Trekkers getting closer to the Uhuru peak

Kilimanjaro Climbing Guide

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The team at Kandoo love Kilimanjaro. It is a massive 5,895m tall and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Everest is much higher overall but it starts at about 4,000m. Kilimanjaro is also the highest mountain in Africa so is part of the very special club that mountaineers call the “Seven Summits” - the highest mountains on each continent. Even with these awesome credentials, you can leave work on a Friday, climb to its summit and be back at work a week later. And more than anything this accessibility is what makes it so popular. So book your adventure now with the number one Kilimanjaro operator. If you climb with us, you are in safe hands - we have now helped over 10,000 climbers summit successfully.

Which is the best route to climb Kilimanjaro?


Having helped over 10,000 people climb Kilimanjaro and we know that for every one of them, the best route was the route which gave them the best chance to stand on the top of this awesome mountain. So there are just four routes up Kilimanjaro that we recommend:


MACHAME ROUTE | This is our favourite route for a short climb as it offers a high chance of success over just 7 days. It has an interesting approach through all of Kilimanjaro's diverse climate zones. Its downside is that everybody likes it, so in peak periods it can be very busy.


LEMOSHO ROUTE | Stepping up in cost and adding an extra day, this is the best 8 day route on the mountain. It has fantastic views and a really interesting approach from the West of the mountain.


NORTHERN CIRCUIT | If money and time are not an issue then it is worth checking out the Northern Circuit. It has the same attractive approach as the Lemosho but then heads North where you will find yourselves nearly alone.


RONGAI ROUTE | This route approaches Kilimanjaro from the north of the mountain close to the Kenyan border. It is a very quiet route, and is not normally our first choice as there is very little vegetation as it has much less rainfall. This means it is a good route to choose in the rainy season and it is always generally quiet.



Kandoo's top tips for climbing Kilimanjaro


Training

Most days climbing Kilimanjaro are no worse than an average day hiking at home. There are though a number of factors that make this a really tough challenge.
First, you will be hiking for at least 7 days continuously. This puts a big strain on all your muscles and joints.
Second, as you climb, the oxygen content in the air drops rapidly. This means that with every breath you are getting less and less power. At the summit each breath has about half the amount of oxygen that you would normally have.
Third, although most days are not overly difficult, summit night is extremely hard with an ascent of over 1500m, a descent of nearly 3000m and between 16-18 hours walking on average. TO be successful you need to be in the best physical condition of your life. We have detailed advice on our Kilimanjaro Training Guide. The key factors are cardio- strength, muscle strength in the legs and flexibility. If at all possible try to get out and do some long days hiking at least twice in the weeks before your climb. And don't forget that the biggest difference between those who summit successfully and those who turn back is often just mental tenacity. 


Staying well hydrated and eating plenty

Each day as you climb Kilimanjaro you will burn about 4000 calories. This is almost double your normal intake. On summit night you will burn well over 6000 calories. And as mountaineers say, you need to fuel the climb! So even if you have lost your appetite because of the effects of altitude you have to keep eating. Our menus are designed to be varied and really tasty but even if you don't feel hungry you must eat. Before you travel to Tanzania find a number of snacks that you really enjoy. Bring a good and varied supply. Even if you love Mars Bars, you can find that when you are faced with your third in a night they are not quite so appetising.


Drinking plenty is even more important than eating. In the cold, dry air it is very easy to become dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration are very similar to altitude sickness. It is not uncommon for someone to descend and then find that all they needed was lots of water. You will be given 2 litres of water daily. There will also be unlimited amounts of hot drinks at breakfast and dinner. You must ensure that you keep drinking. As a good guide, if your pee is yellow you are under-hydrated and need to drink more.



Good equipment

Good equipment starts with your feet. Do not turn up for your climb in a shiny new pair of boots. Make sure your boots are well worn in and are comfortable. After your feet make sure you are looking after your head. On the lower slopes you will need something that provides good sun protection. For summit night you need a really warm beanie or even balaclava. These can double up as a nightcap on really cold nights. Finally, think about clothing layers. The daily temperature variation can be as much as 35 degrees. The best way of coping with this is with layering rather than relying on one single jacket. Also, we strongly recommend gaiters and mittens. Kilimanjaro is very dusty and a boot full of dust is very uncomfortable. And we have not found a pair of gloves that are really warm enough for summit night so make sure to pack mittens or over-mittens. Other critical items are a 4 season sleeping bag, trekking poles for the descent, a head torch for the night climb, a comfortable day pack and lots and lots of high factor sunscreen.



