Kandoo group summiting Kilimanjaro June 2022

Travel Advice The Main Reasons Why Individuals Fail to Climb Kilimanjaro

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Why some people don’t summit Kilimanjaro

For many, climbing Kilimanjaro is a dream, but scaling the summit of this epic peak is no easy feat.

It is estimated that around 35,000 people attempt to summit Kilimanjaro every year however, only two-thirds are successful due to a number of problems that cause climbers to turn back short of the 5,895m summit. But don’t let this dishearten you, climbing Kilimanjaro is very much achievable!

At Kandoo Adventures we believe that anyone has the potential to successfully summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Don’t believe us? Just look at our 95% Kilimanjaro success rate on every one of our Kilimanjaro trips. With over 15 years of experience, we have helped more than 12,000 people reach the summit of Kilimanjaro so rest assured you’re in trusted hands.

As you prepare to climb Kilimanjaro, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of reaching the highest peak on the continent of Africa.

In this blog post, we’ll uncover the common pitfalls that trekkers face when climbing Kilimanjaro and offer our advice on how to overcome them. We’ll discuss the main reasons why people fail to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro including altitude sickness, not completing sufficient training for climbing Kilimanjaro and choosing a poor Kilimanjaro tour operator.

Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania

1. Altitude sickness

Ok, lets start with the big one. The most difficult part of climbing Kilimanjaro and most common reason for failed summit attempts is altitude sickness. Symptoms for altitude sickness occur when your body doesn’t have time to adjust to reduced oxygen availability when you’re at a high altitude and it can affect anyone.

While Kandoo Adventures’ Kilimanjaro itineraries are carefully planned to ensure climbers have enough time to adjust to the change in altitude, even the most experienced trekkers and mountaineers can suffer from altitude related illnesses. Your age, gender and fitness level have no bearing on whether you’ll suffer from altitude sickness so if you’re planning on climbing Kilimanjaro, you’ll need to be prepared for the possibility of altitude sickness.

Minor symptoms of altitude sickness include headaches, but these can be treated with painkillers and by maintaining your water intake. Additionally, some trekkers use the drug Acetazolamide (Diamox) to prevent altitude sickness. It’s when symptoms become more moderate to severe that your chances of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro are threatened.

For more information on symptoms for altitude sickness and altitude sickness medications, check out our helpful blog on how to prevent altitude sickness.

2. The Kilimanjaro route you take

Another important consideration that will affect your likelihood of reaching Kilimanjaro summit is the route you take. In total, there are 7 established routes on Kilimanjaro and Kandoo Adventures’ guides offer trips on 5 of the best routes on the mountain. The trails are not overly steep and with enough training, anyone with a decent level of fitness has a good chance of success.

The best route to climb Kilimanjaro is dependent, of course, on your individual priorities (like avoiding crowds in the high season) but you should take into account the amount of time each route dedicates to acclimatisation and its’ success rate when choosing which one you will take. Ultimately, the longer you spend on the mountain, the higher your chance of reaching the top.

So, again, one of the main reasons for unsuccessful attempts when climbing Kilimanjaro is caused by the altitude. If you’ve not trekked much at altitude before, we’d recommend taking the highly popular Machame route which is known for its very high success rate due to plenty of time being dedicated to acclimatisation while on the mountain.


3. Inadequate fitness

We might be stating the obvious here, but training is essential for climbing Kilimanjaro. It would be a shame to get so close to the top of one of the world’s iconic 7 tallest summits on each continent yet have to turn around because you failed to physically prepare your body for the challenge.

We recommend preparing a well-rounded Kilimanjaro training plan which incorporates a variety of strength training, aerobic training and mountain training. The fitter you are before you leave for Tanzania, the easier and more enjoyable you will find your time on the mountain.

With that being said, anyone with a decent level of fitness has a great chance of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro. As a rough guide, if you are happy hill walking for 6-7 hours a day at ascent then you should be able to climb Kilimanjaro. You should aim to carry a 30-litre daypack during any mountain training as you will be required to carry similar on your Kilimanjaro trek.

4. Lack of mental resilience

Often overlooked, mental resilience is just as important as physical fitness when it comes to taking on a challenge like climbing Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. Even if you’re extremely physically fit, you’ll need mental stamina and determination to push on to the summit.

There is no getting around the fact that the Kilimanjaro trek is demanding and there may be days where you feel like giving up, particular on summit night. Maintaining a positive mindset is vital to pushing past what your body thinks is its limits and reaching your end goal.

Climbing Kilimanjaro is a life changing experience, and you’ll likely form close bonds with your group. Those friendships you make along the way will be a valuable support system as you strive to the summit together.


