Are you speculating what it is like being at the highest point on the African continent and would like to climb Mount Kilimanjaro? Well the snow capped Mountain Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and its also known as the ‘rooftop of Africa’. Over the years, many climbers have tried to summit this amazing summits and a number of them have actually made it to the top. in this articles, we bring you the twelve (12) facts you should know right before making reservations for this climb that might help increase your success rate to the top.
- Consider climbing the Kilimanjaro a progressive hike
Most people imagine that when you’re ascending a mountain you should be a very brave person who can climb a rough surface with just your bare hands clinging on to an upright rock with a traumatic fall below to the earth. They also think that you should be a fearless alpinist covered in a suit from the bottom to the top, taking short steps in bottomless snow, joined to your team mates by a rope and having an axe in the hand. Well, all this does not happen when hiking Mount Kilimanjaro even if it is the highest peak in Africa.
Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro does not need any practical skills because you just walk up the mountain. It is known as a walk up mountain. You do not require hiking gear like binds, ropes or ice axes because there is hardly any danger of falling off a rock face or into a crack. Besides, there are hardly any sections along the trails that require a well skilled rock climber’s expertise.
Mountaineering Kilimanjaro is a test that can be done by any ordinary person no wonder it is well-known as ‘Every one’s Everest’. If you are to inquire around, you will definitely find out that some friends or people you know and yet they are not outgoing people have successfully made it to the Uhuru Peak. Statistics show that every year more than thirty thousand (30,000) people from different parts of the world test their courage by trying to summit the mountain. This mountain accommodates both skilled and unskilled hikers, young and old people.
- There is a support team to carry all your heavy luggage
Expeditions on Mount Kilimanjaro are totally supported in that a crew of guides, care takers (porters) and chefs escort the hikers on the climb to help them with all the work. This well trained crew cooks the food, collects water to be used, cleans up the camp, set up the tents and also take them down so our dear hikers do not waste their energy doing any work and rather focus on enjoying the climb and adapting to the altitude (acclimatizing).
Each of our clients is given three to four (3-4) care takers. It might seem extravagant not until one understands all the things brought up on the hike. These things include; napping tents and eating tents. The napping tent has sleeping pads and sleeping bags while the eating gazebo has folding tables, plastic chairs, lanterns, silverware, dishes and bowls. There is also a kitchen tent in which food is prepared; it has pots, pans, fuel and a stove. The food take up the mountain is for everyone including the hikers and support crew.
Our support crew carries most of the hikers’ bags and kits together with all the things mentioned above. We therefore encourage our hikers not to take very heavy bags on the climb. It is better to carry only the necessary equipment that is sufficient to cater for water, food and clothes so that our hikers can not only focus but also appreciate the hike more. Usually when the day starts our hikers pack three (3) liters of water and bags weighing fifteen to twenty (15-20) lb
- The Mountain is cold; stay warm
Mount Kilimanjaro being positioned right next to the equator does not mean it is extremely hot, it actually is not hot. Just as soon as you start climbing, the temperature goes down. This definitely requires every hiker to have body warming clothes for the coldness.
Once the sun rises at day break, it begins gets warm. You will be very comfortable to hike during the day time while wearing just trekking trousers and a simple shirt for the top. Usually when the clouds appear, you can wear a soft covering jacket or if there is an aggressive breeze, a hard covering jacket though in the night it is a very different scenario. The coldness comes in as the sun sets so it is better to wear some extra warm layers.
You will definitely have nights with temperatures almost dropping below subzero. It will happen outside on your tent while you are sleeping at night only to wake up and find ice on it. However this is no big deal as long as you carried the right kits and clothing. The usual rental sleeping bags offered by Kilimanjaro Trails are -30°F graded Mountain hard-wear napping bags to our hikers, give head sleeping pads, and accommodate hikers in strong mountain hard-wear Trango tents.
