Adventuring Altitude: Climbing Kilimanjaro
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is an incredible experience often described as one of life’s most unforgettable moments. Year round, travelers from all over the world climb this great mountain. But when is the best time to go?
Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, standing at an impressive 5,895m (19,341ft) and is home to one of the world’s largest non-expeditionary free-standing mountains. The mountain lies northeast of the border between Tanzania and Kenya, close to the city of Arusha.
The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is during the Dry Seasons which take place from January to February and from June to October. During these months, temperatures remain considerably low on the higher portions of the mountain. The Dry Season is the optimal time for summit attempts, as the nights are cold and the days remain clear, allowing for more enjoyable climbing conditions.
From December to March, the mountain experiences its wet season in which rain is common. During these months, although it may be possible to summit, there is often a higher chance of rain and a lack of clear visibility due to cloud cover. Additionally, many of the paths leading to the summit become muddy.
Climbing at any time can be an immense challenge. In order to make the most of your summit attempt, it’s important to be prepared. Proper gear and an experienced guide will be your most valuable assets. Both of these planning and preparation measures should be taken into consideration when deciding the best time for you to climb.
Altitude sickness is a major risk when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can affect everyone differently. Being prepared for the extreme altitudes of the summit is important for your own safety.
Altitude sickness is caused by the reduced levels of oxygen in the air. The higher the altitude the oxygen levels decrease and the effects of the illness become increasingly severe. From the summit down to 4,000 m, you’ll need to be equipped with an oxygen tank or altitude mask. Reaching this altitude in preparation for your summit can help to reduce the chances of getting sick.
Additionally, it’s important to take extra care when feeding and hydrating. Keeping your food and water intake abundant can help to combat the effects of the altitude. A common mistake many climbers make is attempting the summit too quickly. Instead, it’s important to take the necessary steps in spacing out ascents and descents, providing your body with enough time to adjust to the drastic environment changes.
Equipment & Preparation
Mount Kilimanjaro is a great adventure for beginner climbers and experts alike. There are several routes leading up to the summit and no matter which one you choose, it’s always important to come prepared. Bringing along the proper gear for the hike is essential for a safe and successful summit attempt.
Clothing and footwear are the most essential of these elements, as they protect you from the ever-changing weather and terrain. Clothing should adequately protect you in both hot and cool temperatures. Additionally, your shoes should ensure a solid grip and be waterproof if rain is expected in the area.
Having the right gear can help to make the climb more enjoyable. Fueling your climb with healthy snacks, bringing layers for warmth and your own supply of oxygen can help you make the most of your adventure. Don’t forget to pack a camera to capture the breathtaking views of the summit!
Provisions from Home
In addition to the physical preparation of your climb, you should also do some research on the logistics of your trip. Knowing what provisions are available near the mountain, as well as supplies you will need to bring from home can help to make the climb easier.
Many climbers rely on the huts situated higher up on the mountain for sleep and sustenance. These huts usually offer basic amenities but the more experienced climbers will want to prepare their own food on the mountain. It’s essential to bring along gas canisters and a stove if you plan to make your own food.
You’ll also need to prepare your own medical kit. Although it may be possible to purchase basic medications and first-aid materials when on the mountain, it is advisable to bring your own supplies. Remember to pack essential materials such as pain killers, antiseptic wipes, band-aids, and anti-inflammatory drugs in case of altitude sickness.
Choosing a Route
Once you’ve decided on the best time to tackle Kilimanjaro, it’s important to pick the perfect route for your adventure. The mountain features six official routes and though each route ultimately leads to the summit, the differences between them can vary wildly.
The Marangu Route is the most popular route for climbers and features a variety of shelters, dining huts and campsites. It’s an unarguably beautiful trek, however, with limited altitude gain it has one of the lowest success rates for summit attempts.
The Machame Route is the second most popular and provides more scenic views than the Marangu Route. Although it is more difficult, the Machame Route has more camping sites and more dinner huts. This exciting and fabled route has some of the highest success rates in the world.
Trustworthy Tour Operators
Planning your trip with a reliable tour operator is highly recommended for anyone tackling Mount Kilimanjaro. A knowledgeable guide will be extremely valuable when climbing this great mountain.
When booking your trip, do research the safety protocols and review summaries of client experiences held by the tour operator.
Reading online reviews can help you choose the right operator for your climb. Ensure that you’re given all the necessary information on the pre-climbing procedures and pay attention to the support and transportation capacities to ensure you have the safest and most enjoyable experience possible.
Cost & Logistics
The cost of climbing Kilimanjaro can vary greatly depending on the services you require. Lodging and food on the mountain are inexpensive and the total price can range anywhere from $3000 to $4500.
When accounting for the cost of flights, appropriate climbing gear, and additional costs such as insurance and tipping travelers should budget a minimum of $4500 for the entire experience. Of course, these prices can increase depending on your tour operator and the route you decide to climb.
Also vital to consider is the planning involved in the trip. Information regarding entry visas, taxes, visas, and vaccinations should be researched beforehand. Health and safety protocols should also be taken into consideration when planning the logistics of the trip.
Training & Support
When preparing for a summit attempt, training is essential for the best possible outcome. Establishing a training routine that focuses on cardiovascular health, leg strength and overall endurance can boost your body’s performance on the mountain.
Climbing a mountain this size is no small feat and can take its toll on your body. Therefore, it’s important to find the right support system. Bringing along people who are supportive and encouraging can dramatically improve the experience. This support will likely come in the form of your tour guide, but don’t discount the importance of your companions.
Team work can play an integral role in the summit attempt, making it possible to push through the difficult times together. It’s also important to bring a journal, which can be used to record your experiences and reflect on the memories made along the way.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is an incredible experience that will certainly leave a lasting impression. As the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, this great peak offers an unbeatable view from its summit.
The best time of year to climb Kilimanjaro is during the Dry Seasons. Being prepared with the proper gear, having an experienced guide and taking the necessary steps to acclimate to the quickly changing environments can ensure a successful summit attempt.
Doing research on the tour operator as well as taking the time to train before the climb should also be factored into the planning stages. Ultimately, this challenging and often grueling adventure is worth the effort and the reward. Climb with a little extra preparation, and the greatest peak in Africa is yours!