As the tallest free standing mountain in the world, Kilimanjaro attracts over 30,000 hikers every year, all of whom have the aim of reaching the roof of Africa. Its wild and beautiful scenery, combined with the incredible vistas from the summit, makes it one of the best treks in the world.
Although its popularity stems mainly from its wild beauty and changing climatic zones, Kilimanjaro also requires no technical climbing which is a bonus to many novice trekkers.
Although it requires no technical climbing skills, you can’t underestimate the mountain. Standing at just below 6,000 meters, Kilimanjaro is a far more difficult climb than it appears. The lack of oxygen as you climb higher becomes a major factor, especially on summit night when you ascend high very quickly.
That being said, with good preparation and good practise on the mountain, the summit is very achievable. To help you with this I have written what I believe are 5 key elements to a successful summit on Kilimanjaro.
Choosing the right itinerary
The itinerary you choose will have a huge impact on your chances of summiting and your itinerary will very much be dependent upon what route you choose. Because of the high altitude, you’ll want an itinerary that will allow you time to acclimatize and take the mountain at your own pace.
Bear in mind that some routes on Kilimanjaro have a less than 50% summit success rate. These routes are usually cheaper because they rush up the mountain and don’t give your body time to acclimatize. I always warn people against short routes as they not only have a poor success rate, but are dangerous to your body. Altitude sickness can be a very serious condition and effects almost a third off all climbers on Kilimanjaro each year.
I would strongly recommend either the 8 day Lemosho or the 7 day Machame route. Both routes are popular and allow you time to acclimatize as you ascend. The Lemosho route actually joins the Machame route after day 3 and they both descend via the same route – the Mweka trail.
Both routes have a climb high sleep low itinerary which is probably the single most important factor for a successful summit. This means that as you ascend the mountain you will camp at low points along the trail and ascend the higher areas during the day. Therefore, when booking your trek, make sure the itinerary is at least 7 days and incorporates a climb high sleep low pattern.