- What equipment do I need?
- How much gear will I carry?
- Temperature range on the mountain?
- How many people in my group?
- What kind of food will I eat?
- Elevation at start of climb?
- Will I see wildlife?
- What route do I descend?
- Are there any good movies or books about Kilimanjaro?
- Best time of year?
- What route should I climb?
- Success rate for summiting?
- How fit do I need to be?
- How many miles will I trek per day?
- What if I'm slow?
- What if I can't make it to the top?
- How qualified are the guides?
- What are the accommodations like?
What is the Best Time of Year for Climbing?
December-March & June-October:
Late December through early March is best for warmer temperatures and green, lush landscapes; typically mornings and evenings are clear of clouds, with afternoon clouds and brief rain/snow showers. The main rainy season begins at the end of March and lasts through the end of May, when the temperatures will still be warm, but massive clouds will block visibility, while dropping snow on the summit and heavy rain on the lower slopes. June through October is best for cooler, drier weather, with steadily warmer temperatures throughout September and into October. Short rains return in November and last into December, when afternoon thunderstorms are common.
What Route Should I Climb?
The majority of trekkers (4 of every 5) climb the highly touristed Marangu (Coca Cola) & Machame (Whiskey) routes. Instead of these crowded routes, we recommend remote, scenic and "natural" experiences on the Western Approach Route, Grand Traverse (extremely remote), and Umbwe Route… each with proper acclimatization time and gorgeous views.
Other routes are also available, and we are happy to arrange a trek according to your desires. If you have questions, call us…we've climbed all the routes and we can tell you what the differences are.
What Is Your Success Rate for Summiting?
Our success rate is phenomenal: 98% to Uhuru Peak. The average on the entire mountain is 50%!
How Fit Do I Need to Be?
Though many deem Kilimanjaro "easily accessible", it is the most underestimated mountain in the world. The trails themselves do not require technical mountaineering skill, yet the effects of altitude consistently turn back many trekkers from Kibo's upper slopes.
Altitude sickness is an ambiguous phenomenon, and it is nearly impossible to predict how and when it will affect you. You don't need to be an athlete to climb this mountain, but you certainly need determination and willpower.
You'll also need to commit yourself to a physical training regimen. We recommend a varied physical routine to include strength training, aerobic cross training, and hiking (not necessarily at high altitude), simply to familiarize your body with the rigors and nuances of being on the trail. Generally, all things constant, the fitter you are, the easier it will be for you to handle the rigors of the trek.
There are many other factors that will either aid or weaken you, and this is where our experience plays a huge role. From our detailed climb-preparation manual to our expert mountain guides, we have taken every measure to ensure that you have the best opportunity to safely reach the summit of Kilimanjaro.
How Many Miles Will I Trek Per Day?
The 9-day Western Approach Route covers about 55 to 60 miles, the 10-day Grand Traverse about 85 miles, and the Umbwe Route around 45 miles. You’ll trek around 4-7 hours most days, with the longest days ranging from 10-15 hours.
The Western Approach route is a gradual ascent, which requires some rock-scrambling, but overall the Umbwe Route is more physically taxing and more difficult because it does not allow as much time for acclimatization and it requires an overnight summit bid. The Grand Traverse has more hills and valleys than the Western Approach, but they are more gradual with more acclimatization time.
The trekking times below will give you a good idea on the distribution of those miles, though they are skewed by the descent, where about a third of the total miles are covered in the last two days.
Trekking times on our routes range per day as follows:
Western Approach Route (9 Days)
- 1 - Lemosho Gate to Forest Camp: 3-4 Hrs.
- 2 - Forest Camp to Shira 1 Camp: 5-6 Hrs.
- 3 - Shira 1 Camp to Shira 2 Camp: 3-4 Hrs.
- 4 - Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower Camp: 4-6 Hrs.
- 5 - Lava Tower Camp to Karanga Camp: 6-7 Hrs.
- 6 - Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp: 5-6 Hrs.
- 7 - Barafu Camp to Crater Camp: 8-10 Hrs.
- 8 - Crater Camp to Summit: 1-2 Hrs. & Descent to Mweka Camp: 5-7 Hrs.
- 9 - Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate: 2-3 Hrs.
