kilimanjaro local guides

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO MOUNT KILIMANJARO EVENTS - KILIMANJARO CLIMB

About Kilimanjaro Training, Gear & Communication Expedition Basics

Here are some common questions about Booking Kilimanjaro Climb. 

So you want to climb Kilimanjaro, but don’t know a thing about it?

This guide to climbing Kilimanjaro is for you. It takes the most frequently asked questions and common misconceptions about climbing Kilimanjaro and sets the record straight.

If you a beginner in hiking or backpacking, don’t worry! Up to half of our clients have had little or no experience in the outdoors before to booking their expeditions with us. And they performed just as well as our seasoned climbers on Kilimanjaro. The summit is definitely within your reach!

The Beginner’s Guide to Mount Kilimanjaro Events Guided

Where is Kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania, Africa. It is unique not only for being the highest in Africa and one of the 7 summits but for having one of the highest stand-alone vertical gains of any mountain earth. It stands seemingly alone in the Tanzanian savannah. Most climbers fly into Kilimanjaro airport and take a cab or bus to Moshi, Tanzania to meet up with their team or guide service. View Kilimanjaro on a larger map.

When is it usually Kilimanjaro climbed?

Being near the equator, it can be climbed most anytime of the year however the biggest consideration is the rainy season in the winter so summer is most popular with September being the prime month.

How does the normal routes on Kilimanjaro compare with Denali since it is at a similar altitude or Rainier?

Kilimanjaro is a straightforward climb via the normal routes with no real objective danger except for cold summit weather. Porters carry everything for you, as required by the park regulations, so all you carry is a simple day pack with the bare essentials. On Kilimanjaro, it is very dry and there is rarely snow down low but some snow on the summit. There is no crevasse danger like on Denali or Rainier on the normal routes. It more similar to a tough Colorado 14er than Rainier or Denali.

I read that Kilimanjaro is an easy climb, really just a high-altitude hike. How hard is it?

If you are in great aerobic shape, it can be "easy" on a perfect weather day and on the normal routes. But as with most of the extreme altitude climbs, Kilimanjaro can have brutal summit weather with temperatures at 0F and if the winds are blowing, the wind chills can be very dangerous. Climbers die on KIlimanjaro. Also, remember this is almost 6,000 meters, 20,000 feet so AMS is always a risk as is HAPE or HACE.

Is an Kilimanjaro climb dangerous?

Kilimanjaro is a relatively safe climb by the standard routes. However, there are always deaths on these big mountains. Kilimanjaro is no different. The most common cause of death is probably altitude related and that is from going too fast and not taking the time to acclimatize. This is why selecting the proper guide service is critical.

How many people had summited and how many people had died trying?

It is estimated that 25,000 climb Kilimanjaro using the various routes each year. The summit rate is around 66% with cold summit days and altitude issues being the major reasons for not summiting. We understand there is about 1 death each year thus it is relatively safe, however one climber was killed by lightning in early 2013

Training, Gear & Communication

How did you train for this climb Kilimanjaro ?

an excellent condition both the physically and mentally for this Kilimanjaro climb. But We suggest the usual training regime of running, light weight and aerobic conditioning.

Was altitude a problem on this Kilimanjaro climb?

Yes! Anytime you are above 8,000' you can experience problems. Kilimanjaro is a serious high altitude mountain. Even though the normal routes are not technically difficult, the altitude takes it toll on climbers each year thus the 66% success rate. We had several members of our team struggle (including vomiting) with the altitude on the summit push but everyone pushed through and we had 100% success.

Can you prepare for the Kilimanjaro altitude?

Not really. The common approach is to move slowly up the mountain (1000' a day maximum) spending your days at a higher altitude than where you sleep up until your summit bid. The human body simply does not function well at high altitudes and especially above 8000m (26,300'). As you go higher, the barometric pressure decreases, although the air still contains 21% oxygen, every breath contains less molecules of oxygen.

