An Adventure At 19,000 Feet
From the moment two mountaineers attempted to summit its peak, trips to Mount Kilimanjaro have attracted thousands of hopeful hikers each year. Since 1889, the mountain has become a major climbing destination for adventurers worldwide. Kilimanjaro is a natural wonder, boasting a snow-covered peak on the equator and five distinct climate zones that make climbing to its summit feel like walking through four seasons in a week!
How Do You Get To Mount Kilimanjaro?
First things first – how do you travel to Mount Kilimanjaro? To get to Kilimanjaro National Park, you will need to fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport. From there, you will have to take a regional flight to Arusha or Moshi, which are the closest two cities to the park and then travel to Kilimanjaro. Many visitors choose to stay in Arusha or Moshi for several days before they begin the trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, in order to get used to the altitude. Both Arusha and Moshi are considered gateways to Kilimanjaro National Park and many guide services are based in these towns.
Preparing For Your Hiking Trip
Thousands of climbers attempt to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro each year. But even though the climb is not technical, the overall summit rate for climbers is 65 percent. If you are planning a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro, there are a few things you need to do to guarantee that you make it to the top.
- Prepare for success – although mountaineering training isn’t necessary to travel to Kilimanjaro, it is a good idea to be in shape for this endeavor. Work on your stamina during the months leading up to your trek! It’s a good idea to schedule long practice hikes and climbs, which will also give you the opportunity to break in your new hiking boots. And because altitude can affect each person differently, it’s a good idea to get a physical before your departure. Pro tip: purchase comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical treatment and emergency evacuation before you leave for your trip.
- Find a tour operator – anyone hiking Kilimanjaro is required to do so with a guide and at least two porters. Finding a tour operator isn’t a luxury; it’s a requirement! But it also increases your chances of success significantly if you choose a reputable and experienced guide. Organized tours may be more expensive, but they offer hikers a better experience overall and tend to prioritize your safety. Pro tip: Avoid low-end companies. Check operator reviews and summit success rate before scheduling your trip to Mount Kilimanjaro.
- Time your trip – Mount Kilimanjaro’s location on the equator means that you can climb it all year round. However, some months will feature better weather. The two optimal seasons for trekking Kilimanjaro fall between January and March, and June to October. From January to March, the weather is cooler and the routes are less crowded. From June to October, the mountain routes are busier, but the weather is warmer and more pleasant. During April, May, and November it is rainy and the routes tend to be muddy. Pro tip: book your trip in advance for peak season trips to ensure you are taking a route with the safest climbing conditions.
- Make a budget – a Kilimanjaro trek is expensive, and can cost anywhere from $2,400 - $8,000 a person. When booking your trip, make sure the fee includes camping, food, guides, park fees, and transport to and from the mountain. It may be tempting to book a shorter (and cheaper) route, but chances are you won’t make it to the summit. Longer routes may cost more, but the longer you have to acclimatize to altitude, the better chance you have to reach the summit. Pro tip: make sure your guides and porters are well-equipped to handle emergencies! Remember the old maxim – you get what you pay for and budget accordingly.
- Be prepared for altitude – altitude sickness is the reason for most failed summit attempts on Kilimanjaro. While planning your travel to Mount Kilimanjaro, make sure you choose a route that ascends gradually and takes at least six days to complete. Altitude sickness can affect anyone, no matter how fit or trained you are so it is important that you learn how to recognize the symptoms. Pro tip: learn your limits. Slow and steady is a mantra that guarantees success when summiting Kilimanjaro.
- Pack carefully – a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro is challenging, simply for the weather you will encounter as you climb. It’s important to find the balance between packing light and making sure you have everything you need to stay warm and dry. The best way to prepare for these varied weather conditions is to pack layers. Your porter will carry up to 30 pounds of personal gear for you, so you should be able to pack enough for the trip to split between two packs. Other essentials include a good-quality sleeping bag and a basic first-aid kit. Last but not least, don’t forget to pack your camera and spare batteries! Pro tip: pack photocopies of your passport and insurance documents in case the originals are lost.
No matter when you travel to Kilimanjaro, you are sure to have an incredible experience! Summiting the mountain is difficult, but it can be done if you plan ahead, are prepared, and travel with a reputable and experienced guide service. Now, lace up those boots and grab your trekking poles – it’s time to train for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.