- Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, making it one of the seven summits. It is considered to be the easiest of the seven summits because it requires no technical skills or equipment, such as rope, harness, crampons or ice axe.
- Kilimanjaro is the world’s tallest free standing mountain, at 5,895 meters (19,341 feet). While most high mountains are part of ranges, such as Mount Everest’s Himalayan Mountain Range, free standing mountains are usually a result of volcanic activity.
- Kilimanjaro lies 205 miles from the Equator. When early explorers reported seeing glaciers on the top of Kilimanjaro, people did not believe them as they thought it was impossible for ice to form so close to the equatorial sun. Scientists now believe that the glaciers shrink and then regrow during the planet’s ice ages.
- Kilimanjaro once had three volcanic cones – Kibo, Shira and Mawenzi. Kibo is the tallest. Shira has since collapsed, creating the Shira Plateau. Mawenzi is 5,149 meters (16,896 feet) tall, and is the third highest peak in Africa, after Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.
- Shira and Mawenzi are extinct volcanoes. However, Kibo is a dormant volcano; it can erupt again. The last major eruption was 360,000 years ago. The most recent activity was 200,000 years ago. Those who climb to the crater rim will be greeted by the smell of sulfur from the volcano’s lava.
- The origin of the name Kilimanjaro is not certain. The most popular answer is that the name comes from the Swahili word “Kilima” (mountain) and the Chagga word “Njaro” (whiteness).
- Mount Kilimanjaro was first climbed in 1889 by a German geologist Hans Meyer, an Austrian climber Ludwig Purtscheller and a local guide Yohani Kinyala Lauwo. On Hans Meyer’s first attempt in 1887, he made it to the base of Kibo because he did not have equipment for heavy snow and ice. He made a second attempt in 1888 that was also unsuccessful.
- Now approximately 30,000 people climb Kilimanjaro every year. Unfortunately about 50% of climbers fail, mostly due to altitude sickness. The best way to climb is to use a longer route to aid in acclimatization.
- The fastest ascent and descent of Kilimanjaro was completed by Swiss Karl Egloff in just 6 hours and 42 minutes in 2014.
- The oldest person to climb Kilimanjaro is 86 year old Angela Vorobyova, a retired Russian school teacher, who climbed in 2015. The previous record holder was American Bob Wheeler, who climbed Kilimanjaro at the age of 85 years and 201 days in 2014.
- The youngest person to climb Kilimanjaro is American Keats Boyd. He climbed Kilimanjaro at 7 years old in 2008. The minimum age for climbing Kilimanjaro is 10 years old, but exceptions are made with children that have significant experience trekking.
- Kilimanjaro’s glaciers have shrunk 82% since 1912. Scientists estimate the glaciers may be completely gone in 50 years. The cause of this is thought to be due to deforestation, and not necessary global warming. Nearly 5 million indigenous trees were planted around the base of the mountain in 2008 to combat the issue.
Ultimate Kilimanjaro, the #1 guide service on Kilimanjaro, has recently made significant improvements to its climbing operations. For nearly a decade, Ultimate Kilimanjaro has guided thousands of clients on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africas highest peak. However, their success is not measured by how many people they take to the summit, but how great of an experience it is for all climbers.
“We strive for continuous improvement,” said Adam Collins, Expedition Coordinator for Ultimate Kilimanjaro. “We sat down and looked at everything from top to bottom with a critical eye, and what we’ve come up with is truly the best experience for our clients. I’m really excited, and our clients will be too.”
Among the changes implemented are upgrades in camping equipment, additional safety measures, and better food.
Many people who climb Kilimanjaro do not have any previous backpacking experience, which means clients are not accustomed to sleeping outdoors. Ultimate Kilimanjaro eases the transition by providing thick foam sleeping pads and state of the art Mountain Hardwear and MSR brand tents on all trips.
“These are serious tents, built for the toughest alpine conditions. They are perfectly suited for the weather on Kilimanjaro,” said Collins.
Besides enduring extreme cold, anyone climbing Kilimanjaro may develop symptoms of altitude sickness due to its staggering height – 19,345 feet above sea level. Ultimate Kilimanjaro guides constantly monitor climbers throughout their journey. Twice daily, health checks are performed with the assistance of a pulse oximeter, a handheld device used to measure oxygen saturation in blood. Additionally, climbers are evaluated based on the Lake Louise Scoring System for detection of altitude sickness. Oxygen is used to treat climbers with moderate or severe altitude sickness.
