Climbing Kilimanjaro is the classic tortoise challenge: you need to go slowly and just keep at it. Absolute fitness is not as important as determination and guts. While we always recommend people do some proper aerobic and strength training before they attempt the climb and have advice in "Getting Ready" that covers this, we have helped lots of people summit who have done no more than weekend walking.
Although it is feasible to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in 5 days we strongly recommend all climbers take at least 7 days. The reason why people fail to summit is mainly because they allow too little time to acclimatise to the altitude and no matter how fit you may be this is still the same. Our 7 day climbs average over 95% success rates.
When people first enquire, they nearly always say they would like a really quiet route with a great success rate. This is sort of the holy grail of route choosing. Sadly though the routes with high success rates are popular, and quiet routes are often quiet because they have a low success rate, or because they are much longer and more expensive.
Trying to balance this out, our advice is to focus on the success rate: we can honestly say we have never had a client summit who has then complained the route was too busy, whereas we have had clients choose one of the quieter routes then be very disappointed at not making it to the top.
So taking this into account we strongly recommend clients climb Kilimanjaro by either the 7 day Machame Route or, if they have the time and can afford it, the 8 day Lemosho Routes. Both routes have fantastic views and a great range of scenery and critically they allow you great acclimatisation. This in turns means you have the best chance of summiting safely.
A bit like choosing the best route, deciding on when to climb is a compromise. If it is certain to be dry and warm it is equally certain to be busy.
Kilimanjaro is close to the equator so there is very little change in temperature during the year and compared to the change as you ascend, the temperature change during the year is insignificant. What really changes during the year though is how much it rains.
Mid November to mid December are traditionally the short rains and April and May are the long rains. The rest of the year is generally dry although this is not so clear as it used to be.
Not surprisingly, most people want to climb Kilimanjaro when it is going to be warm and dry but that of course means the drier months are very busy. We try to mitigate this by starting most of our group climbs away from the weekend when almost half of all climbers start. If you don't mind a bit of rain on your climb though, the off-peak months will be very quiet and there are often many days that are still dry. And of course in the off-peak months, flight prices and our prices are lower.
The cost of climbing Kilmanjaro depends a lot on how many days you take on the mountain. We recommend you take 7 days at least as the success rate for 7 day climbs is almost 50% higher than shorter climbs. Prices for a 7 day climb start from £1399 and are a little more than this for private climbs.
Flight prices vary quite a bit during the year and are now a lot more expensive if you do not book early. Typically though you should budget between £700 to £800 for a flight from Europe and $2000 for a flight from North America.
The only other significant cost you will have on top of this for your Kilimanjaro climb is tips for your crew. We are a member of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Program and stick to their tip recommendations. This means for a normal 7 day climb, tips will be about $200-$250 per person.
When companies first started to sell trips to climb Kilimanjaro, there were Western companies doing sales, marketing and administration and local Tanzanian companies being subcontracted to run the climb. Having many years experience of high altitude trekking ourselves, we felt this approach was not right for a high risk activity like climbing Kilimanjaro as you just can't manage sub-contractors 6000 miles away closely enough.
In order to be able to offer our customers the safest and best possible experience when they climb KIlimanjaro, with the highest chance of success we decided to set up our own operation to run our own climbs. This was quite hard work initially as it meant recruiting and training our own guides and cooks and buying all our own gear but we believe that our reviews demonstrate this was worthwhile.
There is a terrible history of porter abuse on Kilimanjaro and sadly a lot of bad practises continue today which we consider totally unacceptable.
We are commited to fair treatment of all our crew and are a member of an organisation called the Kilimanjaro Porters Protection Association (KPAP) which is effectively a trade union for the porters who climb Kilimanjaro. We make a donation to KPAP for every person who climbs Kilimanjaro with us.
As members of KPAP we agree to comply with all their recommendations on wages and welfare and also allow a KPAP appointed representative porter to join every climb to check out exactly what we do.
In terms of supporting the local communities there are three key things that we do: first we pay all our employees the best rates of pay and that all goes back to local families. Second we only use local Tanzanians on our climbs. Thirdly for every climber who comes with us we make a donation to the Amani Childrens home. This is a great charity supporting orphans and we can arrange for you to visit Amani if this is of interest.
Looking after Kilimanjaro is important to all of us at Private Expeditions and we operate to Leave no trace guidelines. That means every bit of trash is carried out from the park and disposed of properly.
The most important difference is that if you choose to climb Kilimanjaro in a private group,you will be just with your group of friends and family: on an open group you will be with other climbers up to a maximum group size of 12.
However you choose to climb Kilimanjaro with us though you will get the same great service and support to help you summit safely.
Other differences between open and group climbs are:
On private climbs you can tailor make every aspect of your climb from when you start to exactly which route you choose. Our open climbs run on a set schedule of start dates and routes.
Our open group climbs are restricted to 12 people: we find that mixing more than 12 people who don't know each other on one climb can cause problems. On private climbs you can have any group size you want.
On our private climbs you can add in any one of a range of optional extras such as personal porters while these are not available on open climbs.
