Q: What is the best route to climb Kilimanjaro?
- A: There are seven established routes up to the summit of Kilimanjaro; each route is unique and an experience in itself. Each route also has advantages and disadvantages and you’re going to have to ask yourself:
- How fit am I?
- Do I want fantastic views?
- Do I want a crowd or time to myself?
- How much time should I take to acclimatise?
Acclimatisation to avoid altitude sickness is very important if you want to successfully conquer Mt Kilimanjaro instead of being carted down on a stretcher. Choosing a quicker (and cheaper) route is a false economy. The seven routes are:
- Marangu: easier climb; can be fast (but don’t forget to acclimatise) so can be a cheaper option; dormitory-style overnights so no camping is needed; less busy because of the limited number of beds on the route. On the downside, it’s an out-and-back route so the scenery has less variety.
- Machame: popular, tougher climb; very beautiful route; good for acclimatisation so the success rate of reaching the summit is high; camping route for those of you who love camping. Downsides are that it can get busy in high season.
- Lemosho: a long route so good for acclimatisation; very picturesque; quieter route; beautiful views. Downside is that because it’s a longer route, it’s more expensive.
- Rongai: the wildest, quietest route; the only route that approaches from the north; drier and less wooded so ideal if you want to climb during the rainy season. Downside, you’ll need an extra day to acclimatise, which will add to the cost.
- Umbwe: great if you love a challenge as it’s the toughest and steepest route with little chance of acclimatisation, as it’s a quick route; suitable only for experienced high-altitude climbers; an exciting climb on ridges; fantastic views with the mountain to yourself. Downsides – only for the experienced.
- Western Breach: a tough climb; quiet route; beautiful hiking. Downsides – you’ll need an acclimatisation day, which adds to the cost.
- Northern Circuit: the newest route; very beautiful; it’s the longest route so best for acclimatisation; a 360 degree route takes you round the mountain for great views; being new, it’s less travelled. The downside is that it’s pricier because it’s a long route.
Q: What is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?
A: You can climb Kilimanjaro all year round if you have the right equipment but August to October is the climbing season as it tends to be drier during these months. The disadvantage of this time is that it’s Kilimanjaro’s rush hour. If you want peace and quiet, climb in June.
Q: What are the signs of altitude sickness?
A: The climb up Kilimanjaro should always be taken seriously because of the risk of altitude sickness in all its forms: Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) with its more serious variants of High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). Because there is less oxygen in the air at altitudes over 8000 feet, your body can’t take in as much oxygen as it needs, which can result in AMS. The symptoms of mild AMS can vary between individuals, with symptoms that include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms are usually worse at night. Although the symptoms are easily treatable with rest and hydration, ibuprofen or paracetamol for a headache and promethazine for nausea, the best way to prevent AMS is to acclimatise slowly. HACE is the swelling of the brain caused by a lack of oxygen, and can develop over a very few hours. Symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of co-ordination
HAPE is a build up of fluid in the lungs. Symptoms of HAPE include:
- Cyanosis (a blue tinge to the skin)
- Breathing difficulties, even at rest
- A feeling of tightness in the chest
- A persistent cough, producing pink or white frothy sputum
- Tiredness and weakness
The symptoms of HAPE can start to appear a few days after arrival at high altitude. Both HAPE and HACE can be fatal if not treated immediately.
Q: What happens if someone has to descend because of altitude sickness?
A: You’ll always be accompanied by a team of guides and assistant guides. If someone becomes ill, they’ll be escorted safely down the mountain by an assistant guide. You won’t be left on the mountain without a guide!
Q: How far do we hike each day?
A: On most days, you’ll hike about 10 km (6.2 miles) and this will be at a slow pace so that you can adjust to the elevation. We don’t do route marches!
Q: Why do we make the final ascent to Uhuru Peak at midnight?
A: Kilimanjaro's final ascent to Uhuru Peak is made at night because of the weather patterns on Kilimanjaro. The midnight trek to the summit is designed to ensure your safety as if you summit during the day, you run the risk of being caught in snow, hail or rainstorms. You’ll also get the most amazing views from the summit with the sun rising in the pink and apricot skies of dawn, and you’ll be well on your way down before the clouds roll in at 10 a.m. sharp.
Q: Can I rent equipment from Ngaiza Adventures guides?
A: We will provide you with most things you’ll need on your hike as we rent or own much of the equipment, but there are some things you’ll need to provide yourself with. Take a look at the packing list and make sure that you bring everything you need. Alternatively, we can recommend places in Moshi from which you can hire anything you can’t bring from home.
Q: What will the porters carry and what will I carry on the climb?
A: We love our porters. Theyare very special people. They are tough and hardy, and you will be amazed at their resilience. They’ll carry most of your luggage, as well as tents and other camping equipment, cooking gear, rucksacks and picnic tables. Our porters won’t ascend the summit stretch with you; this is the guides’ and assistant guides’ job. All you’ll need to carry is a day pack with your drinking water, rain gear, camera and lunch.
Q: Is it possible to buy energy snacks in Tanzania?
A: Energy snacks and drinks aren’t common in Tanzania so you should bring a supply with you. Gel energy snacks are extremely useful for summit day.
Q: How much should I tip each guide, cook and porter?
A: A tip isn’t included in your tour price. It can be difficult to know the right level of gratuity in a country other than your own so we’ve put together some guidelines:
- Mountain Guide- $20.00 per day
- Porter- $7.00 to $10.00 per day
- Mountain Cook- $15.00 per day
- Safari Guide- $20.00 per day
- Safari Cook- $20.00 per day
Q: Do Ngaiza Adventures guides carry first aid kits?
A: Yes, our guides carry well-stocked first-aid kits with equipment for cuts, scrapes and blisters: they also carry common over-the-counter medicines, and some emergency supplies. They don’t carry prescription medicines so please bring your own supply.
Q: How experienced are the Ngaiza Adventures guides?
A: Each of our guides has several years of experience on Kilimanjaro. They each need to be licensed by the park authorities, too. Our most experienced guide has climbed Kilimanjaro more than 200 times (18 years’ experience) while our most junior guide has climbed about 50 times (5 years’ experience). Be sure to listen to your guide’s advice while on the mountain and remember to go slowly.
Q: How should I physically prepare for my climb?
A: Kilimanjaro is considered by many to be the easiest high mountain to climb. However, the altitude of 5,895 meters (19,340 feet) is still extremely high and it’s essential that you prepare properly to get the best out of your hike, to feel well and healthy every day and to avoid mountain sickness. It’s best if you train for at least two months before your trip – hiking and hill walking at home to strengthen your muscles and test out your kit, and some cardiovascular exercise to strengthen your heart.Also, it is absolutely essential that you research and understand the causes and symptoms of altitude sickness before beginning your adventures.