7 Steps I Wish I Knew Before Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro As A Beginner

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Kilimanjaro mountain climbing can be a bit tricky if you’re new to high altitudes, outdoor camping, and long marathons. More importantly, not knowing what to expect during your Kilimanjaro trek will cost you not only money but also time.

Did you know — only 60% of hikers ever reach the summit Mount Kilimanjaro?

Your attitude, fitness, and adaptability to high altitudes can make or break your summit attempt. In this post, you’ll go over the elements that lead to a successful summit at Uhuru Peak (5,895m/19,341ft) as well as the nuances that are frequently overlooked when beginners plan their Kilimanjaro climb. If you’re short on time and want to skim through the post, there are snippets in between paragraphs that summarize and drive home key points. To finish off, you’ll be able to identify routes that are best suited for beginners, as well as different expectations you should have when hiking the mountain. So now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about a common scam.

What I Wish I knew Before Climbing Kilimanjaro As A Beginner_Climbing Kilimanjaro For Beginners

Things to also know:

Every year, about 2,000 people are evacuated from the mountain, and about ten people are killed. Altitude sickness is the leading cause of death and everyone attempting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro should be aware of the symptoms. Hikers should also be fully conscious of the mountain’s dangerous trails.

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Back in 2006, a rock receded and killed 3 people on a Kilimanjaro ascent path. This path is known as the Western Breach and it sits on the west side of Kibo. It is steep, slippery and littered with the occasional rock-fall. Experts believe that an r-shaped glacier, from which the rocks fell, continues to recede and to release more rocks. You should expect further accidents on this trail.

In comparison to other mountains of comparable heights, Mount Kilimanjaro is relatively safe and low risk. Most injuries, failures, and deaths on Kilimanjaro occur by the summit paths. This is why it’s just as important to pick the right ascent path as it is your climbing route. In fact, by choosing the right ascent path below, you will filter through half the routes that are not conducive for your Kilimanjaro trek. 

From 6-year-old children to one-legged hikers, everyone has the potential to successfully climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The clever trick here is to choose a route with good acclimatization landscapes and to properly acclimate before your hike. Kilimanjaro, you see, has a lot more to do with acclimatization than it does with physical fitness. A well-conditioned runner will have a much tougher time climbing the mountain than a more acclimatized hiker.

Step 1. Don’t Book A Full Moon Climb

Kilimanjaro Camping Grounds Unde

Full moon climbs are a scam! You read that right: a full moon climb is capitalism working at its best to create scarcity in the marketplace in order to drive up hiking costs. If you don’t believe me, consider why your outfitter insists on you bringing a headlamp to your Kilimanjaro hike despite claiming a full moon would be enough to illuminate the trail leading up to the summit? Full moon hikes are just another ploy for companies to get into your coffers and maximize profits. So when you hear an operator touting this scheme, run!

Step 2. Don’t Forget To Bring A Pair Of Earplugs & Pee Bottles

Don’t think you’re safe hiking Kilimanjaro during the dry season because the mountain is known to sometimes have its own weather. This is why you should pack and be prepared for anything Mother Nature may throw your way. Therefore bring your raincoat, bag cover, insulated pants, shirts and, most importantly, a pair of earplugs and two pee bottles. 

During cold and windy nights, earplugs and pee bottles will be some of your most prized possessions on Kilimanjaro. These items are often overlooked but have proven to be great assets at -6 degrees Celcius. If you don’t take anything away from this post, remember to bring earplugs and a few pee bottles.

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Step 3. Make Sure Your Kilimanjaro Mountain Guides and Porters Are Certified

Not all Kilimanjaro mountain guides and porters are licensed or certified. More importantly, to save costs, companies use inexperienced tour guides and undercut staff wages on the mountain. As a result, hikers occasionally sustain injuries or face serious health risks at the hands of unqualified leadership.

A strong Kilimanjaro team should include 1 lead guide with 10-15 years of experience, as well as an assistant guide for every 2 additional hikers joining the expedition. It’s worth mentioning that guides are supposed to measure your oxygen levels using oximeters every evening after your hike. If your guide neglects this protocol, it may be a sign you’re dealing with a risky Kilimanjaro operator.

Kilimanjaro Porters

Porters, on the other hand, are in charge of carrying your luggage up Kilimanjaro and are limited to carrying no more than 20kg. The national park established this mandate to prevent mistreatment of mountain support staff. Every hiker on Kilimanjaro must have at least 3 porters to carry their belongings, as well as tents, propane tanks, and other mountain equipment. Companies that do not follow ethical guidelines will try to carry more weight and use fewer porters.

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Step 4. Don’t Book Your Hike With Foreign Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Companies

Foreign Mount Kilimanjaro climbing companies grossly overcharge hikers for the same service that a local operator would have provided. To avoid this, work with local agencies and evaluate the components that contribute to Kilimanjaro climb costs. Addressing these factors will not only save you money but will also disqualify local operators who engage in risky activities and scams.

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Step 5. Don’t Underestimate Mount Kilimanjaro Animals And Plants

To say Mount Kilimanjaro’s animals and plants are massive is a broad understatement. You’ll be able to spot gigantic groundsels, elephants, buffaloes, giraffes and many other smaller but unique mammals such as colobus monkeys, white-tailed mongoose and porcupines. Short of reaching the summit, this will be one of the most memorable moments of your Kilimanjaro climb. If you’re not fond of animals, avoid routes that have forests and small vegetation (Rongai, Lemosho, Northern Circuit and Umbwe).

