Kilimanjaro Trail Conditions
Kilimanjaro is not a technical climb, it’s what’s commonly called a “walk-up”. The major difficulty facing most trekkers is acclimatization and avoiding altitude sickness. Seasoned hikers mostly find Kilimanjaro’s trail conditions to be well maintained and easy to navigate.
Just because it’s not technical, doesn’t mean it’s not tough. There is a bit of scrambling, the famous Barranco Wall requires vigilance and can be tricky for the inexperienced. The trails are mostly smooth, sometimes rocky and dusty. The uphill sections can be slippery after the rains, and mud can be an issue in the forest zone.
Sturdy, waterproof footwear, with rugged soles and ankle support, are essential. You don’t need mountaineering boots, and only occasionally will microspikes or crampons be necessary, mostly on the Western Breach, a little-used route to the summit.
Shifting weather conditions can alter the nature of the trail quickly, with very little warning. Rain and snow are not uncommon on the mountain, and both can make the terrain slippery or muddy. As you get higher up, ice on the rocks can be hazardous.
Fatigue and altitude-related issues are the main reason why trekkers might find some of the trails difficult. What might seem an easy hike at sea-level is made much more tricky when you’re tired.
In the forest zone, where it’s moist and damp, the trail can be a bit muddy, particularly on the steeper areas. We recommend you wear gaiters to prevent your pants from getting filthy, and higher up, prevent dust from getting into your boots causing blisters or hotspots.
As you leave the forest zone, and the humidity drops, it can get very dusty. We advise you to bring a bandana or “buff” to cover your face when the wind gets up. Stow any electrical equipment in a dust-proof bag to avoid damage.
A good pair of trekking poles can help with your balance. We recommend you hike with poles as they can reduce fatigue and assist you in crossing rocky areas.
Top Tips for Staying Safe & Comfortable on the Trail
- Sturdy, well broken-in hiking boots with ankle support are essential.
- Gaiters will prevent dust and small rocks getting into your boots
- Trek with poles, they can reduce fatigue and give you something to help your balance
- Eat plenty! Minor injuries are much more likely if you’re feeling depleted and tired, keep your energy up with regular snacks during the day
- Stay hydrated. Not only will this help the acclimatization process, but dehydration will zap your energy
- Train your legs before the climb. As a lot of the trails are uphill, you’ll need strong thighs, butt, and hamstrings – hit the gym well in advance of your trek.
- Pole Pole: “Slowly slowly”. Take it slowly, don’t rush.
- Stay warm. Getting cold puts unnecessary stress on your body, increasing fatigue. Use a layering system with your clothes to keep your core temperature warm (but not sweaty)
- Wear good wraparound sunglasses. They’ll protect you from the sun’s harsh rays and keep the dust out of your eyes too.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen. Even when it’s cold, the sun is much stronger at altitude and exposed areas can burn easily.
The Kilimanjaro trails are well-trodden paths, and for most hikers present no problem at all. Be vigilant during bad weather, walk slowly and don’t forget to ask your guide for help if you are struggling at all.