Getting Ready for Kilimanjaro – Part I
What Route to choose
There are 6 popular and established routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro – Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai and Umbwe. But what is the best for you? Well, depends. And when I am saying depends I can refer to money, time or how prepared are you to climb Kilimanjaro.
There are routes which can be done in 5 to 6 days like Marangu or Umbwe or longer routes like Lemosho which can take up to 8 days in total. Longer the route it is, the higher the amount to be paid is. Keep in mind that the park fee is 630$. The rest of the cost – equipment, food, porters can be between 300 to 1000 $ depending on route, days and travel agency commission.
The success rate on Kilimanjaro climbing is under 50%. That doesn’t mean its a very hard mountain to be climbed. Depends on you; if you are fit, if you choose the right route or have the right guides. Guides are very important in succeeding the Kili up to Uhuru Peak.
Marangu or Coca Cola route is the most popular one. But the success rate is the lowest between the routes. Because non trained people chose to climb it and most fail. The altitude sickness is the main cause. Acclimatization is very poor on this route The second is the high and strong winds on this route. A strong wind makes the climbing very hard and the energy is lost very fast. . In terms of days its a 5 to 6 days and the cost may vary between 1100 to 1300$. The good thing about this route is the accommodation; all in huts not in tents.
Machame route or the Whisky route. it is the second most popular and with a success rate of over 80%. Can take up to 6 days and one extra acclimatization day can be taken. Its not a very hard route; even for beginners can be OK. All the accommodation its on camping sites.The price can vary between 980$ to 1100 $.
Lemosho route is one of the longest one. Can take up to 7 days. It’s very good for acclimatization and its more difficult than the Marangu and Machame route. Accommodation it in camping/tents. It’s not that used as the previous one’s. The cost can vary between 1400 to 1500$.
Shira route is quite the same as Lemosho. Can be done in 77 to 8 days. Its a difficult one, but the views are excellent. The cost is between 1100 to 1200$.
Rongai route can take up to 7 days. It’s less frequented with a beautiful alpine desert section, and it is a good alternative to Marangu. Accommodation it is in tents.
Umbwe can take up to 6 days. It’s Least used trail, but has some spectacular ridge and scenic with southern traverse. But due to the shortness has a very poor acclimatization profile.
I choose Machame route. It was the best choice. Marangu was too crowded for me and did not have time to do the Lemosho one.
Please note that the prices do not include the tips for the guides and porters; between 150 to 200$ per person.
How to chose a travel agency
You picked a route and now you decide to book. What agency to book? Are all reliable? There are many offers on the internet. Before going to Fort Portal in Uganda I found a blog of an ex volunteer girl. She climbed Kilimanjaro too last year and she booked the tour with Uhurutreks. It was a smart choice for here and the reviews were good. So I decided to book as well the Kilimanjaro climb with them. The agency its in Moshi and its owned by J and one south Korean partner.
You either can book in advance, but no payment its necessary in advice or go straight to Arusha or Moshi cause there are plenty of travel agencies. I recommend more Moshi because is more quite and the touts are not so insistent.
To get fit or not to get
Can anyone climb Kilimanjaro? Well, almost everyone. You don’t need to be a athlete to succeed it. The youngest person to climb was a southern African boy, age of 7. Even if the legal age to climb is 10 but he lied. And the old one was an Austrian woman, age 94. Before climbing it, I wanted to get fit. But lack of ambition and laziness made me do nothing, Except some jogging in Jo’burg of the climbing of a mountain in Rwanda – 2700m. The most important thing its not the fittest or the stamina but the acclimatization. I lived in the months before the climbing at high altitude. Above 1600m in Uganda, above 1700 in South Africa, above 2100 in Ethiopia and above 1900 in Rwanda. If you come from 100m sea level, you might need some extra acclimatization days.
Renting the equipment
6 months traveling Africa and all the clothes are made only to fit into a 55L backpack and a small one of 25l.Thats less than 16 kg, including all the electronic equipment. Climbing Kilimanjaro, even if it wasn’t 100%, a sure thing and not in the program from the beginning, it would have meant another extra baggage, not to mention the climbing boots: 1,5 kg/each. Luckily the travel agency I booked with the Kili Climb agency, included the equipment, rent in the price of $ 980 for the Machame route.
