How To Climb Kilimanjaro, Everything You Need To Know Before You Go!

We were awoken at midnight by the guides and told it was time for the final climb to the summit.

Tired, cold and mentally drained, I knew there was no option but to go on. After 7 days of hiking this was it.

We hiked through the night with our headlamps on, one foot in front of the other, very slowly, as the oxygen became harder to come by.

Finally, the sun began to gently shine over the tall mountain peaks now below me and lit up the surrounding desert like something out of the lion king, the vastness of the mountain and the weight of the undertaking finally hitting me.

After a slow slow hike up, the sign for the peak appeared and with everything I had left I jogged to it, seeing stars as I neared the summit.

I had made it a point to lead the entire trek and I’d be damned if I wasn’t the first of the crew to make it to the top.

The moment I touched the sign that confirmed I’d reached the top, I felt a wave of accomplishment I have never felt before, and life was good, until the realization hit me that I’d be climbing down the mountain again…

Who Would Enjoy Climbing Kilimanjaro?

Will I enjoy climbing Kilimanjaro you ask? Well, this climb is truly for anyone who wants to test there mental and physical limits, as well as experience once in a lifetime friendships, struggles, and accomplishments, all wrapped in a 5-8 day trip. So the answer is yes, probably.

The Mountain:

What is Mount. Kilimanjaro? How tall is Mount. Kilimanjaro? And where on earth is it?

Well, At 19,308′ Kilimanjaro is the highest freestanding mountain in the world.

It is truly a must for any adventurer who doesn’t want to have to undergo intensive training to see and experience some of the most beautiful views in the world.

Though it is more than your average hike (reaching temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius and requiring an overnight climb) it can be accomplished by nearly anyone who has the wherewithal and want to complete it.

Located in the country of Tanzania, on the continent of Africa it is situated near the northern border of Tanzania and southern border of Kenya Giving incredible views of the planes on the way up.

Quick Background:

The first successfull non-native person to climb kilimanjaro was Eduard Hans Oehler and Fritz Klute.

Quoting from Wikipedia “The first ascent of the highest summit of Mawenzi was made on 29 July 1912, by the German climbers Eduard Hans Oehler and Fritz Klute, who named it Hans Meyer Peak. Oehler and Klute went on to make the third-ever ascent of Kibo, via the Drygalski Glacier, and descended via the Western Breach.[40]:85

Several people had attempted the climb prior to that but all had succumbed to either altitude sickness or lacked proper ice climbing equipment.

Different Climate Zones:

Kilimanjaro is unique in that it has 5 different pronounced climate zones that one gets to experience on the way up, they are as follows.

  • Bushland / Lower Slope:, 800 m – 1,800 m (2,600 ft – 5,900 ft);
  • Rainforest Zone: 1,800 m – 2,800 m (5,900 ft – 9,200 ft);
  • Heather / Moorland: 2,800 m – 4,000 m (9,200 ft – 13,100 ft);
  • Alpine Desert Zone: 4,000 m – 5,000 m (13,100 ft– 16,400 ft);
  • Arctic Zone: 5,000 m – 5,895 m (16,400 ft – 19,300 ft).

Climbing Records:

The oldest person to successfully summit was Anne Lorimor at 89 years and 37 days old.

While the youngest is said to be around 7 years old.

The fastest ascent and the fastest roundtrip have been recorded by the Swiss-Ecuadorian mountain guide Karl Egloff. On 13 August 2014, after guiding a party to the summit the previous days, he ran from Umbwe Gate to the top in 4 hours and 56 minutes and returned to the Mweka Gate at 1,630 metres (5,350 ft) in a total time of 6 hours, 42 minutes and 24 seconds.

One of the most incredible records was set by Wim Hof Himself. He summited wearing nothing but shorts, socks and shoes, and completed the entire climb like that.

He is an incredible human and I highly recommend looking into him here.

The Best Way To Start

Although you can technically get all the permits and permissions to climb Kili alone, it is not recommended, especially if you want to get the full experience and see the entire mountain.

This means that you should book through a company. I used Ultimate Kilimanjaro and they are pros.

