We recommend a minimum of 8-10 days from the USA, although some people may want more time for the trip. We can customize itineraries or routes to offer more days in the park. Some people may wish to climb nearby Mount Meru as well. If you have more than 10 days, you can choose any of the main routes on the mountain and still have time for a wildlife safari before or after your trip.
You can climb any month of the year. At lower elevations, April, May and November are quite wet while March and June are transition months. August and September are the coldest and driest months. January, February, July, August and September are all popular climbing months.
Around 80% of climbers choose the Marangu route (5 or 6 days), which is commonly referred to as the “Tourist” or “Coca cola” route because it is easy to climb compared to other routes. The rest usually goes for Machame route (6 or 7 days). The four routes (Umbwe, Rongai, Shira and Lemosho) are far less frequented. Please note that many of the routes meet on a mid-way point and there are only three routes to the summit.
Many texts state that Kilimanjaro is easily accessible. However, you should not underestimate this mountain. There are no technical mountaineering skills required, but general fitness is necessary. However, the biggest problem for climbers is the effects of high altitude, which seem to be unrelated to fitness, age or gender. It is a good idea to start some physical training prior to the trek, which might include aerobic cross training and hiking to familiarize your body with the rigors or the trek. The fitter you are, the easier the climb will be for you. Determination and will power are other important factors.
It is more reasonable to measure each day in hours walked rather than miles. Most days, other than the summit day, will begin with breakfast around 6:30 AM and departure at 7 A.M. You will walk 4-5 hours with a break for lunch followed by another hour or two of hiking in the afternoon. These days are not long or difficult and you will be advised to walk slowly (“pole pole” in Swahili) by your guide.
Most groups will start for the summit on ascent day at 11 PM to 12:30AM, depending on the perceived fitness of the group, the weather and the route. The pre-dawn hours, while cold, are also the calmest and clearest. The best views from the summit are at dawn. Often clouds and high winds develop not long after sunrise making the summit much less attractive and the descent more difficult. Guides who have been to the summit scores of times report that it is very rare to find it cloudy at the summit at dawn in any season. The ascent day is a very long day of hiking. Some people may require 15 hours to reach the summit and descend to the campsite for that day.
There is no need to worry because this is a common concern. It is much better for your body if you proceed slowly and the guides will continually remind you about this (“pole pole”-Swahili word which means slowly). By walking slowly, your body will much better acclimatize to the high altitude. There is plenty of time allotted each day for the trek, even for those who like to go very slowly.
Some climbers may fall short of reaching the summit, but not at the expense of their overall experience. Even for those who never reached the top, the experience of the wonders of Kilimanjaro is rewarding. If one or more members of a group decide they cannot continue or if a guide deems it is unsafe for an individual (or group) to continue, they will be escorted to the most convenient campsite or hut. Our guides intimately know the network of shortcuts to escort climbers to safety, and they are trained to act quickly and calmly under any circumstance.
You will simply carry a day pack of about 5-6 pounds, though some people carry more or less. Your gear, not to exceed 33 pounds, will be placed inside a waterproof duffle at the trail head, and a porter will carry this for you. If you have things you do not need on the climb, you may leave a bag behind at Moshi in our office.
The usual ratio is three local staff for each climber, although small groups may have four staff per climber. These usually consist of an English speaking guide or guides, a professional cook and gear-carrying porters. We encourage you to interact with your staff, though some will have limited English. They are all trustworthy local people who have grown up in the shadow of the mountain. Many of them have climbed the peak 50 or more times.
We provide tents, food, utensils and leadership. You should bring your own sleeping bag rated to 10 degrees F., water system, personal clothing, sleeping pad, light duffle bag and day pack. Hiking poles can be rented for $10. A packing list is provided to all climbers, along with our pre-departure packet.
You are expected to carry your own day pack, which should be able to sustain you until you reach a camp at the end of the day. You do not need to carry your person backpack/duffel pack it will be carried by a porter. The weight per porter is limited to 20kgs. Your duffel bag will be brought from campsite to campsite-before you arrive it will already be there. What do you need during the day in your pack will depend on your priorities, but will generally include drinking water, basic medical kit, camera, water proof layers, a pair of gloves and hat, a warm layer, and snacks.
On the Marangu Route there are simple basic huts. The first two huts sleep four people each and the last hut is dorm-style with bunk beds. On all other routes, you will sleep in 3-person dome style mountain tents, two people each. The tents are modern and have an outer flysheet and large vestibules keep equipment from the elements. They are set up, broken down and carried along with everything else by our porters. A toilet tent is set up at every campsite and hot water is provided for each person every morning if possible (no showers).There will be dining tents with chairs and tables where all meals will be served. Before the meals we will provide soap and hot water for washing your hands.