Colobus Monkey
Colobus Monkey
The colobus monkey is a Tanzanian native that lives in family groups high in the trees. If you see one, he most likely has a sister or brother in a nearby tree. Look for these monkeys’ distinctive black-and-white tails.
Serval Cat
Serval Cat
The serval cat is a wild cat with the coloring of a cheetah, but it is smaller and much more slender than its counterpart.  Serval cats prey on small rodents but will eat almost anything, including antelopes, wild rabbits, insects, reptiles, and even grass.
White-Tailed Mongoose
White-tailed mongoose
Mongooses are perhaps best known for their ability to take down large, venomous snakes such as cobras. The White-Tailed Mongoose is distinguished from other mongooses by its long, white fluffy tail.
White-Necked Raven
White-necked raven
This blackbird with a white feather collar around its neck can be seen at high-altitude campsites. Ravens eat anything, including human food.  So, even if your snacks are in a container, don’t leave them out.
A duiker is a type of antelope. The name ‘duiker’ derives from the Dutch word “to dive,” which accurately describes this animal’s leaps into the bushes to avoid predators.
Marsh Mongoose
Marsh Mongoose
The Marsh Mongoose, while smaller than its white-tailed cousin, enjoy swimming in swampy areas.
Bush BabyThis small nocturnal primate is known for its adorable features and wide eyes. These animals are most active at night, jumping through the trees and making a lot of noise.
Tree Hyrax
Tree hyrax
Tree hyraxes live in forested areas near Kilimanjaro’s lower forests. You might hear a tree hyrax before you see it; these fascinating creatures have a distinct ‘call’ in the early evening and at night. The noises range from a cackle to a shriek.
AardvarkThis unusual but fascinating animal can only be found in Sub-Saharan Africa. While they resemble pigs, they are actually related to elephants. Their name is derived from the Afrikaans word for “ground pig”.

Dendrosenecio Kilimanjari
These unusual plants can be found in the Shira Plateau’s middle altitudes and around Barranco Camp. The Dendrosenecio kilimanjari grows slowly but can reach a height of 20 feet.
Lobelia Deckenii
Lobelia deckenii is a massive lobelia found only in the high mountains of East Africa, at elevations ranging from 3,600 to 4,600 meters (12,000 to 15,000 feet). The lobelia grow up to 10 feet high, have hollow stems, and tall flower-like spikes.
Stoebe Kilimandscharica
Stoebe is an African plant genus in the daisy family. The slender, wiry branches of the shrub are covered with small leaves that are pressed to the stem. The flower heads grow at the tips of the main shoots.
Protea Kilimandscharica
On Mount Kilimanjaro, Protea kilimandscharica can be found in the heath ecological zone. Proteas are named after the Greek god Proteus, son of Poseidon, who had the ability to transform into a variety of shapes. These plants are well-known for their delicate flowers with unusual shapes.
Hebenstretia Dentata
Hebenstretia dentana is a summer perennial that produces masses of small white flowers. This perennial, also known as the “white flowering plant,” grows in bushy clumps up to two feet tall.
Fireball Lily
The brightly colored plant is also known as the African Blood Lily. The spectacular flowerhead is a large spherical mass that can grow to be 9 inches wide and contains up to 200 tiny florets. The extract from its bulbs is toxic and is used to manufacture poisonous arrow tips.
TussockTussock grasses are a type of grass that grow as individual plants in clusters rather than as a sod or lawn. They have long roots that can reach deep into the soil and can obtain more moisture during droughts than other grasses and plants. Mount Kilimanjaro’s tussock grasses provide habitat and food for insects, birds, and small animals.
Old Man’s Beard
Usnea is a genus of pale grayish-green lichens that grow on host tree bark or twigs. Usnea’s plant body is used to make medicine for weight loss, pain, fever, and wound healing.
Helichrysum Meyeri-JohannisHelichrysum Meyeri-Johannis grow abundantly on Kilimanjaro at elevations ranging from 2,400 to 4,600 meters (8,000 to 15,000 feet). They are referred to as everlasting flowers because they can bloom all year. This herbaceous perennial grows in clumps and can reach a height of nearly two feet.

Step 6. Don’t Underestimate The Conditions Of Mount Kilimanjaro Toilets And Bathing Facilities

If you think your toilets at home are bad, wait until you see the toilets on Mount Kilimanjaro. That’s right; if you’re planning a Kilimanjaro hike and are unable to squat, you should think twice about renting a portable toilet. These are frequently hygienic and convenient to use while hiking the mountain.

While we’re on the subject of hygiene, you should also discard any notions of bathing on Kilimanjaro. The weather gets so cold that my fridge and freezer are put to shame.

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Related topics to understand:

Yes, first-time hikers to high altitudes can climb Kilimanjaro without training. Although the trail is not particularly demanding, we at XPATS International will always, always, always recommend training for any upcoming hike.

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We encourage it not only for health and safety reasons, but it will also make for a much more enjoyable experience. Training before a hike can mean the difference between enjoying the journey and being too miserable to appreciate the sights. You also greatly improve your chances of success when you’re properly prepared.

There are 7 main Mount Kilimanjaro routes to the summit, but only 6 are commonly used for Kilimanjaro hikes.

Step 7. Know Kilimanjaro Mountain Is Located In Which Country

I’m sure many of you reading this will be surprised to learn that Mount Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, not Kenya. Because the Mountain is closely located south of the Kenyan border, many visitors misidentify its location. Every year, a large number of hikers are duped into flying to Kenya in order to cross the Tanzanian border for their Kilimanjaro climb. This is not only time-consuming but also costly. You will save significantly on your Kilimanjaro climb costs by eliminating unnecessary travel movements and middlemen who have no footing on the ground. Start your hike by flying into the Kilimanjaro region, which is only 330 kilometers from the equator, and begin your expedition. It’s really that simple.

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