Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is one of those bucket list adventures that many of us intrepid souls daydream about. If you are thinking about doing it, have a read of this handy guide first.

Mount Kilimanjaro or Kili as it’s more affectionately known is the highest mountain in Africa and the tallest freestanding mountain on earth. This towering snow-cap stands at 5,895 m and is located inside the Kilimanjaro National Park of Tanzania. Itineraries range from one to two weeks, made up of five to 14 hours of hiking a day. If you are considering ticking this peak off of your bucket list, have a read of this first.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro
Image: Tom Cleary

Kilimanjaro Routes

There are seven established routes up Mount Kilimanjaro. When choosing a route, there are a few options to weigh up. This includes distances, trekking costs, success rates and best possible summit prospects.

The Marangu Route: One of the most popular routes as it is thought to be the easiest. It can be hiked in five days which makes it the cheapest option. There is also A-frame huts along this route that you can stay in. But beware it also has one of the lowest summit success rates of all the routes up the mountain.

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The Machame Route: is another popular option and it has a higher success rate. The only issue on this route to be wary of is that the area just before the Shira ridge and the Barranco Wall are both physically demanding. As the route with the highest success rate, you’ll also encounter heavy traffic.

The Umbwe Route: is one of the shortest routes to the Southern Glaciers and the Western Breach. It is probably one of the most scenic, non-technical routes on Kilimanjaro. Plus there are caves along it to explore!

The Shira Route: If you have the cash and the weather conditions are right, you can drive by four-wheel drive to within a half hour walk of Shira Hut at 4000m.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro
Image: Tom Cleary

The Lemosho Route: One of the quieter routes up Kilimanjaro,  however, it does eventually combine with the busier Machame route. It is also inaccessible during the wet season.

The Rongai Route: Another quiet route up the mountain. However, it takes a while to get to the starting point of the route and it eventually connects with the busier Marangu route.

The Northern Circuit: This is where the northern side of Kilimanjaro connects with the western side.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro
Image Tom Cleary

The best time to go

Doing a climb like this is going to consume your life for at least a year, so make sure you pick the right time to go. The wettest months on Kilimanjaro are March, April and May. November and December have the shortest rain seasons. January and February are the warmest months and June and July are the coolest months.

How to get there

Fly into Kilimanjaro international airport. Most guiding companies start their climbs from Moshi or Arusha town, which is about 45 km from Kilimanjaro International Airport.

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Advice for the mountain

  • Go slow and allow your body to acclimatize.
  • Hydrate! You need to be drinking at least 3 – 4 litres of liquid a day.
  • Walk high and sleep low.
  • Pack as light as possible and prepared for rain.
  • Wear the correct clothing (the average temp at basecamp is 27°C to 32°C. At the summit, nighttime temperatures can be as low as -26°C).
  • Bring hiking poles.
  • Be aware and do your homework on signs and symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).
  • Take preventative medication for Malaria.
  • Most importantly, enjoy the adventure!

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By Orla O'Muiri

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