Noted:

The lower oxygen stimulates chemoreceptors that initiate an increase in breathing, resulting in a lowering of the partial pressure of CO2 and hence more alkaline blood pH. The kidneys begin to unload bicarbonate to compensate. Though this adaptation can take many days, up to 80% occurs just in the first 48 to 72 hours. There are many other physiologic changes going on, among them the stimulus of low oxygen to release the hormone, erythropoietin to stimulate more red blood cell production, a physiological and still acceptable form of blood doping that enhances endurance performance at low altitudes. Adaptive changes are not always good for one’s health. Some South American high altitude residents can have what’s called chronic mountain sickness, resulting from too many red blood cells; their blood can be up to 84-85% red blood cells. The increased blood viscosity and sometimes associated pulmonary hypertension can result in right heart failure.

You cannot do much to acclimatize while at a low altitude but there are companies that claim to help the acclimatization process through specially designed tents that simulate the reduced oxygen levels at higher elevations. We have no personal experience with these systems but you can find more details at the Hypoxico website. They cost about $7,000 or can be rented for about $170 a week.

What kind of equipment did you use?

Mostly we use the same gear we used on Mountain . Lot's of layers. It is always critical to protect my toes, fingers and face since these are most susceptible to frost bite. As for warmth, we always wear a knit cap and at least liner gloves when we get the least bit cool - regardless of the outside temp. We used simple trekking pants and top for the lower levels but got serious for summit night. We use a 3 layer system of Merino wool base layer (top and bottom) Patagonia Hoody as a mid layer then top wind or warmth layer e.g. Patagonia Micro Puff. When it got windy, added rain shell, the Patagonia Rain Shadow jacket.

Anything special in your gear for Kilimanjaro?

A rain cover for pack it’s very useful. Some people bring an umbrella.

Expedition Basics:

Which Kilimanjaro routes are most popular?

There are 5 main Kilimanjaro routes that meander from the jungle through five microclimates to join the three final ascent routes to Kibo. Both the Machame and Lemosho routes offer a more leisurely paced scenic climb. The Lemosho route is less crowded while the Machame route has a more difficult beginning but joins into the same route as the Lemosho. The Marangu climb is crowded since it follows a road part way. There is a technical route, the Western Breach, but is is prone to rock fall and is considered extremely dangerous and not offered by most companies unless you are willing to take the risks.

How long does a climb Kilimanjaro usually take?

The actual time on Kilimanjaro only 5-7 days.

How much does a standard climb cost with and without a guide?

The costs can range from $1500 to $7000 depending on who you use. You must use a guide due to Tanzanian government regulations.

Do I need a permit to climb Kilimanjaro ?

Yes you must have permit and all climbers, regardless of route or guides, must use a guide and porters, no exceptions.

Do I really need a guide for Kilimanjaro?

As mentioned, the park service requires guides and porters but they vary in skill as you would expect. The worst one rush clients to the summit to squeeze in more customers throughout the season. But the vast majority are well versed in AMS and take their time. But with local guides, if you get sick, they may not know what to do other than drag you lower. For more serious injuries, your life could be in danger so choose carefully. There is no helicopter evacuation on Kilimanjaro unless dire circumstances. You must bring a two-way radio and a sat phone in my opinion and have the frequency or number of the local rescue resources already programmed in.

Are there local guides for Kilimanjaro?

Yes, there are many quality choices based out of Moshi. and Arusha. Most are less expensive than traditional Western companies but some charge about the same price.

Does an extra day help acclimatization?

Most guidebooks recommend that climbers spend an extra day during the Marangu route climb especially. This is very much a personal decision, but our statistics do not indicate any greater success rate amongst 6 day Marangu route climbers over 5 day climbers. More important for success is the overall approach to the climb, right from the start. That said, many people like an extra day spent on the ascent because it makes the whole climb more relaxed and gives an opportunity to go on some pleasant walks on the slopes of Mawenzi.

I’ve heard many horror stories about Kilimanjaro. How do I know that it’s safe to climb with you?

Our organisation has been sending people up Kilimanjaro for many years, and we have enormous experience. We arrange climbs for around 100 climbers every year, and a number of us involved in the running of climb the mountain regularly so that our experience of conditions is always very recent. Our guides (numbering over 40 at the moment) only work for us, so we can be sure that our standards are consistent. In particular, you will not find yourself being harassed for tips by your crew during your climb.

If there is a problem on the mountain what are the rescue procedures?

The national park operates a rescue service, and the ranger stations at the huts and campsites around the mountain are linked to each other and to the park headquarters by radio. In the vast majority of emergency cases, the problem is altitude related and the solution is immediate descent to a lower altitude. Our mountain crew are all experienced at dealing with such cases and can bring climbers down to safe altitudes very quickly and without park assistance if it is not immediately available.

