#1 Kilimanjaro Climbing Guide – everything you need to know to prepare for your trek

WELCOME TO CLIMB MOUNT KILIMANJARO!

We’ve been writing the bestselling guide book to climbing Kilimanjaro since 2001.

These are the SIX questions we get asked most often about trekking on Africa’s Highest Mountain – and our answers to them!

1. So how difficult is it to climb Kilimanjaro?

Background Information on KilimanjaroThe first and most important thing I need to say on this matter is as follows: All the main routes up the mountain are just walking routes.

I really need to emphasise this point: you do not need any technical climbing or mountaineering skills to get to the summit. So you don’t need to be a mountaineer. You just need to be able to walk.

Indeed, given the number of paraplegics and those in wheelchairs, even that skill is not essential. Blind climbers have felt their way to the top and amputee victims have hobbled and crawled up to the top.

Even the walking is not particularly exhausting. After all, just do the maths. For example, the most popular route is the Machame Route, which is 60.76km (37.75 miles) in length in total from gate to summit and back to gate. Do it in six days and that’s only a fraction over 10km per day (ie just over 6 miles); do it in seven days and it’s only around just 8.5km per day, ie a little under 5.5 miles per day.

(You can follow this link to find a table showing the total distances of each route.)

So why do people fail to reach the summit?

Don’t be fooled into thinking that getting to the top is easy. You still have to battle against the cold and exhaustion. Most importantly, there’s the lack of oxygen that’s available to breathe at altitude and the complications (altitude sickness etc) that follow. This is what defeats most climbers. Which is why we go into detail on this site (and even more so in the book) about altitude sickness, its symptoms, how to prevent it – and what to do if you get it.

I would say that over 90% of people fail because of altitude sickness. The rest: well, injuries or other illnesses undoubtedly cause others to stop before they reach the top: upset stomachs can be common on Kilimanjaro. A lack of fitness counts for a few people, though not that many.

But I have to say that, after altitude sickness, the most common reason as to why people fail to get to the summit is attitude sickness. In other words, people just give up. Which is why it’s important to understand just how hard it can be to climb Kili, and to be aware of all the hardships and privations – the cold, the possible lack of sleep, the nausea and headaches etc – that you’ll suffer on the mountain.

If you’re aware of them, you’ll be prepared for them – and, as such, you’ll be less likely to give up on the mountain.

Avoiding altitude sickness?

Well, reading our advice about altitude sickness on this site and in the book will help.

It also helps if you can go with a decent company, which is why we provide a lot of information on this site about how to choose a trekking company. It is also why, in the guide book, we provide reviews of over 80 of the most prominent companies working on the mountain (as well as the overseas agents that use them). Or if you can’t be bothered to read all that, then we do have our own trekking company, Kilimanjaro Experts, which we believe ticks every box when it comes to being a safe, fairly priced and ethical operator.

Happy Kilimanjaro Experts at Uhuru Peak

CLIMB WITH THE EXPERTS!

* Experienced, safe – and brilliant! – guides
* New Routes
* Unmatched success rate for getting trekkers to the top
* The best information for trek preparations
* Fully fledged KPAP partners
* Strong ethical policy towards the environment

…And a lot less expensive than you’d think!


FIND OUT MORE!

Other factors that will help you get to the top? Well, you should:

  1. Take as many days as you can afford to climb to the summit, on a route with a high success rate. Treks typically last 5-8 days, though we consider five days to be too short – and dangerous! – and so should you. Remember: the longer you spend on the mountain, the greater your chances of getting to the summit.
  2. Pack some warm clothes and decent boots,
  3. Stick to a training regime before you leave,
  4. Eat and drink plenty when you’re on the mountain.

And to help you negotiate the whole process of preparing for your trek, we’ve compiled a schedule that takes you step by step through the process of preparing for your trek. And you can follow this link for advice on how to maximise your chances of reaching the summit.

Do all of the above and, with a bit of luck, you’ll be fine. But even if, after all our advice, you still fail to get to the top, well at least you’re in good company. 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!

Close-up of wooden signpost above Horombo Huts

2. Which is the best route on Kilimanjaro?

THE ASCENT ROUTES

There are six official paths leading up the slopes of Kilimanjaro to the summit (which is called Uhuru Peak).

