Mount Kilimanjaro is located on the northern border of Tanzania, bordering Kenya. It is the tallest mountain on the continent of Africa, rising 19,341 feet above sea level and comprised of 3 distinct volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. It is an incredibly popular destination for visitors hoping to experience its unparalleled beauty, solitude, and high-altitude terrain.
Kilimanjaro is a unique combination of landscapes, with each of its 3 distinct volcanoes providing a wide variety of trails and terrain particulars. For starters, the lower part of the mountain features temperate rainforests filled with diverse wildlife, lush vegetation, and cascading waterfalls. Above this layer is a moorland comprising of heath and highland meadows, perched atop a bed of volcanic rock. Finally, the summit of the mountain is icy and windy, with the iconic snow cap providing a stunning landscape of the surrounding landscape.
Kilimanjaro does not require an excessive amount of technical mountaineering skill to ascend. However, the physical challenges posed by a high-altitude climb should not be discarded. Altitude sickness affects many of Kilimanjaro’s climbers, presenting itself as nausea, headaches, and general lethargy. To reduce the risk of experiencing these symptoms, it is important to climb slowly, give your body time to adjust to the altitude, and properly hydrate.
The mental challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro is arguably the most significant. It can take anywhere from 6-9 days to summit the mountain depending on the route taken, which presents a significant test of endurance and character. In addition to the physical challenge, dealing with isolation and the uncertainty of a successful summit, can be a psychological battle. It is important to remain positive and recognize the accomplishment, big or small, on a daily basis.
Reflection and Awe
Sitting atop Kilimanjaro, with a 360-degree view of sprawing grasslands, tropical forests, and snow-capped peaks, can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Many who complete the climb refer to the moment as the most majestic, peaceful, and humbling experience of their life. No other mountain in the world can offer a similar experience.
Preparation is essential prior to tackling the mountain. First, climbers should research and understand the required fitness and medical needs of a Kilimanjaro summit. Next, it is important to hire a qualified guide, as they will create an individually tailored route, monitor the physical accumulation of each climber, and offer important advice. Finally, the basic mountaineering equipment is necessary to ensure a safe climb. This includes clothing, gloves, hats, backpacks, and boots. Once the physical and mental preparation is complete, it is time to set off on the epic journey.
The majestic beauty of Kilimanjaro is what attracts climbers from all over the world. Its lush rainforest, high-altitude meadows, rocky terrain, and icy summit provide an unforgettable experience. Along the journey climbers will also be presented with an array of wildlife, from high altitude birds to curious members of the big five. It is an exceptional opportunity to witness some of the most iconic animals in their natural habitat.
Kilimanjaro supports multiple species of birds and animals, many of which are endemic only to the mountain. The most common are lammergeier vultures, which can be seen soaring the sky right up to the peak of the mountain. Klipspringers, antelopes and Colobus monkeys are also known to view the lower and middeb regions. Leopards are notoriously considered to be the only big five animal found on the mountain, however, sightings of other animals such as elephants, hyenas and black rhinos are rarely reported.
Altitude sickness is a real danger for climbers of Kilimanjaro, with a high percentage of those attempting the climb typically affected. Symptoms of altitude sickness typically include nausea, headache, fatigue and loss of appetite, and can be heightened by the rigors of a long trek. To reduce the risk, it is important that climbers begin the climb well hydrated and with a proper diet, as well as taking regular breaks to adjust to the altitude. Additionally, it is important that climbers are vigilant in monitoring their body and health, as well as being aware of any symptoms indicating altitude sickness.
It is important to remember that Kilimanjaro is a physical challenge, and it is advised for climbers to spend at least 6 months physically preparing for the climb. This can involve proper cardio and strength exercise, as well as taking regular hikes and endurance training. Proactive measures to prepare for the climb will be immensely beneficial when it comes to the actual ascent.
Scaling a mountain such as Kilimanjaro requires the correct mountaineering equipment tailored to the particular conditions of the climb. Generally, this will include clothing layers, heat-retaining and weather-proofing items, and a supportive mountaineering boot. More specific items such as camping gear and ice axes may be required depending on the route and time of year. Additionally, it is important to remember to bring any medical supplies and medication, sunscreen, and sufficient snacks and water to stay energized throughout the climb.
Acclimatisation is an incredibly important element in the journey to summit Kilimanjaro. As climbers ascend, the lower oxygen level in the air can put strain on the body and create serious risks. It is extremely important that climbers adhere to a slow, steady pace to allow their bodies to adjust to the lower oxygen levels in the air. Additionally, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of altitude sickness and to remain vigilant in assessing and monitoring one’s health.
The scenery changes dramatically as climbers ascend Kilimanjaro, beginning in the tropical rainforest and passing through a moorland high-altitude meadow, before arriving at a dramatic rocky terrain and eventually a snow-capped summit. It is essential to be prepared for each layer, as temperatures and weather can be unpredictable. Ascending the mountain is not to be taken lightly, and it is important to consider both the physical and mental challenges of the climb.
Streams and Rivers
As the climb continues, climbers move further away from the established rivers and streams. This presents its own challenges as access to water becomes more sparse, typically restricting the availability to natural sources found throughout the climb such as springs, rivers and rock holes. As a result, it is recommended that climbers bring and conserve a good amount of water, as dehydration can become a risk in the later stages of the climb.
The weather on Kilimanjaro is notoriously unpredictable, with temperatures ranging from -10°C to +30°C. It is important to be prepared for any weather, packing and wearing the correct clothing for the journey. Additionally, it is important to be aware of any hazardous weather conditions such as lightning, heavy rain or snow, and to be prepared to reroute or shelter from any dangerous conditions if necessary.
Guides and Porter
One of the most important aspects of the Kilimanjaro climb is having a knowledgeable and experienced guide. This individual will be in charge of the climb, providing direction and advice throughout the journey, thus reducing the risk of an unsuccesful summit. Porter are also an insightful and helpful asset when it comes to scaling the mountain. These individuals will carry gear, gear and ultimately provide an additional level of support to the climbers.