Climb to the Roof of Africa - Kilimanjaro

All you need to know about the routes, acclimatization/altitude sickness, best time to go, preparation and the beauty of Africa’s highest mountain.

Regarding climbing Kilimanjaro, the first thing you need to do is prepare mentally. That will assist you in getting ready for the future challenge. The more prior knowledge you have regarding Mount Kilimanjaro the better preparation you will have. Here you can find all the relevant information, including key facts, various routes to the top, weather on the mountain, when is the best time for climbing, all the problems related to acclimatization, so you can experience a trek of a lifetime.

Kilimanjaro Highlights:
Climbing Kilimanjaro: introduction
Geography and Geology
Routes to the summit
Acclimatization/Altitude sickness
Symptoms of altitude sickness
Climate
Best time for climbing
Porters
What to wear
What to bring
Getting to Kilimanjaro
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Etymology

It is a supreme mystery where the name Kilimanjaro comes from, but various hypotheses exist about that. Some theories state that the name is brought by European explorers in 1860’s and have been reported as Swahili name, with Kilimanjaro divided into Kilima (Swahili for "rise, small mountain") and Njaro, whose meaning differs depending on the theories—as per some it is an aged Swahili word for white or gleaming.

Climbing Kilimanjaro: introduction

With its 19,340 feet (5895m), mount Kilimanjaro ascents gracefully above the other African mountains. This magnificent sleeping volcano is the tallest freestanding mountain on this planet and also one of the mythical Seven Summits - the tallest mountain on each of the 7th continents. The mountain is located within Kilimanjaro National park and is a protected area by UNESCO. Some individuals recommend it as one of the most intriguing and naturally diverse regions on the earth. Kilimanjaro can be attraction for both - climbers and nature fans with its beautiful and mystique nature. To climb Kilimanjaro, you first need to feel comfortable walking continuously, usually around 4-8 hours a day. The day of the actual climb is the most difficult part of the whole trek. It takes 8 hours for the ascent and about the same time for the descent. In order to make sure that you are really ready for the coming climb, you must first check your physical condition. The better your physical condition is, the easier, more pleasant and obstacle free your climb will be. Furthermore, lacking fitness will influence the environment, pace, and the general experience for all members. We highly recommend checking with your physician before undertaking any strenuous activity. However no prior climbing experience is required or needed.

Geography and Geology

Kilimanjaro is a massive volcano. It involves 3 smaller peaks. Shira (12,999ft / 3962m) to the west is the most senior and primarily formed of all. Mawenzi to the east (16,798ft / 5120m) is structured by a later volcanic activity. In the middle of the two is Kibo, the youngest and tallest among all. It is imagined that the final substantial eruption of Mount Kilimanjaro was so aggressive that it blew a hole in the side of Kibo`s cavity, structuring what we now call the Western Breach – the hardest way of reaching the top. As the magma flowed west down the mountain it filled the huge hole of Shira, leveling it out and structuring the graceful Shira Plateau. No matter of the fact that the mountain is in a close proximity to the equator; there is snow on the top of Kibo all year long. Two of the peaks, Mawenzi and Shira, are wiped out while Kibo is lethargic and would be able to emit again. The final major eruption has been dated to 360,000 years back, while the most recent movement was recorded only 200 years in the past. Mount Kilimanjaro is made up of 5 different vegetation zones giving the climbers loads of nice views while approaching the summit. The zones are; farmland zone, forest or jungle, heather and moorland, highland desert and the summit zone.

Routes to the summit

There are six official trekking routes by which to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. Each one of them has their names as follow: Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe and Machame.

Machame Route

Together with the Marangu Route, the Machame Track is the one that most climbers choose when deciding to ascend Kilimanjaro. Climbers invest great time in each of the vegetation zones on the mountain, having the pleasure to see exciting spots like the Shira Church built on the Shira Plateau, the Lava Tower at the foot of the Western Breach and the Barranco Valley on the southern slopes. The trip takes approximately 7 days and there are more than enough chances and places where you can spend some time and prolong your climb. The track is not difficult but there are of course a few segments that will get the heart pumping notably more. When the peak climbing season come in July and August this route usually gets exceptionally busy.

