Kili Calling — Climbing Africa’s Highest Peak

by Sandy Salle on May 30, 2017

One of Africa’s iconic adventures, the trek to the lofty summit of Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895 meters/19,341 feet) normally takes five or six days.

All trekkers must be accompanied by a licensed national park guide, which most people arrange before arrival in Tanzania as part of a package with experienced safari outfitters like Hills of Africa.

The most popular routes to the top require no technical climbing skill or experience. But anyone who undertakes the trek should be in good physical condition and not suffering from health conditions that could be aggravated by high altitude or strenuous exercise.

Altitude sickness is indiscriminate and still not fully understood. Even those in stellar physical condition can be severely impacted. Head aches and shortness of breath are common above 11,000 feet; at the far end of the scale, pulmonary edema is a danger.


Weathering the Weather

That said, the biggest factor in trekking Kilimanjaro is weather. Due to its great height, the mountain creates its own weather, which is extremely variable and impossible to predict. Therefore, regardless of when you climb, you should always be prepared for wet days and cold nights.

At lower elevations you’ll be walking through hot, steamy tropical forest, the trail largely shaded by trees. On the last two days, the forest gives way to Alpine grasslands, high-altitude desert and rocky volcanic screes; temperatures plunge below freezing at night and the sun is often unrelenting during the day.

At the beginning of the trek, the average temperature hovers between 70 to 80° Fahrenheit (21-27° Celsius). From there, temperatures decrease steadily as you move through Kilimanjaro’s ecological zones. At the summit (Uhuru Point), night-time temperatures can range between 20 and -20°F (-7 to -29°C).


The Well-Dressed Trekker

It is possible to rent thermal jackets at the base of Kili. But the quality of these has dropped in recent years and Hills of Africa strongly recommends that you bring your own cold-weather garb and sub-zero sleeping bag. A hot water bottle — provided by the camp staff — makes your bag even cozier for a good night’s sleep. Hills of Africa can also arrange a mess tent heater at additional cost.

Hills of Africa strongly recommends one pair of socks for each trekking day; at the very least, rotate three pairs through the length of the trek and always keep one spare for the final push to the summit in case all the others are wet.

If your eyes are sensitive to extremely bright sunlight, a pair of ski goggles can be worn over ordinary glasses or sunglasses. And it goes without saying that you should pack lots of high SPF sunscreen.


Porters and Daypacks

While Hills of Africa porters lug most of your gear up the mountain in waterproof bags, everyone should be equipped with a all-weather daypack or small rucksack to carry your camera, water bottle, snacks, sunscreen, etc. And bring small plastic zip-lock bags to protect everything inside that pack.

As for drinking water, Camelbak-type devices are great for lower down the slopes, but Nalgen bottles are highly recommended for the summit leg because they keep your water from freezing.

Be sure to pack extra camera batteries because cold temperatures diminish their charge faster than usual. Conditions are not so severe that you need a GoPro; but do make sure you have something to protect your camera from the damp.


Hills on the Mountain

If you book a Kili climb with us, Hills of Africa is with you literally every step of the way.

Our support services range from advice on pre-climb conditioning, detailed packing list, and assistance with gear rental as necessary, to being there in case of issues like luggage not arriving in Tanzania on time.

And we keep check on you throughout the climb. We’re here to help in any way we can to ensure you have the best chance for a successful summit of Mt Kilimanjaro.

Do you want to do something different?  Are you wanting to stretch your limits?  Give us a call  at 1-800-940-9344 to chat about climbing Kilimanjaro or email us at

We look forward to helping you plan your next adventure.

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