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Kilimanjaro General Information

Details of Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro is also called the “Roof of Africa” or the Crown of Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro is both Africa’s highest mountain and the world’s tallest free standing peak. Standing at 5,875 metres above sea level, Kilimanjaro is also unique as it is located just 330km from the equator.

The mountain consists of three volcanic summits: Shira (3,962m), Mawenzi (5,149m), and Kibo (5,895m). Shira is the oldest of the three summits and is an extinct volcano, while Mawenzi and Kibo are both dormant and could erupt again in the future.

Mount Kilimanjaro can be climbed year round; however, the best weather conditions can be found between November & March and from June to October. It is during these months that the weather is warmest and the conditions are clearest.

There are several routes to the summit, with only the Marangu route (sometimes called the tourist route or Coca Cola route) having hut accommodation. These huts need to be booked in advance as spaces are limited.

The other routes do not have accommodation, and climbers will get the chance to camp out on the mountainside each night.

With the guidance of Sote Tours & Travel experienced guides and porters, almost anybody of decent physical fitness can climb Mount Kilimanjaro. It is one of the easier mountains of its size to climb. If you are fit and take the time to acclimatize, you’ll find that climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the most invigorating experiences you’ll ever have.

Mount Kilimanjaro Routes

Mount Kilimanjaro has six different climbing and trekking routes to reach Uhuru Peak. These routes differ in popularity and difficult, but all take between 5 and 7 days to complete.

The Marangu, Machame, and Umbwe routes all approach from the south of the mountain, while the Lemosho and Shira routes come from the west. Only the Rongai route approaches from the north.

Mount Kilimanjaro Weather

At 100 kilometres in length and 60 kilometres in width, Mount Kilimanjaro has its own climate and five distinct vegetation zones.

The climatic conditions on Mount Kilimanjaro change with the altitude; ranging from a tropical climate at its base to arctic conditions at the summit. Kilimanjaro’s foothills enjoy a yearlong summer, with temperatures at the base averaging 25-30C year round. Conversely, temperatures at the summit range from a chillier -10C to -20C.

As a rule of thumb, the temperature drops by 1C for every 200m you ascend.

The mountain experiences two rainy seasons: the monsoon (or long rainy season) between March and May, and the short rainy season from mid-October until late December. At the base, the mount Kilimanjaro has upwards of 2,000mm of rain per year, compared to just 100mm of rain at the summit.

Regardless of the weather, Mount Kilimanjaro can be summited year round.

Vegetation Zones

Mount Kilimanjaro  has five different vegetation zones. Each vegetation zone exists at a different altitude, with roughly 1,000 metres separating each.

The Farmland Zone (800 – 1,800 metres)

Characterised by vast fields of grass, the slopes between 800 and 1,800m receive plenty of rainfall. The Chagga people use this area for agriculture and livestock due to the rainfalls and the rich, volcanic soil. The locals primarily harvest coffee and bananas in this zone, although maize, beans, and other crops are also grown.

The northern and eastern slopes are not as heavily cultivated, and so more native vegetation can be seen in these areas. There are no wild animals in the farmland zone, but you can still see lowland forest, bushland, wildflowers, and scrub.

Mountain Forest (1,800 – 2,800 metres)

Beginning at 1,800m, the mountain forest zone is the most fertile of all of Kilimanjaro’s vegetation zones. About 96% of Kilimanjaro’s rain falls in this zone, and so the region is extremely wet for most of the year.

The thick vegetation is home to animals such as blue monkeys, elephants, black and white colobus monkeys, bush pigs, squirrels, duikers, elands, and even leopards; although these can be difficult to spot in the thick undergrowth.

Unlike most East African mountain forest, Kilimanjaro’s forests do not have bamboo trees. They do, however, have an impressive variety of bird life.

Low Alpine Zone (2,800 to 3,800 metres)

Stretching from 2,800m to 3,800m, the low alpine zone has two overlapping vegetation types: heaths and the moorland.

The misty heaths begin immediately above the treeline and experience cooler (around 0C or below) temperatures and fairly high rainfall (approximately 1300mm a year). Broad grassy fields dotted with wildflowers characterise this part of the low alpine zone, and animals such as elands, duikers, bushbucks, and buffalo can be seen here.

