CLIMB MOUNT KILIMANJARO
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There are various estimates as to how high it is. But most people use the figure of 5895m, or 19,341ft. This is the height you will find printed on the certificates handed out to those who successfully reach the summit. You can find out more about Kilimanjaro’s appearance by following this link: What does Kilimanjaro look like>>
Kilimanjaro’s main claim to fame is that it is the highest Mountain in Africa. It is also said to be the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. In other words, it’s not part of a mountain range but stands all by itself in the heart of the East African plains.
Kilimanjaro is in northern Tanzania, right against the border with Kenya, in East Africa.
The latest figures that have been released by the park authorities show that there were 44,403 people who tried to climb it in 2016. This is down from over 50,000 in 2014 & 2015.
The percentage of people getting to the summit varies according to the route, the duration of the climb and the trekking company that they used, but we reckon that, as a rough guide, about 75% of people make it to the summit. Though many companies will claim a success rate well above 90% for some routes.
Figures are never released by the authorities for fear of generating bad publicity. But extrapolating from the only academic study done on this subject, we estimate that there are approximately 6-7 deaths every year on Kilimanjaro.
You can read our post on this subject here: Deaths on Kilimanjaro>>
You need to be at least ten years old to climb Kilimanjaro. (Incidentally, there are huge discounts on the park fees for under 16s – amounting, for example, to over US$700 for a six-day Machame trek. Make sure these are passed onto you. Many companies, even expensive ones, don’t pass on all of the discount. If you want to know how much your discount should be, just contact us.) There are currently three seven-year-olds who have climbed it to the top (all of whom had to get special permission for doing so.) At the other extreme, the oldest person ever to make it was 88 when he made it to the top.
Furthermore, all the main routes up the mountain are really just walking routes, so you don’t need to be a mountaineer. Sure, there are a couple of places on some routes where you may need to use your hands to steady yourself. Occasionally you may also need to haul yourself over a rock or two. But overall, it’s just a walk. Indeed, there are a couple of people who’ve climbed up the mountain in wheelchairs, so the ability to walk isn’t even a pre-requisite. Blind climbers have felt their way to the top and amputee victims have hobbled and crawled up to the top of Kilimanjaro – a place called Uhuru’s Peak.
I really need to emphasise this point: you do not need any technical climbing or mountaineering skills to get to the top of Kilimanjaro. And don’t be worried about the (negligible) amount of scrambling (ie, using your hands to haul yourself up) that you need to do either. I am not in any way a technical climber. I am a bit of a wimp too, if I’m being honest. But I’ve climbed the mountain 30 times now, on every route. With no problems. It’s all straightforward. And if you’re with a half-decent company, there will always be a guide around to help you if you’re having difficulty.
Don’t let that fool you into thinking that getting to the top is easy, however. Famous people we know who failed to reach the summit include tennis ace Martina Navratilova, tycoon Roman Abramovic and, so it has long been rumoured, mountaineer and conqueror of Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary!
The minimum number of days is 5. The park authorities, KINAPA, won’t allow you on any of the routes for less than this minimum (unless you are on a day-trip, in which case you aren’t allowed to go very high on the mountain). Many agencies will not sell you a trek for five days as it doesn’t really give you enough time to acclimatise safely. We don’t recommend you take just five days either – it is simply too dangerous. At the other extreme some groups trek for 9-10 days. Most treks, however, are 6-8 days in length. The Golden Rule to remember is this: the longer you spend on the mountain, the greater your chances of getting to the summit..
There’s plenty of wildlife on Kilimanjaro, though your chances of seeing much are slim. This is largely because the animals prefer to avoid those parts of the mountain where more than 40,000 people tread every year. For this reason, you’ll be lucky to see anything larger than a monkey or a mouse. That said, every so often a reader will write in to say that they saw a buffalo, eland, leopard or elephant on the trail. Wildlife>>
The national language is Swahili. But on Kilimanjaro the local language is Kichagga, spoken by the Chagga people, which has several dialects. English is widely spoken, at least amongst the guides and more educated members of the mountain crews. The Chagga people>>