Is it possible to rent mountain equipment from the hotel?

We have a large stock of clothing, tents and sleeping bags. This is primarily for the free use of our fully equipped climbers but we also make equipment available for hire to hard way climbers where possible. In all cases, we encourage climbers to bring as much of their own warm clothing as possible. In particular, climbers should avoid having to hire or borrow boots.

I read in the Lonely Planet that the success rate on Kilimanjaro is less than thirty percent. Is this true and if so is there any reason for me to climb it knowing I won’t make it to the top?

Many people climb Kilimanjaro without knowing what they are letting themselves in for. Consequently they may be inadequately clothed and fed, and they therefore have a miserable and unsuccessful time. We make sure that you are properly informed and equipped, and our success rate to the crater rim is 87%. Our success rate to Uhuru peak is 70%. It should be noted that our climbers come from a very broad range of ages and abilities. However, we always stress that the main reason to climb Kilimanjaro (or any other mountain) is to have a safe and enjoyable time. Reaching the summit is a bonus, but should never be seen as the sole aim of the climb.

How cold does it get on Kilimanjaro?

The temperature at the top of the mountain can vary widely. Sometimes it is only a degree or two below freezing, but visitors should be prepared for the possibility of temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius, perhaps in conjunction with a wind.

Can children climb Kilimanjaro?

The national park rules stipulate that the minimum age for climbing above 3000 metres is 10 years. This is because altitude sickness can affect children very quickly and dangerously.

What should I know about altitude sickness?

There are different types of altitude sickness. “Mild acute mountain sickness” is very common, and is not as frightening as its name suggests. The symptoms are headaches, nausea and vomiting, though not everyone suffers from all the symptoms. Normally, symptoms fade after a few hours, but if they do not a climber may need to turn back, since the condition cannot be allowed to develop. Any enjoyment to be had from the climb will have disappeared by now anyway. A much more serious type of altitude sickness is called oedema. This is a build-up of fluid in the body, and when the fluid collects in the lungs or the brain a serious condition develops which requires immediate action in the form of descent to a lower altitude, where recovery is usually miraculously fast. To acclimatise properly, a climber should not climb more than around 300 metres per day,but all ascents on Kilimanjaro are very much faster than that. The secret, therefore, is to make each day’s ascent as slow as possible.

During your pre-climb briefing, we describe altitude sickness to you in detail, and advise you how to cope with it. The most important thing is not to fear it, but to respect it and to know how to deal with it. Our guides have seen every condition that the mountain produces, and they will always know how to deal with problems.

What is an anorak and what is a balaclava?

An anorak is a weatherproof jacket, such as Gore-tex and a balaclava is a woollen sock that fits over the head with slits for only the eyes and mouth.

How is cooking done on the mountain?

We use gas stoves also, especially for larger climbing parties.

Why are tents used on the Machame route although there appear to be huts on that route?

Although there are one or two metal shelters at each of the Machame route camps (and these shelters were referred to as “huts” by the Kilimanjaro Mountain Club which built them long ago), they are now used by national park rangers. Both you and your crew sleep in tents.

If I choose a hard way climb, do I also have to provide food and equipment for my guides and porters?

No, food is provided for the guides and porters by the company .

I’ve heard that many Kilimanjaro operators don’t care if their crew sleep out in the open. Do you provide tents for guides and porters on camping routes?

Yes, we do.

Do you pay wages to your guides and porters? I’ve heard that the only reward they get is the tip at the end of the climb, which is why so many climbers get hassled for tips.

Yes, we do pay them wages, and we pay well above the levels recommended by Kilimanjaro National Park. We also pay guides and porters immediately after each climb. We also provide our crews with food, fuel, and essential warm and waterproof clothing. Our crews all know that tips from climbers are discretionary. And even if you do want to give a tip, we always ask you not to do it on the mountain but back at the hotel after the climb is over. There, everything is relaxed and open.

How much should I tip my mountain guides and porters?

