Is Climbing Kilimanjaro Worth It?
Amidst the blazing heat of the Tanzanian grasslands towers the gargantuan snow-covered peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro. As the tallest mountain in Africa and one of the tallest mountains globally, Mt. Kilimanjaro is an achievement many hikers, athletes, and nature lovers have set their eyes on. But towering 19,341 feet, with a nearly 50% fail rate, reaching the peak takes a hefty amount of work against significant odds.
Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is absolutely worth it. Of course, there are risks to conquering this peak, but these are easily overcome by knowing what to expect and taking the necessary precautions to ensure it is a safe experience. With the proper preparations, your odds of reaching the peak and earning that life-altering view improve significantly.
There are several reasons the everyday person should set their eyes on Kilimanjaro and render it a worthwhile experience to have in their lifetime. However, you shouldn’t walk off the streets and up the mountainside. There are life-threatening risks to consider when attempting this peak and simple but vital precautions one can take to prevent serious injury or potentially life-threatening situations.
Why Climb Kilimanjaro
There are a wide array of reasons why climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro should be on your bucket list, but here are just a few of the most significant ones that are sure to sway your mind towards getting those hiking boots out.
It’s One of the Seven Summits
The Seven Summits are mountains that are classified as the highest peak in their continent, and conquering these seemingly indomitable peaks is the pinnacle of mountaineering challenges.
As the tallest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro is not only one of the Seven Summits, but it also has the unique title of the world’s tallest free-standing mountain.
Therefore, climbing this mountain is a unique and record-breaking experience that any avid hiker would love to achieve.
Arguably the Most Accessible of the Seven Summits
Let’s get one thing straight, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is not easy. When it is labeled as one of the easiest of the Seven Summits, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a cakewalk to top.
What it actually means is that Mt. Kilimanjaro is quite accessible for its height because it does not require any advanced equipment or climbing techniques in order to reach the peak.
Therefore, as long as the hiker is educated on what to experience from the hike and physically fit enough to travel the nearly 40-mile route, then figuratively anyone could do it.
This has been proven by the oldest and youngest individuals that claim they conquered Mt. Kilimanjaro. In 2018, Coaltan Tanner summited Mt. Kilimanjaro at age 6, rendering him the youngest individual to achieve this impressive feat.
In 2019, 89-year-old Anne Lorimor broke the record for the oldest person to climb Kilimanjaro. So, don’t sell yourself short just yet. With the proper training and provisions, you too can reach the top.
The Natural Beauty of its Surroundings
The geography, natural diversity, and wildlife of Africa are utterly unique and the perfect setting for this incredible hike.
In Tanzania, you’ll have the chance to see bushbuck and red duiker, impressive cape buffaloes, blue monkeys, and leopards can be found throughout the forest. If you’re lucky, you’ll be gifted with the sight of elephants lining the rivers.
As you climb the mountain, be sure to gaze at the grasslands and lush forests before you disappear into the clouds.
See the Ice Cap Before it Melts
Unfortunately, there are several unique locations that won’t be the same in five years. The colors of Morning Glory will continue to fade. The architecturally and culturally sublime city of Venice will continue to sink, and the snow-covered peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro will continue to melt.
If you want to have the true experience of hiking from the blistering brushes of the base to the icy peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro, you might want to start planning your expedition sooner rather than later.
What Are the Risks of Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro?
There are risks to any hiking experience, whether it is 5 miles long or 40 miles long. The first step in preparing for your hike so that these risks can be diminished is educating yourself on what they are and what to expect in the worst-case scenario.
Mt. Kilimanjaro is a Dormant Volcano
Mt. Kilimanjaro consists of three volcanic cones. The first two cones, Mawenzi and Shira, are extinct and therefore have no chance of erupting. However, the highest peak, Kibo, could still potentially erupt and, therefore, renders the mountain a dormant volcano.
Is it likely that Kibo of Mt. Kilimanjaro will erupt while you are taking your victory photo at the peak? No.
There has been no significant activity from the volcano in nearly 200 years, and the last major eruption was 36,000 years ago. However, volcanoes are inherently unpredictable, so it is not impossible that activity would occur on Kilimanjaro unexpectedly.
