ClimbingFirst Timer’s Guide to Private Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro

May 24, 2024by awesafari

Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, stands at 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) and offers one of the most exhilarating trekking experiences in the world. This guide provides essential information for beginners looking to conquer this iconic mountain.

1. Understanding Mount Kilimanjaro


  • Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania, near the border with Kenya.


  • Composed of three volcanic cones: Kibo (the highest), Mawenzi, and Shira.

2. Choosing the Right Route

Kilimanjaro has several routes, each with different levels of difficulty, scenery, and duration. Here are the main routes:

Marangu Route (“Coca-Cola Route”):

  • Duration: 5-6 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Accommodation: Huts
  • Scenery: Less varied but offers huts with shared facilities.

Machame Route (“Whiskey Route”):

  • Duration: 6-7 days
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Accommodation: Tents
  • Scenery: Very scenic with diverse landscapes.

Lemosho Route:

  • Duration: 7-8 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
  • Accommodation: Tents
  • Scenery: Very scenic with fewer crowds and varied landscapes.

Rongai Route:

  • Duration: 6-7 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Accommodation: Tents
  • Scenery: Less scenic but drier and quieter.

Northern Circuit Route:

  • Duration: 8-9 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Accommodation: Tents
  • Scenery: Very scenic and offers the best acclimatization.

Umbwe Route:

  • Duration: 6-7 days
  • Difficulty: Very challenging
  • Accommodation: Tents
  • Scenery: Steep and direct with fewer crowds.

3. Preparing for the Climb

Physical Preparation:

  • Cardio Training: Engage in activities like running, cycling, or swimming.
  • Strength Training: Focus on your legs, core, and upper body.
  • Hiking Practice: Practice hiking on uneven terrain with a loaded backpack.

Mental Preparation:

  • Research: Learn about the climb, the challenges, and what to expect.
  • Mindset: Stay positive and prepare for the mental challenges of high-altitude trekking.

4. Gear and Equipment


  • Base Layers: Moisture-wicking shirts and thermal leggings.
  • Insulating Layers: Fleece jackets and down jackets.
  • Outer Layers: Waterproof and windproof jackets and pants.


  • Hiking Boots: Sturdy, waterproof, and well broken-in.
  • Socks: High-quality wool or synthetic hiking socks.


  • Hats: A sun hat for daytime and a warm hat for nighttime.
  • Gloves: Insulated gloves for cold temperatures.
  • Gaiters: To keep dirt and rocks out of your boots.

Other Essentials:

  • Backpack: A 30-40 liter daypack for essentials.
  • Sleeping Bag: Rated for temperatures below freezing.
  • Trekking Poles: For stability on uneven terrain.
  • Headlamp: With extra batteries.
  • Water Bottles and Hydration System: To stay hydrated.

5. Health and Safety


  • Take It Slow: Follow the “pole pole” (slowly, slowly) approach to acclimatize properly.
  • Acclimatization Days: Include extra days in your itinerary to acclimatize.

Hydration and Nutrition:

  • Drink Plenty of Water: Aim for 3-4 liters per day.
  • Eat Well: High-calorie, high-carbohydrate meals to maintain energy levels.

Altitude Sickness:

  • Symptoms: Headache, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
  • Prevention: Ascend slowly, stay hydrated, and consider medications like Diamox.

Medical Kit:

  • Essentials: Include blister plasters, painkillers, antiseptics, and any personal medications.

6. Choosing a Tour Operator


  • Reputation: Look for reputable operators with positive reviews.
  • Inclusions: Check what is included in the package (meals, park fees, equipment).
  • Safety Standards: Ensure they follow high safety and ethical standards.

Guides and Porters:

  • Experienced Guides: Knowledgeable about the routes and safety protocols.
  • Porters: Ensure fair treatment and tipping (around $10-15 per day).

7. During the Climb

Daily Routine:

  • Start Early: Early morning starts to avoid afternoon weather changes.
  • Rest: Take regular breaks and listen to your body.

Summit Night:

  • Midnight Start: Typically, the summit attempt begins around midnight.
  • Steady Pace: Maintain a slow and steady pace to reach the summit by sunrise.

Enjoy the Experience:

  • Take Photos: Capture the stunning landscapes.
  • Soak in the Views: Enjoy the breathtaking scenery and sense of achievement.

8. Post-Climb


  • Certificate: Receive a certificate for reaching the summit.
  • Relax: Spend a day or two recovering and exploring nearby attractions.


  • Memories: Cherish the memories and the incredible accomplishment of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.


Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a challenging but incredibly rewarding adventure. With proper preparation, the right gear, and a positive mindset, even beginners can successfully reach the summit and enjoy the stunning beauty of Africa’s highest peak.

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