How hard is it to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
Mount Kilimanjaro is situated in the Northern part of Tanzania, in the Kilimanjaro National Park. It covers an area of 100 kilometers long and 65 kilometers wide.
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.
Mount Kilimanjaro climbing routes
For many, climbing Kilimanjaro is the experience of a lifetime. It’s also a fairly big investment and you therefore need to understand your chances of actually reaching the summit and which routes give you the best chance at doing that.
The Machame route is probably the most popular route up Kilimanjaro with roughly 50% of all trekkers using it. The route can be completed on a 6 or 7 day itinerary and the route provides a fantastic landscape and scenery.
The Rongai route is the only route that starts from the Northern side of the mountain. Like the Machame, it is offered on both a 6 day and 7 day itinerary.
The Lemosho Route is fast becoming one of the most popular routes on Kilimanjaro. The Lemosho route is a beautiful and remote trek that approaches the mountain from the south-west and joins the busier Machame route on day 4. It is generally completed on a 7 or 8 day itinerary, however, some operators in an attempt to save money will offer it as a 6 day route.
The Northern Circuit is also the longest route, taking 9 days. However, because of its length, it’s the safest and most successful route up Kilimanjaro with an average summit success rate of over 95%!
The Marangu route is the oldest and most established route up Kilimanjaro. Its popularity stems from the fact that it is both the shortest route and also provides hut accommodation all the way up. It is often considered to be the ‘easiest’ trekking route to the summit, however, almost every summit success rate statistic contradicts this as the rates are by far the lowest of any other route – often below 50%!
Can anyone climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
There are two stories about what it’s like to climb Kilimanjaro: the one people tell their friends after they get home, which has the benefit of inspiring others to tackle the world’s highest free-standing mountain, and the one they tell each other at the summit, which has the benefit of being true.
There are various estimates as to how high it is. But most people use the figure of 5895m, or 19,341ft. This is the height you will find printed on the certificates handed out to those who successfully reach the summit.
If you are super young or ridiculously old you will unlikely be able to cope with what Kilimanjaro throws at you. Equally, if you are obese or severely disabled you can probably write Kilimanjaro off your bucket-list.
For the average person though, being able to successfully climb and summit Kilimanjaro is definitely attainable. You don’t need to be particularly fit (indeed being too fit can be detrimental) and you do not need any technical climbing skills.
Children over the age of 10 can legally have a go, as can older generations in their 60s and 70s!
All you need is determination and the will to get to the summit.
People who are ultra fit are normally pretty competitive and slow is not in their vocabulary, which is why you see a lot of fit young people fail at this climb. In fact, you might be surprised at how successful the older hikers are on Kilimanjaro. The ascent does not require any technical climbing, however there is one section where you do have to scramble up boulders. But other than that, the climb is rather gradual and simple. The trails are not necessarily demanding; however, the environment is.
The summit stands at 19,340 feet – in extreme altitude. At over 10,000 feet, more than 75% of climbers will experience at least some form of mild Acute Mountain Sickness, and at that point, your life is in your guide’s hands.
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.
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