“Bottled oxygen is included on all climbs,” said Collins.
The food served on Kilimanjaro is made with fresh ingredients, carried by porters and prepared by mountain chefs. The menu consists of a variety of entrees and tastes intended to keep energy levels high after a hard day’s hike. Food is resupplied to climbers on longer itineraries so climbers have ample fresh food.
“One of the symptoms of altitude sickness is a loss of appetite,” noted Collins. “That’s why it’s important to provide tasty dishes, so that people will eat even if they don’t feel hungry.”
The improvements didn’t stop with just the clients. Ultimate Kilimanjaro guides are dressed in Mountain Hardwear waterproof hardshells, insulated down jackets and moisture wicking tee shirts. And as one of the strongest supporters of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP), Ultimate Kilimanjaro guides and porters receive far more than the standard compensation than those working for other companies.
“Climbing Kilimanjaro is a team effort,” Collins stated. “Without guides and porters, there are no clients. There are no operators. It’s in our best interest to see that everyone is treated fairly.”
Ultimate Kilimanjaro offers private and group treks on all Kilimanjaro routes year round, including the new Northern Circuit route. For seasoned backpackers with high altitude experience, there is also an option to sleep next to one of Kilimanjaro’s last remaining glaciers and visit Kilimanjaro’s volcanic center, the Ash Pit.
“Our customers are going to be thrilled. The best Kilimanjaro operator just got better,” said Collins.
Mount Kilimanjaro has no shortage of amazing visually stunning sights. The climb from the trailhead to the summit of Kilimanjaro rises from 6,000 ft to 19,340 ft, crosses five ecological zones, and offers plenty of spectacular things to see.
Here’s a list:
Kilimanjaro routes begin in the lush rainforest, which receives approximately 80 inches of rain annually, mostly during the rainy season months of April through May and November.
5. Shira Plateau
The Shira Plateau is located on the western side of the mountain. The plateau is actually a caldera, a collapsed volcanic crater, created 500,000 year ago that was later filled with lava debris from another eruption.
6. White Necked Ravens
White necked ravens are commonly found lurking around campsites and huts looking for some leftover food. They get their name from a patch of white feathers on the back of the lower neck.
7. Plane Crash Site
In November 2008, a small passenger plane carrying four tourists and the pilot crashed on Kilimanjaro at 14,200 ft. The wreckage remains on the mountain on the saddle between Uhuru and Mawenzi.
9. Lava Tower
Sitting at 15,900 ft, Lava Tower was caused by a volcanic eruption dating back between 150,000-200,000 years ago. Climbing the tower is a fun activity for people feeling extra adventurous.
Kilimanjaro’s 10,000 year old glaciers have drastically disappeared by 85% over the last 100 years. Because of this rate of decline, many experts expect the glaciers to completely disappear in the next 50-70 years.
13. Kilimanjaro Sunrise
Many climbers especially enjoy the spectacular sunrise while heading up to the summit. It is viewed from above the clouds, as climbers approach Uhuru Peak in the early hours before the dawn.
15. Uhuru Peak
At 19,340ft, Uhuru Peak is the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro. The word Uhuru means “freedom” in the Swahili language. The green signage pictured above replaced the original wooden signs that were on the mountain for decades. Then the park decided to go back to the wooden signs a couple years afterwards.
A new report published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has estimated that Mount Kilimanjaro’s glaciers will be gone within the next 20 year. Based on aerial photographs and extracts of ice, the authors measured the pace of the glacial retreat to arrive at their time frame.
Scientists have calculated that Kilimanjaro’s ice sheet has shrunk 85% since 1912, with the rate accelerating in recent. In the last 9 years, the three remaining ice fields have shrunk by 26%.
We often get asked for recommendations on gear items. There are a myriad of quality brands and products, so what you ultimately find visually appealing, functional and economical is a personal choice. However, we would like to point out specific products that we find outstanding.
Boots used on Mount Kilimanjaro should be warm, waterproof and comfortable. And for these characteristics, we find that the Asolo TPS 520 GTX Hiking Boot is a top performer. These heavy duty boots are high cut, constructed of full grain leather, and have a breathable Gore-Tex membrane. Many rave about the comfort of these boots, right out of the box. However, always break in your boots before using them for extended periods of time.
These boots retail for $295.
