If 2018 is going to be the year in which you finally tick ‘Climb Kilimanjaro’ off your Bucket List, then now is the perfect time to start finalising your trip to the Roof of Africa and preparing for what will be one of the most exciting and exhilarating experiences that you are likely to have during your lifetime.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is a lifelong ambition for many, and deservedly so. It is one of the Seven Summits after all, and with a huge selection of Kilimanjaro operators to choose from, there are expeditions to suit every budget, from the short (and not so sweet) Coca-Cola tours to the more exclusive Private Kilimanjaro Tours for those who are looking for something truly unforgettable.
There are seven established routes on Kilimanjaro, namely the Marangu Route, the Machame Route, the Rongai Route, the Umbwe Route, the Lemosho Route, the Shira Route and the Northern Circuit. Each route has its own list of pros and cons, and so it’s a good idea to do some research before choosing which route is right for you. Henry Stedman’s Kilimanjaro Book is a great place to start.
Kilimanjaro Expeditions range from 5 days to 9 days, and while there are no guarantees of success, not even for the young and super fit amongst us, the fact is, the longer you spend on the mountain, the more likely you are to reach Uhuru Peak. The statistics speak for themselves on this, and so if you are thinking of saving a few dollars by booking a shorter tour, you may want to weigh up the costs vs the success rates before paying your deposit.
Whichever route and tour duration you choose, you will most likely make your Kilimanjaro summit attempt at night. Many travellers are surprised by this, and some are even put off by it, but there are good reasons for summiting Africa’s highest mountain at night, and once you have witnessed the sun rise over the horizon, you’ll be glad you got that (very) early wake-up call.
The Benefits of Summiting Kilimanjaro at Night
There are daytime summit options available for those who really cannot bear the thought of a midnight hike in minus temperatures, but you could be missing out. Some of the many reasons why leading tour operators chose to summit at night include:
Timing: This applies mainly to larger groups. It could take up to 15 hours to get all of you up to Uhuru Peak and safely down again, and so a midnight summit is essential.
The Sunrise: If there is one thing you’ll remember about your Kilimanjaro Expedition more than anything else, it is watching the sun rise up over the horizon and turning the midnight sky into the most breathtaking shade of red. You can actually feel the power of the sun as it warms your soul – and gives you the final push towards your goal.
The Trail: From Barafu Camp, where many summit attempts start, the road to Uhuru Peak is made up of volcanic sand or scree. During the early morning hours, this freezes slightly making it easier to walk on, during the day, it’s like walking on a hot beach.
Cloud Cover: If you climb Kilimanjaro under the midnight sky, there is a very good chance of crystal clear skies by the time you reach Uhuru Peak. The mountain attracts clouds later in the morning, which can strictly limit your view.
It’s a Long Way Down: Don’t forget, after summiting Kilimanjaro, you have to walk back down, and not just to Barafu Camp. After a brief lunch break, you have a good 4 or 5 hours of hiking to do, and so it makes sense to get up and down by early afternoon – there’s some celebrating to do after all!