Many hikers and mountaineers are familiar with the great challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. As one of the world’s Seven Summits, Kilimanjaro presents a thrilling test of strength and endurance. Despite the fact that Kilimanjaro is the tallest peak on the African continent, it is far from the most difficult ascent. That said, the Kilimanjaro hike is still a physically demanding journey, and you should plan it carefully so that you are fully prepared for the challenge.
Difficulty of the Hike
At 19,341 feet, Kilimanjaro is an impressive sight as you draw near its summit. But how hard is it to hike the highest mountain on the African continent? In short, it is strenuous, testing your physical and mental fortitude. On a typical Kilimanjaro trek, hikers will ascend through five distinct climate zones while employing various techniques such as bouldering, walking on scree, and bushwalking.
At its peak, the average hiker will have to endure at least five gruelling days of trekking, in addition to the days spent acclimatizing and resting. During these five days you will be hiking around 10 to 15 kilometres each day, often at an altitude above 17,000 feet. This amounts to a total of around 1,000 vertical metres, which may require traversing some steep and rough terrain.
Factors To Consider
When planning a Kilimanjaro hike, you will have to consider a range of important factors. Firstly, you should ensure that you have a sufficient amount of time to properly acclimatise, as this is essential in allowing your body to adjust to the changing altitude. Additionally, you should make sure you are in good physical condition prior to departing on your trek. Last but not least, you must familiarise yourself with the latest weather conditions and ensure that you have all the necessary supplies for your journey.
It is also important for hikers to take into account their own limitations when deciding on which route to take up the mountain. The most popular route is the Marangu Route, also known as the ‘Coca Cola’ route, as it is the easiest in terms of terrain and offers hikers the best chance of reaching the summit. This route is accessible to hikers with little to no mountaineering experience, however, it is also the most crowded. The Machame and Lemosho routes offer a more challenging hike, but with less crowds and a greater chance of wildlife sightings.
When choosing a Kilimanjaro hike, it is important to consider the associated costs. In general, the cost of a Kilimanjaro climb increases with the level of difficulty. A typical 8-day trek on the Marangu route may cost around US$1,500, while a 10-day trek on the more challenging Machame route may cost upwards of US$2,000.
It is also important to factor in the cost of equipment for your journey, as having appropriate supplies and clothing can be the difference between a successful and a failed climb. Take into account the cost of items such as a sleeping bag, warm insulation layers such as synthetic or down jackets and trousers, trekking poles, and a good pair of hiking boots.
Advantages and Disadvantages
While the Kilimanjaro hike presents an opportunity to appreciate some of the world’s most remarkable views, it is important to be aware of the possible disadvantages of undertaking such a demanding journey. As already mentioned, the elevation of the Kilimanjaro trek means that hikers are subjected to a much lower level of oxygen than they are used to. This can present problems such as fatigue, loss of appetite and nausea.
Furthermore, the lower oxygen levels can lead to more serious altitude-related illnesses such as ‘acute mountain sickness’, which is caused by oxygen deprivation in the body. It is therefore extremely important to monitor your symptoms and ensure that your pace is steady and manageable.
On the other hand, the Kilimanjaro hike is also associated with a range of mental and physical advantages. Experiencing a sense of accomplishment at the end of the climb is one of the greatest rewards, particularly after enduring the physical challenges of the terrain.
The Kilimanjaro hike is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist destination, however this has come at a cost to the environment, with there being evidence of an increase in soil erosion, surface degredation and wildlife habitat destruction.
Hikers are advised to be mindful of their actions while on the mountain and to follow the Leave No Trace principle, which is designed to minimise the impact of human activities on the environment. This principle encompasses seven different guidelines which focus on respecting wildlife, minimizing campfire impact, disposing of waste properly and avoiding taking short cuts on the trails.
The safety of hikers on Kilimanjaro should also be considered. The mountain can be dangerous and unpredictable and it is important to be aware of the various safety precautions that should be taken while trekking.
Familiarise yourself with the potential risks, such as lightning storms and avalanches, and be sure to travel with an experienced guide who is trained in emergency first aid and can provide valuable advice on dealing with any potential dangers. Additionally, ensure that all members of your team have the appropriate clothing and supplies, such as maps and compasses, as these can greatly enhance safety on the trail.
Fitness and Training
Finally, one of the most important considerations for any Kilimanjaro hiker is to ensure that they are physically fit and sufficiently trained for the challenge. Before undertaking such a strenuous hike, it is recommended that you engage in regular physical activities that simulate the challenges associated with a Kilimanjaro hike, such as long hikes and ascents with a backpack.
Furthermore, it is important to build up your aerobic fitness by engaging in regular aerobic activities such as running, cycling and swimming, with experts recommending that you are able to comfortably walk at least 11 kilometres a day while carrying a weighted backpack.