The first thing to say is that all routes on Kilimanjaro are beautiful. So if you have been booked on a trek up Kilimanjaro, and had no say in what route you will be taking, then don’t despair: you should have a great time on a lovely route, whatever trail you end up taking.

That said, there’s no doubt that some routes are better than others. You can read about each one in detail in our Kilimanjaro Routes section, including a day-by-day itinerary for each route.

To see a map of the Kilimanjaro routes please click on the image below.

Trekking route map for Kilimanjaro

But by way of introduction, let’s look at each one briefly now:

Marangu Route

This is the oldest and second-most popular route up Kilimanjaro. It is perhaps most well known as the one route on Kilimanjaro where you sleep in huts rather than camping in tents. I think it’s a great route but it does, it must be said, have at least TWO significant drawbacks.

1) The first disadvantage is that the Marangu Route is the only trail where you take the same path back down as you did on the way up. In other words, you see the same scenery twice. Now in the book we describe places where you can vary the descent route so that it is at least slightly different from the ascent route. But given that most of you will only be climbing Kilimanjaro once, it’s a shame that you won’t be seeing as much of the mountain as you would be on other routes.

2) The other disadvantage? Well, it also, statistically, has the lowest success rate for getting people to the summit. This could be due to various factors. Because it’s one of the shorter routes, so it allows people less time to acclimatise, and some people are daft enough to try to complete it in five days. We also think the altitude profile may hinder acclimatisation. And thirdly, because you sleep in huts on this trail, so perhaps it attracts the sort of person who is unused the outdoors, and wants to avoid it where possible – and they, perhaps, are the sort of person who may give up on the climb more readily than those who are more used to the outdoor life.

Umbwe Route

I love the Umbwe Route. I think it’s just beautiful, and so, so peaceful. That makes it really special. But there’s a reason why it’s quiet. The first couple of days are steep, and thus not ideal for acclimatising (the best way to acclimatise and thus avoid altitude sickness is to gain height slowly, whereas on Umbwe, you can gain around a thousand metres in altitude every day all the way to the top).

But Umbwe is, like all the other trails, just a walking route – there’s no actual climbing involved. So how can you enjoy the beauty and serenity of Umbwe without ending up with altitude sickness? Well there are several solutions. 1) Climb Mount Meru beforehand, so you are already acclimatised before you even reach Kilimanjaro; 2) take an acclimatisation day at Barranco (which you reach at the end of the second day), so you spend two nights there, and spend that rest day climbing to Lava Tower and back. By doing this, you’ll be mimicking very closely the altitude profile of the Machame Route, the most popular route on the mountain. 3) If you have the time and money, take our Full Circuit Umbwe Route which allows you to enjoy Umbwe before moving to the almost-as-tranquil northern side of Kibo. Not only does this give you a much better chance of acclimatising, but you get to see more of Mt Kilimanjaro than you do on any other route – perfect!

Machame Route

Like Umbwe, this starts on the southern side of Kilimanjaro. Unlike Umbwe, however, this is actually the most popular route on the mountain. Why? Well, essentially, it’s the nearest thing that Kilimanjaro has to a bog standard trail: if you want a good chance of getting to the summit, and want to do so relatively cheaply (well, at least compared to some of the other routes), and aren’t too bothered about the experience you have on the way, then this is the route for you. And, to be fair, it is a pretty route, and quite interesting.

But if you do care about what kind of experience you’re going to have on Kili, then I would look elsewhere. Why? Because, simply put, Machame is just too busy now. Around 20 years ago, this route was known as the Whiskey Route as, compared to Marangu (which was known as the Coca Cola Route), where the climbers sleep in dorms, here on the Machame Route people slept under canvas. As such, Machame was advertised as a tough route for tough people. Which, if you’ve climbed on it at any point over the past decade or so, you’ll know is a bit silly. But unfortunately, many companies, particularly lazy travel agencies in North America and Europe, continue to advertise it as such – and people continue to book a trek on it because they think they’re getting a true wilderness experience. It’s only when they start walking do they realise that, far from being a trek that’s only for the tough, you’re actually just joining a queue of people snaking up the mountain all the way to the summit.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh. But nowhere else on Kilimanjaro have I felt more like I’m on a conveyor belt of people just shuffling towards Uhuru Peak than on the Machame Route, particularly during the full moon. So by all means take the Machame Route – it’s cheaper than other trails (it’s close to Moshi, so the transport fees are less for the ground operators), it is pretty, and it does have a great success rate (the best for a six-day trek I reckon). Just ignore the hype about it being a quiet, tough trek – because it really isn’t!