Either if you came with your own equipment and only for the climb in Tanzania or part of your journey and don’t have enough space in our backpack, the gear is an important part of your climbing success.
Tent – had stayed in poor and cheap tents till now. And it was extremely cold during the night, no matter how hot or cold was outside. Don’t know the model name of my tent I had on Kilimanjaro, but it was excellent. Last days at over 4000 it was very windy and cold. The tent did his job and the atmosphere inside was decent. Buy a good quality one.
Sleeping mat – essential if you camp. Trekking agencies usually supply, sleeping mats; just be 100% sure and ask them before the climb.
Trekking Poles – it’s a must. On descent or ascent. Very, very useful!
Boots – recommend to have 2 pairs of boots (some gym shoes will work to wear in the camp). There is no place to dry your stuff and if you climb during rain, the next day the boots will be wet and the discomfort will be present. I always had Colombo Boots but did not bring it with me in Africa; to have and no enough space in my backpack. So I rented Mammut. Best choice; even if they were second-hand, they were in good shape and very soft. I do have problems with my legs and had some injuries on the descent, but it wasn’t because of the boots.
Waterproof Jacket – depends how lucky you are regarding the rain. But you must have it in your daily backpack.
Insulated Jacket – for ascent day when the winds are very strong and it’s very cold, you definitely need one.
Long Sleeve Shirt – my T-shirts did the job here.
Short Sleeve Shirt – moisture-wicking fabric – had one bought from Dechalton and was a smart choice to have one,
Waterproof Pants – breathable – used this kind of paints only once, but they are very useful. Highly recommend to rent one pair.
Hiking Pants – I had a pair of Columbia pants. For the final day of the ascent a had rented a warmer type of paints.
Fleece Pants – rented one and I used them to sleep within.
Shorts – on the first days when it’s quite hot or even on each day depending on the temperature, shorts can do useful.
Socks – as many as you can fit. Count 2 pairs a day.
Sock Liners – worn under socks to prevent blisters – well, I didn’t have but I regret not having one. My blisters were very bad and hardly managed to walk on last descent day.
Gaiters – depends when you climb. If there is snow on the top, what have one pair.
Gloves – warm – had a pair of wool gloves not very performant. Next time I will probably use some pro ones.
Glove Liners – thin and synthetic – used and rented this type of gloves to protect my hands from the use of the trekking poles.
Torch On Kilimanjaro a head-torch is highly recommended. Usually it gets dark around 6pm so in order to see the tent where you will have dinner or go to the toilet by night you must have one. And on the last day, the climbing night to Uhuru peak, without one you can get injured if you don’t light your path.
Sunscreen A high-factor sunscreen is recommended l on Kilimanjaro. I did not have one, but some friends gave some to me. On day 4 while crossing the desert area its a must. Otherwise, you will get some sun burns.
Sunglasses – had some glasses, but never used them. They are important on the last day on descent. If there is snow on top, you might need it to protect your eyes!
Toilet paper – don’t have to mention why you need it!
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Water Bottle – Nalgene type would be very useful.
Plastic Bags various sizes, to keep gear dry and separate
Insect Repellent – they are not so many flies or insect, but its up to you if you want to carry one. I lost my charger in Rwanda and did not have an extra battery for my Panasonic Mirror-lens camera :(.
Camera – with extra batteries. There is not place to charge your phone or your camera. Be prepared with extra batteries.
Wet Wipes – there are no showers on the route so they are important for your hygiene.
Best time to climb kilimanjaro
The best months for climbing are January, February, and September. The temperature is high and the lack of clouds makes the view better.
April and beginning of May could get heavy rain or snow. Late May could be a good option because it’s not raining anymore and not so crowded in terms of trekkers.
Also great are June to August (though colder, especially during the night), and November/December (could be wetter).
Through September and October it gets steadily warmer.
January to March are the warmest months, almost clear of clouds except of occasional brief rain showers.
No matter when you will climb keep in mind that in order to succeed you need good weather, good gear, great guides, a very optimistic mind and a decent stamina! And at least 3l of water a day..Good luck!