Shira Route

It is one of the two that move toward Kibo from the west side. Climbing through Shira route takes approximately 7 days but there are various small, remote camps which allow you to extend your trip with couple of days. When you pass by Shira Pleteau your way merge with the Machame Route and you have the chance to see the Lava Tower and the Barranco Valley again. Summiting by means of the Western Breach is also possible via this track. Shira Route is moderately difficult excluding few short, steep segments. When the path merge with the Machame Route the volume of climbers increase dramatically, especially in the high season.

Lemosho Route

It is the other track that looks at Kibo from the west. Since it was opened for climbers, it happened to be the 3rd most notorious track on the mountain and a great amount of climbers have moved from the Shira Route to the Lemosho Route (have in mind that nowadays Shira route is less busier and very peaceful). The Lemosho Route additionally merges with the Machame Track and so can get crazy at the high season time. As the forest area on this track is quite long, the trip takes approximately 7-8 days.

Umbwe Route

Beyond any question this is the toughest route to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Going from south, climbers face an opening day of some solemn climbing over a particularly steep segment of backwoods, frequently moving over colossal tree roots. However this is in addition the most unbelievably compensating the climber, track on the mountain and offers the hiker some of the best sightseeings not just of Kibo but moreover of Mount Meru to the southwest and all the fields beneath. The ascension takes 6-7 days, incorporating a day for acclimatizing in the Barranco Valley.

Rongai Route

It`s the only one that approaches Kibo from the north, beginning right on the Kenyan Border. For those of you that prefer quiet climbing with not many people on the way, Rongai is the track to choose. Let’s take the year 2000 for instance. That year, actually over 20, 0000 folks climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and just 130 of these climbed the Rongai Track.

Marangu Route

It is the most prominent track on the mountain but it in addition has the poorest summit rate. The situation is that in place of camping, climbers spend the night in huts, which gives individuals the impression that the trip is less demanding. The Marangu Track begins at approx 6000ft, much the same as each different route. The major disadvantage is that you go down the mountain by the same way as you summited so you don’t get the chance to see a greater part on the mountain.

Acclimatization and Altitude sickness

Individuals having intentions to climb Mt Kilimanjaro are prompted to undertake detailed investigation on what to expect on the hike and make sure that they are both completely equipped and physically skilled. However the ascension is particularly easy, but the altitude and low temperatures are the reasons for calling this trek challenging and hazardous. Acclimatization is fundamental, that’s why it is possible individuals to endure some level of altitude sickness. The best way to cope with the acclimatization and get an easier trek to the summit is to take a day resting at the camp. A rest day includes a short morning trek to a higher height for food before coming back to the camp, or setting out toward one lesser-visited camp for some sightseeing and nature exploration. Most guides have a success rate to the crater rim in excess of 90% and to Uhuru peak at around 85%.

Symptoms of Altitude Sickness

Mild symptoms

• Headaches
Fatigue or weakness
Loss of appetite
Nausea or vomiting
Dizziness or light-headedness
Insomnia
Pins and needles
Shortness of breath upon exertion
Drowsiness
Persistent rapid pulse
Peripheral edema (swelling of hands, feet, and face)

Life-threatening symptoms

Pulmonary Edema - Fluid in the lungs, the symptoms of which are a persistent dry cough, fever and shortness of breath even whilst resting
Cerebral Edema - Swelling of the brain, the symptoms of which are a headache that does not respond to pain killers, unsteady gait, increased vomiting and gradual loss of consciousness
Once you feel some of the above mentioned symptoms, the best possible decision is to go down as soon as possible to point where your heart rhythm and breathing can get back to normal