- Severe Mountain Sickness is deadly
The main cause of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) which is a common sickness experienced by most climbers is the thinner air at a high altitude. Majority of the hikers do not make it to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro mainly because of the Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Minor cases of AMS are likely to happen when hiking Mount Kilimanjaro but severe cases of AMS are considered fatal and the victim is taken back to the base camp.
At high elevation above sea level our bodies begin to adjust to the less oxygen levels and this is when AMS begins. The whole adjusting procedure forms a natural reaction to battle the oxygen shortage. The body does this by making more Red blood cells which are responsible for carrying oxygen. The speed at which one breathes increases as well. Signs of Acute Mountain Sickness start to show if all these actions are insufficient for the reimbursement for the less oxygen within the surrounding.
The very first signs to look out for are fatigue, slight headache and wanting to vomit. Eventually all the signs go away when the body adjusts (acclimatizes) to the current altitude level right before you are taken to a higher level. If you are getting better in this form then there is no need to worry because it indicates that the body is overpowering the oxygen shortage. Actually some people will not feel any of these signs if their bodies adjust real fast.
Acute Mountain Sickness gets more deadly if the signs do not disappear and become more progressive. There are two (2) types of Acute Mountain Sickness that can cause death. These are: High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) as well as High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). These two types of AMS respectively cause bleeding in the lungs and the brain.
The crew performs health checkups two times a day to observe the well being of the hikers. These checkups include a review of pulse rates, readings of oxygen saturation and an analysis of the signs. All this information is kept to monitor the changes in a given period. The guide will take you back down to the base for your own good if they conclude that it is risky for you to go on with the climb. If there is a medical emergency, we can organize evacuation either on foot or by helicopter. In addition we also carry a portable stretcher and bottled oxygen on every hike.
- The food up the mountain is good
The food on Mount Kilimanjaro is prepared with fresh ingredients not like on western backpacking tours where the meals are made of processed items, dry food and powdered mixes. We provide natural food to our hikers like grains, vegetables, fruits, eggs and meats, and a wide variety of snacks especially for the day.
Because open fires are prohibited on the mountain, the chef together with his helpers will prepare your food using a kerosene stove in the kitchen tent. Vegetarian and vegan diets are also provided when requested. (Please endeavor to notify us of any special dietary needs at the time of reserving this safari).
One of the key factors to a successful hike is having a delicious meal; and that our chefs will certain provide. When above sea level people tend to lose their appetite and if one does not eat, it does get difficult for the body to adjust (acclimatize) as well as hinder recovery. We therefore provide meals meant to keep our hikers well nourished and provide adequate energy to sustain them through the hike.
The Kilimanjaro Trails team take food in plenty sufficient for each and every client as well as the support staff for a couple of days and also have supplies carried to the campsite two times or once in the course of the climb so the food is always quite much and fresh. The hikers usually say they feed much better while on the mountain than at their homes and guess what; we trust what they say.
There are a number of budget operators who offer a limited variety of food with a lower nutritive value, a thing that will definitely deter your success to summiting Mount Kilimanjaro.
- There are toilets up the mountain
The most asked question by our hikers on Mount Kilimanjaro is where they take a long call. For starters, let us inform you on where other people ease themselves and thereafter, inform you on where our hikers take the long call.
There are bottomless toilets at all the campsites on Mount Kilimanjaro. These have wooden structures above them with holes dug in the ground. You stand or squat over the hole on the clay or ceramic. We advise our hikers to stay away from these toilets because they are usually dirty and sickening because they are not well kept.
We offer private toilet tents to our Mount Kilimanjaro hikers. These toilet tents have a plastic commode covered by a tent with the shape and size of a phone booth to provide discretion. You use this commode like a normal toilet back at home; it is whole with a cover, toilet seat and a water flashing system. You just pump it a few times with your hands and the bowl is rinsed out clean.
Just in case one has to ease themselves while on the path? You will they have to hide behind a bush or rock. Are there any showers? There are no showers on the mountain.