Asolo TPS 520 Hiking Boots – Men’s
Most people avoid climbing during Mount Kilimanjaro’s two rainy seasons. The long rainy season begins in mid-March and lasts through early June. The short rainy season is from November to early December. Bad weather makes climbing more difficult and less enjoyable in several ways. Most obviously, rain makes you wet, which robs the body of warmth and heightens the risk of hypothermia. Water causes changes to the terrain, making the ground muddy, soft and slippery. Visibility is reduced by clouds, fog, wind and water. So given this, why would anyone climb during the rainy season?
First, sometimes personal schedules do not allow someone to climb during the dry season. And since the mountain is accessible year-round, they proceed with their trek. Secondly, Kilimanjaro is a very popular (i.e., crowded) mountain during the dry season. Those wanting to avoid the crowds choose the rainy season to have the park to themselves. Lastly, although the chances of encountering precipitation during these time periods are significantly greater than Kilimanjaro’s dry season, it is not guaranteed that this is the case. A large mountain like Kilimanjaro causes its own weather, which is notoriously unpredictable. Therefore, the opportunity for great weather or foul weather exists no matter when a climb is attempted.
If one does plan on climbing during the rainy season, consider the following:
- The northern part of the mountain recevies less rain than the southern parts. Therefore, Rongai is the preferred route when climbing during the rainy season. Marangu is also good route because of the hut accommodations.
- Quality rain gear is essential. Climbers should make sure that they have waterproof, breathable jacket, pants and boots. The day pack and duffel should be protected from rain with backpack covers or plastic bags. Everything inside the pack and duffel should be stored in ziplock bags as well.
- The difficulty of a route increases with bad weather. So do the dangers. When climbing during the rainy season, it is better to plan less strenuous itineraries.
On Kilimanjaro, most of your personal gear will be carried by hardworking porters. As climbers begin their trek in the morning, the porters stay behind to break down the tents and clean the campsite. Then, the porters proceed ahead of the climbers at a faster rate, beating the climbers to the next campsite to set up, prepare meals and boil water. Therefore, climbers will often not see their porters again until they have reached their overnight destination and thus will not have access to the gear that the porters have transported until then.
Climbers are expected to prepare their own day packs and to place all other items into a duffel bag for the porters. As far as what goes into the day pack, it depends on what you may need during the day. This typically includes rain gear, some extra layers of clothing in case the temperature drops, and clothing accessories. Additionally, climbers should carry sunscreen, insect repellent (at lower altitudes), first aid kit, toilet paper, snacks and water. The general rule is only carry what reasonably can be expected to be needed. For instance, you do not need to carry fleece, insulated jackets, and gloves in the rainforest. The sleeping bag and pad should not be carried, and probably would not fit, in your day pack.
To pack your day pack efficiently, you should use plastic bags or dry bags to separate items based on categories. For example, small bottles such as prescriptions, sunscreen, lip balm and hand sanitizer should be secured in a zip-lock type bag. Extra layers of clothing should also be put into larger bags. Paperwork, such as your passport and insurance documents into another bag. Heavier items should be placed close to the midpoint of your back to keep your center of gravity in-line with your spine. Placing heavy items near the top, bottom, left, right or rear of your day pack will cause you to lean forward, back, or to the side. If your day pack has compression straps, tighten them so that your items do not move around as you walk. Lastly, be consistent as to where you store your items (main compartment, side pockets, pant pockets, etc.), so that you do not fumble for your items when needed. A medium sized backpack, with the capacity of about 1,800 cubic inches (30 liters), is appropriate.
Sea to Summit eVac Dry Sack
Gregory Z30 Pack
To adapt to altitude, one needs to breathe more frequently during ascent to make up for the thinning air. What Diamox does is it increases the respiratory rate, speeding up acclimatization. The manufacturer of Diamox states that in their tests, “pulmonary function (e.g., minute ventilation, expired vital capacity, and peak flow) is greater in the acetazolamide treated group, both in subjects with AMS and asymptomatic subjects. The acetazolamide treated climbers also had less difficulty sleeping.”
What the manufacturer recommends it that it be used as a preventative measure, where you would take it 24-28 hours prior to rapid ascent, and throughout your climb (until descent). But some use it as a treatment, taking it only when symptoms of AMS arise.
Most people ignore this advice, but if one plans to possibly use Diamox on the climb, it is important that he/she should take a dosage for a day or two while in the comfort of their home to see what the effects are. There are some side effects (tingling hands, increased urination, hearing loss, taste loss, upset stomach, vomiting, confusion) to taking the drug, so one should be sure their body doesn’t have an adverse reaction before getting on the mountain with it. As you can see, some of those side effects can easily be confused with AMS.
