With its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira, is a dormant volcanic mountain in Tanzania. It is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5,895 metres (19,341 ft) above sea level.

A Mt Kilimanjaro climb is unique in that within the span of a few days, you pass through a wide variety of climates and vegetation zones; from tropical rainforest to near arctic conditions.

We offer climbing Mount kilimanjaro in all seven established routes - Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai, Northern Circuit and Umbwe. The Marangu, Machame, and Umbwe routes all approach from the south of the mountain (Mweka is used only for descent). The Lemosho, Shira and Northern Circuit routes approach from the west. The Rongai route approaches from the north.

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1. Routes overview

Machame Route (6 or 7 days)

Machame route, also known as the Whisky route, has become very popular. This is camping route which offers spectacular views of various landscapes such as Mt Meru, Pare Mountains, Lake Chala and Lake Jipe. While the 6 day itinerary is very possible, it is very benefitable to have the seven days machame climb because of having one more extra day for acclimatisation and resting before the summit day. Doing this will maxmize your chance of reaching the top.

Rongai Route (6 or 7 days)

This is one of Kilimanjaro’s easiest routes, and it has become an increasingly popular route in recent years. This route is located on the northern side of Mount Kilimanjaro with a variety of spectacular landscapes together with different plants and animals species. The typical duration for this trip is 6 days. However, you can also add an acclimatization day and make it 7 day climb. The Rongai Route is more scenic than the Marangu Route and easier than other camping route in climbing Kilimanjaro and the success rate on the Rongai Route is very high. Unlike the Marangu Route where you sleep in huts, on the Rongai Route you sleep in tents, the porter will have your tent pitched and waiting for you at the end of each days trek. This route starts on the north side of the mountain just south of the Kenyan border and is one of the least traveled routes. The route merges with the Marangu Route for the summit climb. The descend follows the Marangu Route on the mountain’s southeast side, so you will able see Kilimanjaro from many view points. There are two versions of this trek – a direct 6-day itinerary, and a 7-day itinerary that takes a longer route. The 6-day itinerary is described down below and the longer variation is described in the extra day’s section.

Lemosho Route (8 days)

This route approaches Mount Kilimanjaro from the west. It offers a chance to visit Shira Plateau (Cathedral peak) and Shira Caldera. Lemosho Route crosses from Shira Ridge to Shira 2 Camp, in a pleasant hike. Climbers encounter low traffic until the route joins the Machame route. Afterwards, Lemosho follows the same route as Machame Route through Lava Tower, Barranco and Barafu, known as the southern circuit. The minimum days required for this route is 7 days, but eight days is recommended as it will give more chance to acclimatize and achieve the summit. Like Machame,this is a scenically spectacular and varied route. Lemosho is highly recommended and it has an abundance of wildlife such as elephant, buffalo, eland and lion which come over to forage during dry season from Longido game controlled area.

Umbwe Route (8 days)

Umbwe is a short route, providing challenges as it is very difficult to climb due to its steepness. Due to the fast ascension, this route does not provide the enough time for altitude acclimatization so proceeding slowly is vital. Although the traffic on this route is very low, the chances of success are not as great unless a acclimitization day is added. The route is offered at a minimum of six days, and seven days is preferred. This route merges along the way with Machame route, Lemosho route and Shira route. An alternative route to the summit approaches Uhuru Peak from the west, called the Western Breach Route. The strenuous Western Breach ascends 850m in about 1.25 miles (2 km), and requires some scrambling (climbing on hands and feet) at certain points. This path is very beautiful but also very challenging due to its rocks formations and its steep slope. The Western Breach was gaining popularity by climbers using the Umbwe, Lemosho, Shira and Machame routes until a rock fall claimed the lives of three climbers in January 2006. In response, Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA) closed the Western Breach Route but in 2007 KINAPA open it again with condition that all clients and their supporting members who want to use this option must sign at the entrance gate that they are doing for their own risk.

Marangu Route (5 or 6 days)

It is known as "Coca-Cola" route, Marangu approaches Kilimanjaro from the southeast of the Mountain. It is the oldest established route. Many favor the Marangu route because it is considered to be the easiest route on the mountain. The minimum days required for this route is five, although the probability of successfully reaching the top in that time is a bit low. Spending an extra acclimatization day on the mountain is highly recommended, maximizing the chance of reaching to the summit. Marangu is the only route which offers sleeping huts in dormitory style accommodations.

2. Altitude sickness

If you are planning to climb mount kilimanjaro you will sooner or later hear about altitude sickness, for those unfamiliar with ins and outs of altitude illness here are answers to the most common questions regarding mountain sickness;

What is altitude sickness?

