Kilimanjaro: First of the Seven Summits

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Climbing Kilimanjaro in Africa is a good starting point for aspiring mountaineers. Photo by Sergey Pesterev on Unsplash

Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, is the tallest freestanding mountain on the planet. It’s also the first of the Seven Summits in order from easiest to most difficult. While Everest is, well, Everest, Kilimanjaro is more of a trek than a climb. But climb it they do – roughly 50,000 climbers trek Kilimanjaro each year. 

About 65% of them reach the summit.

People climb Kilimanjaro because it’s bucket list material. At 5,895 metres (19,341 feet) above sea level, it’s high enough to satisfy the basic human urge of conquering the biggest/baddest nature can throw at you. Yet it’s an easy climb by rock climbing standards.

Plus, it’s stunning. The mountain’s height and size of the park it’s located in allow for incredible biological diversity. You’ll see tropical rainforests, arid moorlands and even glaciers on a typical trek along this prominent mountain.

Sadly, though the latter appear to be on the decline. Scientists note glaciers are disappearing at Kilimanjaro – an ominous note that, um, maybe climate change is real.

Kilimanjaro Facts

Kilimanjaro is the first of the Seven Summits and the natural first step for many aspiring mountaineers and adventurers. These Kilimanjaro facts provide a good overview of the area, and why so many climbers make the journey to Africa’s tallest mountain each year.

It’s a Dormant Volcano – The mountain is actually three volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira.

It’s the World’s Highest Freestanding Mountain – While not in the ‘100 tallest mountains’ club, it is the tallest mountain not part of a mountain range. 

It’s One of the Most Stunning Climbs – While all the 7 Summits are highly rewarding, the vegetative and biological variety at Kilimanjaro make it, arguably, the most beautiful.

Both Everest’s Base Camps are Lower Than Kilimanjaro’s Summit – Take THAT Mt. Everest!

There Are 7 Climbing Routes – You can climb Lemosho, Machame, Marangu, Mweka, Rongai, Shira or Umbwe. Machame and Lemosho are generally the most scenic routes, and both can be done in 6-8 days.

You Can Climb it in 4 Days – While not recommended, you can climb one of Kilimanjaro’s faster routes in 4-5 days if you’re a keener – or begging for altitude sickness.

Elephants with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. Photo Source: Wikipedia.com

It’s Been Done in a Wheelchair – In 2007, South African climber Bernard Goosen scaled the mountain in a wheel chair. The journey took 6 days.

The Highest Cricket Match Was Played Here – In September 2014, 30 cricket players and an official scaled the mountain, then played a match in Crater Camp. Troopers.

Pizza Hut Delivers – In May 2016, the Guinness Book of Records documents the world’s highest pizza delivery at the mountain’s summit. No word on optional toppings.

Valery Rozov Base Jumped It – At age 50, the late Russian daredevil Valery Rozov jumped off Kilimanjaro in a wingsuit. The celebratory jig he did at the end was equally spectacular.

So You Want to Climb Kilimanjaro…

Kilimanjaro offers a high payoff for aspiring mountaineers. It’s a (relatively) easy climb by mountaineering standards and offers some of the most beautiful vegetation of all the world’s mountains.

Plus, climb Kilimanjaro and you’ve crossed one of the 7 summits off your bucket list. It’s a dick thing…

With that said, it’s no cake walk. You’ll need to be in reasonably good shape to make this journey, which typically takes 9-15 days. 

Also, it’s in Tanzania, in Africa. While not one of Africa’s most dangerous countries, the government of Canada recommends travellers exercise high caution in this nation.

Some estimates put Kilimanjaro deaths at 3-7 climbers each year. That’s often from falls, hypothermia, malaria and high altitude sickness. These Kilimanjaro climbing tips give further insight into the challenges of this popular trekking destination:

Choose the Right Climbing Route – Give yourself at least 8 days to climb Kilimanjaro. Lemosho tends to be one of the more popular routes, for its scenery and less-demanding terrain.

