud, snow, ice and cold can be very strenuous on the body. Correspondingly, your chances of a successful summit also increases significantly with nice weather.

What Route Should I Take? The Kilimanjaro routes each have different characteristics which may or may not appeal to you. Consider the difficulty, scenery and traffic when you select your route. Lemosho and Shira are highly recommended, followed by Machame and Rongai. Marangu and Umbwe are not recommended. The longer routes are not only considered the more scenic routes, but give you a better chance of summit due to altitude acclimatization.

How Many Days Should I Take? Seven or more days is recommended. Do not book the minimum number of days. Chances are, you will not enjoy your climb nor will you reach the summit. Statistics show that each additional day you spend acclimatizing increases your probability of success substantially.

Should I Climb Kilimanjaro by Joining a Group? No. A private, small-party climb is the best way to climb Kilimanjaro. Most climb operators run group departures for up to 12 people. Once they add the support staff, a "small" group of 12 climbers becomes almost 50 people total! That's hardly the way to enjoy the mountain.

What Should I Bring? This is difficult for many climbers because there are many aspiring to tackle Mount Kilimanjaro who have little to no backpacking experience. Simply follow the gear list provided and resist the temptation to bring more. You won't need it and it is just extra weight that you or your porters must carry. There are stories where climbers' luggage was lost by the airlines so they arrived with no gear. So they rented only the essential gear and upon completion of their climb, realized that what they had originally brought from home was very excessive.

How Do I Train? It is very hard to gauge the mental and physical strength needed to climb Kilimanjaro. If you've spoken to those who have successfully or unsuccessfully climbed it, you'd get a wide range of accounts. The truth is, like any other activity, some people excel at it and some people struggle. Two months of training is usually sufficient. If you can do day hikes for four to six hours, with moderate elevation changes (~2,000 ft) while carrying a 20 lb pack, or if you can walk on a stairmaster for a 2 hours, at 30 steps per minute while carrying a 20 lb pack, then it's likely you'll have no problems with the physical part of the climb (altitude acclimatization is unknown, however).

What Do I need to know about Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)? Altitude sickness is potentially fatal. However, most climbers will get some form of mild AMS while on the mountain. Your guide will monitor you closely during the duration of you climb. However, you should be aware of the symptoms of mild, moderate and severe AMS, and you must inform your guide of any symptoms immediately. Never try to hide your symptoms in order to continue climbing.

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For more info on climbing Kilimanjaro, please visit Ultimate Kilimanjaro.

Good luck and happy climbing!

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