Climbing Kilimanjaro

Touch the Roof of Africa.
You’ve brought your spirit of adventure on safari – now why don’t you rise to the personal challenge of summitting Africa’s highest peak? At 5 895 metres (19 341 feet), Mount Kilimanjaro is both a test of endurance and a celebration of the human spirit.

If you are after a life-changing experience, ask Asilia Africa to combine your East African safari holiday with a summit of Kilimanjaro that takes the route less travelled. True adventurers prefer our chosen Lemosho and Rongai routes – more remote, more scenic and off-the-beaten track. We partner strictly with highly qualified operators who use great guides with years of experience to offer an intimate, personalised adventure during which you can have the freedom to savour the spectacular natural environment while you relish the challenge of this iconic climb.

5 895 metres

to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

January–March & June–October

best times to trek

66%

summit success rate

–7˚C

average temperature at summit

About Kilimanjaro

 

A dormant volcanic mountain with three cones – Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira – Kilimanjaro is Africa’s tallest mountain and the highest freestanding mountain in the world. Part of the Eastern Rift Mountains just south of the equator, Kilimanjaro’s snow-capped peaks tower over the surrounding plains.

Climbing Kilimanjaro is not for the faint-hearted. High altitude, temperature fluctuations and strong winds make a summit a major achievement, whether you are a novice or a seasoned climber.

 

Mount Kilimanjaro is unusual in that it is the only non-technical climb of the world’s seven highest peaks, plus it is easily accessible from Arusha. This makes it really easy for you to combine your safari with the personal challenge of climbing Africa’s tallest mountain. Afterwards, head off on safari with a drive to Ngorongoro or fly into the Serengeti, where the Asilia Africa team will escort you to your camp and on to your wilderness experience.

Climate, wildlife and vegetation

 

A six-day climb of Kilimanjaro will take you through all the geographical zones on earth. The trip begins in the lush rainforest of the lower slopes. As you ascend, the vegetation decreases until it finally ends on a barren ice cap. The five major geographic zones are closely related to altitude levels – the temperature drops by approximately 1°C every 200 metres above sea level, while rainfall decreases the higher you go. Broadly speaking, these zones are spaced at 1 000 metre intervals. On the lower reaches, animal and plant life is more abundant.

Lower Slopes (800m to 1 800m)

This area, located between the plains, is where Moshi and Arusha as well as the park gates are situated. Most of the land is cultivated with very little indigenous vegetation remaining. Rain is more prevalent on the southern slopes, which are more cultivated, while the northern slopes receive less rain and support arid grazing.

The Forest Belt (1 800m to 2 800m)

This is the area that receives the most rainfall, about 2000mm per year, so it supports the greatest amount of life. Trees in the forest belt include camphor, fig and other large trees, while the understorey is made up of giant ferns and a variety of flowers. Likely animal sightings include abundant birdlife, blue monkeys and black-and-white colobus monkeys. Small game may include mountain squirrels, porcupine and tree hyrax as well as small antelope such as variations of duiker, bushbuck and klipspringer.

Alpine Heath and Moorland (2 800m to 4 000m)

This low alpine zone receives about 1 000mm of rain a year (a result of the almost constant mist and fog at this altitude) but the vegetation needs to be very hardy as the sunlight can be intense during the day and frost is a regular occurrence at night. Temperatures can drop to 0°C above 3 000m.

Highland Desert (4 000m to 5 000m)

This altitude receives about 250mm of rain a year. This is the alpine zone with intense radiation, high evaporation and huge daily fluctuation in temperature. Nights are well below 0°C, while daytime temperatures can be as high as 40°C in direct sun. Water is scarce and there is little soil to retain any moisture.

Ice Cap (above 5 000m)

This zone has an altitude of above 5 000m and under 100 mm of precipitation a year. Precipitation is usually in the form of snow. The area is characterised by arctic conditions, freezing cold at night and burning sun during the day. Oxygen is about half of that at sea level and there is little atmosphere to protect you from the sun’s radiation. There is virtually no liquid surface water. Rain enters the porous rock immediately, but the rest of the moisture is locked up in snow and ice.