The Grand Traverse (10 Days)
- 1 - Morum Barrier Gate to Shira 1 Camp: 1-2 Hrs.
- 2 - Shira 1 Camp to Shira 2 Camp: 3-4 Hrs.
- 3 - Shira 2 Camp to Moir Camp: 2-3 Hrs.
- 4 - Moir Camp to Pofu Camp: 5-7 Hrs.
- 5 - Pofu Camp to Rongai 2 Caves Camp: 5-7 Hrs.
- 6 - Rongai 2 Caves Camp to Mawenzi Tarn Camp: 3-5 Hrs.
- 7 - Mawenzi Tarn Camp to Outward Bound Camp: 5-7 Hrs.
- 8 - Outward Bound Camp to Summit: 7-10 Hrs. Summit to Crater Camp: 1-2 Hrs.
- 9 - Crater Camp to Mweka Camp: 5-7 Hrs.
- 10 - Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate: 2-3 Hrs.
Umbwe Route (6 Days)
- 1 - Machame Gate to Umbwe Caves Camp: 6-7 Hrs.
- 2 - Umbwe Caves Camp to Barranco Camp: 6-7 Hrs.
- 3 - Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp: 4-5 Hrs.
- 4 - Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp: 5-6 Hrs.
- 5 - Barafu Camp to Summit: 6-8 Hrs. & Descent to Mweka Camp: 5-7 Hrs.
- 6 - Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate: 2-3 Hrs.
What if I'm Slow?
There is a guide for every three trekkers, so you can definitely move at your own pace! Our guides will kindly remind you, "pole pole" (pronounced po-lay po-lay)… which means "go slowly."
By walking slowly and taking your time, you'll not only give your body a better chance to acclimatize to the altitude, but you'll be able to take in the marvelous scenery you'll pass along the way.
What if I Can't Make it to the Top?
With 98% of our trekkers climbing to Uhuru Peak, you have the best opportunity to summit. If you need to descend early, a medically trained guide will assist you down the mountain or to the next campsite. They know a detailed network of shortcuts to escort climbers to safety, and they are trained to act quickly and calmly under any circumstance.
How Qualified Are the Guides?
Our expert mountain guides have collectively
hiked Kili well over a thousand times. They are loyal employees of the
company and fully licensed by the National Park. Well educated and certified
Wilderness First Responders, they speak excellent English and Swahili
to coordinate with climbers and porters. They have extensive experience
running treks with Western group dynamics and are passionate to share
their country and knowledge of every crevice of the mountain!
We recognize that our guides are the lifeblood of our company and the prime reason for our success. We pay them well, and they love their jobs, which helps guarantee a smooth running company. We have roughly 100 employees in our Arusha office, most of whom have been with us for more than 10 years. In addition, we provide them and their families with benefits that other ground operators would not even consider.
When you trek with Thomson, you can count on having the best-trained guides on the mountain who lead trips with passion and confidence.
What Are the Accommodations Like?
We use the top-performing Mountain Hardwear tents, which we’ve customized for additional comfort. An outer flysheet and large vestibules keep equipment from the elements. They are set up, broken down, and carried (along with everything else) by porters. We dig latrines at campsites and set up toilet tents. Showers are not available on the mountain, but a pail of hot water is provided for each person every morning wherever possible.
We provide purified water for meals and drinking and sanitized water and soap for hand washing before meals. You'll enjoy three hot meals per day in a large, solar-lit dining tent with comfortable chairs for relaxation. Each campsite is expertly set amongst greatly varied landscapes, offering the full spectrum of different ecosystems on Kilimanjaro.
What Equipment Do I Need?
No special mountaineering equipment is needed, and most active guests find that they already have most of the items they’ll need. You’ll experience a great range of weather on the mountain, from warm hikes in the forest to arctic cold near the glaciers. We will send you a detailed preparation guide which contains a comprehensive list of gear and clothing needed, as well as how to pack it and details on how to maximize your comfort while trekking and camping. While on the mountain, we provide mountain tents along with closed-cell foam mattress pads, and we offer a complete array of top-notch mountain clothing and accessories for rental.
The most important items you'll need are:
- Hiking Boots: Choose warm, waterproof hiking or backpacking boots with plenty of support for the foot and ankle. Make sure they are broken in before you get to Kilimanjaro; we are happy to give recommendations!