Altitude sickness is a range of symptoms that can occur when someone ascends to a high altitude too rapidly, without sufficient acclimatization. The body can adjust to the reduced air pressure at higher altitude, but only at a rate of about 300 m (1000 ft) altitude gain per day. If you ascend faster, and everybody climbing Kilimanjaro will, then you may develop altitude sickness.

There are three main forms of altitude sickness:

  • AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) is very common when climbing Kilimanjaro.
  • HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) is a fluid build up in the lungs.
  • HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) is fluid build up in the brain.

Both HAPE and HACE are potentially fatal but are thankfully rare during a well planned Kilimanjaro climb. What exactly causes the individual symptoms of altitude sickness is still not fully understood.

There is also a range of other symptoms you are likely to experience during a Kilimanjaro climb due to the altitude. They are considered normal and shouldn't worry you:

  • You breathe faster,
  • you are out of breath sooner,
  • you may experience periodic irratic breathing at night (where you stop breathing for up to 15 seconds, and then breathe very fast to make up for it, scary but harmless),
  • you may wake up frequently at night,
  • You need to urinate a lot more often.

None of those symptoms are altitude sickness.

What are the symptoms of altitude sickness?

The symptoms of AMS are headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, sleeplessness, fatigue, dizziness. Everybody can expect to experience at least some of these symptoms in a mild form. The most obvious symptoms for HAPE are extreme breathlessness, even at rest; rattling breath, coughing with pink froth and blue lips or finger nails. HACE becomes apparent as a lack of coordination, inability to walk in a straight line, confusion and irrational behaviors (to the point of not acknowledging the symptoms).

How dangerous is altitude sickness?

The symptoms of acute mountain sickness as described above are self limiting and not dangerous. In fact, your guides may tell you during the briefing not to worry, that it is totally normal to be vomiting repeatedly during that last final push top the summit. Nice...

However, if you do experience symptoms, your guides should also keep monitoring you, because AMS can progress to one of the more severe forms of altitude sickness. HAPE and HACE are potentially fatal! Make sure that you always remain in contact with your guides and let them know exactly how you are feeling. Also keep an eye on your climbing partners, since people suffering from these severe conditions may not be able to correctly assess their own condition. Anybody experiencing symptoms that could indicate HAPE or HACE needs to descend IMMEDIATELY or they will die. But please don't panic now. As I said above, these conditions are rare, provided you act sensibly when on the mountain.

Who gets altitude sickness?

Anybody can get altitude sickness. There is no way to predict how your body will react if exposed to high altitude without proper acclimatization. Susceptibility to altitude sickness is random. Fitness is no protection. People who are extremely fit and exercise a lot get it just an easily as couch potatoes. There are many stories that indicate they may be even more susceptible! Men appear to be more susceptible than women, especially young and fit men. (Competitiveness and the desire to show off plays a part in this. Men will often ascend faster. Too fast.) Older people seem to be less susceptible. (Older people will ascend more slowly, and nothing protects you better from altitude sickness than ascending slowly.)

When do you get altitude sickness?

Highly susceptible people can experience symptoms from 2500 m (7000 ft) onwards, in rare cases even below that. The chance of developing AMS increases with the height but the rate of altitude gain is even more important. Mt. Kilimanjaro is 5895 m (19340 ft) high. Pretty much everybody on a Kilimanjaro climb will experience some symptoms of altitude sickness during that last push to the summit. There are other factors that increase the likelihood of altitude sickness, apart from the absolute height itself:

  • Rate at which a height is achieved (the faster you ascend the bigger the risk of developing symptoms, this factor is more important than the absolute height itself!)
  • Time spent at height (symptoms start appearing within 6-10 hours though they can be delayed)
  • Physical exertion
  • Dehydration

Symptoms of acute mountain sickness typically take one or two days to disappear. If you keep ascending they may not go away. For most people the symptoms come and go during the day, disappear over night, only to come back the next day as the climb continues. AMS can be very unpleasant, but with the right preparation and at a sensible pace, most people can climb to at least the last camp below the crater rim (around 4700m). It's that last push to the summit where AMS becomes the make it or break it issue.

You climb Kilimanjaro with knowledge that every detail of your trip has been designed by one of the professional mountain guide and high altitude experts. Your safety is our paramount concern on your Kilimanjaro trek. You leave home with the comfort of knowing that during your trek all you have to worry about is putting one foot in front of the other. We take care of the rest.

For more information, please contact us.

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