Our chosen routes

 

Asilia Africa chooses only Kilimanjaro’s most scenic, off-the-beaten-track routes. Tens of thousands of visitors attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro each year, and many are satisfied with the easy ‘Coca-Cola’ route that lets you buy fizzy drinks along the way. We are not! The routes we have opted for are less travelled, more scenic, more remote and, in our view, give you a more immersive and meaningful Kilimanjaro experience.

We have partnered with the best operators and mountain guides in Africa to give you the opportunity to stand on top of the Roof of Africa.

The Lemosho Route

This relatively new route, which is considered the most beautiful on Kilimanjaro, has a high success rate. You can choose a six-day schedule or you can do it in eight days, which gives you a better chance to acclimatise to the altitude. The trek begins in the rainforest zone at the western base of the mountain at Londorossi Gate. The route heads across the Shira Plateau before circling along the southern circuit halfway around the mountain, exposing the climber to great views from all angles. The approach to the summit is made from the east, and the descent follows the Mweka trail.

At a glance:

  • The Lemosho route is approximately 70 km from gate to gate.
  • It is designed for physically fit people with some hiking experience.
  • If you choose the eight-day trek, you have a 90% chance of reaching the Roof of Africa.

The Rongai Route

Rongai is the only trail that starts from the northern side of Mount Kilimanjaro, and its remote location means that it is the least travelled of all Kili’s routes. It offers trekkers a relatively unspoilt wilderness experience where it is possible to see large wildlife like antelope, elephant and buffalo. Birdlife is prolific and you should also see some colobus monkeys. The northeast side of the mountain gets significantly less moisture than the southern slopes, which means that trekkers are less likely to encounter rain, mud and drizzle, and they are also more likely to get clear, unclouded views of the mountain. Summit night from Kibo Hut is steep and follows the same path taken by Marangu trekkers, passing Gilman’s Point to Uhuru Peak. Descent is via the Marangu trail.

You can do the route in six, seven or eight days; we recommend taking as long as possible as this gives you extra time to acclimatise. (Altitude sickness is the biggest cause of failure on Kilimanjaro.)

At a glance
• Rongai is the easiest route up Kilimanjaro, with a gentle slow ascent, and it has excellent success rates, however any ascent of Kilimanjaro is extremely challenging and requires physical fitness.
• Rongai route is 72km from gate to gate.
• Rongai traverses diverse climate zones and has spectacular views over Kenya’s Amboseli Plains.
• Rongai is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north. You descend on the Marangu route on the southern side, so you get to see both sides of the mountain.

What to expect

 

We have partnered with the best operators and mountain guides in Africa to give you the opportunity to stand on top of the Roof of Africa. The trek to the summit, Uhuru Peak, on Mount Kilimanjaro is a reasonably simple undertaking, but therein lies the challenge. The relative ease of the walk belies the very real struggle against altitude sickness. Probably the single biggest success factor on any Kilimanjaro trek is to allow yourself ample time to adjust to the elevation and to acclimatise. The various routes up the mountain each offer differing facility options along the way, varying from huts with cooking facilities, bathrooms and electricity to more sparse options offering just the most basic camping facilities. Nonetheless, all the routes have rangers stationed at them with rescue facilities to assist those affected by altitude sickness to lower altitudes.

Guides and porters

A trek up Kilimanjaro is undertaken as a group and trekkers are supported in their effort to reach the summit by guides and porters. All activity on Kilimanjaro is regulated by the Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA), which also oversees the conduct of tour operators and the management of porters. According to KINAPA regulations, a climbing group of two trekkers will have one guide, one assistant guide, six Porters (three for each climber) and one cook.

