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Trekking in Kilimanjaro

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

Africa's tallest mountain! What the trail was like and what gear we took.

Mount Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania and is the tallest mountain in Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, clocking in at 19,342 ft! Many do not know that the climb to the top of Kilimanjaro brings many different climates and eco systems. Starting at cultivated land, you then hike through a rain forest, heath moorlands, an alpine desert, and finish at an arctic summit.

This is the rain forest eco system. Here you can still mostly breathe, it is of course a little damp and muddy but not terrible. The weather is a little humid but it is still warm here.

Environments of Kilimanjaro:

  1. Cultivated Zone: The base of the mountain is surrounded by farms and villages, showcasing the rich agricultural life of Tanzania. Here, you'll find banana, maize, and coffee plantations.

  2. Rainforest: After leaving the farms behind, the trek begins through a dense, lush rainforest full of biodiversity. The air is humid, and the atmosphere is thick with the sounds of bird calls and buzzing insects. Monkeys, especially colobus and blue monkeys, can sometimes be seen amidst the greenery.

  3. Heath and Moorland: Above the rainforest lies a cooler, more open heath and moorland zone. The landscape becomes dotted with giant heather plants, and the dense forest gives way to grasses and shrubs. This zone offers a panoramic view of the surroundings and a glimpse of the peak above.

  4. Alpine Desert: This barren and starkly beautiful environment is characterized by its rocky landscape and sparse vegetation. The air is drier, and the nights can be exceptionally cold. It's here that climbers often start to feel the effects of altitude.

  5. Arctic Zone: Reaching above 5,000 meters, this zone is the final stretch before the summit. The oxygen levels drop significantly, and the landscape becomes a mix of snow and rock. The iconic glaciers of Kilimanjaro, like the Rebmann and Ratzel glaciers, can be seen here.

Essential Gear for the Ascent:

1. Clothing:

  • Layering: Lightweight base layers, fleece or down mid-layers, and waterproof and windproof outer layers.

  • Insulated jacket: For the colder altitudes and nighttime.

  • Trekking trousers and shorts.

  • Waterproof trousers: For rain and wet conditions.

2. Footwear:

  • Trekking boots: Sturdy and well broken-in, offering good ankle support.

  • Gaiters: To prevent snow and rocks from getting inside your boots.

  • Several pairs of thermal socks.

3. Headgear:

  • Warm hat or beanie: To retain heat during cold nights.

  • Sun hat or cap: For protection against the equatorial sun.

  • Sunglasses with UV protection.

4. Hands:

  • Insulated gloves: For higher altitudes and colder conditions.

  • Lightweight gloves: For lower altitudes.

5. Equipment:

  • Trekking poles: For balance and to reduce strain on the knees.

  • Backpack: A 60-70 liter pack for carrying personal items, and a day pack for daily essentials.

  • Sleeping bag: Rated for -10°C or lower, especially if trekking during colder months.

  • Headlamp with extra batteries.

6. Hydration and Nutrition:

  • Water bottles or hydration bladder: Ensure you can carry at least 3 liters.

  • Water purification tablets or filters.

  • High-energy snacks: Nuts, dried fruits, energy bars.

7. Health and Safety:

  • First aid kit: Including blister plasters, painkillers, antiseptic wipes.

  • Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF.

  • Altitude sickness medication: Consult your doctor before the trip.

  • Insect repellent.

Embarking on the Kilimanjaro trek is more than just a physical challenge; it’s an immersion into nature’s incredible diversity. With the right gear and preparation, you're all set to experience the mountain in all its grandeur, from the warm foothills to the snow-capped pinnacle. Remember, this is a guided trek, ensuring that you have the expert knowledge and assistance needed to safely and successfully reach the summit. Safe travels!

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