Kilimanjaro has three volcanic cones/peaks, Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira. This view is of Kibo from the Karanga camp. Mawenzi peak requires rock and/or ice-climbing skills. Photo by Phase9.
This beautifully shaped volcano is an African icon, its snowy peak visible for hundreds of kilometres around (though the best view is from Kenya) and a natural climbing target for many fit hikers to East Africa; this will require at least six to eight days to accomplish, preferably including time to acclimatise.
Kilimanjaro’s name is something of a mystery as kilima means little mountain (maybe a Swahili joke? ) while njaro means white or shining in old Swahili.
The main hiking routes up Kili to the Uhuru peak take 6 – 8 days.
Marangu (64 kms), Rongai (65 kms), Machame (49 kms), Lemosho (56 kms), Shira and Umbwe (37 kms). The first three are the least challenging routes; Machame is the most picturesque though steeper; Rongai is the easiest for camping; Marangu offers hut accommodation, though the route is much busier as a result.
About 15, 000 – 20, 000 hikers try to reach a peak every year but less than half succeed. The final section to the summit is normally climbed at night when the scree (loose stones) is frozen over and easier to scramble over.
At 5, 896m (19, 343ft) Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak and climbed – without mountaineering gear – by thousands of visitors every year, though careful preparation is vital, including hiring a good guide and warm clothes. Hiking around the lower levels of the volcano is also popular with the less ambitious.
Most hikers get to Kili (as it is casually known) via Moshi and Marangu village.
Beware: the high altitude and relative ease of ascent encourages hikers to climb too fast, inducing altitude-inspired headaches and early fatigue at the least, AMS (acute altitude sickness) or even death in the worst cases. Don’t be over-ambitious or plan a fast hike, you may simply not make the grade, like two thirds of Kili climbers, or perhaps come down in a black bag, which doesn’t look good on most people.
Tourists wishing to climb Kilimanjaro are obliged to hire an accredited guide or travel with a hiking company – generally considered to be the easiest way to deal with lunatic bureaucrats and endless, necessary bookings, equipment acquisition and so on.
Efficient hiking companies can be found in both Moshi and Marangu. Moshi has some boisterous, low cost night spots.
Taking on the heights of Kilimanjaro.
Take: as a bare minimum you’ll need to bring good, waterproof trekking boots, layers of of warm, loose clothing, a light waterproof jacket, a fleece, scarf, hat, gloves, sunglasses and sleeping bag, though these can be bought or rented locally if you’re not fussy about the condition.
And of course camera, water bottle, torch, toilet paper, snacks and basic medicines. This is just a hint of the complexity of this trek, so take Kili seriously and check with tour operators for suggestions and a full list of requirements that if you have any sense a porter will be carrying anyway!
December – February when it’s normally dry and clear, or June to August. Try to time the ascent to arrive at the top when the moon is full, so torches are less necessary and ambient light lends drama to the scene.