- Wifi and electricity are not on the mountain
The mobile phone service is very sketchy, on a daily basis you can get a chance or two to place a phone call, send an email or text message and this is because of the cloudy weather condition which weakens the mobile phone signal. In order to place a phone call, just watch the local teams, when they get on their phones, you know it is a good spot with a strong signal or you can actually just ask them when you can place that call. There is also no internet connection on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Similarly, on Mount Kilimanjaro there is no electricity so one should use their cameras and phone batteries sparingly because there are no charging spots. One should probably carry a power bank for charging his/her phone and extra pairs of batteries for the camera to cover the whole hike. We do not encourage solar chargers on this hike because they are inefficient due to the cloudy weather condition.
One can use this opportunity as a life changing experience by reflecting on what is more relevant in their life. Forget about your busy work schedule, fast city life and reconnect with nature. It is quite interesting how nature and the quiet can bring a profound thought of self-realization that would have remained inactive. Here you can think about focusing on the path you have taken in life or making a few changes.
- Anticipate spending at least seven days on the mountain
To reach the summit which is known as the Uhuru point, there are several trails on Mount Kilimanjaro that can all lead you there. However we always advise our hikers to book paths that take seven to nine (7-9) days to get to the summit. This applies to everybody, the old, young, well experienced, physically fit and strong.
The main obligation of this whole hike is to get to the summit but we intentionally prolong it to avoid any risk of Acute Mountain Sickness because it is hazardous. The body will easily adjust to the altitude if you climb slowly. So a steady climb, just right for the body to adjust and not very fast to outdo the body’s ability to adjust is a must.
Fast and short routes on Mount Kilimanjaro take five (5) days going up and descending but if you are to research in detail, it has three and a half days to ascend from six thousand (6,000) feet to nineteen thousand, three hundred and forty (19,340) feet which seems very difficult and guess what? It is. The park authority statistics indicate that the success rate is at twenty seven (27%) percent for these five (5) day long tours.
You should not waste your precious time, effort and hard earned money on the five day long tours and end up falling sick after a few days on the mountain. The probability is higher to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, have fun and stay healthy if you add some more days to your hike. This is the most practical thing to do if you want to achieve this goal.
- The Summit night is very challenging, but you can make it.
The summit night is quite difficult for the whole team and very different from other nights. The usual day hikes involve trekking small distances slowly while climbing lightly. Majority of the hikers consider these days as gentle and fun but not tiresome and active.
The last climb is not the same as the regular routine for certain reasons and this is because it begins by being woken up at about twelve o’clock in the night hence hardly getting enough sleep. So you start off with a difficulty of lack of sleep. Also it being midnight, there is no light and you are surrounded with darkness so you can barely see where you are going and your surroundings therefore your guide takes the lead and you follow. At a distance, you can see more head lights way higher than you and get discouraged because of the much more effort you need to get there.
Another reason that makes the summit night difficult is the coldness. This hike to the peak gets you in a freezing environmental area which does not have any plant or animal life living in it. Actually this last climb takes place in the early morning (a.m.) hours right before the sun comes out so it is windy and very chilly with temperatures at times dropping below zero degrees. It actually sounds terrifying you will be alright if you have the right gear and covers of clothing. Majority of the hikers put on three (3) covers on the bottom and four (4) covers on the top together with a pair of gloves, gaiters and a hat. When the sun comes out, it gets warm real quick but the coldness before that has to be tolerated for about six to seven (6-7) hours.
The altitude increase is about four thousand (4,000) feet tailed by a descent of about nine thousand (9,000) feet and it might take ten to fourteen (10-14) hour or more for some people. At this instant you can wish you stayed at home on your comfortable couch just relaxing but do not give up, you will make it slowly, taking steps gradually. Most people actually tell us that this is the most difficult experience they have ever encountered in their life. The effort used here is what makes it count. Eventually, hiking Mount Kilimanjaro is an achievement because you bore the hardship, pushed past the limit and finally thrived.
