How difficult is it to climb Mt Kilimanjaro?

Mt Kilimanjaro – the highest peak on the African continent – is awe-inspiring to see from afar, and even more impressive up close.

However, for many adventurous travellers to Tanzania, simply seeing “Kili” is not enough. They want to reach the highest spot in Africa and climb Mt Kilimanjaro.

Although a truly remarkable achievement and a once-in-a-lifetime experience, climbing Tanzania’s Mt Kilimanjaro is difficulty.It is not for the faint hearted.

On average, treks take between 5 and 9 days, and it is vital that you are in good physical condition when you commence the climb.

Although relatively safe, it is physically exhausting, and injuries (and even fatalities, mainly from heart attacks and acute altitude sickness) do occur.

Climbing kilimanjaro difficulty

Climbing Kilimanjaro training

Therefore, you should probably begin thinking about your trip up Mount Kilimanjaro, at least, a few months before actually arriving. This will give you some time to begin building up your strength and stamina, in order to give you the best chance of making it up to the peak.

However, don’t let this turn you off. In terms of climbs, Mt Kilimanjaro is actually relatively straightforward – you do not need to be a mountaineer. A number of climbers in wheelchairs have made it to the top, although it is advised that people with health concerns seek medical advice before commencing.

Climbing Kilimanjaro with children

Similarly, a number of children have successfully made it to the top of Kilimanjaro – the youngest being just seven years old. However, there is now a minimum age requirement of ten years old.

Although it is, therefore, legal for children to climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, it is highly recommended that families seriously consider the individual child, and seek medical advice if in doubt.

As stated above, injuries and fatalities do occur, so it is well worth thinking seriously about the suitability for the difficult climb!

Climbing Kilimanjaro cost

A trip up Mount Kilimanjaro is also costly. The absolute cheapest providers begin at $1200 USD for a minimum of 5 days, however, most companies range between $2000 – $3500 USD for the trip.

Although this is quite expensive, it is necessary as it has been illegal to climb Mt Kilimanjaro without a guide since 1991. It is, however, a truly unique and amazing experience.

Choosing best Kilimanjaro tour operator

Much like choosing a safari operator, choosing an operator is important. This is particularly because you want to feel confident trusting your operator in the case of an emergency or other unexpected occurrence.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that you closely research any potential tour operator; in particular paying close attention to forums and review sites where you can get unbiased reviews of different operators.

Many large companies such as Intrepid or G Adventures run Mt Kilimanjaro trips. However, there are also a number of excellent local operators, but it is important to carefully research any lesser known company as unfortunately, scams do occur in Tanzania.

Kilimanjaro routes

Kilimanjaro routes map

One of the benefits of smaller, local operators is that they may know more unique routes to the top of the mountain. Particularly in tourist high season, between July – August and January and February, the most popular routes such as Machame and Marangu can be very busy.

Although these routes are popular for a reason, being straightforward routes with attractive scenery and views, the appeal may be reduced if you are caught amongst a large crowd!

Other popular routes include Rongai, which begins in a slightly forested area and is another well-known path. It is slightly less time than Machame and Marangu, but arguably a slightly more difficult path if you are a less experienced climber.

Another well-known location is Umbwe, however, this is also renowned as the most difficult path and is quite steep in some places – great for someone up for a challenge!

As mentioned, many local tour operators do have their own routes. If you are looking to see a different side of “Kili”, it is well worth discussing this with your tour operator.

If in doubt of which route to take, it is a good idea to check out forums such as Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet, which are full of experienced climbers happy to offer advice. Your tour operator should also be able to tailor their advice to your particular fitness level and experience.

Climbing with a group or solo

Another consideration is whether you want to travel solo, or in a group. Travelling in a group can be a good option as it can significantly reduce the price of your climb, and also provide a bit of extra motivation if your willpower is wearing thin!

Companies such as G Adventures do offer group departures, however, local companies will also be able to organize it for you.

Kilimanjaro trekking packing list

Finally, be sure to pay close attention to what is included in the tour, as that will help you determine what you need to bring for your trip up Mount Kilimanjaro.

For example, some companies provide tents and sleeping mats, whereas others will expect you to bring these items – therefore it is very important to confirm!

In terms of clothing, it is recommended to bring the bare minimum needed to cover all weather conditions. Therefore, make sure to bring warm options (trousers, fleece jacket, rain coat) as well as options for warmer weather including t-shirts and a hat.

It is not necessary to wear mountaineering boots on ‘Kili’ unless you are taking a particularly difficult route. Trekking boots are fine.

Climbing Kilimanjaro tipping guide

Whatever route you choose, it is bound to be an exhilarating and amazing experience. Upon successful completion of your trip, it is expected that you will tip your guides and assistants, who are usually seriously underpaid.

Here is a helpful breakdown, per group (not per person). You should ask your tour operator ahead of time how many people are on the trip, so as to bring cash for tips.

Per main guide – US$20-25 per day
Per assistant guide – US$15-20 per day
Per cook – US$15 per day
Per porter – US$10 per day

Once it’s all finished – sit back and enjoy the huge achievement which is reaching Africa’s highest summit!