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Kilimanjaro 101: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go

Are you dreaming of climbing the highest mountain in Africa and standing on the roof of the continent? If so, you are not alone. Every year, thousands of adventurers from all over the world embark on the challenge of hiking up Mt Kilimanjaro, a majestic peak that rises above the plains of Tanzania and Kenya. But reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro is not a walk in the park. It requires careful planning, preparation, and perseverance. In this article, you will find everything you need to know to make your Kilimanjaro adventure a success, from choosing the best route and time to go, to packing the right gear and equipment, to following the tips and tricks of experienced climbers. You will also learn what to expect on each day of your trek, as you pass through different climate zones and witness stunning scenery and wildlife. 

Day 1: Arrival

  • Arrive at Kilimanjaro International Airport and transfer to your hotel in Moshi or Arusha.
  • Meet your guide and get briefed on the climb.
  • Check your gear and rent any equipment you may need.
  • Rest and prepare for the adventure ahead.

Day 2: Start of the trek

  • Depending on your chosen route, drive to the gate of Kilimanjaro National Park and register with the authorities.
  • Meet your porters and start your trek through the rainforest zone, where you may see monkeys, birds and other wildlife.
  • Enjoy a picnic lunch on the way and reach your first campsite by late afternoon.
  • Have dinner and overnight at the camp.

Day 3: Trek to Shira Plateau

  • After breakfast, continue your ascent through the heath and moorland zone, where you will see giant lobelias and senecios.
  • Cross a ridge and enjoy stunning views of the Shira Plateau and Kibo Peak.
  • Have lunch at Shira 1 Camp and then hike to Shira 2 Camp, where you will spend the night.
  • Acclimatize to the altitude and admire the sunset over the mountain.

Day 4: Trek to Barranco Camp

  • Today you will hike to the alpine desert zone, where the landscape becomes more barren and rocky.
  • You will pass by the Lava Tower, a volcanic rock formation at 4,600 meters, where you will have lunch.
  • Then you will descend to the Barranco Valley, where you will see the famous Barranco Wall, a steep cliff that you will climb tomorrow.
  • Camp at Barranco Camp and enjoy a hot meal.

Day 5: Trek to Karanga Camp

  • After breakfast, tackle the Barranco Wall, a challenging but rewarding scramble that will test your skills and stamina.
  • Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with amazing views of the glaciers and valleys below.
  • Continue your trek along a ridge and then descend to Karanga Valley, where you will have lunch and rest at Karanga Camp.

Day 6: Trek to Barafu Camp

  • Today you will hike to the base camp of your summit attempt, Barafu Camp, located at 4,680 meters.
  • You will pass by several ridges and valleys until you reach a rocky and exposed terrain.
  • Have an early dinner and prepare your gear for the night climb.
  • Try to get some sleep before midnight, when you will start your summit bid.

Day 7: Summit day

  • Wake up around midnight and have some tea and biscuits before starting your final ascent to Uhuru Peak, the highest point in Africa at 5,895 meters.
  • You will hike in the dark with only your headlamp for guidance, following your guide and porters closely.
  • You will face steep slopes, loose gravel and freezing temperatures as you climb towards Stella Point, located at the crater rim of Kibo Peak.
  • From there, you will have another hour of hiking along the crater rim until you reach Uhuru Peak, where you will witness a spectacular sunrise over the horizon.
  • Celebrate your achievement and take photos at the summit sign before starting your descent back to Barafu Camp.
  • Have a short rest and then continue down to Mweka Camp, where you will have dinner and overnight.

Day 8: End of the trek

  • After breakfast, complete your descent through the rainforest zone until you reach Mweka Gate, where you will receive your certificate of completion and tip your guide and porters.
  • Drive back to your hotel in Moshi or Arusha and enjoy a hot shower and a comfortable bed.
  • You can also extend your trip with a safari or a beach holiday in Tanzania or Kenya.
RouteDifficultyDurationDistanceSceneryCrowds
MaranguEasy5 days64 kmGoodHigh
MachameModerate6 days62 kmExcellentHigh
LemoshoModerate7 days70 kmExcellentLow
ShiraModerate7 days65 kmExcellentLow
RongaiModerate6 days65 kmGoodLow
Northern CircuitModerate9 days98 kmExcellentLow
UmbweHard6 days53 kmGoodLow

Some things to expect when hiking up Mt Kilimanjaro are:

  • You will need to have a reasonable level of fitness and stamina to complete the trek.
  • You will need to acclimatize to the high altitude and avoid altitude sickness by drinking plenty of water, eating well, and taking it slow.
  • You will need to have proper clothing and equipment for the varying weather and terrain conditions, such as waterproof jacket, warm layers, hiking boots, sleeping bag, etc.
  • You will need to have a valid passport, visa, and travel insurance for Tanzania.
  • You will need to pay park fees, guide fees, porter fees, and tips for your climb.
  • You will experience different climate zones, from rainforest to alpine desert to glacial Arctic.
  • You will see amazing views of the mountain, the valleys, the glaciers, and the sunrise from the summit.
  • You will have a memorable and rewarding adventure that you will never forget.

I hope this helps you plan your trip. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me. 😊