Here we will cover the basic information on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. We recommend that you read everything here to help you understand the undertaking you are hoping to take on...
Park regulations dictate that you can only climb Mount Kilimanjaro as part of an organised trek, with a properly licensed mountain operator. You cannot simply buy a permit and head off onto the mountain. Nor can you hire a guide and do the same. You have to trek with a fully equipped team, usually of between 3-6 members of staff per trekker.
A trek on Kilimanjaro is a hugely complex logistical issue and even small errors in the logistics and staff training can drastically reduce the chances of summit success and can easily lead to trek failure or even death. Although this might imply a disciplined and well-controlled trekking environment, the reality on the ground is rather different. Selecting a decent operator is crucial to maximising your chances of summit success and minimising the levels of risk. We sincerely hope that we will be able to communicate to you why you might consider our mountain partners, The African Walking Company, to be the best choice.
In terms of total costs for a great Kilimanjaro trek, including flights from home and all extras, you probably need to plan for around USD 4000-6000 per person. A fair bit more if you want to add safari and/or tropical beaches. Our mountain operation is designed to maximise summit success and enjoyment, whilst to minimising risks.
We do not cut corners, nor do we layer our treks with unnecessary additional expenses. We provide great levels of service at affordable prices.
The Kilimanjaro trek itself typically costs between USD 2100 and USD 3400 per person, including all park fees, hotel nights and transfers between the airports, hotels and the mountain.
After park fees, this works out around USD 200 to USD 400 per person per night, which really isn't a lot considering the scale and complexity of the logistics involved. Shorter routes are cheaper, the prices are more or less pro-rata per day. The larger your group size, the lower the cost per person. Treks are noticeably more expensive for 1 to 3 trekkers, less for 4 and 5 trekkers and levelling off from around 6 trekkers. In terms of additional costs, you also need to allow up to an extra USD 150 for tips and maybe another USD 100 for various optional equipment rental.
You also need to consider your long-haul flights to Africa, which are likely to cost around USD$1400/2200 per person from North America, or USD600/1200 per person from Europe and Asia. The nearest airport is Kilimanjaro International.
You may also want to add in a safari, beach holiday and other elements to your trek as a reward for summiting Kilimanjaro, which we can certainly help with.
The park authorities are relatively relaxed about who or how many people can trek the mountain, so restrictions on age and health are more likely to be imposed either by yourselves or by our recommendations ...LOWER AGE LIMIT
Although the official lower age limit set by the Kilimanjaro National Park Authority for trekking to Uhuru Peak is 10 years old, we usually recommend a minimum age of 13 years. We request that you let us know at the time of making an enquiry if any member of your group will be under 16 at the time of the ascent, as we may need to make special arrangements, notably including extra summit guides.We have lots of experience of treks with younger people and regularly operate group treks for schools, so please do feel free to get in touch for a chat. If we have concerns we will make them clear and may even recommend that you do not trek.UPPER AGE LIMIT
There is no upper age limit and people in their seventies and eighties regularly make the summit. Seventy years old is the threshold which we have set to get the alarm bells ringing and advise extra health checks, but trekkers of any age are welcome. In reality, we have found that older climbers often have a lot of advantages over the younger generations ... they are generally better equipped to deal with adversity, more single-minded, are more intent on achieving their goal and can pace themselves accordingly. These factors often outweigh the physical advantages of youth.FITNESS LEVELS
Trekking up Kilimanjaro is a seriously tough undertaking. When people speak of the degree of difficulty, they are mainly referring to the six to eight-hour summit approach, which is undeniably tough, mainly due to the extreme altitude.The days that precede this ascent are generally not too physically demanding for anyone with a reasonable degree of fitness, although a combination of adverse factors such as bad weather, altitude sickness and general tiredness arising from being out on the mountain can make even these easier days rather more of a challenge.Trekkers come in all shapes and sizes, from marathon runners to the exercise adverse.Although this is far from being a hard and fast rule, generally speaking, the fitter you are, the greater your chances of summit success. Often it is the more determined people who get to the top, so mental fitness and focus is also a major component. The extent to which you will be affected by altitude sickness is not directly linked to absolute fitness.MEDICAL CHECKS
A trek on Mount Kilimanjaro is likely to cause considerable strain on your bodily systems, so it can be a good idea for all trekkers to seek medical advice before considering such an undertaking. However we only strongly recommend medical checks for people in high and medium risk categories ...
