Climbing Kili is not just one of my favourite ever adventures it was one of the best experiences of my life. I felt like I read every single blog post ever written on it before I left I was so excited. However there were still questions left unanswered. I thought I’d share my tips for climbing Kilimanjaro, a list full of all of the things I wish I had known before I set off and insider advice you need to know to summit Kilimanjaro.
The climb is pretty gentle
I was worried about so many things before we set off and one of those things was the elevation. I climbed with Action Challenge and they provided total elevation details for each day but I knew that on some days we would be descending to acclimatise so I wasn’t sure how much climbing there would be. I was concerned about how steep certain sections would be and whether I was physically fit enough to keep up. I need not have worried at all. I climbed the Machame route and didn’t have any trouble with any of the elevation. (I chose the Machame route as it went up through the jungle and passed back through on the way down, I saw two monkeys on the last day and it absolutely made the trip)
It’s a National Park
Mount Kilimanjaro is in a National Park. If you ask them at the gate you can get a stamp in your passport, a pretty cool souvenir and I'm not going to lie it’s something I’m pretty proud of having.
The hike really is very slow
In addition to providing mileage summaries in advance of the trek we were also provided with rough itineraries including daily hike times. When I read them I couldn’t understand how it would be possible to cover such little distance in so much time. I completely underestimated how slow we would walk. I had been warned it would be slow but it was excruciatingly slow. Walking so slowly was one of the biggest tests for me. It might sound silly but it’s much harder mentally to go slowly when you know you have a long route to cover and you just want to get it done. The funny thing was the steady pace became one of my favourite aspects of the trip and not having a time pressure and taking time to laugh, chat, take everything in, became one of my most treasured takeaways from the trek.
The Nights Were incredibly Cold
Yes Kilimanjaro is in Africa but boy is it cold at the top of that mountain. The best tip I picked up before I left was to take an aluminium water bottle and fill that at night instead of using your water quota for tea. I took a Sigg bottle and the hot water turned it into an incredible hot water bottle and kept me warm until morning. When I woke up I popped two High 5 electrolytes in to start getting my fluids on board for the day. The hot water bottle trip is something I use on trips now.
It’s more about the journey
The main focus of the trek is the summit but that is such a tiny part of the trip. The porters absolutely make the experience. I loved chatting to them. They sang and danced us into camp each day and had the most incredible spirit. Throw into that a bunch of 17 other people I had never met and you really are off on an adventure of a lifetime.
There are two “summits”
One thing you need to know if you are climbing Kili is that there are two summits. Well sort of. You climb all night in the darkness, sort of like hiking up a ski slope and then when you hit Stella Point you feel like you’re at the top. But you’re not. There is an hour left to go BUT it’s really flat around the crater edge. I know people who have turned back at Stella Point thinking they can’t face another hour of that climbing intensity. That last hour honestly goes so quickly and isn’t steep by that point, it is just a gentle stroll to the top.
The summit is crowded
I hate to break it to you but there’s even a queue at the top of the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Everyone heads off to the summit of Kilimanjaro in the dark. It's sort of a surprise when you round the edge to the summit and there are a lot of people at the top. I thought that I was going to feel like I was on top of the world when I reached the top but I actually couldn't believe how busy it was. You can’t blame though people, you don’t walk all that way not to get a picture next to the iconic sign.
What goes up must come down and the descent is hard going. Any normal day it would be tricky descending in scree but you have to factor in that you’re likely to have had little to no sleep for the past 48 hours, you’re body is exhausted, it’s getting really hot and you’ll still be wearing as many clothes as physically possible.
Words cannot describe the summit sunrise
The sunrise on the side of Mount Kilimanjaro will take some beating. After 5 hours of terrible winds and utter blackness we were treated to the most spectacular sunrise. It was absolutely out of this world and it’s one of the reasons I would highly recommend the trip. Moments like that in life are hard to come by and that really was up there in my top moments ever.
If you’ve climbed Kili and yo have a tip to share pop it in the comments or if you’re planning a trip and have a question let me know!