5. Trekking injuries

Like any physical activity, trekking carries the risk of injuries and as there is will be lots of trekking involved each day when climbing Kilimanjaro, there is a possibility of injury. Understanding how people get hurt and taking several precautions can help minimise the risks and greater your chance of successfully summiting Kilimanjaro.

The most common hiking injuries that occur on Mount Kilimanjaro involve the feet, ankles and legs. Who’d have guessed, right? These include blisters, ankle sprains, muscle pulls, minor cuts and bruises, shin splints, stress fractures and many more. While none of these conditions are life threatening, they can result in your trip being cut short.

To prevent these types of injuries we’d recommend bringing everything on our Kilimanjaro packing list. This includes a quality pair of hiking boots (worn in of course), merino wool trekking socks and blister plasters (these are a life saver!) Your guide on Kilimanjaro will carry a first aid kit at all times but we recommend you carry painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets/gel as well as blister plasters.

6. Not having the correct equipment

Improper gear can make the climb to Kilimanjaro summit more difficult and uncomfortable. Again, we encourage all climbers to closely follow our Kilimanjaro kit list which provides details on every piece of gear you need to climb Kilimanjaro along with links to items the team strongly recommend. Don’t let improper gear be the reason you fail as it is easily preventable.

While climbing Kilimanjaro requires no technical mountaineering equipment, common Kilimanjaro gear mistakes people make include improper footwear, ill-fitting backpacks, insufficient rain protection, inadequate warm clothing, improper gloves and hats and insufficient sun protection.

Kandoo Adventures supply climbers with a 3-man tent per two people, mattresses, a dining tent including tables, chairs and eating utensils and a toilet for the private use of your group on the mountain. You can also rent a Four Season Mountain Hardwear Lamina -30 Sleeping Bags ($50 per climb) and trekking poles ($20 per climb) from us.

Kandoo guides and climbers on Kilimanjaro

7. Choosing poor guides

Another important consideration to take when preparing to climb Kilimanjaro is your tour operator. A responsible tour operator will ensure that their guides are properly equipped, prepared and trained to lead climbers up Kilimanjaro. They will also ensure there are enough guides for your group.

Expertly managed by Emanuel Nguma, our Kilimanjaro mountain guides, Tanzania safari guides, drivers and cooks are some of the best in the country. Tanzania was Kandoo Adventure’s first ever destination and we have helped more than 12,000 people reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. A quick glance at our TrustPilot reviews and it is clear just what an outstanding service our team deliver!

8. Not eating enough

Eating well is an essential part of climbing Kilimanjaro. You’ll be burning an extra 2000 or more calories a day when climbing Kilimanjaro so you’ll need to replace them. Many climbers experience a loss of appetite at altitude and, because of this, our chefs have developed menu plans that are appealing, healthy and filled with the energy you need to make it to the summit.

Breakfast is usually hearty and includes porridge, sausage, eggs and toast with marmalade or jam. A typical packed lunch is a boiled egg, sandwiches, a portion of chicken, crisps, snack bar, fresh fruit and a drink. Dinners usually begin with a hearty soup followed by a main course such as chicken curry, spaghetti Bolognese, fresh vegetables and a yummy desert such as pancakes or banana fritters to finish.

9. Not drinking enough

You will also be given 3 litres of water daily on your Kilimanjaro climb and it is vital to drink the lot. Drinking plenty of water is one of the main ways to prevent symptoms of altitude sickness so you want to ensure that you are well hydrated during the climb. As we mentioned earlier, altitude sickness is the most common reason for fail Kilimanjaro summit attempts.

This means drinking water even when you don’t feel thirsty, and our guides will remind you to upkeep your water intake consistently throughout the day. You’ll thank them later!

Kilimanjaro ascent

10. Not being prepared for all weather

The final reason why individuals fail to summit Kilimanjaro is climbers being ill-prepared for the weather on Kilimanjaro. This links to our point on not having the correct trekking gear however we think that being prepared for the different climates on Kilimanjaro deserves a mention of its own.

The journey to Kilimanjaro summit guides climbers through five separate ecological zones, each with its own distinct features and climates. While temperatures at the base of the mountain range between 21 to 27 degrees Celsius (70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit) during the high season, there is in fact snow on Kilimanjaro summit. More than that, there is actually a glacier near the summit.

The high altitude makes the summit region extremely cold and you don’t want to get caught out (it’s especially cold at night). The best way to ensure you are prepared for the weather on Mount Kilimanjaro is by referring to our Kilimanjaro packing list which covers all the gear you need for the best chance of Kilimanjaro summit success, including fleece base layers, insulated jackets and much more.

To experience this epic mountain for yourselves, get in touch with the travel experts at Kandoo Adventures and discover the amazing Kilimanjaro trips we offer.