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Hiking Kilimanjaro “The Roof of Africa”

Summit of Kili

As one of the famed Seven Summits and the highest point in Africa, hiking Kili has been on my bucket list for quite some time now. I was thrilled when dates finally lined up to do the hike in conjunction with a work trip in neighboring Uganda.

Trying to dig through the numerous trip reviews online, I found it difficult to distinguish substantial variations between hikes and services offered, but the popular route choice out of the seven possibilities seemed to be Machame which was later confirmed by my guide. I chose the seven-day route to be on the safe side in case I had any troubles with altitude, but actually finished easily early on the 6th morning which left an extra day at the end to visit a local village and hike out to a waterfall and explore a nearby coffee plantation. It turned out to be easy to adjust the itinerary depending on how I was doing with the hike, which was reassuring in case there had been any problems. After all, as one of the mantras of Tanzania says- Hakuna Matata or no troubles!

I ended up selecting Kilimanjaro on Foot as the company for hiking with because they provided the quickest responses and were able to accommodate slight variations to the schedule since the work trip was not confirmed until a few weeks before departure. While there was some initial confusion with them upon arrival about meet up times for departure on the hike, the team that went up the mountain and the rest of the trip went extremely smoothly and I would happily recommend them.

The Machame Route is known as the “Whiskey” route because of its comparatively longer and steeper path which is recommended for those with some hiking experience. However, due to the beautiful and varied scenery on this route, it has become a substantially more popular route resulting in larger numbers of crowds hiking during the high season. Reading that description ahead of time my assumption was that the trail would be moderately challenging, but after starting the hike I quickly realized that it was far easier than I had anticipated. While the summit climb was freezing cold and definitely challenging, there was plenty of hot food, rest time, and well-kept trails making this hike easily accomplished by anyone in relative fitness shape that is willing to endure several days of uphill walking.

Time of Year- while the mountain is technically open for climbing year round, the best times of year are January to mid-March when it is warmest and there is least chance of precipitation followed by late June through October. However, during these times there tend to be the largest amount of group climbs and a heavy traffic flow of hikers. The rainy season typically lasts from the end of March through June and November through early December. It is important to keep in mind though that at any time of year the weather on the mountain is quite unpredictable and can rapidly change from clear sunny skies to a downpour moments later. It is best to schedule the hike during the dry periods but remain prepared for the rain.

My limited preparation for the trip after making the booking online involved using the stair-stepper at the gym with a weight pack about once a week in addition to my normal workout routine. That being said, it is definitely advantageous to be in good physical shape before making the climb to improve your chances of completing Kilimanjaro. Again, it is not a strenuous or difficult hike but does require endurance to be able to physically climb continuously for several hours every day. It is also recommended by the tour companies to be able to carry weight even though many offer porter services.