Climate

It`s stated that to climb Mount Kilimanjaro is to walk through 4 seasons in just couple of days. There are only few similar places on earth where you would be able to encounter such magnificent natural diversity. Climbers experience all kinds of climate changes and witness incredible views on the way to Kilimanjaro. The climber can walk from midpoint temperatures of 20C that can go up to 45C in the Highland Desert and plunge to -25C on the summit. You are going to climb below cloud, through cloud and above cloud, in tropical sun, rain and snow, through a forest, over heather, across a desert and finally on ice fields to the summit. When you get above the woods, the mornings and nighttimes get chilly and it stays like that until the sun completely shows up. It’s common if you wake up almost frozen and your tent is full of ice droplets. On the way to the top some wind could appear as well. For a big part of the day you will be climbing in and out of sunshine but when the midday comes it gets very warm. On the higher slopes is possible sometimes if you get a few flakes of snow. That happens usually when your climb is close to the coming rainy seasons.

Best time for climbing

Climbing Kilimanjaro is a dream for many hikers. It’s one of a lifetime experience that you need to plan in a season where the conditions are ideal for hiking. This allows you not only to enjoy the road but to take beautiful pictures on the way to the top. It’s actually possible to climb Kilimanjaro all year round, but it’s also recommendable to avoid the rainy days between April to end of May, as well as November.December offers low temperatures, rain and snowfalls
Good times to climb:
Mid January - end March - the temperatures go up again. it`s less cloudy and rainfalls are decreasing. These months offer perfect for climbing conditions
July to mid October - These months without a doubt are the busiest time on the mountain but offer slightly better weather for climbing - high temperatures, no clouds or rainfalls.

Porters

Porters carry equipment, tents, food and other essential items. They are also the people who cook, set up camp and provide entertainment. The trek is impossible without them. An organization called Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) is doing its best to encourage all Kilimanjaro operators to adhere to basic rules regarding equal pay as well as safety for porters. A porter does not need to be educated, Porters die from exhaustion and hypothermia every year, because they`re overloaded and there`s no way they can carry enough food, clothing or shelter for themselves. It is partly your responsibility as a climber to find out from KPAP if the company you are trekking with adheres to their basic guidelines. Porters are essential on every trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, and every group that hikes the mountain has to have them. While porters get paid by the organization that hires them, their main source of income will be your tip at the end of the trip. For that reason you can ask your team leader what`s the acceptable amount you should leave.

What to wear

Trekking boots - They shouldn`t be plastic but preferably waterproof and above the ankle
Thermal socks – prepare with at least 3-4 pairs
Trekking trousers – they must be in any case waterproof. Don`t wear jeans or cotton trousers. Fleece lined trousers are a good choice
Thermal underwear
Shirts - compilsory waterproof
Fleeces Absolutely essential. We recommend 2 light and 1 heavy fleece. Keeping warm on the mountain is about wearing lots of thin layers that can be peeled off as you get warm or put on as you feel cold. Make sure that fleeces fit comfortably over each other.
Waterproof jacket - Make sure it`s one size bigger than regular, so it can fit perfectly above the fleece
Down jacket- With enough fleeces and a good waterproof jacket for extra insulation on the summit night a down jacket is not needed but if you’ve got the budget it’s well worth it.
Gloves- Fleece-lined is good, mittens over a thin thermal pair is best but not essential. A thinner pair for round camp is also a good idea
Sunhat - Try and get one that covers the back of your neck to protect you against sunburn
Sunglasses - Must protect against U.V.

What to bring

Sleeping bag
Large bag for your gear - The porters will carry this. Not one with a frame, the porters will carry it on their heads and it will make their job harder
Day pack- Make sure you’re comfortable walking long distances with it
Travel bag- For gear you don’t want on Kilimanjaro.
Water bottles - They must be thermally protected, enough for 3-4 litres
Headlamp - Bring spare batteries and a spare bulb
Personal hygiene items - Towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, wipes and alcohol-based hand disinfectant are useful. Soap & hot water is provided daily
Personal medical kit - Antiseptic cream, plasters, knee supports, moleskin or compeed, Ibruprofen/Aspirin/Paracetamol etc, Imodium, rehydrating powder, throat sweets and insect repellent can all come in useful
Trekking poles - Very useful on the descent
Camera - Spare film/memory cards/batteries. A UV filter is needed for SLRs
Plastic bags -For wet gear
Cell phone/spare batteries - Check with your network provider for coverage. You can get signal across a lot of the mountain but it is weak in places
Reading material - For the long evenings in the camp