The following people are considered to be at high risk on Mount Kilimanjaro...... men over 60 ... women over 65 ... anyone with previous heart or respiratory problems. If you fall into this category then we urge you to take a full medical before even considering whether to trek and then a further medical a couple of weeks before the trek. You must advise us when making a reservation in order than we might tailor our service on the mountain accordingly.
The following people are considered to be at medium risk on Mount Kilimanjaro...... men over 40 ... women over 50. If you fall into this category then you are advised to have a full medical a couple of weeks before the trek.This information is given as a general recommendation only and does not constitute medical advice. It is up to you to determine whether you are in a fit condition appropriate for undertaking a trek of this nature. If in doubt consult a fully qualified medical practitioner.
The majority of people trekking Mount Kilimanjaro fall into 2 categories. Those that just want to climb Kilimanjaro and then fly home and those who use it as part of a larger reason to get to Africa and do other things that have perhaps been bucket list travel fantasies. Either way there are some basic things to think of and wrap your head around.
Arriving early in Africa for your trek will significantly increase your chances of summiting. This apparently small issue is one which is overlooked by most trekkers as it may not be so obvious as to why it is so important.RECOVERY FROM HOME, WORK LIFE & INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS
Most people live a hectic lifestyle back home and are forced to work right up to the moment that they get on the plane to fly to Africa. This is not conducive to a successful mountain attempt. Add to this the hassle and sleeplessness of the flights, along with delays, panics about weather delays in their home country and the stress of lost luggage and it is quite easy for most people to collapse on arrival and need days to get the adrenaline out of their system, catch up on sleep and get themselves ready for a physical undertaking which will probably be as tough as anything they have ever taken on before.
On top of all this, when arriving in Africa, you need time to physically adjust to the new environment. Our bodies are good at concealing this from our conscious minds in order that we can just get on, but you should still be aware that you are asking the demands of your physical system. Not least amongst these are the modifications that your dietary system has to make on arrival in a new location, with there being different balances of bacteria in the water and food which your system needs to cater for.LOW-LEVEL ALTITUDE & EXERCISE
Recovery and acclimatisation from all of the above should be done at the relatively low altitudes of Arusha, Moshi or Marangu. Here you should stay in the most comfortable surroundings that you can afford, minimising the risks and maximising the effects. Some of the lodges in Arusha are like modern spa hotels, relaxing and beautiful. Here you can spend days alternating between relaxation and exercise. There is excellent hiking around the villages in the foothills of Meru and Kilimanjaro, which are both scenic and fascinating. This is where you will see rural Africa, meet the people and learn a bit about the place. It is all good for the body and soul before the main event of the trek.
As will be the case with any decent trek operators, we only offer pre-booked trips. So you will need to book your trek in advance before leaving for Tanzania. It tends to be only the lesser and more fly-by-night operators which offer treks locally since the proper planning of a trek is a lot more complicated than just making a few last minute arrangements.
Our usual lead time between booking and trekking is 12 to 26 weeks, largely because most trekkers want to leave themselves a good length of time to get some training under their belts. For peak season treks, especially in Dec, Jan. Feb, Jul, Aug and Sep treks often sell out much further in advance.
The best way to get started is usually to have a chat with us either on the phone or by email and that should enable you to quickly figure out if this is something you would like to pursue. We are always happy to chat and answer your questions.Please do bear in mind that both Directors of Tailormade Africa have climbed Kilimanjaro themselves and have sent hundreds if not thousands of people up Kilimanjaro over a 13 year period of being tour operators. You are in great hands!
