Mt Kilimanjaro

Location

Egypt
3° 3' 52.416" S, 37° 21' 30.3408" E

Single highest standing mountain in the world is the highest in Africa. Because of such long trek up, one passes by several climates from equatorial at the bttom to alpine desert at the ice-capped summit.

How to get there

There are several ways to get to Kilimanjaro.

One way is to travel via Kenya Airways to Nairobi and then through its partner airline Precision Airways to Kilimanjaro Airport. Most Kilimanjaro hikers then take transportation – usually organized by the tour company – to Arusha, which is about an hour away from Kilimanjaro Airport and another two hours away from the mountain itself. It is usually a good idea to stay in Arusha for at least one night before making one’s way to the mountain. Arusha itself is at an altitude of 1380 meters above sea level. If you come from a city at sea level, staying in Arusha for that one extra night gives your body a little bit of time to start getting acclimatized to altitude; something you will need a lot of on your hike up Africa’s highest mountain.

Travel companies that organize hikes up Kilimanjaro

REI Adventures based in the U.S. You do not need to be a U.S. resident to make reservations with REI.

Wild Guanabana based in Cairo. The company specializes in the field of non-traditional travel to non traditional detinations (www.wildguanabana.com). Founded by Omar Samra, a climber.

Travel companies recommended by SaharaSafarists

Name of SaharaSafarist: Nadia El-Awady

Name of company: REI Adventures

Why do you recommend this company? I traveled with REI to Kilimanjaro in August 2009. I chose their Kilimanjaro Climb and Safari package. It was the experience of a lifetime. Although relatively expensive, I felt the trip was worth every penny spent. The level of service received was superb. We stayed at very good hotels, lodges and camps before and after the climb. Our guides were well versed on the mountain and on the animals. We were very well taken care of during the whole time, especially during the hike up the mountain when it’s most important. Our guides’ main goal was to get us up to the summit in the best of health with no complications and they succeeded with all three of us. The guides had no wish to push us beyond our limits. They allowed us to go up the mountain at our own pace so that our bodies could acclimatize properly. We were checked regularly for pulse rate and oxygen saturation levels. The food served both on the mountain and on safari was no less than gourmet. It was so good and nourishing that we suggested the cooks write a cookbook with the recipes they use on the mountain. There were some minor water problems at the hotels in Arusha and Lake Manyara. Tanzania is an African company, and is the case in Egypt, they often get electricity and water cuts. The good hotels do have generators but we experienced water cuts in two hotels on three different occasions nonetheless. I am assuming that this is just something to be expected and dealt with.

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Getting fit for Kilimanjaro and required fitness level

Hiking Kilimanjaro does not require special technical skills but it does require a high level of physical fitness. The hike involves – when using the Marangu route – six days of walking for durations of at least five hours each day (with the exception of one day for acclimatization when the hike is only about three hours long). The ascent is, of course, on an incline that requires strong thigh and calf muscles and physical endurance. Oxygen levels gradually decrease with higher altitudes, which also factors in to fitness level.

Hikers should have previous hiking experience and should know how their bodies react to prolonged physical activity and to altitude. They should also know how to live in the outdoors for several days.

Pre-hike training should involve cardio-training (such as jogging), expanding the lungs’ capacity by swimming, and going up and down hills, mountains, or stairs depending on what is available. This should start AT LEAST four months before the hike and should gradually increase until reaching almost daily exercise of about one to two hours. Weekend test hikes are recommended. The hiker should have tested himself at high altitude at least once before signing on to the trip. However it is important to note that the same body can react differently to altitude each time. Exercise near the trip should include wearing hiking shoes and a 9 kg day pack to simulate what hiking will be like on the actual trip.

Make sure to break in your hiking shoes before the trip. If you take special care of one thing make it your feet!

Routes up the mountain

Personally I do not recommend this mountain being climbed in anything less than 7 days. Summit chances are significantly reduced in a shorter time frame.

Marangu, otherwise known as the Coca Cola route is the easiest and differs from all the other routes in that you stay in huts along the way.

The Machame route, otherwise known as the whiskey route is more challenging than Marangu yet offers much more spectacular and diverse scenery. 

Manrangu route (six days)

 

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Machame route (seven days)

 

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Rongai route (six days)

 

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Umbwe route (six days)

 

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Shira and Lemosho routes

 

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Kilimanjaro Ecology

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Kilimanjaro flora

 

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Kilimanjaro fauna

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Understanding seasonal changes in weather on Kili

 

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August is the beginning of the dry season in Tanzania. Rains, if present at all, are sparse and infrequent. The weather during the day is warm but it gets cool in the evenings. During the first three days of the hike you will most probably be wearing light summer clothes during the daytime. But you need to always carry rain gear and an extra layer or two of clothing for when it starts getting cooler. Nights are very cold on the mountain no matter the altitude. You will need several layers to keep warm and a very warm sleeping bag. The final summit hike is extremely cold, especially that it happens late at night. Temperatures are in the subzero Celsius ranges. There is also a lot of wind making it feel even colder. Be sure to have the right gear with you for this trip as it is essential that you keep warm and dry in order to stay healthy.