Beautiful flora such as the yellow-flowered Protea, red-hot poker, Erica Arborea (tree heath), and a number of other plants unique to the area can also be seen.

At approximately 3,200m, the moorlands begin. The air begins to thin at this point, making hiking more difficult and ensuring clear skies overhead. Despite these harsher conditions, it is still possible to see a variety of wildlife such as elephants, elands, klipspringers, and a variety of local rodents at this height. The giant Dendrosenecio Kilimanjari, unique to the mountain, dominates the plant-life in this zone.

 

The Alpine Zone (4,000 to 5,000 metres)

At around 4,000 metres the alpine zone begins. An area of alpine desert with sandy soil and harsh weather, it is here that the temperatures begin to have extreme variations that can jump between 40C during the day and below 0C by night.

There are no permanent animal populations at this height, and plant life is limited to hardy flowers and mosses.

The Summit (5000+ metres)

At this height, there is only rock and ice. Only insects and the hardiest forms of lichen can exist in these harsh conditions.

The summit has a number of glaciers, the most prominent of which is the Great Northern Glacier at Kibo’s northern face. 

DETAILS TO KNOW BEFORE CLIMBING 

BE PHYSICALLY PREPARED

Kilimanjaro general information, help to understand some details during the preparation and during the activities, climbing mount Kilimanjaro is important to prepare your body for the physical challenges, we have developed a fitness training program which will assist you in getting your body in shape for your mount Kilimanjaro summit expedition.

MENTAL PREPARATION

It is possible to summit Kilimanjaro successfully. Many before you have succeeded. This should be topmost in your mind when preparing for the summit attempt. You should always remain in a positive state of mind, but not overly arrogant. Try to anticipate various different scenarios, which you may possibly encounter on the mountain and try to work out the most suitable course of action, mentally by yourself or even as a group.

Your mental stamina will, without a doubt, make the really difficult sections, like from Kibo to Uhuru or from Barafu to Uhuru, easier to complete. Remember if you are properly equipped, you have taken everything as indicated on the final checklist, you are physically prepared and have all the knowledge gained from this internet guide – you will be mentally confident for the physical part of Kilimanjaro.

BE PROPERLY EQUIPPED

An essential part of your preparation will be to ensure that you are well equipped for your summit attempt. 

ADEQUATE TRAVEL INSURANCE

Make sure that you have adequate travel and medical insurance, which will also provide you with cover for the climb up Kilimanjaro.

Kilimanjaro general information on the mountain

ON THE MOUNTAIN

GO SLOWLY

Go slowly – “Pole Pole” as they say in Swahili! This is also very important during your first days of climbing. Even if you feel well, slow down and enjoy the scenery.

DRINK ENOUGH WATER

Drink at least 3 – 4 litres of liquid a day – preferably water. For your first day it is recommended that you take along fresh water, which may be purchased at the hotel in Moshi before your climb. Try to get the bottles with the screw tops, this way you will also have containers in which to take water further up the mountain.

Running water on the mountain is safe to drink from day-2 onward, but care should still be taken. If you are not used to fresh water in nature, prevent any inconvenience by using water purification tablets. REMEMBER! A functioning “body water balance” is one of the keys to a successful climb!

WALK HIGH – SLEEP LOW

If possible and especially on your acclimatization day “walk high – sleep low” Try to do a short evening stroll to a higher altitude and then descend to sleep at the camp at a lower altitude. This is essential on your acclimatization day.

CLIMB LIGHT

Climb as lightly as possible; this becomes even more important on your summit night. Extra weight will slow you down and will also make breathing more difficult.

PACKING

Remember that you will be on the mountain for at least 5 or 6 days. You need to take enough clothing, especially socks to last for this period. Due to frequent rainfall as well as numerous streams on the routes, it is advisable to pack items individually in your bag. These individually packed items should be wrapped in plastic bags to prevent them from getting wet in case of rain or of being accidentally dropped in a stream.

CLOTHING

Will require the correct underwear, thermal hiking socks, gloves (preferably mittens), warm head protection, rain coat, sunglasses and sun protection cream. Also remember your hiking boots, hiking/running shoes (it is not necessary to walk with boots or climbers shoes until the last sections where scree and rocks are encountered), and very importantly, a walking stick / ski-pole. One of the most critical items of clothing is an outer jacket.