Careful acclimatisation

The single biggest reason why people fail to summit is because they have not acclimatised well. We have lots of information on how to avoid altitude sickness but there are three key points to remember. First is go slowly. No matter how fit you are, if you go too quickly the risk of getting altitude sickness goes up. You will always hear our guides advising "Pole Pole", swahili for slowly, slowly. As a good measure of your speed, if you cannot manage a conversation comfortably you are going fast.

Second is hydration, the really serious problems caused by altitude are due to changes in pressure. This happens badly in the lungs where fluid from your blood leaks into your lungs giving pneumonia like symptoms. It also happens in your skull where fluid moves from your brain into the gap between the brain and the skull causing pressure headaches. If you are poorly hydrated you will increase the risk that this becomes a problem.

And third is consider taking Diamox. This is a drug that is proven to help the body acclimatise to altitude faster. It is not a cure though and you can still get ill taking it. For most people though it is a safe way to reduce the risk of getting ill. You will need to see your doctor to obtain a prescription for Diamox. He can assess you personally for suitability.


HOW TO AVOID ALTITUDE SICKNESS ON KILIMANJARO

Other things to do while you are in Tanzania


While you are in Tanzania there are lot of other great things you might want to try. The most popular choice is to add on a short safari. Arusha town, about an hour's drive from Kilimanjaro is the start point for lots of safaris. Most of these are in National Parks called the Northern Circuit. This includes Tarangire, Lake Manyara, the Serengeti and the world heritage site Ngorongoro Crater. Most of our safaris are private, tailor made trips. We do though now offer some open group safaris that are combined with a climb. We can arrange safaris from one day up to seven days depending on how much time you have and how much you want to see. 


You can also take a short flight from Tanzania to trek with critically endangered Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda. This is a really special experience. The gorilla trekking in Rwanda is brilliantly organised. The health and well-being of the gorillas is the highest concern. This allows you to enjoy your encounter with these fantastic animals knowing they are well protected.


A third great option, particularly if you have tired legs after your climb, is to take a few days to relax on Zanzibar. It is just over an hour's flight from Kilimanjaro airport. And you could then be lying on a perfect white sand beach dipping those legs in the warm Indian Ocean. Zanzibar really does lives up to its reputation as a tropical paradise. So if white sand beaches, palm trees and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean sound like your thing, then head here for a few days.

How to get to Tanzania


For climbers based in the UK or the US, it is best to fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). KLM flies to JRO from all of the major UK airports, and many of the larger US international airports as well. UK flights tend to leave early in the morning, transfer at Luchthaven Schiphol, Amsterdam’s main airport, and arrive at JRO late that same evening.


All of our tours begin at a town called Moshi, known as the gateway to Mount Kilimanjaro. Moshi is situated low on the mountain’s south slope, at an altitude of nearly 1000 metres above sea level. Moshi is only 25 miles from Kilimanjaro International Airport by car, and we will arrange transport from the airport to your hotel as part of your trek. Transport is generally available at any time, including the late evening or early morning, and takes approximately three quarters of an hour. Moshi is an excellent choice for hotel accommodation during your stay, but it does fill up quickly during the peak season, so be sure to reserve your booking with us as early as possible. It is wise to plan a rest day after such a long flight to recover and prepare yourself and your kit for the climb, rather than planning on hitting the mountain the next morning. 


Some UK climbers choose to fly into Nairobi via Kenyan Airways or British Airways. These flights are only available departing from Heathrow in London. Climbers arriving in Nairobi generally book a transfer flight to Kilimanjaro international Airport via Precision Air, Air Kenya, Air Tanzania or Ethiopian Airways. We do not recommend flying through Nairobi, because Nairobi Airport is often uncomfortable, and transfer times can sometimes be very long. It also has a reputation for poor baggage handling and delays in transferring baggage between flights.


Turkish Airlines, Air Emirates and Qatar also fly into JRO now, but these flights often involve long delays and flights leaving late at night for UK travellers. However, climbers travelling from the US often report better service and experiences flying with Turkish Airlines, Air Emirates and Qatar, so we do recommend these flights from North America.


Vayama operates excellent flights to other East African airports from Kilimanjaro. If you wish to see more of this beautiful region you can book flights to Zanzibar, Rwanda, Uganda or Kenya.