We are a fully bonded member of ABTA so everything you pay to us to climb Kilimanjaro is protected by an insurance bond. As well as that we carry £5m of public liability insurance. We have never had to claim on this but the risk assessments our insurers require each year really keep us on out toes!
The Machame route has the best success rate mainly because it offers great acclimatisation allowing you to naturally "walk high, sleep low" every day. So far this year we have had a 100% success rate on 7 day climbs on this route.
The Lemosho route undoubtedly has the best scenery. It starts in jungle to the far west of Kilimanjaro and provides a fantastic panorama as it crosses the Shira plateau with great views of the the dramatic peaks of Cathedral and Needle.
New this year, the Northern Circuit route deserves its' billing as the "grand traverse" of Kilimanjaro from west to east. It is by far the most quiet and remote route taking you on a circumnavigation of Kilimanjaro far away from the crowds. It offers a very high summit success rate due to its longer walk in which helps to improve acclimatisation.
Are you looking for a really unique adventure? Try sleeping in Crater Camp on Mt Kilimanjaro. Crater camp stands on the Roof of Africa and is an incredible wilderness environment. If you have experience at altitude and love something challenging then sleeping overnight in Kilimanjaro's Crater Camp is a fantastic option.
Mt Kilimanjaro sits very close to the equator and has none of the seasons we are used to in either the Northern or Southern Hemispheres. Temperatures vary very little throughout the year and certainly by comparison with the change in temperature you experience climbing Kilimanjaro because of the altitude the seasonal variations are inconsequential.
What Kilimanjaro does experience though is big seasonal variation in rainfall. It has two rainy seasons. What they call the short rainy season, traditionally between mid November and mid December and the long rainy season in April and May. In both these periods you can expect some rain most days and in the April-May period this rain can be prolonged.
So if staying dry is critical aim for January to March and May to October. Remember though that nearly everyone else wants to do the same so these are the busiest months. If you can tolerate a little rain climbing off season can be fun, not just because it will be quiet but also because there is a good chance of snow on the summit.
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We offer three expedition styles to climb Kilimanjaro: private climbs, open groups and Kilimanjaro charity challenges. Whichever you choose our experienced team will help you achieve your goal of climbing Kilimanjaro: Africa's highest mountain.
Private tailor made trips to climb Kilimanjaro are your own personal tailor-made adventure, giving you total flexibility and the highest chance of success. Just choose your date, route and any of our tailor-made options. Perfect for a group of friends or a charity group or a couple looking to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary. Upgrades to private climbs start from £100 per person depending on the size of the group.
Open group climbs
If you want the company of others while you climb Kilimanjaro then an open group is perfect for you. Our group climbs run every week during the main climbing season from June - October and December - March. They are limited to a maximum of 12 climbers to make sure you get the best chance of summit success. Particularly popular are our open group full moon climbs which run every month.
Charity challenges to climb Kilimanjaro
We do not offer the complicated sponsor funded climbs, just great value, tailor-made challenges so that more of the money you raise goes to charity. We also offer our charity climbers special low deposits so that they can get on with fundraising for their chosen charity while our PR team offers a helping hand to promote their charity challenge.
Before you set off on your adventure to climb Kilimanjaro why not check out it's geology and plants and animals you should expect to see. If you want to know the detail have a look at wikipedia here but for a condensed guide see below.
Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and fourth highest of the so called Seven Summits, the highest peaks in each of the world's 7 continents. It is considered the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, with Uhuru Peak rising to an altitude of 15,100 feet (4,600 m) from base to summit, with an overall height of 5895m. It is composed of three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo 19,340 feet (5895 meters); Mawenzi 16,896 feet (5149 m); and Shira 13,000 feet (3962 m). Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo's crater rim.
Kilimanjaro is a giant strato-volcano that began forming a million years ago, when lava spilled from the Rift Valley zone. Two of its three peaks, Mawenzi and Shira, are extinct while Kibo (the highest peak) is dormant and could erupt again. Kilimanjaro lies on a tectonic line intersection 80km. east of the tectonically active Rift Valley. The activity which created this stratovolcano dates back less than a million years and the central ash pit on Kibo, the highest volcanic centre, may be only several hundred years old. Steam and sulphur fumaroles here are indicative of residual activity.
The last major eruption has been dated to 360,000 years ago, while the most recent activity was recorded just 200 years ago. Kilimanjaro has 2.2 square kilometres (0.85 sq mi) of glacial ice and is losing it quickly.The glaciers have shrunk 82% since 1912 and declined 33% since 1989. It might be ice free within 20 years, dramatically affecting local drinking water and crop irrigation.
As you climb Kilimanjaro you pass through 5 distinct climate and vegetation zones
As you climb Kilimanjaro make sure you ask your guide to try and spot animals for you. There are plenty to look out for as in spite of the tough climate there are over 140 species of mammals living on Kilimanjaro. At least seven larger mammal species have been recorded above the tree line including tree hyrax, grey duiker, red duiker, eland, bushbuck, buffalo and elephants. Three primate species also live in the montane forests: blue monkey, black and white colombus monkeys and bushbabies.Over 180 species of birds have been recorded as living on Kilimanjaro's slopes including Hartlaub’s Turaco, Hornbills and Speckled Mousebirds or the Malachite Sunbird.