The whole idea of hiking the top of the Kilimanjaro came up at a random New Year’s Eve party. where I met a girl, who told me she was gonna climb the Kilimanjaro in November. (Yes, 11 months later) I thought this was a great adventure and I signed up for the trip right away. I did not consider how hard the trip was going to be. I did not even read the itinerary. I just paid for the trip. Most people around me thought I was crazy to do such a challenging thing, but I was sure it was going to be great fun! The girl I was initially going with changed her mind and canceled the trip, so I ended up climbing the Kilimanjaro with a random group of people I had never even met before. So, here I was going on a trip again with people I didn’t even know. Cheers to that! Here are all my tips and tricks on how to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. One thing I can promise you, it won’t be easy and if you want to do it, you need mental and physical strength. It is not for everyone.
Where is Mount Kilimanjaro?
The Kilimanjaro is the highest point of Africa and the highest mountain in Tanzania. What country is Mount Kilimanjaro in? It is in Tanzania, in East Africa. It is one of the seven summits in the World. (These are the highest peaks on each continent.) Read about climbing Aconcagua, the second highest summit in the World in Chile.
Mount Kilimanjaro Facts
The mountain is a dormant volcano. It comprises of 3 volcanic cones. Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the World. Mount Kilimanjaro’s height is 5,895m. How high is Kilimanjaro in feet? It is about 19,341 feet. Kilimanjaro climbers on a fast route reach the summit in 4-5 days. This rapid ascent makes it a dangerous mountain to hike, because of the altitude sickness. Just for comparison, the Everest Base Camp is 5,364 m and most climbers reach the summit in 8-10 days.
Your changes of reaching the Kilimanjaro depends on how much time you give yourself to reach the top. The longer you take, the more likely you will succeed, because the more time your body has to acclimatize. Only 27% of the people who attempt to do it in 5 days, actually succeed. Around 3-7 people die on the track every year. Sometimes porters die from malaria on the way to the top.
Training for Kilimanjaro before the trip will help you to stay on your feet for an extended amount of time. I used to go for runs for 2 hours then I would walk for another 2-3 hours around the city.
Best Time to Climb Kilimanjaro
The best time to climb the Kilimanjaro is January to March and June to October. It is usually colder and there is more snow in the first season. June-October can be very busy. We hiked in November and it was not too cold.
If you are looking for the best backpack for hiking, check this post out.
How Much Does Climbing Kilimanjaro Cost?
It costs around $2500-$3000 including flights from Europe. We were also asked to give about $400 tip to the porters on top of it. So, it is not cheap.
How Long Does It Take to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
It can take anywhere between 4 to 8 days. The longer you take, the more likely you will reach the summit. Hiking Mt Kilimanjaro can be very difficult because of the altitude.
Let’s not forget, it is important to get a good travel insurance before you set up on a big adventure like this. Learn more on travel insurance from the Disorganized Traveler here.
Travel to Tanzania was a long journey from London. Flights to Kilimanjaro usually connect in Dar es Salaam in the capital of Tanzania. We landed at the Kilimanjaro airport. We stated the hike the day after. We hiked a Machame route. It is the most scenic and most popular route of the Kili. The itinerary which I only learned about a week before departure was really tough. My father who read it way before I did, warned me that I was gonna suffer big time. He had doubts if I was gonna make it to the top. I was determined to prove him wrong.
After reading the itinerary, I also had doubts, but I decided to climb really slowly and try my best to make it. We hiked about 1000m in elevation a day. Africa was very tough on my body. I literally suffered from everything I could ever imagine during the 9 days I spent in Tanzania. From the moment I arrived I was sneezing, then I caught a cold. Then I believe I had fever too. I suffered from all sorts of muscle pain and digestive issues as well. Everyone in my team was popping pills for diarrhea, constipation, altitude sickness, muscle pain, altitude related insomnia, headache. I was suffering from many of these, but refused to take any prescription medicine. I think they are terrible for you.
After arriving in the Kilimanjaro National Park, we spent the first day hiking through the rain forest, then we saw bushes and short trees on the second day, then we could only see rocks and sand as we elevated. After 4000m there were absolutely no vegetation or animals. Up until this point, the Mount Kilimanjaro climb was not too difficult.
We hiked for many hours every day. I was tired and bored of hiking. When the scenery was bare, I was slightly disappointed. Sometimes, I felt like I was wasting my time on a bare mountain, other times, I was amazed by the beautiful vegetation that surrounded us.