You want it to perform the functions of keeping you warm, protect you at temperatures of as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius, keep the wind out and yet still “breath”.

Try to avoid tight fitting clothing or underwear. This will hamper circulation, causing either cold or discomfort on the mountain. A balaclava is a must, as it will protect your face against cold, wind, sun and snow. Other clothing like shorts, sweaters and T-shirts are strongly recommended, especially during hiking on the lower slopes, when the day temperatures are still high.

The only way to ensure that you are dressed warmly is to follow the principal of wearing the correct clothing layers, starting from against the body. A common mistake made by climbers is to wear almost everything they have and to start off with cotton against the skin. Cotton absorbs moisture perfectly, and moisture trapped against the skin will result in a definite lowering of the body temperature, which could even lead to hypothermia.

It is therefore very important to use proper thermal underwear with “wicking” properties (a fabric which has the ability to draw moisture away from the body) and thus enabling it to evaporate to the outside. The middle layer should provide the insulation and a product like polar fleece will be adequate in this regard. The outer layer should be windproof, waterproof and breathable.

Products like Ventex, Goretex or Jeantex offer these properties. Short of altitude and physical exertion, cold is one of the most serious obstacles when attempting to summit Kilimanjaro. After securing your booking with us, you’ll receive a comprehensive document, to guide you through the steps of purchasing the correct gear.

TAKE A SKI – POLE

A ski – pole is essential. Use of ski poles reduces external and internal loads on the knee joint by up to 20%. Using 1 ski pole is a must, but 2 poles are recommended. Buy one or hire one but take one.

NEW BATTERIES

Replace your head lamp and camera batteries with new ones on your summit night.

Kilimanjaro general information on AMS

ACUTE MOUNTAIN SICKNESS (AMS)

AMS commonly affects people at high altitude, who are not accustomed to high altitude conditions. AMS can be lethal if not treated immediately or if its symptoms are ignored. Probably 70% of all people climbing Kilimanjaro will suffer to some extent from AMS. You should familiarise yourself with this condition and take preventative care.

MALARIA

Malaria occurs below 1800 meters and you should use the recommended prophylactics. Please consult your doctor about these. Currently, there are various preventative medication products available which will be effective against the malaria strains currently found in Tanzania. Women using oral contraceptives should consult their physicians before using prophylactics.

GUIDES AND PORTERS

Once on the Mountain, your well equipped guides and porters, will rank second only to your mental determination, in terms of important factors contributing to a successful summit attempt. For the duration of your Kilimanjaro trek, your guide will be your advisor, he will lead you to the summit, and he will bring down safely again. It will be important that you work closely with him and take note of his advice.

QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GUIDES

Guides are compulsory for all routes on Kilimanjaro. All our treks up the mountain are lead by highly trained and qualified guides, registered with the Kilimanjaro National Parks Board.

Each of our guides has been selected over years, based on experience, safety record and through feedback from previous clients. Over the years they made a major contribution to our proud success rate of 95%+ and have safely guided in excess of 7000 successful Destination Africa Tours clients to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

SUPPORT STAFF RATIOS

The average ratio of our support staff to climbers is 3 porters per climber, a cook and one guide for 2 climbers. This excellent staff to clients ratio, bolstered by our superior support equipment, will ensure your safety and enjoyment on the mountain.

PORTERS AND COOK

Porters do not only transport your gear and the supplies up and down the mountain. Arriving at every camp site long before you, they will have already erected your tent on your arrival. In the evening they will also boil drinking and washing water and the cook will prepare dinner of a quality that has surprised many previous clients.

WEIGHT LIMITS FOR PORTERS

Remember that there is a weight limit of 15 kg (30 lbs) per climber, on the gear of each climber to be portered. A soft duffel bag (barrel type) is preferred – a rucksack is not necessary as they prefer to porter the loads balanced on their heads and shoulders.

Kilimanjaro general information on tipping

TIPPING

This is a “compulsory tradition” on every Kilimanjaro climb. We recommend giving a tip of between US $ 130 to US $ 200 per climber to the mountain crew at the end of the climb. We recommend giving the tip to the main guide who will then distribute the tip among the mountain crew. We recommend not paying any tips until you and all your gear have descended from the mountain.

