Kilimanjaro Climb

Everyone should at least climb one mountain in their life. Like Edmund Hillary said, “it is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
So with that thought in mind, I decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and I came away with not only beautiful memories but learnt a lot about myself. Located along the border between Kenya and the northern Tanzania, it is the highest mountain in Africa with a peak elevation of about 19,000 feet.  It is a mountain capped with a crown of ice/snow and offers a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape. The one thing that distinguishes Mount Kilimanjaro from other mountains is the breath taking scenery.
To be fair, it is not the most difficult mountain to climb.  However, this does not mean that you do not have to be physically fit- for those who have been watching mountain climbing on TV and never walked more than a mile, best stay at home- you won’t make it to the top. One has to make plans to climb this mountain about 6 months in advance. This will give you time to build your endurance.

The best way to climb Mt Kilimanjaro is with the help of professional trekkers, who advertise their services online. The entire trip takes about 7 days.  The average cost of hiring professional trekkers is about $2,500 (Excluding airfare) and they take care of the porters, the food, tents and ensure that you will get to the top and bottom with no hassles.
Mount Kilimanjaro is located about 30 mins away from the nearest town of Moshi, which is where you arrive via air. The first day is spent in the hotel which is included in the package; you meet your team and are provided with details about the dos and do not’s. The next morning, the group travels to the base of the mountain and you start the hike.  There are about seven tracks to the summit and some are easy but the views are not great. If you want exceptional views of the surrounding landscape, take the relatively difficult route. The first day, the hike is about 4- 7 miles and then each day you climb about 4,000 feet. At each rest stop, there are tents and prefabricated housing- not hotel style bedding. If you booked a cheap trekking company, you sleep in a tent on hard ground- which itself is a monumental task especially when there are icy winds and the ground is rocky. And the higher you climb  the colder it becomes. So you need to have winter gear on you.

On day 5/6 you are about 3000 feet below the summit. You need to get up early on the last day because conditions at the summit do change drastically in the later part of the day. Mind you it is quite cold up there; expect minus 2- minus 20 C temperatures. Most people spend about 20-30 mins at the summit, take their photos and start the trek down. Once you get to the base, you are taken back to your hotel. The majority of people who climb mount Kilimanjaro do not go back home right away but stick around to see world famous Serengeti National park, which is located at the base of the mountain. Even on an unlucky day, you will see lions, elephants, zebras, leopards, cheetahs and many other types of wildlife. It is worth spending a night or two at the lodges that offer the safaris- it is majestic.

Book in advance as you will get the best inclusive deals; the best time to climb Mt Kilimanjaro are from Jan- March and Sept to October. At this time the weather is not too hot/cold and the environment is safe for an ascent.  Leave yourself at least 5- 7 days to climb the mountain.
Make sure you have medical insurance because you never know what emergency you may run into and Tanzania is not well known for its healthcare services. Do not take crap with you as everything can be rented from the trekkers.

Finally, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro has become big business and you have to be careful about scams and shams. Do not take valuables except for a camera. Leave all the belongings at the hotel. Just carry enough money to tip the porters and cooks. Because most digital cameras and batteries do not function well at low temperatures, you will need to take extra batteries and keep them warm until you use them.

Final thoughts

Like any outdoor activity, one has to be realistic when going to Africa. Climbing mount Kilimanjaro can be physically stressful because for 4- 6 days you will have to sleep on a hard surface and it definitely is not fun. But when once you get to the summit, you will forget all about the sacrifices you had to make. It is one of the most beautiful mountains on this planet.