But there are many other companies, just make sure to check that they are reputable and have been used by people from your country.

Many companies offer all inclusive trips with airfare and hotels included.

Although I opted for just the hotels, airport transfers and the climb.

After Finding A Company, Find A route.

Overall Success Rate For Climbing Kilimanjaro:

The overall summiting success rate is 66% or about 2/3.

This may seem low but you can increase your odds by spending more time on the mountain by picking a longer route.

Standard Climbing Routes And Info

There are 7 standard routes ranging from 5-9 days. These Trails Are:

The Northern Circuit = 9 Days, Low Traffic, High Difficulty, Average Chance of Success 89%

The Lemosho Route =8 Days, Medium Traffic, High Difficulty, Chance of Success 85%

The Rongai Route = 7 Days, Low Traffic, Medium Difficulty, Average Chance of Success 92%

The Machame Route = 7 Days, High Traffic, High Difficulty, Average Chance of Success 80%

The Shira Route = 7 Days Medium Traffic, High Difficulty, Average Chance of Success 80%

The Marangu Route = 6 Days, Medium Traffic, Medium Difficulty, Chance of Success 70%

The Umbwe Route = 7 Days, Very Low Traffic, VERY High Difficulty, Chance of Success 66%

I realize this does not average to 66%, but that is because many people attempt 5-6 days routes and fail, these routes are becoming less and less popular due to this.

Take into consideration what kind of experience you want, and remember the more days the higher chance of success!

Why spend thousands of dollars and not succeed?

What Does Climbing Kilimanjaro Cost?

The cost ranges from $1,500 to over $20,000 with high end tour groups that will bring up mattresses and high quality meals.

I obviously did not go with the 20,000 option but chose a tent and sleeping bag instead.

My 8 day Lemosho route was right under 4000 dollars, including hotel and airport transfers.

The Airfare ended up being 1700 From the western U.S..

How To Prepare:

What To Bring For Sure:

Technical Clothing:

1 – Waterproof Jacket, breathable with hood
1 – Insulated Jacket, synthetic or down, warm
1 – Soft Jacket, fleece or soft-shell
3 – Long Sleeve Shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
1 – Short Sleeve Shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
1 – Waterproof Pants, breathable (side zipper recommended)
2 – Hiking Pants
1 – Fleece Pants
1 – Long Underwear, moisture-wicking fabric
4 – Underwear, moisture-wicking fabric recommended
3 – Sport Bra (women)


1 – Brimmed Hat, for sun protection
1 – Knit Hat, for warmth

Hand wear:

1 – Gloves, warm (waterproof recommended)
1 – Gloves, light


1 – Hiking Boots or Shoes, warm, waterproof
4 – Socks, wool or synthetic


1 – Sunglasses Sunglasses or Goggles
1 – Water Bottle (Nalgene, 32 oz.)
1 – Water Bladder (Camelback type, 3 liters)
Stuff Sacks, Dry Bags or “Ziploc”-Type Plastic Bags, to keep gear dry and separate. Note that there is a general ban on plastic bags in Tanzania, however Ziploc-type bags for toiletries are permitted for tourists.


1 – Sleeping Bag, warm, four seasons*
1 – Head Lamp, with extra batteries
1 – Duffel Bag, 70L-90L capacity, for porters to carry your equipment
1 – Daypack, 30-35L capacity, for you to carry your personal gear


Lip Balm
Insect Repellent, containing DEET
First Aid Kit
Face Mask (REQUIRED)
Hand Sanitizer (REQUIRED)
Toilet Paper


Trip Receipt
Visa (available at JRO)
Immunization Papers
Insurance Documents


  • 1 – Backpack Cover, waterproof (optional)
  • 1 – Shorts (optional)
  • 1 – Balaclava or Buff (recommended)
  • 1 – Gaiters, waterproof (optional)
  • 1 – Towel, lightweight, quick-dry (optional)
  • 1 – Pee Bottle, to avoid leaving tent at night (recommended)
  • 1 – Camp Pillow, inflatable (optional)
  • 1 – Trekking Poles, collapsible (highly recommended)*
  • Wet Wipes (recommended)
  • Snacks, light-weight, high calorie, high energy (optional)
  • Electrolytes, powder or tablets (optional)
  • Anti-Chafe Cream and ointment(GET THIS!!!)