High Rates of Failure
Of the 35,000 individuals that attempt to conquer Mt. Kilimanjaro annually, nearly 50% of these individuals will not reach the peak. About 1,000 people are evacuated from the mountain, and anywhere between 10-30 deaths occur annually.
Considering this hike is supposed to be the easiest of the Seven Summits, these figures might seem shockingly high. There are two significant reasons for this. Poor packing and altitude sickness.
By far the most impactful risk of the hiking experience, altitude sickness occurs when an individual gains elevation too quickly before their body has had enough time to acclimatize to the new conditions.
The lower levels of oxygen at higher altitudes can severely affect the body and cause headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue, and dizziness.
Altitude sickness affects individuals differently. Some might experience mild cases, while it might prove fatal to others.
Typically, the easiest way to alleviate symptoms is to slowly descend, effectively ending the hiking experience. Rate of accent is vital in staving off altitude sickness, which will be discussed further later on.
How Can I Reduce these Risks?
Reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro is a goal nearly anyone could achieve, and the last thing you want after traveling all the way out to Tanzania is to be sent back down from a preventable illness or a lack of equipment.
Here is a simple preventative measure you can take to ensure you reach the top and come back to the base safe and sound.
Choose the Best Route
There are 6 main Mount Kilimanjaro routes which lead to the summit, Uhuru Peak, one of which starts on the Northern side of the mountain and the rest on the Southern side. After making the decision to climb Kilimanjaro, you’ll need to choose your route. Some are shorter than others for the elite hiker that can race to the top and back, and some are longer for those who need the extra time to acclimatize as they gain elevation.
Unless you are a trained athlete that has been acclimatizing and is used to the elevation changes of the mountain, we recommend you take the longer route.
By embarking on a longer route, you are less likely to feel discomfort adjusting to the incremental decreases in oxygen as you gain elevation.
This will effectively reduce your risk of getting altitude sickness on Kilimanjaro, which causes most hikers to cut their life-altering journey short.
Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is like walking through the tropical weather of the rain forest, which is only found at the equator, and slowly making your way towards the frozen tundra of the Arctic.
The base of this mountain is typically 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while the peak is 20 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. You need to be well-equipped for both conditions. This means multiple articles of clothes and the in addition to plenty of water and food which will be provided by the company to last the journey.
Additionally, since the hike expands nearly a week, you will need proper camping gear, survival gear ( first aid kit), and to top it all off, experts recommend all of your equipment weigh no more than 30 pounds, so the weight isn’t too cumbersome for the porters.
Without some of these essentials, it is impossible to climb Kilimanjaro safely. So, be sure to look up lists and guides of what to pack before embarking on this lengthy hike. Once you start, you don’t want to turn back.
Get the right Kilimanjaro outfitter / Guide company
Your odds of having a safe and successful climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro will increase exponentially if you are accompanied by a professional mountain guide. These individuals are trained and well-practiced in the routes of this mountain and will be sure to look after you every step of the way.
Not only will they help with navigation, but they will also ensure you have packed properly, you have enough supplies for the journey, and they will have emergency contacts if ever necessary. You will definitely be in good hands with the guides.
Packing is Key for a Successful Climb
Many inexperienced hikers will hear that Kilimanjaro is a massive hike that almost anyone could accomplish, and so they embark on this 40-mile journey without the proper supplies.
The hike from the base to the tip of Kilimanjaro typically takes anywhere from 5 to 9 days to complete. You might not need mountaineering tools to complete this hike safely, but you will need ample food, water which the guiding company will provide and basic hiking equipment :
- Sleeping bag
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Trekking poles
- First aid kit
- Extra clothes
This is by no means an all-inclusive list of the equipment you need for Kilimanjaro. Still, simple mistakes, such as not drinking enough water, have severe enough consequences that send plenty of hikers down the peak unfinished or, unfortunately, sometimes they don’t come down at all.
Reaching the peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro is unlike any experience most human beings have in their lives. The sheer height of this mountain puts you right in the clouds, and the panoramic views are purely spectacular.
Be sure to bring your camera because you’ll be bragging about this accomplishment to your friends and family your whole life. As long as you are smart about your preparations and you are fully aware of the risks this mountain poses, conquering one of the Seven Summits is absolutely a worthwhile experience.