What You Need to Know to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Posted on 09/28/2023
Hiking up the tallest freestanding mountain in the world is on a lot of people’s travel bucket lists. From BFF getaways to rewarding yourself for reaching fitness goals, climbing the highest peak in Africa is the adventure of a lifetime. 
 
Unlike other of the world’s highest peaks, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro takes endurance and a certain amount of fitness, but no specialized skills, making it an attainable achievement. 
 
Here are a few essential things you need to know about climbing Kilimanjaro:
 
1. World’s Highest Freestanding Mountain… with Disappearing Snow Caps:
Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest freestanding mountain in the world, and the highest peak in Africa, standing at approximately 19,341 feet above sea level. It is also one of the world's Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.
 
Mount Kilimanjaro is in its own eponymous Kilimanjaro National Park and near the country's northern border with Kenya.
 
Tales like ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ romanticize the African mountain’s famously snow-capped peak. But, despite its record-breaking height, the ice cap on Kilimanjaro's summit is disappearing, drawing global attention to the effects of climate change. It's projected that its glaciers may disappear entirely within our lifetime.
 
2. No Special Equipment Required:
One unique aspect of climbing Kilimanjaro compared to many of the world’s other famous mountains is that it does not require specialized mountaineering equipment or technical climbing skills, making it accessible to many hikers.
 
But it’s no walk in the park. Adequate preparation, physical fitness, acclimatization to altitude and competent guides and a climbing plan are crucial to reach the summit successfully.
 
3. Different Routes:
There are several routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, with each route varying in length, difficulty, and scenery. The climb takes between 5 to 9 days, and climbers can choose a route according to your preference and level of experience.
 
The Marangu and Machame routes are among the most popular ways to climb. Marangu is often considered the easiest route, you have less time to acclimatize, so that adds its own challenge. Machame is more scenic but also more challenging.
 
4. Multiple Climate Zones:
You’ll be climbing through entirely different environments on your way to the summit. Kilimanjaro has a variety of climatic zones, ranging from tropical rainforest at its base to arctic conditions at its peak.
 
Climbers experience drastic changes in temperature and weather as they ascend, passing through cultivated land, rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert, and the arctic summit. Pack carefully!
 
5. Varied Flora and Fauna:
Kilimanjaro is home to a phenomenal range of flora and fauna. While ascending, climbers can observe different species of plants and animals, including unique, endemic species such as the Kilimanjaro tree and the giant groundsel.
 
Some animals, like monkeys and birds, can be spotted in the lower elevations, but wildlife becomes sparse as the altitude increases.
 
6. Tis the Season:
The best seasons to climb Mount Kilimanjaro are during its two dry seasons. Late June to October is the main trekking season, coinciding with the summer months and offering stable, dry weather. It is a popular time for tourists, so the routes can be crowded. It is also the best time to enjoy clear, breathtaking views from the summit.
 
The other dry season for climbing Kilimanjaro is from late December to early March. It’s generally warmer but can also be more crowded due to coinciding with holidays.
 
At any time of the year, though, Kilimanjaro’s weather is unpredictable, and conditions can change rapidly. Proper preparation and equipment are essential to handle any weather that arises – and again, having expert, local guides.
 
7. Think Local:
Local guides will also help ensure trekkers have the information and tips to respect local customs and traditions, particularly when visiting local communities and cultural sites during their trip.
 
8. And Beyond:
Having attained the achievement of the peak and the incredible views from the summit, you can treat yourself to a bit more time in Tanzania at ground level to immerse yourself in its natural wonders, cultural sites and thrills.
 
Plan a safari to see iconic African wildlife, a visit to Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest inactive volcanic caldera, an exploration of the archipelago of Zanzibar, with its UNESCO World Heritage Site history and breathtaking beaches, or an immersion into local Maasai village life.
 
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Image: Getty
 
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