Climbing the Roof of Africa: Why Kilimanjaro is an Achievable Dream

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Kilimanjaro: An Achievable Dream

Despite being Africa’s highest mountain at 5,896 metres, and one of the most magnificent sights that the continent has to offer with its three main volcanic peaks – Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira – climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is an achievable dream for most.

In fact, some call Kilimanjaro “Everyman’s Everest,” since it is the most achievable of the Seven Summits, the highest hills on each of the world’s continents.

That’s a good thing for tourism in Tanzania – even those who believe that a vacation should be as relaxing as possible – can achieve this dream adventure holiday without too much stress on their bodies. It isn’t a very technical climb, but more of a walk that those who are fit would find easy.

kilimanjaro summit
Image courtesy of Jack Zalium

Preparing for Kili

Before heading out on a gruelling trek, people are usually encouraged to pick up a regimen to help them get their body into gear. All it takes is some determination to make it to the top and be rewarded with an unforgettable view that will forever be lodged in your memory.  

In fact, if what you need is some inspiration, just recently, an 8-year-old climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, becoming the youngest known girl to do so. What’s more, Roxy Getter was born with a heart defect and had open-heart surgery as a baby.

In 2012, Kyle Maynard also made a historic ascent and became the first man to crawl to the summit. Others with prosthetics have also made the climb.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train your body at all before planning such a trip. Despite being a doable feat that even a complete beginner can manage, to get the great sense of achievement of conquering a mountain, it’s advisable to do the trek slowly over time so as to not put too much strain on the body.

The most important thing to truly guard against is Acute Mountain Sickness or Altitude Sickness. To help acclimatize to the altitude, it makes sense to do the trek over 8-10 days. As it is, such a journey to the top should not really be rushed. After all, there’s much to be seen while making you way up to the roof of Africa.

But more than anything, you have to be mentally ready to take on the challenge. After all, we only benefit from our hardships and trials if we patiently learn perseverance.

mount kilimanjaro tanzania
Image courtesy of Ninara

Routes of Kilimanjaro

There are a total of seven routes one can take to make the climb to the top. Of these, the Marangu Route and Machame Route are relatively easy and are the ones that attract the largest number of tourists.

Of the two, it is the Machame trail that is more likely to attract people by the dozens as it far more scenic. Approaching Kilimanjaro from the south, the trek starts in dense tropical rainforest and passes through some of the mountain’s best features – the Shira Plateau, Barranco Wall, and Karanga Valley. The trek is spectacularly rewarding thanks to its stunning views.

More so, the environment keeps changing as trekkers reach different levels of the mountain – that’s partially the beauty of Kilimanjaro.  Level one is a tropical rainforest in the foothills, where locals grow banana and coffee crops.

On level two is a gorgeous cloud forest, where tourists get the chance to see a lot of wildlife – from birds and monkeys to antelopes.  

Then you break into an alpine landscape, where plants look more rugged that the lower regions. After that comes a rocky, almost lunar type landscape, which is followed by the snowline.

kilimanjaro sunrise
Image courtesy of Stig Nygaard

Making it Happen

You will need a day of preparation before and a recovery day afterwards and the hotels are either based in Moshi or off the main road that runs from Moshi to Arusha.

On the monetary front, climbing Kilimanjaro is a far more achievable dream than climbing some of the world’s other famous peaks, namely Mount Everest or Mount Vinson in Antarctica. Even so, all tours are guided tours, the cheapest being around $1,000 US dollars per person. Another $500 or so will get your other basic requisites, from hotels to food and even transportation.  

It’s an emotional thing to get to the summit – when dawn breaks and light from the sun begins to reach out to every visible corner of the sky, trekkers will see Africa spread out before them in a view unlike any other. The elation one gets at the end, of a path trod and a triumphant trek makes for a memorable experience that you’ll never forget .  

There isn’t a single person who won’t be moved.

It may be tough, but you’ll end up happier, stronger and more in tune with yourself for it. While not for the faint hearted, climbing Kilimanjaro is one of the more achievable high peaks on the planet and, with a good level of fitness and sensible approach, is a very worthwhile pursuit.

 

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4 comments

  1. I climbed Kili a few years back on the Rongai route and it’s an AMAZING experience, though on summit night and the hike the day after almost killed me! I was lucky enough to escape altitude sickness – I think I just wasn’t prepared for the sheer amount of walking after summit night. Great experience though and I wouldn’t mind doing it again… maybe up to summit night!

  2. Hi Chris,

    How amazingly beautiful.

    I know a buddy who climbed this mountain a while back. Good to know that although challenging, it is not some type of horribly taxing experience if you give yourself enough time to enjoy the journey and acclimate to the elevation change, to avoid altitude sickness. Because I did feel the altitude sickness thingee a wee bit in Cusco and it was a little rough; wheezing for the first few hours whenever I exerted myself, a bit.

    I’d be able to cover this no probs with a slow climb since I’m running 10 miles aka 16 kilometers 3-4 days week. Definitely got the cardio down cold.

    Thanks for the inspired share dude.

    Ryan

    • The altitude element is definitely what worries me the most. Fitness wise, I think I’d be up for it (I’m about to start a 14 day, 350km hike across Japan), but I got whacked with altitude sickness when I was at Kunjerab Pass between China and Pakistan a few years back.

      I was just at 15,000 feet on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Yunnan, but an hour up there wasn’t enough to let me know if I’d be affected or not. I guess we’ll find out!

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