Kilimanjaro Q&A – Mountain Monday




I have a LOT of posts on Kilimanjaro, from booking to climbing, from what to take to even the mountain toilet situation, so if you want to have a read – Here you go!

I’ve had so many emails from people who have read my posts and told me that they now feel inspired to go and climb their own mountain, and not just Kilimanjaro. This makes me so happy. I never set out to inspire anyone, but I feel so honoured to have had people say this to me, so thank you guys and girls for cheering up this injured mountain lover!

A lot of people have asked me questions about Kilimanjaro, nothing that hasn’t been answered online before, but I guess it’s different when it’s someone you know! So I thought I would compile those I’ve received so far in to a hand Q&A post!

If you have any other questions about Kilimanjaro, please feel free to comment below and I’ll endeavour to answer asap!

​So, without further ado…

Which tour company did you use?

I climbed with Zara Tours as my friend Georgie knew a lot of the staff and so recommended them to me. I have to say it was a great decision and I couldn’t fault them on anything at all! Booking and paying in instalments was super easy, my guides and porters were lovely and I had the best experience!

Their website is here!

How did you choose a route?

There’s so much information online about the various routes, but at the end of the day, I’d already booked my flights as I was going to visit a friend in Moshi, so climbing Kilimanjaro was an afterthought that I had to fit in to those dates! I chose one with Zara Tours (as Georgie knew pretty much everyone working for them) and booked my trip from the 10th-16th of October. This happened to be the Machame Route.

There are shorter routes, longer routes and they all differ in terms of difficulty. The Machame Route is known as the ‘whiskey route’ and is harder than the ‘Coca Cola’ Marangu Route. I also based it on the fact I wanted to camp in tents all the way up and not stay in a hut. Be aware that some of the shorter, cheaper routes also give you less time to acclimatise. I was lucky as I didn’t suffer any altitude sickness, but the longer you give yourself, the more likely you are to summit.

Another good tip is to choose dates/a route where you summit around the full moon, as it’s brighter! We summited the night before, and it was dark, but not so much 🙂

Information on all of the routes can be found here!

How much did it cost?

My climb was $1600. This included 2 nights accommodation before and after my trip, park fees and all meals/guiding up the mountain.

This cost did not include my travel vaccinations/medicine, flights (£450), equipment (most of which I owned already as I’m outdoorsy), or tips for my guides and porters (I’ll cover that later)

Kilimanjaro is easy to climb though, right?

If you compare Kilimanjaro to Everest or K2, then yes it’s a walk in the park. You’d be correct in thinking it’s easier in the sense that you need no technical climbing ability as it is for all intents and purposes a long hike.

However, and I say this with the utmost importance, the altitude is what makes it difficult.

Will I get altitude sickness?

Altitude sickness usually begins to affect people above 3000-3,500m but the summit of Kilimanjaro is at 5,895m (19,341 feet) above mean sea level.  At this altitude there is half of the effective oxygen. What does this mean? You have to draw two breaths to take in the same amount of oxygen as one breath at sea level.Altitude sickness can affect even the fittest of people, and from what I saw up the mountain it’s luck of the draw. I was very fortunate not to even suffer from a headache, but I made sure to drink a LOT of water.

We saw people being helped down from the Lava Tower and I know of people who were projectile vomiting in their tents on the second night. You may get nosebleeds, you may be sick, you will find it harder to breathe, you may not sleep well.

Don’t let this put you off though. As I said, I didn’t suffer any of the above aside from a little breathlessness as the air was thin! A few guys I climbed with only had a headache. If you want to take Diamox as a preventative measure to aid your symtoms, you can. I took half a tablet twice a day on the last 2 days before summiting, so maybe this was what helped (seek advice from your Dr on this first, as it’s not suitable for everyone).


Your guides will keep an eye on you. Do not hide any symptoms from them. If they are too bad then your guide will make you descend immediately.  You may think it’s ok to go on, but trust your guides. Acute Mountain Sickness can be fatal if ignored.

Can you climb with Asthma?

I don’t have asthma, so I am unsure of the limitations, but the advice I would give is to check with your Doctor!

Do I need to be fit?

No, but don’t underestimate the mountain. A general level of fitness is definitely required. I focused more on strengthening my muscles rather than cardio and so I struggled on the first day, as the guys I was with powered up at full speed. I was so worried about the next few days, but actually the higher you go, the slower your guides walk. You’ll hear the phrase ‘Pole Pole’ (slowly) a lot.