Lemosho Route

The longest route on the mountain is also one of the best. The forest is at its lushest on Kilimanjaro’s western side, where the Lemosho Route starts, the scenery is great, the views across the Shira Plateau to the snowy Kibo summit are wonderful, and the success rate for getting people to the top is good – largely because it is usually done over eight days rather than six or seven. If you’re looking for disadvantages, then it is getting busier, and parts of the trail are crowded now, particularly when you join up with the crowds on the Machame Route from the fourth day onwards. (It is for this reason that we prefer the Alternative Lemosho Route, which is quieter and, in our experience, has an even higher success rate. However, this is not an official route, so we haven’t provided a summary of it in this section – though you can read about it by visiting our Alternative Lemosho page.) It is also more expensive than other routes, because it takes longer and because the transport costs to take you to the start of the trail are higher. But if you can afford the time and money to take a trek on the Lemosho Route (or Alternative Lemosho Route), you’ll be glad you did!

Shira Route

This is largely a four-wheel-drive trek for emergency vehicles coming down from Shira II Campsite and few people take this trail now. However, I mention it here as some agencies (usually foreign, with little knowledge about the mountain) mix up the Lemosho and Shira Routes. To make sure you’re on the Lemosho Route (which you want to be) and not the Shira Route (which you don’ want to be), check where you’re camping on the first night. If it’s Mti Mkubwa, or Big Tree Camp, then you’re on the Lemosho Route. If it’s not, then you could be on the Shira Route.

There is one large tour operator that still takes clients on the Shira Route, and claims to have a very good success rate for getting people to the summit on that route. That may be, but they begin each trek by driving all the way up to the Shira Plateau, thus denying their climbers the chance to experience some of the best forest on the mountain. Which just makes me shake my head in despair.

Rongai Route

Also known as the Loitokitok Route, this route is the only one running from the north-east side of the mountain, and starts right by the border with Kenya. It’s a lovely route, and again, pretty peaceful, at least when compared to Machame and Marangu. If I had to pick holes in it, well it doesn’t have a great stretch of forest – you walk through it in about half an hour. This is mainly due to the depredations of the locals who forest the lower slopes of Kili (this is the only route where you actually start off by walking past farms, rather than in forest). The northern side of Kilimanjaro is also the driest side, which is why the forest is less impressive on this side. but other than that, it’s a great route, particularly if you opt for the diversion up to Mawenzi Tarn, which adds a day or two to the itinerary but is worth it for both the views and for the acclimatisation.

Unofficial trails up Kilimanjaro

In addition to these trails there are a few ‘unofficial’ routes up Kilimanjaro, such as the Alternative Lemosho (aka Northern Circuit Route) and the Full Circuit Umbwe. These ‘unofficial’ routes essentially combine parts of the above trails, all joined together to make a new route. These can be some of the best hiking trails around, with high success rates and fewer crowds.

THE DESCENT ROUTES

The rules regarding which path you take to descend are as follows:

Those on the Machame, Umbwe, Lemosho or Shira routes must take as their descent trail the Mweka Route

Those who ascended on the Marangu or Rongai/Loitokitok trails must descend by the Marangu Route.

So which path up Kilimanjaro is the best?

It’s a question I get asked an awful lot. And I could go into a great detail about the relative advantages and disadvantages of each route. But to keep it simple, this is what I usually say:

Of all the trails in the park, my favourite route is possibly the 8-day Alternative Lemosho Route. (Note that some companies call this the Northern Circuit but be careful, as this name can refer to several quite different routes.) It is, in my opinion, the route with the best forest for the first day or so; the best views and scenery once you leave the forest; it takes you away from the crowds that are on some other trails, choosing instead to opt for quiet paths away from the crowds and the noise; and because it is the longest route, so it gives you more time to acclimatise – and thus it also has the highest success rate of any on the mountain. If you can’t find a company that deals with this route specifically, then the standard Lemosho Route is good too, though this does have more crowds on it and the success rate is slightly lower.

