The opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the best things about traveling to Africa. The mountain itself is one of the prettiest sights on the continent and the views from the top are spectacular. Keep reading to find out what you should brace yourself for if you decide to trek up Kilimanjaro.
Acute Mountain Sickness Is A Real Risk
Mount Kilimanjaro isn’t the kind of gravity-defying mountains that even experienced climbers avoid, but it can be dangerous if you’re not prepared. While it doesn’t require mountaineering, it does require all climbers to educate themselves about acute mountain sickness, which is a real risk. This can occur no matter how fit a climber is and takes place when the body is unable to adjust to lower oxygen pressure at a higher altitude, often because of rapid ascent.
Common symptoms include dizziness, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and rapid heart rate, even when you’re not moving. A prescription of acetazolamide will help you to acclimatize more quickly and it’s important to stay hydrated to reduce your chances of getting sick.
You Won't Have A Chance To Shower
One of the main things to know before climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is that, while a stellar view will be waiting for you at the end, it won’t be a five-star experience. There are no shower facilities and the best you can hope for is a bucket. Because of this, bringing a packet of wet wipes will be very helpful.
As you might have guessed, the toilet facilities are also lacking. There are long drops that aren’t cleaned and are generally unhygienic, otherwise, you have to hire a portable toilet that the porters will set up for you.
There Is No Electricity Or Wifi
There is no electricity or Wi-Fi connection on the mountain and the cell service that is available is very questionable. If you need to make a phone call, ask the guides where and when to do it. In most cases, it’s best to just accept that you’re in for a few days of total peace and quiet away from the internet and the world.
On the Marangu Route, there will be huts set up, but on all other routes, there is no shelter provided and you will be sleeping in tents. It’s important to bring a warm sleeping bag and travel sheet so you will have the best chance of getting a good night’s sleep.
Temperatures Can Fall Below Freezing
A common misconception about Kilimanjaro is that it’s scorching hot. The temperature will begin to drop as soon as you ascend. While it will remain warm as long as the sun is visible, nighttime can be below freezing. It’s important to bring warm clothing, including knit hats and thermal under-layers.
You can technically climb the mountain at any time of the year. The two trekking seasons are January to March and June to October. January to March tends to be colder and you’ll have more of a chance of seeing snow, while June to October tends to be busier. In the months of April, May, November, and some of March, high levels of rain and cloud cover are expected, so this isn’t a recommended time for hiking.
Other FAQ About Kilimanjaro
The overall length of time that Kilimanjaro takes will depend on the route you take. There are five main routes that each have their own pros, cons, and difficulty levels, so researching them beforehand and making an informed choice is vital. Climbs vary from five to eight days, although sometimes climbers add an extra day to take things slowly and help them to acclimatize.
It is not possible to climb the mountain without a guide and a tour can cost you anything from $1,000 to $4,000. The porters that accompany tour groups will set up your tents in addition to cooking your meals. Although you shouldn’t expect five-star cooking, do expect wholesome, fulfilling meals including eggs, porridge, meat and chicken, pasta, and rice. Still, it’s a good idea to bring energy bars to get you through the day. Remember to be generous when tipping your porters, who will most likely be the difference between an enjoyable experience and a miserable one.
Before climbing Kilimanjaro, make sure that you’re in good shape. This will increase your chances of making it to the summit and keeping up with the rest of your group.