Exercise First:

This is super important. You will have someone carrying one bag of yours up the mountain with your spare clothes, tent, etc.

But, you are responsible for a day bag, which will contain rain gear, phone, money, snacks, hats, gloves and whatever else you will need on your hike.

I highly recommend putting everything in your day backpack and walking and hiking around as much as possible to make sure all of your gear is comfortable.

Another Pro Tip:

I would highly recommend looking into breathing exercises.

these can be the difference between summiting or failing out. check out Wim Hof or look into classic yoga techniques.


Make sure to test everything before hand, including the breathing exercises.


Talk to your doctor about required immunizations and see if they will give you a prescription for altitude sickness pills and anti malaria pills.

I didn’t take the anti malarial pills because they gave me intense dreams, but they do have a more expensive variety that does not have that side effect.

Definitely be sure and take those altitude sickness pills though.

Tips (Trust Me On These!!!)

  1. Get the altitude pills. You do not know for sure if you will need them until you get up there.
  2. Please for the love of god bring wet wipes. They will save your butt(Literally)! They are also great if you start to smell to bad for a quick wipe down before you get into your sleeping bag or the next days clothes.
  3. Get A great Backpack, this pack will be on you all day! I used this one and it was incredible. Do not skimp here!!

4. Keep Your Cash on you at all times, we had someone get all their money stolen from their tent, and I had some stolen from mine as well. I personally like to keep a little cash in several locations just in case.

5. Bring Extra Socks. And Make sure you use Merino wool socks as they are fast drying and warm.

These were life savers for me, and still get a lot of use out of them in the winter.

6. Bring candy and snacks, and you will be the champion of your camp. The candy will also help make you feel better when you are in poor spirits from walking all day.

7. You are expected to tip, so make sure to bring cash with you. I would recommend changing it at your bank before hand to avoid all the hassle.

8. Bring Headphones and a portable charger for your phone, some of the days get long.

9. Buy great boots and test them thoroughly before you arrive!

10. Do not split a tent. Trust me. Just Spring for the extra few bucks to have your own tent.

Getting There:

The Flight:

My trip from start to finish took about 24 hours with a stop in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and a stop in Dar es Salaam International Airport finally arriving at the Moshi Airport.

Getting To The Hotel From The Airport:

I arrived and there was a man holding a sign for Ultimate Kilimanjaro, I hopped in his van (as all good stories involve) and off we went. The trip took about an hour to the hotel and we were stopped twice by armed guards at military checkpoints.

The terrain was unlike anything I had ever seen. Barren but not without it’s own interest and beauty.

The Hotel:

We arrived at the hotel and it was inside it’s own compound. My room was very simple, a bed with a mosquito net, a dresser and a tv. It was still quite nice.

The grounds had all kinds of unique grasses and cool African furniture, that made me feel like I was really part of the country.

It rained an hour after I got there and of course I sang to myself Toto’s “Africa”.

The Briefing:

That night I met the guides and my future group and the guides went over the climb and safety precautions, such as twice daily oxygen and pulse checks.

After the meeting I shared a beer with several of my climbing mates and knew I had lucked into a fantastic group.

Getting To The Mountain (storing stuff at hotel And shuttle)

At 8 am we met at the bus and the porters began loading our gear ontop of the bus.

The ride took Approx 3 hours with a stop at a gas station.

Finally arriving, I got the jitters of excitement and was excited to begin!

The “Climb”

Day 1:

We began our hike, still a little hung over from the beers shared with a couple of the guys from my group the night before, but quickly I caught my stride.

We walked through beautiful rain forest and saw and heard all types of monkeys and wildlife, walking through a lot of mud it was like being in an Indiana Jones movie.

although I knew many people had done this climb before me it felt like I was a new adventurer and was an excellent day.

The first camp site was still in the forest area and was suprisingly busy.

Everyone was excited and friendly. We had dinner and called it an early night.

The tent was big and the sleeping bag comfortable.

