How Hard is it to Climb Kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro attracts thousands of tourists every year. Their goal is to summit Africa’s tallest mountain. However, many never reach Uhuru Peak. Why do so many make the attempt to climb Kilimanjaro, but fail?

Kilimanjaro summit

Below are some of the reasons people do not reach the summit.

Route Selection

Kilimanjaro Routes

Mount Kilimanjaro can be climbed via several routes. When selecting your route, consider the number of days offered, the time of year, and the number of people on the route.

Machame is the most popular route. However, it is quite a steep route. There are also the Lemosho, Northern Circuit, Rongai, Shira, Umbwe, and Marangu.

During the rainy season (March-May and November) the Rongai and the Marangu are the preferred choices. The Rongai side of the mountain receives less precipitation. In contrast, the Marangu route features sleeping huts for climbers.

There are fewer people on the Lemosho and the Northern Circuit, which have better views and ascend slower.

Acclimation is the most difficult for Umbwe and Shira routes. Umbwe is the steepest and has a success rate of less than 50 percent. Shira starts above the rainforest and therefore has the shortest acclimatization period. For this reason, the Shira also has a lower success rate. Because of the low percentage of success, we do not offer the Shira or Umbwe routes.

We recommend the Lemosho or Northern Circuit. The Rongai and Machame are also good choices.

Read more about our routes here:

Number of Days

A successful summit attempt on Kilimanjaro is also heavily dependent on the number of days spent on the mountain. The success rate for an eight-day trek is about 90%. As the days on the mountain decrease, the success rate decreases by 20%. For example, a 7-day climb yields a 70 percent success rate. Six days yield a 50 percent success rate.


Even though Mount Kilimanjaro is considered a “walkable” mountain, that does not mean it is an easy climb. This is because its elevation changes dramatically. You gain elevation faster and in fewer days than if you trekked to Everest base camp. So how does this affect you? The answer is that you have to train. Hard. Get into the mountains and hike with a pack. As often as possible before your climb. When you can’t go hiking, climb stairs or go to the gym and work on the stair climber.

Here is our recommended workout schedule:

You want to be in really good shape. The better shape you are in the less stress you will put on your body which will make climbing Kilimanjaro easier. Furthermore, climbing Kilimanjaro costs a lot of money. You can use that as motivation to exercise.


The lack of knowledge about what they are attempting is another reason people fail to make the summit. The fact that you have seen many people on social media standing on Uhuru Peak does not mean their trek was easy. Getting to the top doesn’t require technical skills like rope work, but it still requires preparation. Do your research before you begin. Choose an operator who is willing to answer questions and then ask questions. Take the time to read emails, brochures, and guidebooks. Review the operator’s website. Or simply do a Google search. Be aware of what you are getting into. We are constantly asked, “What else do I need to know?” No one knows what you know. Do your research and make a list of questions to ask. You can find answers to many of your questions here:


Adaptability to harsh environments varies from person to person. Mt. Kilimanjaro is an extreme environment. For the first part of your journey, you are in a hot and humid rainforest. During your ascent, you’ll pass through the Heather/Moorland zone, which has extreme temperatures. The days here are hot, but the nights are cold. Above this region lies the Alpine desert. This zone is a rocky, barren mountainside with an extremely varied climate. Lastly, you will reach the Summit zone. It is warm during the day and bone-chilling cold at night. A cold wind cut through you with agonizing precision. How do you prepare yourself for this? First of all, layer your clothes to prepare for the extreme temperatures. Here are our recommendations for your gear:

The staff at Kilimanjaro Sunrise has extensive experience hiking in the backcountry with minimal gear, so we generally pack light to keep weight low. You may find our recommendations too minimal. If this is the case, bring more base layers, t-shirts, socks, and underwear. Keep in mind that your duffel bag has to weigh no more than 33lbs for the porters to carry.


Starting with your feet, you need two pairs of shoes. Hiking shoes are good for most of the trek when it’s dry. Wet, snowy days and summit night calls for waterproof boots like Gortex. For socks, pack two pairs of liners (Injinji or equivalent), two light hiking socks (Thorlos, Smart Wool, etc), and one pair of tall socks.


Let’s move on to your legs. For the first couple of days, convertible pants work best. The legs can be removed when it is warm or put on when it is cold. When it gets chilly around camp, a pair of fleece or down pants are ideal. They’re also comfortable to sleep in. Additionally, you can wear a pair of baselayers. You should bring an extra pair for the summit. When it’s raining, ski pants or softshell pants are a good choice. For summit days, base layers, fleece pants, waterproof pants or any combination of pants that you feel is warm enough.


We now move on to the torso. Please bring underwear, even though it should be obvious. Bring several pairs. Wear a dry weave t-shirt for the first couple of days with a rain jacket tucked into your daypack in case of rain. Once it gets colder, have a fleece or pullover on hand. Puffy jackets are also great for warmth and can be worn around camp in the cold mornings and evenings. A base layer top should be worn underneath your long-sleeve dry weave shirt on summit day. Then there will be a fleece, puffy, and a waterproof, windproof shell. Once you reach the summit, the descent back to base camp is surprisingly fast. You’ll need to remove those layers. Once the sun comes out, it warms up quickly.

Face and Neck

Protect your neck and face from the cold and wind with a scarf, balaclava, or shemagh. Don’t forget your sunglasses for once the sun rises.


You should wear a beanie to cover your head. Science has proven that you do not lose heat through your head, but you still need to make sure it keeps you warm. Don’t buy a hat with animal ears, a slouchy beanie, or a tassel. You need to be able to pull it down over your ears and it needs to be warm. Fashion isn’t the goal here. The goal is to comfortably survive to reach the summit.


Last but not least, the hands. Pack a pair or two of gloves. A pair of wind-blocking gloves rated for medium temperatures can be worn when it is cold. On summit day, we recommend wearing waterproof, windproof gloves or mittens. If your hands get cold easily, you may even want glove liners.


You have prepared for your climb as best as you can. However, that doesn’t guarantee success. There is a possibility that your body will not acclimate properly and you will need to stop ascending to avoid serious illness and even death. Our guides are experienced at identifying altitude-related symptoms. They also perform daily health checks. Our health check includes measuring your blood oxygen saturation and checking your temperature. You will also be told to drink plenty of water. Maji is Swahili for water. You will hear the guides say that frequently. Also, eat food during your trek, even if you don’t feel like it. Above all else, we put the health and well-being of our clients first. You will climb high and sleep low to allow your body more time to acclimate. You will also hike extremely slowly. You will hear “pole, pole” which means slowly in Swahili.

Read more about acclimatization here:

How to Select the Right Operator

Finally, the success of your climb depends on the quality of your guide service. We offer a guide-to-climber ratio of 2 to 1. The summit day ratio is two staff (Guide and senior porter) to each client. You can find cheaper operators. But ask yourself these questions first. Will I safely summit Mount Kilimanjaro? Will my health be monitored daily? What will my guide to climber ratio be? Will my guide be there for me when I need them? These are all questions you should ask yourself before choosing your guiding company. You can choose by cost or choose a company that has been guiding clients safely up Kilimanjaro for more than 20 years.

Are you ready to book your trip of a lifetime?

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