Reaching the top of one of the seven summits is a major achievement…but how long will it take you to do it?
It’s a more complicated question than most travelers think. Travelers hoping to simply get a taste of Kilimanjaro can arrange for short 1-3 day climbs that stop well below summit elevation. But for those hoping to reach Uhuru Peak, each of the routes up the mountain—Marangu, Machame, Umbwe, Lemosho/Shira, Rongai, and the Northern Circuit—has a minimum number of days and nights on Kilimanjaro for safety purposes.
For the shorter routes (Marangu, Machame, and Umbwe), the minimum requirement is five days and four nights on the mountain. On 5-day treks, it’s estimated that fewer than 30% of trekkers reach Uhuru Peak. Because these budget options are extremely popular, overall summiting rates on Kilimanjaro hover somewhere below 50%.
How long you spend on the mountain correlates directly with summit success; the longer your trek, the more your body can acclimatize to altitude, and the better your chances of reaching the top. That’s why Thomson doesn’t offer “minimum”-day treks.
We give trekkers intent on a serious challenge a short option: the 6-day Umbwe route. However, our most popular option is by far the Western Approach, a 9-day trek along the Shira and Lemosho routes.
Another operator might offer a similar route in as little as 6 days. But that operator won’t be able to promise travelers the 98% summit success rate Thomson’s Western Approach trekkers achieve.
Longer treks also improve summiting odds in another major way: treks that run 8 days or fewer involve a challenging nighttime summit bid (which starts around midnight). Treks running 9 days or more include the option for a daytime summit bid. Not only is your body more rested and ready for the final push, the summit is less crowded when you reach it.
Of course technically, it’s possible to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro in just 4 hours and 56 minutes! That’s how long it took the current record holder, Swiss mountain runner Karl Egloff, to reach Uhuru Peak in 2014.
We’re betting it took him a lot longer than that to recover!