getting to Kilimanjaro

Tanzania is a destination that gained great popularity in the last couple of years. This fact doesn’t stay unnoticed by the international carriers, which have planned more frequent flights to there. The two major airports in Tanzania are Dar es Salaam International Airport in the capital, and Kilimanjaro International Airport (near Arusha and Moshi).
International Flights
KLM flies on a daily base from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro International Airport. KLM also flies to Dar es Salaam. This means that you can arrange your arrival to be at Kilimanjaro International Airport, and departure from Dar es Salaam, or vice versa. This is a nice option if you`d like to include a visit to Zanzibar in your Tanzania holiday. Other carriers that fly to Tanzania are:
British Airways - Flies directly from Gatwick to Dar es Salaam
SA Alliance - Flies from Heathrow via Entebbe (Uganda) to Dar es Salaam
Swiss Air - Flies to Dar es Salaam from Zurich
Gulf Air - Flies from Abu Dhabi and Muscut to Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam
Emirates - Flies via Dubai to Dar es Salaam
The country of Tanzania is also accessible through African gateways, served by the following airlines:
Egypt Air, Air Tanzania, Air Zimbabwe, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Air Lines, South African Airways
Kilimanjaro is much closer to Nairobi than it is from Dar es Salaam. Nairobi receives a lot more air traffic than Kilimanjaro Airport, making for more competitive prices
Charter flights
These charter airlines (Kenya Airways, Regional Air, Air Kenya, Precision Air) operate scheduled flights between the following airports in Tanzania:( Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Kilimanjaro)

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Tanzania Safari

An African Safari ("Safari" means voyage in the Swahili dialect) allows you to investigate a mystifying views, plentiful natural life and entrancing societies in Tanzania while visiting the well known National Parks within Northern Tanzania. The boundless open plain of Serengeti with the most impressive gathering of wildlife in the globe and extremely popular for the “Great Wildlife Migration”, Africa`s Eden the interesting Ngorongoro Crater, the marvelous Lake Manyara National Park in the Great Rift Valley with its tree climbing Lion, Tarangire National Stop, extremely popular for its eco framework with enormous Baobab trees and expansive crowds of Elephants and Arusha National Park shrouded treasure on the foothills of Volcanic Mount Meru will make your visit to East Africa unforgettable.

Zanzibar

Zanzibar is an island for the explorer, the adventurer and the romantic. Laze on the beach or venture into its heart and get lost in the narrow alleyways of Stone Town. Hear the chatter of the locals as they bargain in Ki Swahili. Smell the peculiar odor of an ancient town mixed with the aroma of freshly ground spices. Feel the rhythm of life in the markets. Taste its offerings, the 1000 year old town that has not changed for the last 200 years. Lying off the coast of Tanzania +/- 80 km north of Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar is one of the undiscovered jewels on the African coast. White powdery beaches lined with giant coconut palms swaying in the breeze; azure blue seas beckoning in the distance. Isn’t that MAGIC? However those who expect something like Mauritius or the Comores will be in for a surprise. Not yet on the same level of development, Zanzibar attracts the more adventurous traveler. Yet Zanzibar with its mix of unspoilt beaches, aquamarine, warm seas, incredible culture and interesting history, will not be a secret for much longer.

Kenya Safari

Kenya safaris are ideal for all adventurers willing to traverse the amazing landscape with the least hustle possible. On a safari you get to visit the savannahs of Kenya including the seventh wonder of the world "The great wildebeest migration” in the Masai Mara, Kenya’s’ best known game reserve and arguably the best game reserve in the whole world. You get to see a plethora of wildlife including the“Big five” elephant, rhino, leopard, lion and buffalo. For birding enthusiasts, there are over 1400 species recorded there. The safaris in Kenya offer wonderful holidays for all wildlife lovers. There are vacations suitable for every budget that offer a fascinating insight into Kenya and its spectacular wildlife.

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