Yes, that escalated quickly – excuse the pun – but we know you love it when we push your boundaries!
Mount Kilimanjaro is a popular bucket list walk. It’s also a climb used for many fundraising initiatives because of its difficulty and the kudos achieved for conquering it. Yet, people still underestimate it and assume that because groups of TV personalities have made it to the summit and lived to tell the tale, it mustn’t be as difficult as it looks. Think again! But, if hiking and climbing are your thing, Kilimanjaro could be your new friend.
Meet Mount Kilimanjaro
Located in north eastern Tanzania near the Kenyan border, Mount Kilimanjaro is an imposing 5,895 metres high; the highest peak in Africa, and the highest single free-standing mountain in the world. Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano consisting of three volcanic cones Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Mawenzi and Shira are extinct, but Kibo is dormant and could erupt again. The mountain has been the subject of many scientific studies due to the deterioration of its glaciers and disappearing ice fields.
Kilimanjaro National Park was established in 1973 to protect the mountain, particularly from its reputation as an illustrious climbing destination. In 1987, the park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mount Kilimanjaro is the homeland of the Chagga people, one of Tanzania’s largest ethnic groups. It is in the smaller villages on the eastern and western sides of Kilimanjaro, that traditional Chagga culture is most likely to be found.
It is believed the summit was first reached in 1889 by a German geographer, Hans Meyer, and the Austrian mountaineer, Ludwig Purtscheller.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
Depending on your ability and how many days you want the challenge to take, there are various routes available to you. Here are some of the better known paths to consider:
Minimum time needed: 5 days (6 recommended)
Marangu is the oldest and most direct route up Kilimanjaro. It begins in the south east and approaches Uhuru peak via Gilman’s Point. Its gradual slope makes this the easiest path on the mountain, particularly because there is no need to camp. Instead, walkers can use the dormitory style sleeping huts that are found along the route, making this path a particularly popular choice in wet weather. The downside of the Marangu route being more direct and therefore shorter, is that there is less time to acclimatise. It is therefore recommended that an extra day is allocated, just to acclimatise. A lack of time for acclimatisation has been responsible for many failures on this route.
The 35 kilometre uphill hike is well maintained and, of course, the views from the summit are stunning. The route takes you through grasslands, giant cacti fields and beautiful meadows, but because the ascent and descent use the same path, the variety in scenery is limited, and it can become a rather crowded route.
Minimum time needed: 6 days (7 recommended)
The Machame route for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is now the most popular on the mountain, even though it is longer and more difficult to climb than the Marangu path. It is better suited to experienced and adventurous hikers, not least because the days are longer, and the walks are considerably steeper.
Working its way from the south to the east, the 40 kilometre Machame route crosses underneath Kibo’s southern ice field and passes through spectacular, varied scenery. However, the popularity of the route means that it can become rather crowded which can spoil the experience.
The descent from the Machame path is via the Mweka route which is used for descending the mountain for all routes except the Marangu Route. The Mweka route is a direct path to the bottom of the mountain with one stop over at Mweka camp halfway down. It’s a steep, but scenic path through dry mountain desert and lowland forest.
Minimum time needed: 6 days (7 recommended)
The Rongai is the only route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the north, close to the Kenyan border, so offers a different perspective of the mountain. It also attracts lower footfall than Marangu and Machame, making the wilderness more authentic, and the opportunity to see wildlife greater than other routes. Passing through rural heartlands, this route also allows visitors to observe Chagga village life first-hand.
The Rongai route is preferred by trekkers looking to avoid the crowds on the Marangu route, or those who would like a more remote hike. It is an ideal route during the rainy season due to there being less precipitation on the north side.
The scenery may not be as beautiful and varied as the routes on the western side, but the mountain wilderness encountered on the days before joining the Marangu route at Kibo camp is magnificently dramatic.
Descending the Marangu route, the Rongai is moderately difficult, and recommended for those keen to be adventurous, but with less backpacking experience.
Minimum time needed: 6 days (8 recommended)
The Lemosho route is one of the most recently established routes on Mount Kilimanjaro, introduced as an alternative to the Shira Route which begins at a higher, more challenging altitude. Starting on the western side of Mount Kilimanjaro at the Londorossi Gate, the Lemosho route provides access to the wilderness of the west, with the chance of sightings of antelope or buffalo.
Unlike the Machame route, the Lemosho route actually crosses the Shira Plateau from Shira Ridge to Shira Camp, rather than just intersecting with it. Until the route joins the Machame route, trekkers can enjoy a less crowded hike. The Lemosho Route joins the Machame Route at Lava Tower and heads down towards Barranco Valley. Descent is via the Mweka route.
In terms of scenery, Lemosho is considered the most beautiful route on Kilimanjaro with panoramic views on various sides of the mountain, and boasts a high summit success rate.
Preparing for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
Good preparation for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is essential. According to the Kilimanjaro Trek Guide, for all climbers over all routes, the summit success rate for Mount Kilimanjaro is 65%, which reduces to 27% for 5 day climbs.
To avoid bucket-list failure you need to be clear about your route, sign up to a guide company where necessary, plan your flights and accommodation, and acquire all necessary clothing, footwear and equipment.
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We have a no-quibble returns policy, and would be happy to provide any advice you need on the clothing and equipment you need to take.
The adventure starts at BCH!
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