During my extensive tour of Africa last year I was fortunate enough to be able to tick off one of my biggest (literally) bucket list items which I have had for a long time, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. I actually visited Tanzania when I first started traveling but didn’t have the funds, nor the fitness to be able to scale the ‘Roof of Africa’ as it is so delightfully named. Last year however, once I knew that I would be passing through again, my mind was fully set on scaling the mountain.
There is a general misconception about Kilimanjaro that it is somehow easy to climb, I think much of this comes from its size, and its level of relative difficulty when compared with other mountains of this size. Whilst it is not Everst-esque proportions, climbing Kilimanjaro is not exactly easy, and here are the biggest challenges which you will face should you decide to head up to the top.
Any type of mountain which is so far above sea level is going to cause some real problems in terms of altitude, and Kilimanjaro is no different. The altitude problems kick in when you get to around 3,000 metres above sea level, so around halfway up the mountain. If you are lucky enough to avoid any kind of altitude sickness, the lack of oxygen and air in general can make you tired very quickly, and create a very tough environment for you to keep going. Take your time and if you’re not confident that you can adapt, opt for the longer itinerary which will help you to get acclimatised to the higher altitude, making it easier for your body to deal with.
The trek of climbing Kilimanjaro can be very arduous at times and whilst you don’t exactly need to be an Olympic athlete in order to make it to the summit, you need to be prepared for a tough climb. Depending on which itinerary you take, you could be climbing for between 6-8 hours per day, and the summit day will involve around 12 – 14 hours of trekking, walking and climbing. Combine the level of effort which you will need to make it to the top with the altitude issues, and this so-called easy climb, takes on another level of difficulty.
During your climb you could see all manner of weather conditions from sun, rain, snow and freezing temperatures, all within the space of just a few days. The weather here is notoriously difficult to predict and so you will need to ensure that you have clothing which is right for each type of weather. Unless the weather is extreme, you will have to carry on regardless when scaling the mountain, which brings with it many extra difficulties for you. The weather has also been known to turn bad in the space of just a few hours and so you really need to ensure that you are prepared, physically and mentally.