All communal equipment such as tents and cooking gear is provided by the mountain operator. All personal equipment is usually provided by the trekkers, as detailed below.BAGGAGE
All climbs are equipped with a full medical kit. Trekkers are also encouraged to bring their own small medical kits containing the items on the list below and any other medication specific to your own health requirements:
Once on the mountain, you will carry your own backpack with the few lightweight items that you may need, such as clothing layers, cameras and snacks. You should usually try to keep this below 5kg or 12lbs per person.The remainder of your personal gear will be carried between camp locations by porters. You should make this available in a strong but lightweight bag, so that it can be combined with others inside a larger porter bag. The weight of this portered gear is limited by your personal baggage allowance. This allowance is given per person, but in reality we average it across the group, so you may be able to coordinate with other members of your group to take advantage of any unused allowance.
You are free to leave any gear that you do not need on the mountain at our base and it will be delivered to you when you descend from the mountain.If the weight of your gear exceeds this amount then you have three choices: If you know in advance of making your initial booking that your baggage requirements will be substantially over the allowance, then you can let us know and we can pre-book an additional porter or porters at around USD 30 per porter per night. If you arrive at the pre-trek briefing before the trek and your gear is found to be over the limit, then you can either choose to leave some items behind or you can pay for us to provide an extra porter at around USD$30 per porter per night.RENTAL EQUIPMENT
The African Walking Company maintains a modest store of equipment for rental. We cannot guarantee the availability of any items, so we recommend that guests pre-book at the earliest possible convenience, usually at the same time as booking a trip. Payment is made locally.
Four seasons duvet jacket: Rental price - US$60. These thick insulated jackets are Mountain Equipment Annapurna down jackets, which are available for hire in 3 sizes
Walking poles: Rental price - US$10. Walking poles are collapsible so when you are not needing them, they can be carried on your daysack. Poles are very useful when trekking Kilimanjaro particularly on the descent. Universal size.
Four seasons sleeping: Rental price - US$45. Sleeping bags come in one size suitable for all people up to 1.88m or 6'2" tall. The sleeping bags are synthetic four season bags and are supplied with a cotton liner. They are manufactured by Mountain Equipment or Vango.
Foam Sleeping Mattress: Rental price - US$30. These sleeping mattresses are made of 50mm think high-density foam covered with water resistant material, so provide a greater level of comfort than thinner inflatable types. Some people bring an inflatable mattress as well to lie on top of the foam. The relatively high price is due to the porterage requirement rather than the cost of the item itself. The weight of these foams mats are not counted in your 15kg personal allowance.PHOTOGRAPHIC EQUIPMENT
Most trekkers want to at least get a snap of them at the summit. Many take the opportunity to keep a photographic or video diary of the trek.It is important to realise the limitations of your photographic equipment. Almost every camera these days has some level of digital functionality, even where the end photograph is still recorded on film. Digital equipment is notoriously sensitive to low temperatures. Check the equipment specification.
Kilimanjaro gets colder the higher you go, so the main issue challenge for cameras is the summit itself. The temperatures on top are usually around zero early in the morning, in which case most equipment should be fine. But at certain times of the year, notably, May/Jul temperatures can drop much lower, in which case your best bet is to keep your camera stowed away inside your clothing and only bringing it out for the occasional photo opportunity.
In all cases, it is worth keeping your spare batteries close to you in order to keep them warm.You should also note that at lower temperatures, battery life falls away rapidly, so you need to bring plenty of spares. There are many photo stories of Kilimanjaro that don't make it all the way to the top for this reason.We also recommend that you bring all photographic film, video cassettes, memory cards and batteries from home as supplies in Tanzania are not reliable.A polariser or neutral density filter is recommended.PERSONAL INSURANCE
It is absolutely essential that all trekkers climbing Kilimanjaro have full travel insurance. The climb operator, African Waking Company, will not take trekkers to the mountain if they do not have adequate insurance cover and no refunds will be paid. It is critical that your policy specifically and explicitly covers high altitude trekking to the summit of Kilimanjaro. If it does not then please get an additional letter from the insurance company making this point absolutely clear. Also, make sure that the cover includes all medical and repatriation costs.
