High and regal above Tanzania, 19,340 feet above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro stands as a pinnacle, not only as the highest point in Africa, but as a personal achievement for those daring to conquer the mountain.
One of the world’s great wonders, a snow-capped mountain sitting on the equator, Kilimanjaro is the fourth highest of the seven world summits. The mountain features three distinct volcanoes—Mawenzi and Shira, the two lower cones are extinct, and Kibo, the highest cone, lies dormant.
Kilimanjaro, known as the Roof of Africa, lies within the 291-square mile Kilimanjaro National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The ascent takes hikers through several ecological zones, like walking from an equatorial desert to the North Pole in a week. “Uhuru” Peak on Kibo’s rim, Kilimanjaro’s summit, means freedom in Swahili and celebrates Tanzania’s freedom from Great Britain in 1961 … as well as the metaphoric freedom felt by those who reach the peak.
Nicknamed “Everyman’s Everest,” Mount Kilimanjaro is considered to be an easier climb than other lower but more technical mountains and requires no special climbing equipment or expertise. However, the climb should still be taken seriously as a demanding adventure, and climbing with a qualified team and key safety equipment is highly recommended. Climb pacing is vital to a successful summit, which is why spreading the ascent over as many days as possible is always recommended. The words pole pole, pronounced polay polay and meaning “slowly slowly” in Swahili, becomes the hiker’s mantra. The very shortest climb that Piper & Heath will allow for its travelers is six days/five nights, but we strongly recommend a minimum of seven days/six nights. Longer climbs allow for a slower pace, with shorter distances covered each day and more time to acclimate to the altitude.
As much as anywhere in Africa, on the mountain safety must come first. Around three months prior to departure, climbers should start a daily exercise routine at home. Once on Kilimanjaro, drinking at least three quarts of water a day is a must. The climb goes through five temperate zones, and hikers should pack accordingly. Good hiking boots are a key investment as is breaking them in well before the climb. Every climbing group will have porters that will carry all the gear.