Kilimanjaro For Beginners – Your Questions Answered

Expedition: Kilimanjaro Lemosho Route

360 Expeditions

The “Roof of Africa” and one of the Seven Summits, Kilimanjaro is a legendary peak and one of the world’s great trekking destinations. Topping out at 5,895 metres (19,341 ft), Kili is also the highest single free-standing mountain in the world, making for a unique approach and walking experience. Arguably the easiest of the Seven Summits – the group of mountains consisting of the highest peak on each continent – Kilimanjaro is a fantastic introduction to the world of big mountain trekking.

With this in mind, we wanted to produce a quick-fire Q&A guide for those considering climbing the mountain.

How difficult is it to climb Kilimanjaro?

Before we give you a definite answer, we have to caveat our conclusion by saying that difficulty is relative to your fitness level and technical ability. That said, we grade all our treks according to the physical and technical challenge on a seven-point scale. The 360 team settled on P3 physical and T2 technical ratings for Kilimanjaro.

A P3 rating means the trek is physically tough and requires frequent exercise to prepare for the expedition. You should be able to do eight-hour days in hilly, steep terrain, carrying a pack weighing 6-10 kg. A T2 rating means that no previous climbing or trekking experience is necessary. Using your hands for short sections of easy scrambling is the most technical the route gets.

Ultimately, good fitness means you are more likely to enjoy the experience. Doing more than the bare minimum in preparation puts you in a position to savour the trek and take a lot from it, rather than simply struggling through it. With Kilimanjaro, summit day can be up to 12 hours long, so you need to prepare for that sort of effort.

How can I best prepare for climbing Kilimanjaro?

In general, you will need to prepare with a good mix of regular walking and more strenuous cardiovascular workouts. The aim is to build an endurance base that allows you to go for long periods at a steady pace. We recommend doing long-duration walks (more than six hours) on at least two weekends every month, as well as a few short runs during the week. As your fitness progresses,  start carrying a 10 kg rucksack with you on your walk, as this will prepare you for the reality of trekking on the mountain. Finally, train with the gear you will use during the expedition. It will help you identify any issues and break in your boots before you start for real.

With 360 Expeditions, all participants receive expedition-specific training programmes to help you prepare. These are great guides. But feel free to adapt them to your needs and preferences. If you need advice on incorporating a suitable fitness programme into your life, don’t hesitate to contact the 360 team.

What is the best time of year to climb Kilimanjaro?

You can climb Kilimanjaro almost all year round. However, there are definite optimal climbing seasons. These are primarily dictated by the weather and holiday seasons. Traditionally, these two windows have been August to October and December to early March. However, the 360 team isn’t so sure this still holds true. This now tends to vary more than it has in the past and the weather windows for Kilimanjaro can be slightly more flexible.

January and February are increasingly wet on the mountain and you are more likely to find patchy snow toward the summit. December and February are also holiday seasons in much of Europe and the USA. The Kili trails can get seriously busy as a result. For us, August to October is quickly becoming our preferred climbing season. There tends to be a little less cloud cover, so it is colder. But it is also dryer.

Over the years, we have learned that climate change is making the weather far more unpredictable and it is not uncommon to experience four seasons in a day. Unfortunately, you cannot bank on the weather at any time of the year on Kilimanjaro, so you need to prepare for any eventuality.

Which route should I choose?

Kilimanjaro route selection is a big topic at Team 360. We have experience with all the routes and have loved putting together our perfect itinerary. Our favourite is most certainly the Lemosho. Much quieter than other routes, it incorporates beautifully diverse terrain and is slightly longer than the alternatives, allowing for better acclimatisation. In turn, this translates to a better summit success rate.

That said, we have made some adaptations. For instance, the traditional Lemosho route typically requires eight days. This can be a little long for some groups, so we tend to transfer to a higher departure point and use the Londorosi route on the first day. It then joins up with the Lemosho route.

In smaller groups, condensing the full traditional route into a seven-day itinerary is more feasible and we are happy to offer that option where practical. If this is your preferred option, it is best to speak to the 360 team directly and we can try to arrange it.

Do I need to hire a guide or can I climb Kilimanjaro independently?

Professional guides are necessary when climbing Kilimanjaro. The Kilimanjaro National Park Authority requires all trekkers to hire a registered guide before heading up the mountain. Unfortunately, there is a serious issue with guides and porters being mistreated in the outdoor industry. While not unique to Kilimanjaro, it is more prevalent than anyone would like.

However, organisations are working to protect porters and guides and provide trekkers with more information on how tour providers treat their employees. We are an approved partner company with the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) and are involved in the International Mountain Explorers Connection (IMEC) Partner for Responsible Travel Program.

This means we voluntarily participate in KPAP monitoring and collaborate with the organisation to ensure they can evaluate and grade our treatment of porters. We have achieved one of the highest ratings possible and are very proud of our record. Our porters and crew are the people who make the expedition possible. They bring so much joy, energy and excitement to the experience that it is only right we support them as much as we can.

What should I pack?

For an expedition like this, the packing list is fairly long. Especially as you need to prepare for all kinds of weather and both warm and cold conditions. However this is all kit that will be invaluable on the hill, during your training and when bought well, should last you for many adventures to come. We will give you a brief overview here, but you can find a more extensive list on our Kili Kit List page.

  • Bags – a 90-120 litre duffel bag for transporting kit, a 40-litre daypack, a waterproof pack cover and dry bags.
  • Sleep gear – a four-season bag with a -15℃ comfort rating, a silk liner and a sleeping mat.
  • Clothes – apparel for both hot and cold conditions, sun protection, appropriate insulation, boots, trainers and waterproofs. We recommend looking at the full kit list for a more detailed account of the clothing required.
  • Hydration – a two-litre bladder, one-litre bottle and water purification tablets.
  • Toiletries – essential wash kit, personal first aid kit, insect repellent and toilet paper.
  • Documentation – passport and copy, four passport photos and travel insurance details.

Kilimanjaro with 360 Expeditions

At 360 Expeditions, we have a significant amount of Kili experience as we have been operating on the mountain for over two decades. It has allowed us to create a tailormade route that showcases the best of the mountain, build a phenomenal team of porters and local guides and deliver an unforgettable experience for all our trekkers. But it means we have fine-tuned our approach to prepping trekkers and providing you with all the information you need to get ready. By communicating all this info clearly to trekkers, we eliminate much of the anxiety people feel before a trip like this, enabling you to relax and enjoy the build-up.

Head to the Kilimanjaro Trek expedition page to learn more about our Kili trek. Alternatively, reach out to the 360 team directly if you have any other unanswered questions.

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