- Sleeping Bag, Rated at 0°F: You can also use your own bag rated for temps higher than zero degrees and supplement with a fleece liner. We also have synthetic zero degree bags with fleece liners for rent.
- Walking Pole(s)/ Ski Poles: These are necessary. If bringing your own, they should be telescopic (retractable), for easy packing and travel.
- Gaiters: These are extremely helpful, keeping mud, rocks, and snow out of your boots.
How Much Gear Will I Carry?
Porters will carry all of your gear except for your day pack, and they will break down and set up camp while you’re trekking each day. Your day pack will carry your water, rain gear, sunscreen, and camera, which typically weighs 10-12lbs. Personal porters can be arranged to help carry your daypack; one per climber is included on the Grand Traverse.
What Is the Temperature Range on the Mountain?
Temperatures on the mountain vary widely; it may be in the 70s-90s (F) in the rainforest and -5F in the crater near the summit. Above the tree line, most days are in the 30s-50s, but the weather often changes dramatically without warning, so you must always be prepared for rain, snow or a sudden hailstorm, carrying your waterproof shell at all times. Layering of several thin articles of clothing is the most flexible way to adjust to the weather you will experience as you trek higher and higher.
How Many People Will Be in My Group?
Our trek sizes are very small, with 12 climbers on the Western Approach and Umbwe routes and 8 climbers on the Grand Traverse. Private groups are welcome of all sizes. There will be a guide for every three trekkers, as well as porters carrying 33lbs of gear and a cook and waiter. Your safety and comfort are their top priority!
What Kind of Food Will I Eat?
Meals are delicious and nutritious, prepared by expert chefs with the best quality foods and highest standards of hygiene. You’ll enjoy each meal in a solar-lit dining tent with table and backed-chairs for comfort. We have great meals for our vegetarian, vegan, gluten and dairy free guests and can accommodate other requests in advance. We’re happy to send you a sample menu!
What is the Elevation at the Start of the Climb?
The Western Approach and Umbwe routes begin below around 6,000 feet, and the Grand Traverse begins around 11,000ft. The lower slopes of Kilimanjaro are settled and cultivated by the local Wachagga Tribe, and the trails quickly disappear into a dense canopy of tropical forest.
Will I See Wildlife?
Although the elephant, buffalo and rhino have long left the southern slopes of Kilimanjaro, (elephants and buffalo can be found on the northern slopes) wildlife abounds throughout the climb, especially in the tropical forest belt from 6,000 to 9,000 feet.
Black & White Colobus monkeys and Sykes monkeys rustle in the upper canopy, while tropical boubous call from tree tops. As you turn in on the first evening, you may hear jackals barking and tree hyraxes calling one another. You will likely spot signs of smaller antelopes such as the bushbuck and duiker, and perhaps will see their hoof prints on the trail. Around the river gorges in the lower forest grow sycamore figs, whose fruits draw Hatlaub's turacos and hornbills.
Into the heath and moorland, there are not many large animals, though on the Shira Plateau there have been infrequent sightings of eland, buffalo, klipspringer. Smaller animals are more abundant, such as the four-striped grass mouse and other rodents. The more common birds in this zone are the gregarious alpine chat and the sparrow-like streaky seed-eater, while augur and mountain buzzards soar overhead.
The highland desert is quite inhospitable to most species; only the hardiest venture into this zone. The white-naped raven is often seen scavenging around campsites in this zone.
The summit is characterized by arctic conditions. This, combined with high radiation and low oxygen, is completely inhospitable to wildlife. In 1926 a German missionary named Reusch found a leopard frozen in the snows of the summit.
What Route Do I Descend?
We descend the Mweka Route to Mweka Camp on the southeastern slopes, nestled in thick heather at 11,000 feet. The final day's descent is through lush forests on a well-maintained trail to the village of Mweka, where'll you be awarded your climbing certificates and a festive meal.
Kilimanjaro Books and Movies
We recommend David Breashears' inspiring IMAX film about Kilimanjaro,
Kilimanjaro, To The Roof of Africa.
We have also prepared a list of recommended reading material to assist you in your preparation for a Kilimanjaro trek.
For your convenience we have linked directly with Longitude Books - experts in travel literature.