Kilimanjaro is climbed 11 months of the year though. August and high season can be very busy albeit dry and with hardly any snow on the summit. If you go in a different time like April there will be chances of rain, the national park will be completely uncrowded and it will feel like the Alps at the top from the amount of snow. Take your pick.

Recommended gear

REI’s recommended gear list is excellent.

You may also contact Wild Guanabana for a gear list. They also rent most of the gear from Cairo.

Altitude sickness

Uhuru Peak, the highest point on Kilimanjaro, is at 5895 meters above sea level. Guides make sure that hikers go up the mountain slowly in order to allow their bodies time to acclimatize. The Marangu route takes six days and this is a good amount of time for acclimatization purposes. Most guides will allow for one day of acclimatization at an altitude of about 3700 meters where you stay for two nights, making one short hike up to a higher altitude but then return to spend the rest of the day and night at 3700 meters.

Many companies now recommend using 125mg of Diamox twice a day to help prevent altitude sickness. Diamox is a diuretic that acidifies the blood thus stimulating breathing and allowing more oxygen to enter into the bloodstream. The drug is taken one day before the hike since it takes about 24 hours to start its effects. It is then taken for the full duration of the ascent. Diamox will cause increased urination and it is thus extremely important that one keeps oneself very well hydrated.

Kilimanjaro porters and tipping advice

Chief mountain guide: US$15 – 20 / day X number of days on Mountain
Assistant Guide: US$10 – 12 / day X number of days on Mountain
Cook: US$5 – 8 / day X number of days on Mountain
Porters: US$6 – 10 / day X number of days on Mountain

SaharaSafarists’ advice for potential Kili hikers

Your name: Nadia El-Awady

Your advice: Pole, pole, as your porters and guides will tell you. This means slowly, slowly in Swahili. It is very important to know that this is not a race. Our guide continuously told us that there is no competition on the mountain. Your goal is to enjoy yourself and stay healthy. Go up the mountain at your own pace and do not feel obliged to keep up with the more fit in your group. You can lag behind safely. Your guides will make sure someone is always with you and the route is well marked so you cannot get lost. Drink lots of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty and eat well. If you have signed up with a good company they will make sure that you get three nourishing meals a day. Still, make sure to keep some snacks with you for in between meals. Do NOT use this hike as a means to lose weight. You want to stay hydrated and nourished throughout the hike to avoid altitude sickness, an illness that can be deadly.

Your name:Omar Samra

Your advice:I highly recommend not climbing the mountain in anything less than 7 days, even though you will get plenty of different advice. People acclimatize differently and this is not related to fitness level at all. Don't take any chances. Getting to almost 6,000m in such a short time period does not allow the body sufficient time to fully acclimatize. Take the extra day and you will find that your chances of making it the top have been significantly increased (by over 30%) and your experience will be much more pleasant (less altitude symptoms: headaches, nausea etc) allowing you to take in the views.

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Links to SaharaSafarists’ blogs and articles on their Kili experiences

Karim Ramadans experience in August 2009: http://www.wildguanabana.com/WG/your_memories/Entries/2009/8/6_by_karim_...

Heba Shahein's experience in April 2008: http://www.wildguanabana.com/WG/your_memories/Entries/2008/4/29_by_heba_...

 

Names of Arabs who have visited Kilimanjaro and how high they’ve reached

#NameAgeGenderNationalityHeight ReachedYear Date and time Reached1Nadia El-Awady40FEgyptianUhuru Peak (5895m)2009 August 15, at 7:30 am2Hisham Youssef49MEgyptianUhuru Peak (5895m)2009 Sept 5, at 7 am3Mona Raouf Yakoub FEgyptian/CanadiaUhuru Peak (5895m)2002  4Abdelhamid AbouYoussef MEgyptianUhuru Peak (5895m)2000 August5Omar Samra
29
M
EgyptianUhuru Peak (5895m)2008April 2008 / August 2009
6Heba Shahein
38
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Egyptian
Stella Point
2008 April7Mohamed Kamel
 M
EgyptianUhuru Peak (5895m)2009 August8Hussein Soliman
 M
EgyptianUhuru Peak (5895m)2009 August9Omar El Dewey
 M
EgyptianUhuru Peak (5895m)2009 August10Mounir Nakhla
 M
EgyptianUhuru Peak (5895m)2009 August11Karim Ramadan
 M
EgyptianUhuru Peak (5895m)2009 August12Dina Khachab
 F
EgyptianUhuru Peak (5895m)2009 

August

13 Sharif Abdelnour  M Egyptian Uhuru   14 Hassan Badrawi  MEgyptian Uhuru   15 Hisham el Araby  M Egyptian Stella Point   16        17        18        19        20        21        

 

Other resources

Mount Kilimanjaro National Park

Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro National Park - UNESCO World Heritage Centre