Porters are responsible for carrying a trekker’s gear as well as items such as cooking supplies, tents, water, and so on. Initiatives such as the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) are ensuring that porters receive both an acceptable living wage and the opportunity for career advancement, with a development programme in place. Asilia Africa ensures that any third-party guide or operator it contracts with not only provides clients with the best and safest possible Kilimanjaro experience, but also that the guides and porters are treated, as a minimum, in accordance with KPAP stipulations.

It is customary for clients to tip guides and porters, the value of which is generally determined by the number of days on the mountain and the number of climbers in the group.

The summit

For the most part, summit attempts start at midnight in order to allow trekkers to reach the rim of the crater in time to see the sunrise. An added advantage of walking overnight is that the ground tends to be frozen, ensuring an easier walk over the usually loose gravel. Depending on your route, the push to the summit can take anything from one to two hours. It is generally a straightforward walk, though your route may require some scrambling (using your hands for balance and support) for short sections on the fragmented rock.

It is possible to sleep overnight in the crater on most of the routes, which has three major advantages: you can summit during the day, avoiding the ‘midnight rush; you have time to explore the crater and the glaciers; and you can get back to the rim very early the next day to see the sunrise.

At the summit, there is a sign posted by the Tanzanian Government that reads ‘Congratulations! You are now at Uhuru Peak, Tanzania, 5 895m, Africa’s Highest Point. World’s Highest Free-Standing Mountain.’ Close to this famous sign is a box containing a log that many trekkers have signed. Don’t forget to add your name: this is a privilege that is well earned!

Altitude sickness

While climbers are said to ‘trek’ Kilimanjaro, this is a deceptively laid-back term for a challenge that sees as few as two-thirds of climbers being successful in their attempt to summit Uhuru Peak, the highest point.

The greatest danger? Altitude sickness causes a full third of climbers to turn back, so while Kilimanjaro is the only non-technical climb of the world’s seven highest peaks, the extreme altitude, low temperatures and occasional fierce winds that characterise this climb mean all hikers must be physically fit, properly equipped and well acclimatised.

What's included?

  • Guided group trek up Mount Kilimanjaro’s Rongai Route or Lemosho Route with local guides, cooks and porters.
  • All permits and fees.
  • All transport between destinations and to/from included activities.
  • Accommodation: Simple hotels (two nights), full-service alpine camping (five nights).
  • Meals: Seven breakfasts, six lunches, five dinners. Allow USD70 to 95 for meals not included.
  • Transportation: Private minibus, trekking.
  • Staff & experts: Certified mountain guide throughout, local representative, cook, porters.

Our top tips for summit success

 

Just over 61% of trekkers who set off to climb Kilimanjaro make it to the Roof of Africa. Here are our top guide’s tips for a successful summit.

1. Get fit first. You don’t need any technical training, but you must be fit and well prepared if you want to enjoy your climb.
2. Include an acclimatisation day. This may be an expense, but setting up your itinerary with two nights at about 3 000 to 4 000 metres is well worth it and will greatly increase your chance of a succesful summit.
3. Take it slow and steady. Go really slowly, especially for the first three days, to keep your heart rate down.
4. Treat your drinking water. Boil or treat all your water to avoid any chance of a tummy bug, and keep vigilant about hygiene to ensure optimal health as you push to the summit. A liquid hand sanitiser is advisable, too.
5. Drink at least 3 to 5 litres per day on route. Your body dehydrates very quickly at high altitudes so drinking enough should be top priority.
6. Snack attack. Take plenty of energy bars and chocolate – or even peanut butter – as well as some alternative nutrition snacks in case you battle with nausea at high altitudes.
7. Avoid sunburn. The higher you climb, the greater the radiation you are exposed to. Wear a hat with a wide brim and apply high SPF sunblock at every opportunity to avoid brutal sunburn.
8. Dress in layers. Even when the sun is hot, the wind can be icy, and nights below freezing. Take plenty of warm layers you can peel off.
9. Take in the scenery. Focusing on what is around you helps to keep your mind off how far you still have to go. Besides, this extraordinary environment is what you have come to East Africa to see.
10. Stay positive!

Enquire about Climbing Kilimanjaro

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