Rucksack Readers

Rucksack Readers => Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania => Topic started by: maxwell on January 08, 2006, 04:19:08 pm

Title: routes up Kilimanjaro
Post by: maxwell on January 08, 2006, 04:19:08 pm
There are lots of non-technical routes up Kilimanjaro, but the mountain has a reputation for people getting altutide sickness because of the rapid altitude gain.  If you have been up Kili, would you recommend the route you used to a first-timer?

Title: Re: routes up Kilimanjaro
Post by: Brian on January 18, 2006, 07:28:51 pm
My last visit to Kili was on the Machame route - more scenic than Marangu and I think it's better for acclimatisation since there is more of a climb high, sleep low profile on this route. However any itinerary that builds in at least one extra day compared to the normal short,sharp ascents that most trekking companies go for will have a marked increase in success rate. A friend of mine did the Rongai route last September and they had the extra day and as a result nearly all of their group summited.


Title: Re: routes up Kilimanjaro
Post by: Jacquetta on February 06, 2007, 05:25:03 pm
 :(Sadly the Western Breach route up Kili was closed "until further notice" by the Park Authorities as a result of the tragic accident in which three Americans and an unknown number of porters were killed, and more were seriously injured, by rockfall while asleep in their tents at Arrow Glacier Camp en route for the summit over a year ago, on 5.1.06.  The less technical trekking routes, such as Marangu, Machame and Rongai aren't affected.  Continuing global warming means that melting ice will continue to compromise the Arrow Glacier route, and sadly it may not reopen in the foreseeable future.  If anybody hears an update on this, please let us know!

Title: Re: routes up Kilimanjaro
Post by: jt on February 06, 2007, 11:34:09 pm
This is the first time I've logged on to this site.  It makes interesting reading especially as on the 16th of Feb I will be joining about 30 other people to climb Kilimanjaro using the Machame Route.  It's in aid of Macmillan Cancer Relief and although I'm really excited I'm starting to get a bit nervous.  I think I've got all the gear I need and feel fairly confident but would welcome any advice about temperatures, acclimatisation and what the walk back down was like.

Title: Re: routes up Kilimanjaro
Post by: Jacquetta on February 07, 2007, 12:10:48 am
Hey jt
16th feb will be the first day of the rest of your life: just look forward to it!

Machame is the most scenic route and you should have a great week.  Gear is not the be-all and end-all that folk make out.  The most important thing is to have some awareness of your own mental/physical state and how it may change at altitude (big help if there's anybody that knows you in the group). 

When people ask me why altitude normally doesn't slay me, I have three answers:
a) hang at the back, especially for the first few days: that gives you the best chance and you can always speed up later if you want to
b) drink more water than you can believe you need, and if your pee is still yellow then drink some more!  (Excuse me if this sounds crude, but I've been up three times by different routes, so I feel strongly about how many people spoil their holidays just by drinking too little.)
c) I always have my camera, notebook and curiosity - so even if I don't feel 100% I have lots to focus on.

However it pans out, have a great one and let us know how you got on, please?

Title: Re: routes up Kilimanjaro
Post by: gyellowley on February 08, 2007, 11:25:16 pm
I agree that as much acclimitisation as possible is the best way to avoid altitude sickness. The best way to achieve this is to climb Mt. Kenya or Mt. Meru immediately prior to Kili. If this is not possible then take the extra day - it doesn't drag or detract from the climb but does help!
For what it is worth the Machame Route was excellent.

Title: Re: routes up Kilimanjaro
Post by: jt on February 09, 2007, 06:05:13 pm

Thanks for the advice about peeing.  I dont think I'll have problems with this as I can pee for England at the best of times, but if it's cold i might think twice!
It's only a week to go. I've got all the kit (good thermals etc), I seem to be having more fun trying to pack it all into my rucksack, then I unpack and do it over again, and again..... I thought I'd cracked it until I saw my sleeping bag still on the floor! :o

I've been told that battery life for cameras etc is not good due to cold weather.  Has anyone experienced this and how bad is it?


Title: Re: routes up Kilimanjaro
Post by: Jacquetta on February 09, 2007, 08:44:34 pm
jt: there are two separate packing problems.  If it's volume, use compression stuffsacs - y'know, the things with wrap-around straps that you pull so that a bulky sleeping-bag crunches down to a compact, dense lump.  If the problem is weight, the answer is you're trying to take too much: reconsider your priorities!