- The entire climbing adventure is costly
This whole tour of summiting Mount Kilimanjaro does not come cheaply. The charges levied on tourists who visit National Parks are rather high despite Tanzania being a third world country. Actually majority of the costs incurred by Mount Kilimanjaro operatives are made up of compulsory park charges. During this period, the park hiking permit, additional charges together with government levied taxes adding up to one hundred and twenty dollars ($120) each person for each night. One should understand that these large fees for Mount Kilimanjaro hikes include a percentage of those costs that the operatives do not have control over.
Also as we stated in above that the hikes are fully supported, plenty of man power is used in each and every Mount Kilimanjaro tour. For example a group of fifteen (15) people taking the hike needs a support team of more than sixty (60) skilled personnel. so the labor fees also take a big percentage of the whole costs.
We recompense our support team by paying them one of the highest salaries on the mountain (not as much as the extravagant operatives who charge twice our rates or more) and this is because hiking the mountain on a daily basis is no joke. Our support team is made of many truthful people trying to make a living which they well deserve.
We being rated among the best guide service providers on Mount Kilimanjaro, our prices for group hikes are reasonable. Some operatives are way cheaper than us but hiking with them comes with its own dangers whereas there are some extravagant operatives whose prices are very high which we think is not necessary. Our advantage is that we charge fairly and yet provide great service with a high level of safety guaranteed. The same reason as to why our hikers recommend their family and friends to us for their Mount Kilimanjaro experience because they admire our operation.
- The mountain can be accessed fairly easily
Mount Kilimanjaro is very reachable for such a distant destination and this is because Tanzania has an international airport (JRO airport code) which is known as Kilimanjaro international airport and it is found next to Moshi and Arusha town. Both cities work as entries to the Mount Kilimanjaro tours. Majority of the safari and hiking operatives are located in either of these towns and will book housing for their clients here before and after the tours. Those embarking on the Mount Kilimanjaro hike are usually booked for in Moshi because Arusha is full of those embarking on safaris since it is near the Tanzania’s northern game reserves.
As soon as one lands at the Kilimanjaro international airport, it can take them roughly forty (40) minutes by road to reach either Arusha or Moshi town. Majority of the operatives provide pick up and drop off services to their clients for their comfort but airport taxis are also very available as you will get pursued by taxi drivers as soon as you leave the airport. All you have to do is ignore the chaos and look out for a smartly dressed driver holding a placard with your name written on it.
We recommend KLM for the most reliable service but there are a couple of aircrafts that fly in to the country like Tanzania Air, Kenya Airways, Turkish Airways, Ethiopian Air, Qatar Airways, Air Kenya, Precision Air, Fast Jet and a new entrant Uganda Airways. Though flights from the United States of America (USA) to Kilimanjaro international airport are quite long with the shortest flights making a stop in Amsterdam, the total travel period is about twenty (20) hours.
- Combine the climb with a wildlife safari to see the big Five
You should not go back home as soon as you finish hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, go and spend some great time in Tanzania’s famous game reserves. We all know that Tanzania is the World’s greatest safari destination which is also home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. Tanzania hosts thousands of tourists who come for the opportunity to see the big five which are; the Rhino, Buffalo, Elephant, Lion and Leopard but that’s not all because there are more wild animals to see.
Just before you quickly book your return flight ticket, think about prolonging your stay as we offer a couple of tours to cater for ones desires from day tours to many day tour with housing in either luxury hotels, lodges or permanent gazebo camps.
An experienced guide will lead you to where the wild animals are in our strong four wheel drive Land Cruisers. Our Land Cruisers have an open roof pop up which enables you to see the game in their natural homes very well and close enough minus any barricades or obstacles. For those who luck is on their side, they can get to see a pride of lions take down a buffalo, a cheetah trail a gazelle or a herd of wild beasts charge through the open plains. This will be a lifetime memorable wildlife experience.