Diamox is used for other purposes, like treating glaucoma, epilepsy and fluid retention. So who knows what else these chemicals may be doing to the body besides “increasing pulmonary function.” One should not take a drug without considering all the consequences, whether good or bad. And that’s why I neither recommend it nor do I discourage it… it’s up to the climber, based on their beliefs and hopefully based on information.
It is said that the trek from the gate to the peak of Kilimanjaro is like walking from the equator to Antarctica. The temperatures you may encounter on Mount Kilimanjaro can be over 100 degrees to well below zero. Therefore, it is important for all climbers to understand how to best dress to cope with the mountain weather. By following the provided gear list, you already have everything you need to stay comfortable and warm.
Layering is a systematic, logical approach to wearing multiple layers of clothing. The advantages of layering are that it is versatile (a climber can add or remove layers to adapt to changing weather, activity level and body temperature), thermally efficient (multiple thinner layers are warmer than an equal thickness single layer), and space efficient (takes up less space in your backpack).
You should follow the layering principle when you suit up for Kilimanjaro. Technical clothing can be categorized into the following types of layers: base layer, mid layer, and outer shell.
A base layer is moisture-wicking item that is worn against the skin. By moving sweat away from your body, the base layer should keep you dry and provide some insulation. They are available in different thicknesses, although light-weight is recommended for its versatility over medium-, heavy-, and expedition-weight clothing. Base layers can be worn alone in warm weather, and can be doubled-up (worn on top of one another) during cold weather.Several types of fabric or blends of fabric are used to construct base layers, including silk, wool, and polypropylene, which are usually sold under registered trademarks by outdoor gear companies.
Cotton is not a good base layer material! It does not have any moisture-wicking properties, does not dry quickly, and will actually increase your heat loss when wet.
- 2 – Long Sleeve Shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
- 1 – Short Sleeve Shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
- 1 – Long Underwear (moisture-wicking fabric recommended)
- 3 – Underwear, briefs (moisture-wicking fabric recommended)
- 1 – Bandana (optional)
- 1 – Balaclava
- 3 – Sock liners, tight, thin, synthetic, worn underneath to prevent blisters
- 1 – Gloves, light, thin, synthetic, worn underneath for added warmth (optional)
- 1 – Arm Warmers, synthetic (optional)
The primary purpose of a mid layer is to provide warmth. Therefore, while searching for mid layers, you should look for those that have good insulating qualtities. Insulation is best created by materials that trap tiny air pockets, or dead air, between you and the elements. Wool or synthetic fabrics can be used as a mid layer in cool weather. However, for cold conditions, use fleece, down or heavier synthetics.
Fleece provides good insulation because it is relatively thin, fast-drying, comfortable, and light-weight, but lacks wind protection. Down is the most efficient insulating material, with respect to its warmth per ounce ratio, but loses its insulating qualities when wet. It is very compressible for packing, but bulky when worn. Therefore, select lightweight down products when used as a mid layer. Synthetic insulated jackets are not as warm or light as down, but they function even when wet.
- 1 – Soft Jacket, fleece or soft-shell
- 1 – Insulated Jacket, synthetic or down
- 1 – Fleece Pants
- 3 – Socks, thick, wool or synthetic
- 2 – Hiking Pants* (convertible to shorts recommended)
- 1 – Shorts* (optional) *considered mid layers simply because they are worn on top of the base layer (underwear).
The outer layer is designed to provide protection from the wind, rain and snow. Some outer layers have built in insulation, but I recommend obtaining each layer separately for greater versatility.
- 1 – Waterproof Jacket, breathable with hood
- 1 – Waterproof Pants, breathable (side-zipper recommended)
- 1 – Knit Hat, for warmth
- 1 – Brimmed Hat, for sun protection
- 1 – Gaiters, waterproof (optional)
- 1 – Hiking Boots, waterproof, broken-in, with spare laces
- 1 – Gym shoes, to wear at camp
- 1 – Gloves (waterproof recommended)
With the above listed gear, you should be able to withstand whatever weather conditions Mount Kilimanjaro has in store for you. It is important that you be cognizant of changing conditions as you hike and adapt accordingly (unzip/shed layers before you sweat, zip up/add layers before you get cold, wear waterproof gear before you get wet, etc.)