I was once told that if you want to travel light, think through the three-sock ration: two to wear and one to wash!  Once you have that mentality, there will be no problem over weight.

About cameras and batteries, cold is bad and dampness even worse.  Take more spare batteries than you think you need. The problem is not merely battery life, it's delicate electronics that your warranty probably covers only for supra-zero temperatures (more than 32° F/0 °C).  I recommend a small cuddly camera (preferably in a padded case) that fits OK inside your sleeping bag.  And cuddle it, all night!  OK, the humidity might be a bit high in there, but for sure the temp will be better than the tent.  Personally I used to take a film-based camera as a backup, but then I'm seriously old-fashioned.  Nowadays I take one or two spare charged LiIon battery packs, because my photographs are important to me.  Unlike many film-based cameras, a digicam is utterly useless without battery power.

Please let us know how you get on anyway?  Good luck!

Title: Re: routes up Kilimanjaro
Post by: gyellowley on February 13, 2007, 11:03:25 pm
Re cameras: it depends on how cold it is. We had a standard digital camera (kept in the tent at night and in backpack during day) that took 200 pictures throughout and didn't require new batteries, but it was not extremely cold during the day and while very cold at night it was protected by being inside the tent. Batteries are notoriously fickle though and some last longer than others, so carry spares. If you can get your torch, camera, head lamp and mp3 battery pack all to use the same type of battery that's a good start, as you then only have to carry one type (well the porters do...!).

Title: Re: routes up Kilimanjaro
Post by: Jacquetta on February 14, 2007, 08:07:05 am
Good point, gyellowley, about battery compatibility.  It reminds me to point out that solar rechargers for AA batteries have become affordable and portable, so consider the green alternative to all those "disposable" (i.e. polluting) alkaline batteries.

Title: Re: routes up Kilimanjaro
Post by: jt on February 16, 2007, 01:01:22 am
hi there

thanks for the advice, it was all appreciated.  ive managed to cut down what i'm taking and dont feel I've compromised anything (other than my sanity).  Unfortunately the battery items are not compatible but I passed the info to another walker who has been able to apply it.  It's only a few hours now before I go and the nerves are just about setting in but I'm still very excited and ready to absorb and enjoy everything.  I return at the end of Feb so will post how I've done soon after.


Title: Re: routes up Kilimanjaro
Post by: 7summits on February 18, 2007, 12:45:52 pm
Hi all,

here is some basic info, which is explained in better detail in Jacquetta's book:
- All 3 mentioned routes are suitable for beginning hikers/climbers, though Machame involves light scrambling and is at some points more exposed. But for any Scottish hiker this should be no problem  ;D
- Only the most crowded Marangu route offers huts to sleep in. All other routes require tents, which might actually be warmer sometimes.
- All routes can be successfully climbed if you take enough time
- On kili,  6 days is too short and will only work if you are already acclimatised or if you are willing to suffer from altitude disease (which can be lethal)
- Most people who say they 'summited' in 5 or 6 days, actually never went to the true summit, but only to the crater rim. There are even special 'summit certificates' for that. Do not believe any success ratios of organizers, only time spent will determine your chance of success
- 7 days is normal, 8 days better and people who have climbed in 9 or 10 days have normally enjoyed every step of the climb, all the way to the summit.

Hope this helps, good luck and enjoy the climb, it is a wonderful place.


Title: Re: routes up Kilimanjaro
Post by: Jacquetta on February 19, 2007, 09:11:42 am
Harry is mostly right, as you would expect from somebody who has climbed the seven summits and already written two guidebooks for Rucksack Readers :D  Ability to tolerate sudden altitude gain (and most itineraries on Kili are too short because of the permit charging system) varies widely among individuals.  Although a lucky few can do Kili in 6 days, most will suffer needlessly to summit and many will both suffer and fail to reach their objective.  Yet the solution is easy: either take a longer itinerary (7-9 days) as Harry suggests or climb Mt Meru first.  IMHO the latter makes for more variety and massively boosts your chances of enjoying Kili on a standard itinerary immediately afterwards.  Last time I went up (2004) our group took 6 days but summited comfortably, although there was unseasonable heavy snow on summit day and most guides were turning their groups back: 90 people set off from Kibo Hut that day, but only 12 summited.  When I asked our guide afterwards why he let us go on, he said simply "I knew you had already climbed Meru": that says it all.  Details of three trekking routes and Mt Meru are given in our book Explore Mount Kilimanjaro (3rd ed) (  This is a shameless plug! :P