Just as great is the Full Circuit Umbwe, which is even quieter than the Alternative Lemosho, and more varied, but we are the only company that currently offers this route, and, at the time of writing, as a private tour only.

The big disadvantage with both the Lemosho or Alternative Lemosho Route (and the Full Circuit Umbwe) is that, because they are the longest routes, so they are best done over 8 days rather than seven – and as a result are a little more expensive than the other routes.

So if you can’t afford the time or money for an 8-day route, then the best seven-day route is Rongai. Again, this has some spectacular views, is quieter than many other routes – and again has a very high success rate of any seven-day trek. Finally, if even a seven-day route is too expensive, then the best six-day route is Machame – it’s overcrowded at times but it’s cheaper and has, for a six-day route, a good success rate for getting people to the summit (though not as good as the seven- or eight-day routes, of course).

Of course, this is just my personal opinion and there are advantages with all the routes. If you don’t want to sleep under canvas, for example, then the Marangu Route is the best choice, as it’s the only one where you sleep in dormitories. Or if you want a more adventurous route, I think the Umbwe Route is perfect – quiet, steep and spectacular.

Do feel free to get in touch if you having trouble deciding on a suitable route for your trek and I’ll do my best to help.

Kilimanjaro's main summit, Kibo, reflected in the sunglasses of a guide

2. When should you go?

The mountain is open every day of the year. There are two rainy seasons, April-May (known as the ‘Long Rains’) and November-mid December (the ‘Short Rains’), and few people climb at this time. So the main trekking seasons coincide with the mountain’s two ‘dry’ seasons: January to mid-March and June to October.

Note that it will still probably rain on your trek during these months too – it’s rare to climb without getting rained on at least once.

You can read more about the mountain’s seasons by visiting our trekking seasons and weather pages.

So when is our favourite time to climb Kilimanjaro?

Personally, we like to trek in March and October. There are two main reasons for this:

1) The weather is usually good and the skies are often clear during these months.

2) Because they both fall just before the rainy seasons, they tend to be quieter than other months. People are probably afraid that the rains will come early, so opt to avoid these months. But in our experience, the rains are more likely to fail than arrive early. Thus the mountain is usually emptier, and quieter. And yet the weather is still lovely.

These are the reasons why March and October are our two favourite months and we think the best time of year to climb Kilimanjaro. Note that occasionally the rainy season does arrive early – such as in October 2019, when the weather was dreadful – but these are the exceptions.

Note that June and late December, though they also fall outside of the rainy seasons, but only just, are not such good times to be on Kilimanjaro in my experience. The clouds tend to linger after the rainy season, even if the rains have largely finished, so views are restricted.

4. How much does it cost to climb Kilimanjaro?

The cheapest way to organise a climb is to just turn up at the airport, get a taxi to Moshi or Arusha, and begin negotiating with the companies there. That said, you need to have confidence in your bargaining skills, and – at the risk of sounding like a salesman! – it’s a good idea to have a copy of our book so you know how to haggle, what to look out for, and what should be in the contract that you sign.

If you book in Moshi then you can, just possibly, get a Kilimanjaro trek starting at about US$1000 – though I cannot guarantee the reliability or honesty of any company charging so little; one thing I can guarantee is that their treatment of porters will be terrible, so please let your conscience be your guide when deciding whether to book with these companies.

Most decent companies will charge at least double the price above – ie around US$2000 for a standard trek on the Machame Route. That said, many of the better – or at least more expensive – companies can charge US$3000 or more, and some go up to US$5000 per person or more for a trek.

Included in this price should be the following:

  1. Airport transfers at the start and end of your trip
  2. A couple of nights in a hotel, usually one either side of the trek
  3. Transport to and from the mountain at the start/end of the trek
  4. All park fees, rescue fees, conservation fees and camping fees
  5. Food and drink on the mountain, as well as camping equipment
  6. Wages of your guides, assistant guides, cook and porters

Other items to look out for? Well there may be some sort of financial failure insurance (so, if the company goes bankrupt, your money is safe; all UK companies – indeed, I believe all European companies – have to have this.) Oxygen on the mountain should also be issued as standard though some charge extra for it; you’ll need it so make sure that it is included. And some foreign agencies may also include flights.

