Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
OFTEN DISMISSED AS‘too crowded and too high’, Mt Kilimanjaro is, in fact, neither. What it is, though, is a multiday hike that will test both your physical and mental fortitude. It will pay back the strength of your mental and physical self with what is one of the world’s most iconic outdoor scenarios: watching the sun rise over the African continent at Gillman’s Point (5685m) after hours of slogging upward in the dark. From this cracking location, you are nearly there; the true summit point of Uhuru Peak, at 5895m, is only a seemingly short two hours further away.
There are seven hiking routes (ranging from six to 10 days) up Mt Kilimanjaro: Marangu, Rongai (Outdoor took this route in 2014), Lemosho, Machame, Shira and Umbwe. Each route differs in terms of scenery, difficulty and time needed, but all will see you to the summit. Kili is, in fact, a stratovolcano that features three volcanic cones, with Kibo the highest (Uhuru Peak is situated on this cone), followed by Mawenzi and also Shira. Both Mawenzi and Shira are visible through most of your journey up the mountain.
Those keen on tackling Kili will need to be fit and healthy and used to pack-based hiking. You only carry a daypack each day of your climb up Kili – there are porters to carry the camping gear and additional clothing. You will also have to think about how to tackle the effects of altitude, which are very real during this hike. Some hikers opt for altitude training, usually by sleeping in an altitude tent before the trip. Most of us, though, have no access to this type of specialist equipment so consulting your doctor in regards to medication that combats altitude sickness is one option – or you can tick the box for a portable oxygen tank, but be aware that you have to carry this not insignificant weight in your pack on summit day.
It sounds scary but it’s not; most hikers on Kili have an enjoyable, memorable adventure, with the summit success rate generally high (this is also route dependent; the faster, steeper routes can have a more dramatic effect on your physiology).
The landscape is brilliant and ranges from jungle-clad lowlands, through to subalpine valleys, rolling hills and wind-blasted alpine plains, before you reach the glaciertopped summit area. Although these glaciers atop Mt Kilimanjaro are slowly disappearing, there is still – literally – tons of ice up on the summit and seeing that, along with the clouds way below you as the sun lights up your dayslong route far below, is a lifetime memory.