  • Guide US$ 20 – 35
  • Assistant Guide US$ 20
  • Cook US$ 20
  • Porters US$ 10 – 20
 

CHECKLIST

One of the important prerequisites of a successful summit attempt is being properly equipped. Ensure that you are well equipped – print the Checklist below and mark it off, it will be an essential part of your preparation for the climb.

Please remember to limit the weight of your duffel bag and its content, to be carried by the porters on the climb, to 15 kg (30 lbs.) or less. Extra luggage, including clean clothes to wear after your climb, can be left at the hotel in Moshi.

Please feel free to contact us should you have any further questions regarding the checklist.

We also provide a complete and quality rental service on all the equipment required on the mountain, as a sensible alternative to purchasing.

 

Kilimanjaro general information on Travel Document 

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS

  • Valid passport and visa
  • Airline ticket
  • International health card with immunizations (Yellow fever)
  • Travel insurance
  • Medical insurance
  • US$ cash – IN SMALL BILLS / Credit Card

ESSENTIAL ITEMS

  • Duffel bag – large enough for all climbing gear and clothing. To be carried by the porters. An extra bag to be left at the hotel with extra gear
  • Small luggage lock – to lock zippers
  • Day backpack – between 20 – 35 litres. Large enough to carry your water, camera, raincoat, lunch pack, snacks & warm clothing
  • Sleeping bag
  • Ski-pole / walking stick
  • Water bottle / containers
  • Kilimanjaro map (Can be bought at Park gate)
  • High Altitude Gear
  • Waterproof, breathable & windproof jacket (outer wear like Ventex, Gore-Tex or Jeantex)
  • Waterproof, breathable & windproof pants (outer wear)
  • Polar fleece (middle layer)
  • Thermal underwear (under layers)
  • Mittens or warm gloves
  • Glove liners (if necessary)
  • One pair thermal (polertex) socks
  • Balaclava
  • Gaiters
  • Thermal water flask
  • Hiking Gear
  • Shorts
  • Hiking pants
  • Regular underwear
  • T-shirts
  • Raincoat or Poncho
  • Footwear
  • Water resistant semi-stiff hiking boots – mid weight boots work great
  • Shoes for overnight camps – i.e. sneakers, running shoes, etc.
  • Socks – several pairs for the climb
  • Liner socks – to keep your feet dry and limit the risk of blisters
Kilimanjaro general information on equipment 

EQUIPMENT

  • Sun hat or similar (with a brim)
  • Collapsible ski stick (optional but highly recommended)
  • Water bottles – two or three (total capacity at least 6 litres)
  • Head lamp, good strong one with spare batteries and an extra light bulb
  • Water purification tablets
  • Sunglasses, good quality dark lenses for the climb, with a securing strap
  • Flashlight (torch) with spare batteries
  • Personal Items
  • Toilet kit (soap, tooth brush, toilet articles, wet wipes, etc.)
  • Towel
  • Sun screen and lip protection, SPF 30+
  • Ziploc bags, to protect camera, binoculars, etc. from dust
  • Toilet paper
  • Money belt for passport and valuables
  • Medical and First Aid Supplies
  • Headaches–Syndols
  • Altitude sickness-Diamox (if not allergic to sulpha)
  • Diarrhoea – Imodium
  • Nausea – Valoid
  • Malaria – Prophylaxis
  • Water purification tablets
  • Painkillers
  • Muscular sprains
  • Abrasions blisters and cuts – Plaster, bandages
  • Antiseptic cream – Betadine
  • Flu and colds
  • Eye drops
  • Insect repellent
  • Optional Items
  • Camera, extra lenses and film (ASA 200 film recommended)
  • Binoculars
  • Powdered sports drinks for the climb (ex. Game or Isotonic drinks)
  • Pocket knife
  • Notebook & pencil
  • Plastic bags to keep clothing dry (masking tape)
  • Energy snacks and sweets
  • Video camera, tapes, battery packs and tri-pod

Trekking gears

For more details about Kilimanjaro Frequency Asked Question please click this link FAQ

Kilimanjaro general information

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