Which begs the question: what isn’t usually included in a trek package? Well, the big ones are

  1. Airfares
  2. Tips
  3. Tanzanian visas (US$50 for most people, US$100 for American passport holders)
  4. Meals when you’re not on the mountain (other than breakfast).
  5. Travel insurance
  6. Souvenirs

Need more info? Well do check out our pages on How to book a Kilimanjaro trek.

Group of 12 Scots at Kilimanjaro's Uhuru Peak

5. What should I pack for my Kilimanjaro climb?

Your trekking agency will provide you with a list of clothes and other items that you need to bring for your trek.

Typically, they will provide a tent and cooking equipment – so you don’t need to bring them.

The ground operator may also supply sleeping mats and, in some instances, sleeping bags too – so check with them.

We have provided a comprehensive packing list for Kilimanjaro.

6. How fit do I need to be?

While it is always good to get fit, there’s no need to go overboard with fitness preparations for climbing Kilimanjaro. Some guidebooks and websites go into extraordinary detail about fitness regimes. I, however, along with most of the guides and, indeed, the majority of trekkers who have climbed Kili all think that most of these regimes are unnecessary. Why? Simply because the main reason why people fail to reach the summit is due to altitude sickness rather than lack of necessary strength or stamina.

So just remember: you don’t need to be very fit to climb Kilimanjaro. It’s more that you need to be ‘not unfit’ (if that makes sense). If you’re out of shape on the mountain, then you’ll find it a struggle tackling the gradients each day, may fall behind your friends (even though you should all be going very slowly), and will generally have a fairly unpleasant time – which is not what any of us want.

Besides, in all probability on the final push to the summit, and back down again, you’ll be walking for around 16 hours, at night, and it’s too cold to take many breaks. So try to get into some sort of shape before your climb – it may increase your chances of reaching the summit only slightly, but at least you’ll enjoy the trip much more.

So what sort of training should you do? Well, there is no substitute for following a structured anaerobic and aerobic training regime for at least 12 weeks in the run up to your trek. Running, jogging, swimming, cycling – all of these are good exercises to follow.

The best thing you can do, however, to prepare for your walk – is to go for a walk! If that walk can include some uphill stretches, so much the better. If you can actually go for a multi-day walk, and camp out overnight on the way, then that’s really useful, for it mimics the experience you’ll have on Kilimanjaro, of course. And if you have any mountains near you, and you can get to altitude (above 2000-3000m), then that’s pretty much the best preparation you can have. (It is for this reason that several savvy climbers book a trek up Mount Meru, Kili’s neighbour, immediately before climbing Kilimanjaro. It’s a great idea, and and wonderful trek, and not just because it provides ideal preparation for Kili.)

Don’t forget to prepare yourself mentally, as well as physically. A lot of the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro is mental. It’s cold up there, and you may at times feel terrible too (headaches, nausea and loss of appetite are just three of the symptoms most climbers will suffer at some point during their trek).

Being in good physical shape will help you feel better and more confident about the challenges you face, but do prepare yourself, too, for some tough hours when you may want to give up; overcome those and, as long as you’ve acclimatised properly, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get to the top of Africa’s Highest Mountain.

For more information on preparing mind and body for Kilimanjaro, please visit our fitness for Kilimanjaro page.

Colobus monkey on Kilimanjaro - illustration for background Information

THE SLIGHTLY SMALLER QUESTIONS: Other stuff that people often ask….

Ideally, we say that you should book at least six months in advance – and preferably a year before you want to trek. On this website you can find our timetable for booking and preparing for your trek.

By booking early you give yourself more time to prepare and train for your trek. It also increases your chances of getting exactly the trek you want, with the route you want, the dates you want and your preferred choice of hotel too. That said, when we were booking climbs we often had people who booked their trek just a few days before it was due to start. If you are fit enough and have the right gear, there is nothing wrong with this approach, as long as you are fully aware of the challenge that awaits you and know about the dangers too.

Not any more. In 1991 the park authorities made it compulsory for all climbers to sign up with an agency. They in turn will provide you with a crew (consisting of a guide and his assistants, a cook and several porters). You can thus no longer turn up at the foot of Africa’s highest mountain with a rucksack of food and clothes and hope to climb all by yourself. The choice of which agency to sign up with is thus the most important decision you’ll have to make. Which is why we provide a lot of advice on this website about finding the right company for your trek – and an extensive review of all the major ones in the guide book.