First of all, it is customary on Kilimanjaro to give a tip to guides and porters if pleased with the service they have given, although we stress that tipping is always discretionary. Climbers are advised to budget around $100 to $200 for this purpose – the larger the climbing party, the less each climber generally needs to contribute for tips. In particular, we urge climbers to give a tip to each crew member, and not just to give all the money to the guide and tell him to deal with it. This can be unfair both to guide and crew. More guidance is given about mountain tipping in pre-climb briefings.

Do your guides speak English?

All of our guides speak sufficient English to be able to deal with emergency matters like altitude sickness. None of them speak English so fluently that one could have a complex discussion regarding politics, for instance, but a number can chat fairly fluently about normal everyday topics. There are other guides on the mountain who can speak really very good English, and posters to websites have sometimes compared our guides with these others. The difference lies in attitude and experience. We have always valued our guides more for the way they can deal with emergencies, and for how they can observe and gently encourage climbers to do their best than for how charming and chatty they are – indeed one climber commented to us about how put off she was by the “in your face” attitude, as she put it, of some of the other guides she had observed on the mountain. Where a good command of English on the guide’s part is very important to a climber, we allocate a guide who is more proficient in the language.

Why is the Marangu route called the “Coca Cola” route? Is it really dirty and overcrowded?

There has been a lot of negative press about Marangu. In our view, and we arrange treks on all the routes, it is very unfair. This is the only route that uses huts rather than tents and some years ago there was a serious problem with overcrowding in the huts. In those years the Machame route was much less frequented. But we think the main reason that operators (mostly from Arusha) – speak against the Marangu and boost the Machame is that the booking system for Marangu is demanding of operators’ time. There is no booking system for Machame (nor the other camping routes). You just show up at the Machame gate the first morning of the trek. No one ever knows how many people will be on the trail until the gate closes for that day. There is a daily quota of only about 70 climbers allowed to start on the Marangu route on any day (this is why booking is not always easy). There are many days in the season when there are many more climbers on the Machame route than on the Marangu. This is not in any way to denigrate the very beautiful Machame route. But these are things to bear in mind when hearing the Marangu route described as the tourist, easy or Coca Cola route and the Machame as the scenic or the whisky route! It is true that you will hear many people who have climbed Machame say that it is better than Marangu, and this is conveyed to many of the guide book writers. But remember that the overwhelming majority of climbers only ever climb one route. The chances are that the climbers who say this have never been on the Marangu route and are simply repeating what they have been told or have read.

How is the Marangu route different from the Machame route?

Physically, the Marangu and Machame routes are rather different. The main force of Kibo’s volcanic activity occurred out towards the west (the Machame side) and so Machame is steeper – especially in the first day and a half – and more rugged than Marangu. It is often considered more scenic because the views of Kibo are more impressive than from the south-east (the Marangu approach), but many consider the vegetation on day 2 of the Marangu route to be more attractive than anything seen on the western side. As always with mountains, every route has its advantages and drawbacks. The difficulty grading has Marangu as a 1, and Machame a 1+, so there’s not a great deal in it.

Your prices seem higher than others we’ve been able to find. Why is that?

The cheaper operators often cut costs in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Not paying their crew properly.  KIAfrica Adventure is one of a handful of companies paying top rates to guides and porters.  We also provide food, fuel and essential warm and waterproof clothing to our crews, and they are not charged for that.
  • Overloading porters to cut down on numbers.
  • Not providing a sufficient number of guides to accompany a group to the summit.
  • Not providing sufficient tents for their guides and porters to sleep in on the mountain, forcing them all to cram together in tents.
  • Charging you extra for any equipment or clothing you lack and which you need to borrow.
  • Providing sub-standard or insufficient food and equipment.
  • Being unlicensed to conduct mountain climbs, and being part of the underground economy.
  • Cheating the national park by not paying the full amount of park entrance and camping fees.

There are operators in Arusha and Moshi who engage in some or all of the practices mentioned above.  We work hard to run what we think is a quality operation, giving value for money.

If you would like to arrange your Kilimanjaro climb or if you have any questions ?

For more details about our itineraries or questions about building a custom private tour to climb mount Kilimanjaro.

Bottom Line

Kilimanjaro is a nice climb for anyone wanting a combination of cultural experience plus a moderate high altitude climbing experience. The normal routes are pretty safe and do not require technical skills with ropes or crampons. Without snow, it is extremely dirty and dusty. Well worn trails mark the majority of the route. Finally going on a safari after the climb makes the experience all the better.