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How Long Does it Take to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

Travelers planning to climb Mount Kilimanjaro often ask how long does it take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

Quick Answer: minimum of 5 days, up to 10-11 days on the longer routes

Factors affecting how long it takes to climb Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro is a “walk-up” mountain, meaning there is no technical climbing involved. How long it takes to reach the summit is largely dictated by how well you are able to acclimatize to the lack of oxygen at altitude.

Acclimatization

The main reason why climbers fail to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro is simply that they have not acclimatized to the altitude.

How badly do you want to get to the summit? If you’re serious about completing the climb, the main factor standing in your way is acclimatization.

The good news is that going slow and taking your time, allows your body to gradually adapt to the lack of oxygen.

The more days you spend on the mountain acclimatizing, the better your chances of reaching the top. Trekkers who spend only 5 days on Kilimanjaro have the lowest success rate, while those who spend 8 or 9 days have a much better chance of standing on the Roof of Africa.

The Wilderness Medical Society Practice Guidelines for the Prevention of Acute Altitude Illness says that co

How Long Does it Take to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

ntrolling the rate of ascent, in terms of the number of meters gained each day is a “highly effective means of preventing altitude illness”.

A slow and steady ascent gives your body time to adjust to the altitude, and while physical fitness does not seem to have an effect on how well you acclimatize, you’ll build-in enough time for rest and recovery after the day’s hiking.

It’s difficult to get up to date data from the Kilimanjaro National Park, but in 2006 estimates of the success rate based on the number of days spent on the mountain were clear. At that time:

  • 27% of those who opted for the 5-day trek made it to the summit,
  • 85% of trekkers who spent 8 days on their climb were successful.

Those numbers have no doubt improved since then thanks to better guides, improved gear, and a better understanding of how to successfully hike the trail. But, they give you an indication of the importance of taking your time on the mountain.

Being very fit does not correlate with increased ability to acclimatize. Being physically fit will make the trekking easier, reduce fatigue and stress, but it won’t help you acclimatize.

According to Dr. Hackett from the Institute for Altitude Medicine, says physical fitness will give you no protection from altitude sickness. Sometimes, many young, fit people will push through the discomfort, ignoring important symptoms.

Kilimanjaro Route choice

The shortest possible way to the summit is by the Marangu or the Umbwe Route. These routes can be completed in 5 days (but we don’t recommend it for mosthikers).

The longer treks, Lemosho, Machame, Rongai or Northern Circuit route take 6-10 days.

The main reason you’d want to take a longer route is to give your body time to acclimatize to the altitude, but there are other considerations as well.

Unless you are very fit, covering the same amount of ground in a shorter time-frame can increase your chances of fatigue and injury – and compromise your enjoyment of the environment.

Trekkers who have a flexible schedule are encouraged to consider a longer route or build-in one or two acclimatization days and have an easier time reaching the summit.

You can climb Kilimanjaro in 5 or 6 days but is it worth the risk?

You can definitely climb Kili in five or six days. Most clients we’ve spoken to are attracted to the shorter routes for these reasons:

  • Cost savings
  • Lack of vacation time
  • Don’t want to hike for so many days

In all our combined years of experience as mountain guides and trek organizers, we encourage a longer, steadier climb as it’s safer, and increases our clients’ summit success rate dramatically.

Additionally, giving yourself time to enjoy the unique mountain environment, with adequate rest and recovery, will make for a much more enjoyable experience.

These are the questions we ask and encourage you to ask yourself:

  • How would you feel if you scheduled a route with the minimum days, only to have to turn back on day 3 because the rate of ascent was too quick and you did not have time to acclimatize?
  • Wouldn’t you rather add a couple of days to your trip to give yourself a better chance of summiting and to take it easier on your body?
  • Were the ‘savings’ you got for not taking additional days worth the cost of cutting your climb short, not making it to the summit, or worse still, putting your health at risk?

When is it a good idea to opt for a shorter Kilimanjaro climb?

  • If you’ve recently been to high altitude. If you’ve climbed Mt. Meru or Mt. Kenya successfully, for example, you will have an element of pre-acclimatization and can get away with a shorter route.
  • If you’re a very experienced climber and have been to extreme altitudes before (>18,000ft) and are confident of your ability to acclimatize.

It’s an undeniable fact that longer routes increase summit success rates.

Quick Facts: Fastest times to the Summit of Mount Kilimanjaro by elite athletes

Current record holder:
Karl Egloff, a Swiss climber made it in 4 hours, 56 minutes. He’s gone on to break records on Aconcagua, Cotopaxi and others. You can read more about his intense training and pre-acclimatization program here.

Other notable times:

  • Fastest woman Kristina Schoo Madsen (from Denmark): 6 hrs 52 minutes Mweka route
  • Simon Mtuy from Tanzania holds the record of the fastest unaided attempt. He carried all his own gear, including food and water, 9 hours 19 minutes on the Umbwe route.
  • Kilian Jornet, the previous record-holder made it in 7 hours, 14 minutes.

How long will it take YOU?

Climbing Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime experience: you’ve trained for it, paid for it, don’t compromise your safety or chance of success.

Got questions? Leave us a comment, send us an email or hit the live chat button.

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