It’s a good question, particularly if you want to reach the summit on an important day such as your birthday. The easy way to work it out is this: you will normally reach the summit at dawn on the penultimate morning of your trek. So, for example, for a seven-day trek you would reach, after a very testing summit night, the Uhuru Peak at dawn on the sixth day. The rest of that day – and the morning of the last day – will be spent descending back down the mountain to the exit gate.

Here’s an example. Your birthday is on the 10 March and you want to do a seven-day trek on the standard Machame Route. So you need to book a trek running 5-11 March. That way, you’ll spend five days (5, 6, 7, 8, 9 March) walking to Barafu. You will then walk through the night (beginning at about midnight), reaching the summit at dawn on the 10 March. You then spend the rest of the 10th March walking down to Millennium or Mweka Campsite. The final day is then spent walking to Mweka Gate, from where you’ll be transported back to your hotel.

The policy on this varies from company to company and on the severity of the injury/illness. However, usually the injured/unwell party will be accompanied down the mountain by an assistant guide while the rest of the party continue their ascent.

Usually, if you’ve had to descend, you will return to the previous campsite before deciding on a suitable rendezvous point to meet up with your fellow trekkers on their descent. However, the guide may decide that the most appropriate action would be to evacuate you off the mountain altogether. If this is the case, you will accompanied on your descent either by one of the assistant guides, a summit porter or, if he deems it necessary, by the guide himself. In order to ensure your safety, the guide will probably want you to descend as quickly as possible without risking injury.

As extra insurance, any decent company will also provide every trek with a couple of oxygen bottles. Do note, however, that once you’ve been administered oxygen it is no longer safe for you to continue to ascend as the 99% oxygen inspiration de-activates the body’s triggers which accelerate its Haemoglobin production. In other words, oxygen is there to help you get off the mountain safely – it should never be used as a means of assisting a climber to the summit.

While you are descending, the guide will contact the base in Moshi or Arusha to update them on the situation. As such, by the time you reach the exit gate there should be a car waiting for you to take you back to your hotel. Usually your transfer back from the mountain to the hotel will be included in your package, even if you have come off the mountain early. However, you will still need to pay for any extra nights accommodation you require.

There is no law that says you must buy insurance for climbing the mountain. But some companies will certainly insist that you have some of insurance for your trek. And even if they don’t, it’s certainly a good idea to have some, and not just for the mountain either. North Tanzania isn’t particularly crime-ridden, but thefts, pickpocketings and muggings do happen. But even if you don’t have anything worth nicking, you’ll still want medical cover: there are several diseases you can catch when you’re not on the mountain, and plenty of ways to injure yourself when you are.

For more information on what insurance is suitable, including links to several UK and US companies that offer cover for the mountain, please visit our What insurance do I need for my trek?

The latest figures that have been released by the park authorities show that there were 47,232 people who tried to climb Africa’s Highest Mountain. The table below summarises how the visitor numbers have changed since we wrote the first edition of the Kilimanjaro guide back in 2001:

Kilimanjaro visitor numbers

YearNo of climbers on Kilimanjaro
200121,025
200434,530
200740,701
201257,456
201647,232
Number of people visiting Kilimanjaro per annum over the past 20 years

As a rough estimate, about 75% of people make it to the summit. 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. Some companies boast of having success rates over 90%.

Unfortunately, yes, they are still pretty terrible. Time was when many toilets were so full they started to develop their own geological formation. Neither stalagmite nor stalactite, but stalagshite. Then, when researching for the last edition of the book, we noticed that the park authorities were starting to tackle the problem. They built some state-of-the-art eco-toilets at the major campsites, and improved the state of many others.

Alas, things have once more declined, and the last time we trekked – earlier this year – there were smashed windows, broken doors and, well, crap everywhere. The stench, moreover, was overpowering in many of them. I don’t consider myself particularly squeamish – the opposite, in fact – but for the first time I really understood why people made such a big issue of this.

Thankfully, many of the better trekking companies now provide their clients with their own private toilets. I’m not a fan of these either: I always find it strange sitting on what is essentially a box with my trousers round my ankles in the middle of a busy campsite, separated from the outside world by nothing more than a flimsy bit of canvas that flaps furiously in even the slightest breeze. But at least it gives you an option if the public toilets are simply too disgusting to contemplate. While I condemn strongly those people who think it’s OK to crouch behind a bush and crap there, given these other options I can see why they do it.