For our personal cover here at Tailormade Africa, we use a UK based insurance broker which specialises in adventure travel. Their standard travel policies include both high altitude trekking and scuba diving. For single trip insurance, you can expect to pay around US$100 to US$200 per person. Although the insurers are local to us here in the UK, they will cover travellers originating from anywhere around the world and we are happy to put you in touch with them.
There are many pros and cons to climbing Kilimanjaro, either way, to be honest. For us, at Tailormade Africa we believe that the group climbs just about edge it simply from a camaraderie point of view with other climbers. This is obviously not an issue if your private climb is made up of 6 or more friends/family all climbing together, then you would absolutely do a private climb for just yourselves. However, for 2-4 people we believe you gain far more from being part of a “family” of like-minded people all trying to achieve something truly great and helping each other through the negative times on the mountain.GROUP CLIMBS
A group climb is made up to 15 paying clients that can come from a variety of tour operators like ourselves and given how selective our climb operating team is, African Walking Company, with which companies may sell their trips to you can be assured you are highly likely to get on with everyone in the group. When we speak to you about your climb we all do some pretty comprehensive profiling before sending people to climb Kilimanjaro. Going up the mountain with those 15 people you will have around 45 staff, made up of a chief guide, some assistant guides, summit porters and general porters, totalling around 60-65 “family members on your trip. You’ll notice we keep using the term family and that is simply because that is how you will feel after the first few days of your climb.
The group dynamic comes into its own on the days that you are struggling. It is that whole peer pressure thing, not wanting to let the team down can really help you stay on course and not give up quite so easily if you only have your partner or friend trying to encourage you. Likewise, if you see someone struggling as a group then many voices encouraging you is harder to ignore than 1 single voice.
It cannot be overstated as to how important this is. We have one piece of advice for you that you should always remember. If your chief and assistant guides say that you can carry on, even if you feel terrible then the fact of the matter is that you can make. It becomes a battle in your mind at that point and nothing else.
Group climbs also mean a high chance of some banter and fun during meal times with the guides and porters too and there is no way of overstating the importance of smiling and having fun all the way up the mountain. You definitely don’t want to be left alone with just your mind for too long.PRIVATE CLIMBS
This really is a no brainer if you are climbing with friends and/or family and your numbers are 6 or over. That’s a fact. It is no cheaper at that point to do a group climb and you have enough numbers to gain from all the pro’s that we have just mentioned on group climbs.
You will be able to trek on days that fall outside of the group departure dates and therefore have areas of the mountain all to yourselves and not as part of a giant community on the nights in the campsite spots. Those are the two main reason to do a private climb and for sure they are valid reasons. For some people, solitude n the mountain as a couple or 2 or 3 mates challenging each other the private climb would work well. So do speak to us in depth so that we can all ascertain what is best for you.
There is no time too soon to start training. The fitter you are the greater your chances of summit success and the more you should enjoy your experience on the mountain.The best exercise for Kilimanjaro is to do lots of walking, preferably at an elevated pace. During work days, try to walk as much as you can ... take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk instead of driving or catching a taxi. Try to get at least an hour of walking into every day.
In addition to this, try to get some morning and evening sessions of aerobic activity in, such as cycling, running or spinning. An hour of any of these activities three or four times a week should be a great help. Weekends and days off you should try to head for the hills. Try to walk for 6 to 8 hours, perhaps even on consecutive days. Even try camping out on the nights in between, but be careful not to put yourself off the whole idea. Also, practice walking as slowly as humanly possible! One of the hardest things to deal with mentally is how painfully slow you may end up walking at the behest of the guides. This can become frustrating if you are unaware of it and the temptation to break ranks and stride out on your own will be great, and foolish.
Increase the pace, especially on uphill sections to increase your aerobic capacity. Use the boots that you will bring with you to Kilimanjaro so that they are well worn in.Lose any surplus weight, it will be much more difficult to carry around at altitude.Get as fit as you reasonably can in the time-scale available, make it a priority and make the effort. That way if you don't make it to the top at least you know you have given it a good shot.