Mt Kilimanjaro – Is it on your bucket list??
Is climbing the World’s highest free standing mountain on your bucket list?
Mt Kilimanjaro @5890m asl is made up of 3 main peaks. Many people think that the picture most commonly used for this mountain is Mt Kilimanjaro.
The mountain is made up of 3 Peaks, Shira, Mawenzi and Kibo. The main monolith that you commonly see in photos is Kibo. The summit, Uhuru, that we aim to reach is at the top of Kibo Peak.
This peak has always been a permanent glacier, but as global warming increases, the glacier is receeding.
There are 6 routes that can be taken to climb Mt Kilimanjaro - Lemosho, Rongai, Macheme, Marangu, Mweka,and Umbwe Routes. Each one taking a different length of time to reach the summit. Some of these routes are shorter and as a result, allow less time to acclimatize to the altitude. Lemosho is the longest route (8 days) and has a higher success rate with lots of opportunity to acclimatize.
The great thing about the Mt Kilimanjaro trek is that while you are walking you pass through 5 different climatic vegetation zones. The first zone is known as Cultivation Zone. This region of the mountain receives the greatest annual rainfall. It also has many rivers formed by glacier run-off from the top of Kilimanjaro. This zone is made up of farmland and small Chagga villages. These villages are where many of the porters and guides you will see on the mountain come from. You will drive through these villages on the way to your climb.
The next zone is Rainforest and the jungle here is simply amazing. The colors seem more vibrant than any forest you have ever seen. The trail is flanked by deep gorges of emerald blankets of every shade of green imaginable. Rising majestically out of the forest floor are twisted, ancient trees draped in coats of moss. When there is a break in the foliage, you get views of the clouds weaving their way through the tree tops. The temperatures in the forest are usually mild and if it’s going to rain on your climb, it will be here.
Next we enter the Heather and Mooreland Zones where the temperature can be very temperamental. It can be quite warm during the day and then at night become quite cold. Large fields of wild flower cover sections of the mountain and you will often see clouds floating at your eye level. Expect amazing blue skies at the upper end of this zone. There will be little cloud cover to protect you from the sun’s UV rays. Brings lots of sunscreen!
The Highland and Desert Zone is next and this region of the mountain is a strange place, truly deserving the title of Desert. The annual rainfall is less than 8 inches a year and what plant life exists at this altitude has to put up with the oppressive sun and sub-zero temperatures—all in the same day. This area also shows off its violent past with fields of volcanic rock of all shapes and sizes.
The last zone is known as the Artic Zone and for very good reason. Here the terrain is thick dense scree that is very difficult to walk on. The attempt at the summit is done during the night and it is extremely cold during the early hours of the morning. Once you reach Stella Point, the summit is within reach. The sun will be just starting to rise as you arrive here and the sunrise is nothing short of spectacular. It is approximately 30 to 40 minutes from Stella Point across to Uhuru Summit.
Some of the routes up Mt Kilimanjaro offer hut accommodation, while tents are also used. Lemosho Route does not have huts and all trekkers sleep in tents. The Tanzania National Park Authority are improving the toilet facilities at all of the camps, which is great to see. Toilets are "drop toilets" and most are squat - so don't get too excited.
Summit night is a big night and after going to bed about 7.30pm, your guide will wake you up about 11pm. The walk up to the summit starts about midnight and is steep and steady up to either Gillman's Point or Stella Point (depending on the route you are on). You will reach the Uhuru Summit around 6.30am/7am and the sunrise is truly spectacular.
After a photo or two at the summit, you will head back down to your camp. It is much quicker heading down, but the terrain is thick, loose scree and it is not uncommon to have a few falls along the way.
Back at camp you get to have a little sleep and then some lunch before heading further down the mountain to your next camp. It is usually another 3 or 4 hours walking to get to your next camp. All up Summit day/night is a big day with lots of walking, so it is very early to bed for everyone.
The final day on the mountain takes you back down into the rain forest and to the end of your trek. A nice shower awaits you at your hotel.
As you are walking at high altitudes on Mt Kilimanjaro, it is important to stay well hydrated at all times. Your Guide will be constantly reminding you to drink lots of water - probably around 3 to 4 litres a day. Staying well hydrated helps your body deal with the higher altitude. The walking pace is also very slow, again allowing your body to adapt to the altitude. Your Guide will be reminding you to walk Pole' Pole' - which means slowly, slowly.
Due to the different climatic zones that we walk through, it is important to have lots of layers of clothing. The first couple of days are quite warm and shorts and T'shirts are all you will need. Once the sun goes down at night, it becomes very cold, so it is thermals, beanies and warm clothing.
As you climb higher the weather can change from sunshine to cloudy and raining in a very short time, so layers of clothing work best. You need to be able to take a layer off, or put one on to suit the weather conditions.
You must have a good to high level of fitness for this trek. The terrain is steep in parts and each day we walk for 6 to 8 hours, so you need to be able to cope with the demands of this type of trekking. As we always say, the fitter you are, the more you will enjoy this trek.
To check out our trek training programs, click here.
Do you want to join us in 2018? Our scheduled trek date for 2018 is June 1st to June 11th - check out the details here!
We also run private groups of 8 or more trekkers and can run these treks to suit your dates. Please get in touch if you want to organise your own private group.