The national language of Tanzania is Swahili. But in addition to Swahili, which just about everyone in Tanzania speaks, the local language around the mountain 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. Click on this link to find out more about the Chagga people>>

There’s very little science to suggest that smokers actually perform better than non-smokers on Kili, and I certainly don’t recommend you take up the tobacco habit to increase your chances of getting to the summit. But this rumour has been hanging around for years now. And I have to say that, in my experience, there could be something to it. Around five years ago I led a party of 12 Scottish guys up the Machame Route. All of them made it, but my distinct memory is that the two smokers in the group merrily skipped their way to the summit. The others all suffered from the altitude to some degree. Is it because their bodies are used to less oxygen? Or was it just a coincidence? Who knows? I’d love to find out if it’s true – and why!

Yes. But I would say that, overall, reception on the mountain remains patchy. There are several variables that can affect your ability to get a phone signal, including the network you’re with and the quality of the phone you’re carrying. But we do think it’s improving. The last time we were round the northern side of Kibo, on the Alternative Lemosho Route, the group we were leading were, on the whole, able to get reception pretty much all the way. This is certainly an improvement from the situation a few years ago. That said, it’s highly possible that you may have to go for a day or two without being able to communicate with the outside world, whatever route you take.

In the book we provide details of where we’ve found reception on the mountain for each of the routes.

You can read all about what you eat and drink on the mountain – as well as much else – by reading our On the Mountain section which describes the kind of experience you can expect to face on your trek.

You need to be at least ten years old to climb. (And there are huge discounts on the park fees for under 16s – thought some unscrupulous companies don’t pass on all of the discount. If you want to know how much your discount should be, just contact us.)

That said, the youngest person to climb Kilimanjaro was just six years old.

At the other extreme, there is no upper-age limit, and the oldest person ever to make it was 89 when she made it to the top.

Understandably, the authorities are reluctant to release figures on the number of people who die on Kilimanjaro every year, for fear of the bad publicity they will generate. But extrapolating from the only academic study done on this subject, we estimate that there are approximately 6-7 deaths every year. Follow this link for an extensive article on the number of deaths on Kilimanjaro each year.

WHAT TO DO NOW

Read through the above? Still want to climb Africa’s Highest Mountain? Don’t know where to go from here? Then read on..

If you’re looking to organise your own African Adventure, then the next thing to read is our Countdown; this is our step-by-step guide to planning for your trip. This tells you exactly what to do when planning your own expedition – and when.

After that, you may want to go through our site in greater detail. You’ll find that it’s divided into four main sections, which together provide you with all the basics you need to know to plan and prepare properly for your Mount Kilimanjaro trek:

Colobus tinyBackground information

Information about the history, geography, geology, flora and fauna of the mountain. Not essential, but (hopefully) interesting.

Sunglasses tiny Preparing for your trek

Vital information for anyone planning a trek, from when to go to the best route to take and what to pack.

On the mountain tinyOn the mountain

What’s it like on the mountain? What do you eat? Where do you sleep? Who’s in your crew? How much should you tip?

Baby baboon, TanzaniaTravel in Tanzania

Information for those looking to explore the country in greater depth, with plenty of useful info for Kili trekkers too.

In addition, you’ll also find details of our own climbing outfit, Kilimanjaro Experts, where all my favourite guides, cooks and other mountain crew staff that I’ve climbed with over the past two decades have been gathered into one great value, ethically-minded company.

Still want more info? Well you can’t beat our bestselling guide book, which provides comprehensive advice on climbing, including REVIEWS OF ALL THE MAJOR TREKKING COMPANIES. You’ll also find guides to the towns and cities that will act as the base for your trek, plus, of course, detailed descriptions of all the routes on both Kili and Meru, written by somebody who has climbed them all. Many times. The book has now been published since 2001 and is currently in its fifth edition.

Oh, and I don’t think we’ve mentioned our news blog yet, which has all the latest news from the mountain.

And if you still can’t find the information you require, then just email us at [email protected] or [email protected] and I’ll be happy to help in whatever way I can.