If you are thinking about climbing Africa’s highest mountain in 2014 or 2015, you probably have a long list of questions including… Which route should I climb? What time of year should I climb? Am I fit enough to climb? And How hard is it to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
They are all good questions, and they all need answering before you attempt Uhuru Peak, but the last question can be very difficult to answer, quite simply as no two climbers are the same.
At 5,895-metres high, Mount Kilimanjaro is no ‘walk in the park’, but it is not a technical mountain to climb either, and with the right preparation (mental and physical), the right clothing, and the right support from your mountain crew, you should be able to make it to the summit.
Some of Kilimanjaro’s Routes are more physically challenging than others are, but none of them are technically challenging, and they all spiral upwards at a gentle gradient so you do not need ropes or crampons. In fact, the only time you can expect to get your hands dirty is when you climb over Barranco Wall, but even that looks a lot worse that it really is.
Unless you choose the Marangu Route where you sleep in shared huts, your nights on Mount Kilimanjaro will be spent camping mountainside. A good sleeping bag and a padded mattress will help you sleep more comfortably, but you need to prepare yourself for six to eight nights in a tent in temperatures below minus -10.
The most important thing to remember is that climbing Kilimanjaro successfully takes time, and while you may be tempted to save a couple of hundred dollars by booking a cheaper / shorter climb, such as the 5-day Marangu Route (Coca-cola route), you could cut your chances of success by 50% – so is it really worth it?
Altitude sickness is the main reason that people do not complete their Kilimanjaro climb, and if you get too high to quickly, your body will struggle to cope with the low oxygen levels and you will begin to experience some form of altitude sickness including headaches, vomiting, and problems with the digestive system.
Diamox or Ibuprofen and plenty of water may ease your systems, but if altitude sickness really kicks in, the only way to relieve the systems is by descending and your Mountain Guide will have no choice but to end your Kilimanjaro adventure and take you down to safety.
So my answer to the question “How hard is it to climb Kilimanjaro?” would have to be… as hard as you make it!
We didn’t find climbing Kilimanjaro hard, apart from summit night which was physically and mentally draining, but we trained hard for 3 months leading up to our climb, we booked the longer 7-Day Machame Route Tour, and we prepared for this life-changing event… and 2 years on, we are planning to do it all over again!