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Climbing Kilimanjaro

If you like a challenge or if you enjoy hiking, Mount Kilimanjaro is really a must. It is one of the most adventurous hikes for an amateur climber to make. You will never forget the kick you get from climbing and maybe even reaching the summit. It is impossible to put that feeling into words. You will look back with a feeling of pride, enjoying your achievement, but sometimes also thinking back of the moments of doubt, when you were exhausted. But then you will realize that it was more than worthwhile, on top of that mountain with Africa at your feet! At the end of the climb you will be rewarded with a climbing certificate as lasting proof of that beautiful moment.

You can choose between climbing the top and making a day trip towards the first cabin. With a height of 5895 metres, Mount Kilimanjaro, also called the “roof of Africa”, is the highest single mountain of Africa and the only place where you can (still!) find snow. The mountain has three summits which are in fact extinct volcanoes. Of these, the Kibo is the highest crater with a circumference of about 2.5 kms. The Mawenzi is 5149 m high and the Shira 3962 m.

During the climb you will go through five climate zones, from a tropical to a polar climate. For every 200 metres you climb, the temperatures decreases by approximately 1 degree. The fertile soil at the foot of the mountain is mainly used to grow coffee, mais and bananas. This is followed by a zone of tropical rain forest which somehow gives you the feeling of you are walking in a fairytale forest, partly due to the sounds of tropical birds and screaming black-and-white Colobus monkeys. Annually this zone receives about 2000 mm of rain; the paths on this trail may therefore be slippery. This zone is followed by the heath and moorland zone with its beautiful giant Lobelias. In the zone above 4000 metres you are faced with seemingly endless moon landscapes, with temperatures fluctuating between moderate frost at night and 30 degrees centigrade during daytime. Above 5000 metres there is only snow and ice.

The climb

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a unique experience you will not forget in your lifetime. But don’t underestimate the mountain and prepare yourself thoroughly! You need not be an experienced mountaineer to reach the Uhuru peak, but good health, an excellent condition and perseverance are indeed required. Someone who is fit uses less oxygen which in any case is scarce at high altitudes. The walking pace is slow. “Pole pole” you will hear frequently. Slow down. You will find the slow pace ideal: you don’t get short of breath and will not need to rest very often. It also allows your body to gradually get used to the thin air. In a number of days you bridge a temperature difference from plus 25 to minus 15 degrees centigrade, so it is best to dress in layers. The altitude and the sometimes extreme cold (at night) on the final trail towards the top make climbing Kilimanjaro a real challenge.

It is compulsory to use the official local guides. Furthermore, it is advisable to hire porters and a cook. The guides speak English. All luggage, except your (day) backpack is carried by the porters and should not way more than 12-15 kg. Keep your own backpack as light as possible. Three litres of water, sun cream, a scarf, a light jumper, rainwear, and some energy snacks are already a fair weight. Each climber needs about 2 to 3 porters. They not only carry your luggage, but also gas tanks, camping gear, and, very important, food for the entire period. You will be surprised about the delicious meals the cooks can prepare in the most primitive conditions. The best times to climb the mountain are from December to March and from July to October. The main rainy season is in the months April, May and June. The short rainy season is from mid-October to the end of November.

Routes

There are six different routes to the summit. They differ in difficulty, duration, type of overnight stay, and price. On our website we give information about the two most popular: the Marangu route (coca-cola route) and the Machame route (whisky route). The other routes are the Rongai Route, Umbwe Route, Mweka Route, and Shira Route. Of course you can choose one of the other routes: we will be pleased to give you information on request.

Preparation

Start training 7-9 months (depending on your condition) before the climb and gradually intensify training until one month before departure. Then take it somewhat easier and one week before departure stop training to give your body a rest. The best preparation is to do very much walking with a well-filled backpack. Preferably choose routes with considerable highs and lows, like dunes. It is also advisable to go to a gym to gain extra muscle. Ask the instructors about the best way to prepare. Also, it is always sensible to ask your family doctor for approval in relation with your physical health. If you also plan a safari, which of course we can arrange for you, first climb Kilimanjaro so that you are still in good condition.

Health

There is certainly a risk of altitude sickness which is caused by lack of oxygen; this happens when the air gets thinner. The symptoms are headache, sickness, and dizziness. The guides keep a close watch over you and recognize the symptoms. If they consider it to be too risky they will advice you to descend.
Everybody can get altitude sickness; it has nothing to do with your condition. The risk of getting altitude sickness can be reduced by climbing slowly, by sleeping at a lower level than you reached during the day (walk high, sleep low) and by drinking plenty of water, some 3 to 4 litres per day. Having an acclimatization day considerably reduces the risk of altitude sickness and increases your chance to reach the summit by 70%. The medicine Diamox can sometimes help to reduce the symptoms, provided you take it one day before your climb reaches 2500 m.