Trekking Kilimanjaro is an incredible adventure that can take between five and nine days, depending on the route selected. Although the end goal is to summit the mountain, the route selected and the duration of the climb will depend on a range of factors, including the level of acclimatisation, physical ability and objectives. We provide an overview of the duration of each route and the factors to consider when planning a Kilimanjaro trek.
Climbing any mountain takes two key ingredients: having enough energy to reach the top, and allowing your body to become accustomed to the affects of altitude. For example, many climbers are affected by altitude sickness, which can occur when oxygen levels drop. As a result, acclimatisation is essential to successfully reach the summit of Kilimanjaro.
Most popular routes normally allow between three and five days’ acclimatisation, although it is possible to climb in five days, with only two days’ acclimatisation. This can be achieved with an additional oxygen cylinder and altitude sickness medication.
Physical ability is just as important as acclimatisation when it comes to successful summiting. Nearly all mountains require a full day of ascent, followed by a further day of descent. This is physically demanding and can easily result in exhaustion.
When ascending Kilimanjaro, it is important to take regular breaks to acclimatise, as the variation in altitude will cause fatigue and oxygen deprivation. The success rate of summits depends greatly on the physical ability of a climber.
Selection of Routes
Kilimanjaro can be climbed either in a day or over five or more days. Day ascents are reserved for experienced climbers and those who are working on specific projects. The majority of people usually opt to climb over five days and generally take seven days in total.
Learn which route is best for the duration, the acclimatisation requirements and the fitness levels of the individual. Each route has its own unique itinerary, accommodation, and even arrival and departure points.
Most Popular Routes
One of the most popular routes on Kilimanjaro is the Marangu Route, which spans five days. This route is often referred to as the ‘Coca-Cola’ route as the accommodation is in basic huts. It is one of the cheapest options, although it also provides the least amount of time for acclimatisation, making it more challenging.
The Machame Route is another popular option that takes seven days to complete. This route does not provide superior accommodation, but there is more time to acclimatise, meaning that it is usually considered easier than the Marangu Route. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘Whisky Route’ due to being a more expensive option than Marangu.
Wandes Dwindiwa is a professional Kilimanjaro guide who has successfully taken many people to the summit. According to Dwindiwa, the time it takes to climb Kilimanjaro will ultimately depend on the experience of the climber and the individual’s acclimatisation and physical abilities.
He recommends that those with weak abilities should take their time, and allow between seven and nine days to properly acclimatise and summiting safely. Whereas those with average physical abilities should aim to reach the summit in six to seven days to give themselves the best chance of success.
Factors to Consider
There is no easy route to the top of the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. It takes several days of physically demanding trekking. The time it takes to summit Kilimanjaro depends on a range of factors, including fitness levels, acclimatisation requirements, and the route selected.
Attending an altitude clinic before tackling the mountain can help assess physical abilities and also provide access to medication, such as oxygen, in case altitude sickness occurs. Hiring an experienced guide is essential to reducing risks. Being part of an experienced group can also aid in raising morale whilst helping the group to reach the summit.
Research and Preparation
Trekking Kilimanjaro is a great way to challenge yourself both mentally and physically. In order to make the most out of the experience, researching the various routes, and being thoroughly prepared is important. Knowing what to expect in terms of ascent duration, altitude and temperatures, terrain, and the equipment and clothing necessary, will greatly improve the chances of summit success.
Researching local culture, customs and laws, as well as reading first-hand accounts from other climbers is key when preparing for the adventure. Careful planning and preparation is essential for a safe and successful summit.
The Final Ascent
Most climbers attempt the final ascent in the final hours of the night, in order to see the sunrise as they stand on top of Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru peak summit. This typically begins around midnight and can take up to four hours, depending on the route. The midnight ascent is physically demanding and taxing, as it’s done in the dark, along a steep and slippery scree path.
Reaching the summit is a remarkable achievement, the accomplishment of which is something that should be celebrated regardless of the total duration of ascent.
Gear and Equipment
Having the correct gear and equipment is essential when climbing Kilimanjaro, as the chance of success is dependent on having access to oxygen, sufficient clothing layers, and technology to keep the group safe.
Almost every tour company and outfitter provides information on the clothing and equipment needed for each route. Many tour operators include the cost of the necessary equipment in their price. Having the right gear will make a huge difference in terms of comfort and safety, no matter the time of trek.
Altitude sickness remains a significant threat to climbers on Kilimanjaro and is particularly perilous. High altitude cerebral edema is the most serious form of altitude sickness and requires an immediate descent from the mountain. To combat this, it is important to use a combination of oxygen cylinders and various altitude sickness medications.
It is also important for climbers to listen to their bodies and not ignore symptoms of altitude sickness, even if mild. In extreme cases, people’s lives can be at risk and relying on technology, such as climbers tracking devices, can make all the difference in the world.
When ascending the mountain during peak times, medical facilities are not always accessible. Higher altitude stations are equipped with basic medical facilties which can help with any minor maladies that may be experienced in high altitude. If evacuation is required though, it is important to have adequate evacuation insurance in order to arrange a helicopter transport.
Although climbers should always expect the unexpected, emergency care is often much shorter than expected. The severity of a medical emergency, such as altitude sickness, will dictate the duration required to be on the mountain to receive care.
Reaching the Summit
Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro can be incredibly rewarding, although it does present a number of challenges. The length of the ascent depends on a variety of factors, including acclimatisation, physical ability, and equipment and technology. Having the necessary experience and preparation is essential, and can mean the difference between successfully summiting or not. By understanding the various routes, and the risks associated with the adventure, individuals can prepare themselves for a safe and successful summit.