Climbing Kilimanjaro safely and successfully

There’s no doubt about it: getting to the top of Kilimanjaro is largely a matter of luck. After all, the main reason why people fail to get to the top is due to altitude sickness, and whether you get this or not is largely down to chance. Nevertheless, if you’re going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, you may as well try to maximise your chances of avoiding altitude sickness in order to increase your chances of making it all the way. The following are the best ways of doing just this; some are more effective than others, perhaps, but it’s worth following them all if you want to increase your chances of getting that certificate…

The eight golden rules for your trek

1) Walk slowly Emulate the deliberate, careful tread of an elderly, cautious elephant. Or a jaunty tortoise. Taking time as you climb gives your body more time to acclimatise, which will help you avoid altitude sickness – the number one reason why people fail to reach the summit. 

Follow this link to find out more about altitude sickness

2) Drink plenty Aim for at least three litres per day. Water, not beer. Some experts say that drinking plenty of fluids has only a negligible effect on how well you acclimatise – others say it’s vital. So better to play it safe and drink plenty and often. 

Click on the following link to find out more about drink on Kilimanjaro

3) Eat well Don’t worry, it’s very unlikely you’ll gain weight on your trek on the mountain. Indeed, your body is working so hard on Kili just keeping you functioning with less oxygen to work with, that in all probability you’ll lose weight on Kili, even if you do nothing. So even if the altitude is causing you to lose your appetite, make sure you tuck in!

Click on the following link to find out more about food on Kilimanjaro

4) Take as long as you can Six days minimum, seven better, eight best! Don’t do five days unless your budget means you can’t afford anything else – it’s just too dangerous and your chances of reaching the top are lower too. 

To find out the length of each route, visit our Routes on Kilimanjaro page

5) Climb up to high altitude before you arrive If you’ve got a mountain in your back garden, now’s the time to climb it. With altitude sickness the number one reason why people fail to get to the summit, any preparations you can do that help with acclimatisation will reduce your chances of failure. And there is no better way of making sure you are acclimatised properly on Kili than by climbing to high altitude before you even reach the mountain. How high? Well, as high as possible, really. If you happen to live near a mountain that’s as high as Kili, and get to the top of it, then by the time you get to Kili you should already be fully acclimatised (as long as you the gap you leave between climbing the mountains is less than a week).

6) Get fit before the climb True, the main reason people fail to get to the top is altitude sickness, and even the fittest people can contract that. But there are a few people every week who fail to reach the top because they simply don’t have the stamina for that final push to the summit. And if nothing else, getting fit for Kili will make you more confident that you’ll reach the summit, which we think is a huge contributor towards your success on the mountain. Find out what exercises are best when getting Kili-ready by visiting our Fitness for Kilimanjaro page

7) Choose your company carefully There’s only so much that a company can do to maximise your chances of getting to the top. But there’s plenty they can do to reduce your chances. In this website we discuss in fairly great detail what you should look for in your company, what you can expect for your money, and other aspects of booking your Kilimanjaro climb. Follow this link to visit our guide to booking your Kilimanjaro trek. While for reviews on all the major companies working on the mountain, check out our Kilimanjaro guide book – it’s the best resource there is for choosing a trekking company. 

8) Take drugs Some people may call it cheating, and there are still some people who doubt their efficacy, and believe that rather than ward off altitude sickness, they just mask the symptoms. But in my opinion it’s clear that drugs such as Diamox are a pretty surefire way of avoiding altitude sickness if taken prophylactically, or curing it if you’ve got some early symptoms. For more details on this ‘wonder drug, visit our Diamox page.