Mount Kilimanjaro routes and their variations take between five to nine days to complete. Although Mount Kilimanjaro is known as a "walk-up" mountain, you should not underestimate it and its risks. The overall statistics show that less than half of all climbers reach the summit.
Below are the overall statistics of successful summits as reported by Kilimanjaro National Park:
All climbers, all routes 45%
All climbers, all 5 day routes 27%
All climbers, all 6 day routes 44%
All climbers, all 7 days routes 64%
All climbers, all 8 day routes 85%
All climbers, all 9 day routes (no data)
The greater the number of days on the mountain, the better your chances of reaching the top. Therefore the key to a safe, successful climb is to take the longest routes possible.
There are minimum days for each Kilimanjaro main climbing routes. However, that is not to be confused with recommended days for the route. Ultimate Kilimanjaro recommends adding an extra day or two to your trip to help you acclimatize to the altitude. We encourage customers to take 7-9 day routes for the best chance of success and the lowest risk of altitude sickness.
Some companies boast that their client summit success rates are greater than 90%. We have seen competitor advertisements representing they have 95%, 98%, even 100% success rates. This is statistically impossible! Do not believe these claims!
Unless these outfitters are prescreening climbers, taking a very small number of climbers (less than 30) per year, or leading climbs only on 8-9 day routes, achieving those extraordinarily high success rates would be ridiculously improbable and impossible to maintain for even a short period of time. Every outfitter knows this, but unfortunately it seems some don't mind attracting customers with misleading or blantantly false statements.
As discussed above, there is a strong correlation between days and success. A successful summit bid is usually a question of how well a climber can acclimatize to the high altitude, rather than the climber's ability to ascend. By trekking standards, most of the day hikes on Kilimanjaro are not very strenuous. They entail four to five hours of walking over distances of four to six miles. The big exception to this is the summit attempt, which requires a tremendous effort and is hard for nearly everyone.
Climbers who acclimatize well to the altitude have a great chance of making it to the top.
Clients commonly express concern that they will be "too slow" and lag behind the guide and the rest of their group. This concern is unwarranted. Being slow is fine, and in fact, recommended. The guides set a very slow hiking pace to give everyone the best chance to acclimatize to the increasing altitude. People who are turned around on the mountain typically do so because they have succumbed to altitude sickness, not because they were physically too tired to keep up or continue. The long descent immediately after summiting is where most people will get exhausted, due to the partial night's sleep, the expenditure of energy required to reach the top, and the particularly long distance covered that day.
How one reacts to high altitude is uncertain. Some people's bodies adjust well to the decreased oxygen levels; others do not. Being physically fit and in good health, although helpful, is no guarantee of your ability to acclimatize.
Our primary concern is that you have a safe, enjoyable, memorable Kilimanjaro climb.
It is possible to climb the mountain in five or six days, but why take the chance? Some clients want to minimize their days in order to save costs, which is understandable. But we feel that the additional cost is well worth it. Not only is it safer, but you increase the probability of your success, have more time to enjoy the experience, can take acclimatization hikes to other parts of the mountain you'd otherwise miss, and will probably feel better as well, given that there is less stress on your body.
Ask yourself this. How would you feel if you scheduled a route with the minimum required days, only to have to turn around within the first couple days because the ascension rate was too quick? Wouldn't you rather have added a couple days to your trip to give yourself a better chance, to be more fair to your body? Were the 'savings' you got for not taking additional days worth the cost of cutting your climb short, not making it to summit, or even worse, putting your health at risk?