Climbing Kilimanjaro takes between 5 and 13 days, depending on your fitness levels and the route you choose. Photo by Antônio Soletti on Unsplash

Train For it – This may not be the most demanding mountain, but you’ll still want to be in decent shape. That could mean training 3-4 days a week for about four months before making the journey. Think about walking a treadmill on an incline or using a stair master. Also – walk around town with a backpack full of stuff. 

Pepare Yourself Mentally – This ain’t the Sheraton. Kilimanjaro is a trek through Africa. You’ll be camping each night. Think bugs, dirt and outdoor toilets. Oh, and forget about showers, at least for a while.

Bring the Right Clothing – A warm down jacket, sturdy (water-proof) trekking boots and a platypus water carrier (like CamelBak) are some of the gear you’ll need to bring. Try the Abenaki Cross-Trainer for a comfortable Base layer t shirt – it’s made of bamboo viscose and has sweat wicking and anti-bacterial properties that make it good for the demands of a climb like Kilimanjaro.

Drink Plenty of Water – You’ll dehydrate faster at high altitudes. Most climbers should probably aim to drink 5 litres of water each day.

Prepare for Mild Headaches – This is likely inevitable. Relax – it doesn’t mean the end of the world. But it does mean you likely need to drink more water than usual. Speak with your doctor about headache medication before you hit Kilimanjaro. And seek medical attention in the unlikely event your headaches become extreme and limit your ability to function.

Don’t Rush – Relax friend, you’re at Kilimanjaro. It’s not a race – take one of the slower routes. Breathe in deep through your nose and exhale through your mouth. A general rule of thumb is you should walk at a pace that allows you to talk while you’re moving.

Bring Some Food For the Summit – It can be hard to eat at high altitudes, but remember you’re burning a lot of calories. Protein bars, peanut butter and even a chocolate bar all qualify as ‘Special Treats You Can Eat at the Summit’.

The Machame and Lemosho routes are generally the most scenic routes on the mountain. Photo Source: Gb1 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Avoid the Sun – The higher you get, the less UV protection you’ve got. You’ll likely want to apply SPF50 sunscreen liberally, several times each day. Cover up too, and wear a hat.

RELAX – Kilimanjaro is a journey, but it’s your vacation too. Aim to hike 4-6 hours a day (with the exception of summit day, which is about 14 hours). Spend that time climbing, and the rest of it resting, laughing and sharing Kilimanjaro stories with your fellow trekkers!

Kilimanjaro Tours

You’ll want to climb Kilimanjaro with others – both for safety and the camaraderie of sharing one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. The following tours come highly rated and pack the full monty of guidance, value and necessities you’ll need.

And, of course, they’re a lot of fun too.

Note these are affiliate links, and I’ll receive a small commission if you book one. There’s a lot of bang for your buck here though – and you’ll get a small discount if you book through one of these links.

Climb Kilimanjaro: 8 Days Lemosho Route – This is the route many new climbers take at Kilimanjaro because it’s less demanding and offers stunning vistas and flora along the way. The tour is done by Altezza Travel and starts and ends at Kilimanjaro Airport. 

It’s a small group tour and includes meals, transportation and hotel before and after the climb, along with an expert guide. One of the highest-rated Kilimanjaro tours.

How Long: 8 days

Cost: $2,510 CDN

Get a Discount: Follow this link and enter ‘Climb Kilimanjaro’ in the search field. Choose the 8 Day Lemosho option. 

Mount Kilimanjaro Machame Route – The highest-rated non-Lemosho Route tour on Tour Radar at the moment, Machame is the route that rivals Lemosho for scenery. It’s a little more steep than Lemosho. The tour is offered by Viva Africa Tours and includes pre and post-climb hotels, meals, transport and guide.

The tour is timed to catch the first view of the sun rise over Africa.

How Long: 8 Days

Cost: $2,312 CDN

Get a Discount: Follow this link and enter ‘Climb Kilimanjaro’ in the box. Choose the ‘Machame Route’ option and you’re about to embark on the experience of a lifetime.

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