It’s always best to get some experience of hill walking in though, and if you live in a flat area, stick the treadmill on an incline and wear a backpack!

Do I need to purify my water?

It’s recommended that you treat all of your water before you drink with water purification tablets as it’s collected from streams on the mountain. It is boiled by your porters, but remember that water boils at lower than 100°C at altitude. Personally, again, I didn’t purify my water and I didn’t suffer at all, but everyone is different. I may just have a strong constitution!

Are there toilets?

Yes, but they leave a lot to be desired. Some people have a very upset stomach on the mountain. You could go behind a rock if you’re out walking, or there are long drops at each camp. If you want to use an actual toilet, my advice is to take a buff/scarf with a couple of drops of lavender or tea tree oil on to mask the smell a little!

What gear do I need?

I created a handy kit list here based on a couple I used, and added a few things I think were useful that weren’t listed.

Make sure you take boots that are worn in though. That’s my biggest piece of advice. Mine were like gloves, thankfully, but if you wear a new pair and get blisters, it will be very uncomfortable!

Can I shower on the mountain?

Put simply? No.

What’s the food like?

I can’t talk for the other companies, but the food we had with Zara Tours was incredible. How they managed to give us a 3 course dinner at a campsite, I’ll never know, but there wasn’t one meal that we didn’t enjoy… And cucumber soup?! Who knew.

Is it cold?

Ok, so this is entirely time of year/weather dependent I think. I went from the 10th to 16th October and the first day I was climbing in shorts and a cami top. Day 2 I was in a thin long sleeve gym top and hiking trousers, day three I was in the same, but a fleece/down jacket later in the day. Day 3 I was in a long sleeve base layer with a tee over the top. Day 4 I was in a base layer top and a fleece later in the day. Summit night I was in Under Armour Coldgear base layers, ski trousers, a fleece, down jacket, and Goretex jacket, 2 pairs of gloves and still felt a little chilly around 3-4am.

That being said, and whilst the summit was freeeeezing cold due to the wind, I was able to take some layers off to descend and was in leggings a t shirt and thin down jacket!

Can I climb solo?

Everyone climbing Kilimanjaro will require Guides/Porters. You cannot climb alone.

If you mean can you climb if you have nobody to climb with? Yes you can. I did exactly that.

I was placed in a group with 3 other Brits and we then climbed with 3 South Africans. Whilst it would have been nice to have had someone else I knew there to share it with, I am a very independent person and so it didn’t really phase me. I probably came across as super quiet and boring to the rest of them, but I was just trying to admire and take everything in!

What happens if I injure myself?

I ‘twisted my knee funny’ on ascent. Little did I know that I had torn my meniscus. I was able to walk uphill and climb, it was only on the downhill slopes that I was in pain. On the final descent from the summit I was in agony, it was absolutely excruciating. Once I got back to Barafu Camp, we started the walk to the Mweka Camp before conceding defeat. I was strapped in to a stretcher/trolley with one wheel, and taken down the mountain. By the time we reached the bottom it was pitch black and the guides/porters had been helping me down with one headtorch between them. I can’t thank them enough, and tipped extra for this, because I was so grateful!

How much do you need to tip?

From what I understand, it’s based on the size of your group, length of trek. nuimber of guides/porters etc… We were advised to tip between $200-300 each.I tipped $400 because of the extra help getting me off of the mountain with an injury and also because my Guide Mzui was an actual love and kept me going at points I wanted to give up!

Is it actually worth the money you pay?

100%. As cliche as it sounds, I came down a different person entirely. It changed my outlook on everything and the view from the summit is just incredible. The sense of achievement you feel when you reach Uhuru Peak is indescribable. Not to mention, the glaciers are around 11,700 years old and melting rapidly, so you need to see them whilst you can!

Kilimanjaro is one of the seven summits of the world, and out of these seven it is the 4th highest but arguably the easiest of the seven.

I want to climb again, partly because I’d like to do it without injuring myself. I’d have enjoyed being at the summit a lot more if I’d been able to walk without hobbling! Partly because I just fell in love with Tanzania and the mountain. So much so that I’ve had it tattooed on to my foot!

As I said, these are questions I’ve been asked by email, through my blog, or by friends and family! If you have any others, I’lll do my best to answer them for you! 🙂 

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