I slept like a rock.

Day 2:

We began in the rainforest, but slowly the terrain changed to high grasses and volcanic rock. The wildlife was less prevalent but you could still find lizards and things alike.

We crossed several streams and reached the Shira ridge before dropping down into camp.

You could tell we were higher up as it was colder and more desolate but still very nice.

Again I slept like a rock.

Day 3:

Here is the day that makes the Lemosho route special.

We spent most of the day walking on the Shira plateau and through meadows.

We then made our way to the Moir Hut a little used site on the base of the Lent Hills.

The Shira Plateau is one of the highest plateaus on earth.

We camped in what looked like a moon desert and there was almost no wildlife anymore.

Day 4:

We began the day climbing the ridge further.

We then descended to the Barranco camp through the very eerie Senecio Forest.

We spent the night at 13000 feet elevation surrounded by an incredible wall of rock looking down at us, taunting us.

This night was tough because we knew we had to start our day climbing that giant wall.

Day 5:

I had been the first to wake up every morning and this one was no different.

It was very cold but I was still loving the experience of it all.

We slowly climbed and scrambled up the Barranco wall 900 feet tall, and very steep.

The rest of the day was spent crossing hills and valleys and the rain made the second half of the day very unpleasant and put me in bad spirits.

we had one last steep climb and ended up at Karanga camp. All in bad spirits and soaked to the bone.

Slowly we all came back to life, ate dinner and called it a night.

Except for Shane who had run out of cigarettes and paid a porter to go get him some.

Day 6:

We awoke all feeling better and began trekking higher and higher.

We finally completed the southern circuit, which gave us views of the summit from many angles, reinvigorating me and giving me the power to continue hiking.

There was no longer any wildlife, nor plants or even bugs at this altitude and the day was long but good.

We reached the base camp at 15,331 ft.

The summit tempted us and we had an early dinner and called it an early night, knowing that we would have to awake at midnight to begin the final ascent.

Summit Day/Night

Day 7:

We were awoken at midnight and began the climb.

It was so cold, so slow, and so dark, that every step was tough.

The air got thinner and thinner until taking more than one step every two seconds became nearly impossible.

This part of the climb is not fun at all and seemed like it took a day itself.

But finally the sun started to rise and the peak was not only a far away idea, it was within my eyeline and well within hiking distance.

After an ever slower hike up, the sign for the peak appeared and with everything I had left I jogged to it, seeing stars as I neared the summit.

I had made it a point to lead the entire trek and I’d be damned if I wasn’t the first of the crew to make it to the top.

The moment I touched the sign that confirmed I’d reached the top, I felt a wave of accomplishment I have never felt before, and life was good, until the realization hit me that I’d be climbing down the mountain again…

That passed and we took all the obligatory pictures and hugged and highfived.

We then took in the absolutely impossible to describe views and were quickly led away from the summit to begin the descent.

A big tip here is DO NOT RUN TO THE TOP LIKE I DID.

I used all my energy getting up and still had to get down.

What Goes Up Must Come Down

The climb down was hell.

I passed people who had not made it up and had succumb to altitude sickness.

Oh to get so close and not make it must be torture.

Walk, walk, walk.

Finally I made it back to base camp and we were welcomed with water a snack and told to take a much needed nap.

After a very quick nap we were awoken and began hiking down the mountain again to the Mweka Camp which took another 6 hours.

I can not stress how arduous and horrible the second half of this day is, but we made it, and it was all down hill from here.

Day 8:

I was the last one to awake and my entire body was so sore I could not believe it.

We woke up and were sung a goodbye song and tipped all of our porters and guides.

Then began a 4 hour hike down the mountain.

I was dead during these four hours and was passed by the entire crew, but I finally made it to the bottom.

At the bottom I received a signed certificate that I had made it to the top and without hesitation bought and cracked a Kilimanjaro beer with the crew, and life was good.

We then began our journey back to the hotel, all tired but so happy we had done it.

I will never forget that crew and can’t explain in enough detail what that mountain did to me, as silly as it sounds. So to answer the question, should you climb Kilimanjaro? HELL YES!!

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