Hiking was tiring, but that was my last problem. Hiking itself would have been easy if it was not for the altitude. I could handle the altitude very well until about 4500m without pills. On the fourth day, after drinking 6 liters of water, I realized that I could not beat altitude sickness without taking medications. I ‘ve started to feel the height of Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania. I realized that the only way I was gonna make it to the summit of 5865m if I popped the Diamox. The Diamox worked like a miracle. Suddenly my headache was gone. I felt so much better. Nobody should hike as high as the Kilimanjaro without these pills. These pills can save a hiker from so much pain.
On our fourth day, one of our team members had to be taken down on a stretcher, because liquid went into his lungs. He could not handle the altitude. A few more people in my team could not make it to the top.
The Summit Day
On the fourth day, we hiked up to around 4600m and went to bed around 7 pm. They woke us up at midnight to hike to the summit. I put on all the clothes I had with me. I had three pants on me, 5 layers on the top. We hiked for the next eight hours upwards. I was tired but I kept on hiking in the dark. It was cold, the wind was blowing hard. The only thing I could see was the feet of the person in front of me. It was boring and slightly dangerous to hike in the dark. The only thing I could think of was the sunrise. I was slightly annoyed while I was hiking upwards to the Mt Kilimanjaro summit, because of the cold and the dark. Luckily the Diamox worked like a dream, I was no longer suffering from any altitude related symptoms. After the sun came up everything was different. The sunrise was spectacular. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was one of the biggest challenges of my life. Mount Kilimanjaro hike can be extremely difficult.
We hiked upwards for 8 hours to reach the summit. The last hour was the hardest because the air was so thin. I would walk ten steps and I had to stop to catch my breath. My guide Mmassa was great.
He gave me the emotional support I needed to keep going. He kept telling me we were almost there and I should not give up. Well, I did not give up. I made it to the top in 8 hours. First, we reached the Stellar Point which is a smaller peak about an hour from the summit.
There I saw many tourists coming down from the summit with euphoria. They were happy and they encouraged me to keep going. It was hard because there was very little oxygen in the air, but I kept on going slowly. At 9 am I reached the summit. I was on the top of Africa.
It was the most incredible feeling ever. I felt like I have just reached the top of the World. The clouds were below me. There was a glacier to the right and a volcano to the left.
I was so tired. I joked with my guide that he should call for a helicopter to take me down the mountain. He said that no helicopter flies up to 6000m, so I had to use my feet to get down from the mountain.
Reaching the summit was an incredible feeling that I cannot compare to anything I have ever experienced before. It is something I will always remember for the rest of my life.
Descending the Kili
The best part about hiking the summit was coming down the mountain. We ran down the mountain in less than 3 hours. We just ran and ran, as the camp at the bottom of the mountain was getting closer and closer. I could not wait to reach my tent and collapse from exhaustion.
As soon as I reached my tent, I fell asleep and slept for a couple of hours until someone woke me up, because we had to pack up to hike another 1000m down the mountain to reach the next camp. I collapsed again from exhaustion as soon as we reached the next camp.
The next day we woke up early to hike down from 3500m to the gate. We walked for about 5 hours. It was so boring. We could not wait to reach the hotel. Everyone smelled bad after not showering for a week. It was getting warmer and warmer and the trees were getting taller and taller as we descended. I had never been so happy to take a shower and sleep in a real bed. When we got off the mountain I was suffering from a very painful migraine headache for the next few days. I never had a migraine in my life before. I was suffering like a dog.
Despite all the suffering and pain, I went through, while hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, I must admit that this was the most incredible adventure of my whole life and I would totally recommend everybody to do it. It was certainly the toughest thing I have ever done, but also the most rewarding adventure. It was an incredible feeling to be standing on the top of Africa and watching the clouds moving below me. The people of Africa were also incredibly nice and humble. Learning about them was amazing. They were always very kind and smiley. They sang for us as we were hiking up the mountain. They prayed for us that we can make it to the top. If you want to do this incredible adventure, climb Kilimanjaro for charity and help a good cause.
If you ever decide to hike the Kilimanjaro, do yourself favor and go as slowly as you can, because the slower you go the less you will suffer from the altitude. Take the Diamox and drink lots of water. I guarantee you that this is gonna be the most memorable adventure you have ever experienced!
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