Alpine Ascents Kilimanjaro Frequently Asked Questions
Upon sign up we will forward our famed, comprehensive confirmation package. This package will include all of the details for your trip.
1. What is the best time of year to go?
All of our Kilimanjaro Climbs avoid the two rainy seasons in Tanzania, the "long rains" in April and May and the "short rains" from late October through November. It is important to understand however that weather on Kilimanjaro is as changeable and unpredictable as mountain weather all over the world is. Some light rain is virtually constant in the lower sections of the mountain throughout the year. But it might dry out on a given day or week. And the upper reaches of the mountain, which are quite arid, can see passing rain or snow storms at any time of year.
2. Which trip dates are during the warmer season?
Even though it is only about 3 degrees south of the Equator, Northern Tanzania has surprisingly variable temperatures through different times of the year. July and August are generally referred to as "winter" by the locals and it is the coolest time of the year in Nairobi and Arusha. Nighttime lows are typically about 48F and daytime highs might only be in the high 60's or 70's. You are probably thinking these sound like very pleasant temperatures, and you are right. We tell people "if you leave the United States in the summer months and travel to East Africa you are going to a cooler climate". This is surprising to most people, but very true. Safari and the time you spend in Arusha during these months can be wonderful in terms of weather - never as hot and steamy as you probably imagine tropical Africa to be. Similarly, if you are on a trip during our winter, you will find the weather to be as much influenced by altitude as latitude. It is warmer in December or February, but it is still not extremely humid or hot.
The above description is for the lower elevations. It gets very different on the upper reaches of the mountain. Talk to anyone who has climbed Kilimanjaro, at anytime of the year, and they will probably comment about how cold they got on summit day. This has more to do with the mild hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and the exertion that climbers experience, than it has to do with temperatures, or even wind. When you go to 19,000, anywhere on the earth, at anytime of year, you need to have very efficient insulation and be prepared to conserve you body's energy effectively. There is little difference in the degree of "warm" than can be experienced on a summit day on Kilimanjaro at any given time of year.
3. Which dates generally have the most people signed up and why?
The most popular months on Kilimanjaro are July and August, with December running a close third. Alpine Ascents trips tend to fill at any time of year they are run, but you will see fewer people from other groups in months other than August or December.
4. What is the average number of climbers?
Most trips run with between 12 and 15 people. though we will run smaller groups if a certain date has less sign ups. We also run private groups (see private climbs) year round
5. The number of people per tent?
We currently use three-person tents on our Kilimanjaro program. Two climbers per tent.
6. Is there a community tent for eating/gathering?
Yes, we have a large dining tent and tables and chairs that are used at all camps. (OK, sometimes we forgo the table and chairs at high camp) These are especially nice if it happens to rain. But often people will go inside to get their food and then eat outdoors in beautiful evening light. We also provide toilet tents with commodes.
7. Approximately how much weight will climbers carry?
You will need a medium sized backpack (say 2500 to 3500 cubic inches) that can hold your layers of clothing for changing temperatures and activity levels through the day. One thing that many people do not expect is the porters who carry your large bags will probably move slower that you do. It is not uncommon to get to camp as the afternoon and evening temperatures cool off, ahead of the porters, but with lots of photographs to be taken and relaxing to be done. You need to be prepared to be inactive through part of each day as well as to hike. Most people carry packs that weigh about 20 pounds. You could pare this down to perhaps 15 if you were careful, but with a lot of camera equipment, or other personal preference type items, it might be more.
8. Do American guides take part in the actual climb all the way to the summit? If not at what point do they stop and why is this?
We always plan to go to Uhuru, the true summit of Kilimanjaro at 19,340'. A medical emergency that would require a lead guide's attention rather than an African guide's would be the only reason that they would not but this has not happened to date.
9. Do you have assistant guides to take someone back down should they become ill upon ascent and require descent? And what is the client to guide ratio?
We normally take 1-2 lead or "chief" African guides, plus 3 assistant African guides, for a total of five guides, including our guide, on a typical summit attempt. All of these men are well-known to us and we have done many successful summits together. Obviously this does not leave options for an unlimited number of turn - arounds during the summit attempt, but we have always been able to get people who really need to descent headed in the right direction, very quickly, and under excellent care and supervision. This is in addtion to our staff of lesser assistant guides, porters, cooks, cooks helpers - a staff of 50+ on full expeditions.
10. Could you give an example of a typical breakfast, lunch and dinner on the mountain?
Re-supply during our trip allows us to provide lots of fresh and whole grain cooked foods. We have the best chefs and food on the mountain, hands down.
Breakfast: hot porridge (oats or corn or millet), toast, fried eggs, bacon or sausage, jam/peanut butter, avocado, fresh fruit
hot drinks (coffee/ black tea/herbal tea/Milo- malt chocolate beveridge /hot cocoa and Tang)
Sit down lunch: hot soup, bread, fresh salad, small sandwich, cookies/chips, fresh fruit. Hot drinks (coffee/ black tea/herbal tea/Milo, malt chocolate beveridge/hot cocoa and Tang)
Dinner: hot soup/bread, cooked vegetable dishes – varies but always 2 of the following (green beans or eggplant or okra/ tomatoes/ local kale/spinach), rice, pasta, potatoes, cooked meat dishes – varies but always one of the following (small beef steaks/ beef stroganoff/ chicken dishes in sauce / pork chops in sauce / fried fish, light dessert, hot drinks (coffee/ black tea/herbal tea/Milo- malt chocolate beveridge/hot cocoa and Tang).
Vegetarians: each meal (see above) always has a large selection of vegetarian options. In addition our chefs will prepare a vegetarian special dish at each meal (chickpea/lentil stew/local corn and bean stew as well as other regional dishes).
11. How do you handle human waste on Kilimanjaro?
We have private toilet tents set up at every camp. These are clean, sit down, commode type toilets with water.
12. Does the price of the trip cover meals, land transfers, accommodations?
Yes, all hotels for the scheduled trip, meals on the mountain and on safari, airport transfers and shuttle to Arusha are included. One thing that is not included in town and on safari is bottled drinks (soft drinks, bottled water, alcohol.) Also not included is tips at the hotels, tips for safari drivers, and tips for guides and porters at the end of the trip on the mountain.
13. What are the accommodations like on the safari?
We stay in high-standard safari lodges run by the renowned Sopa chain. We use these places to relax and reward ourselves after a rigorous climb. They really are beautiful in terms of setting and amenities. The safari drives have their own demands, long dusty days and a lot of excitement and adventure with all the wildlife. One of the greatest feelings is to go into your room at the end of one of these days, get a shower and some clean clothes on, and go have a nice dinner with your friends who you recently climbed Kilimanjaro with. The sun will be setting on the African landscape and the large glass windows will scarcely separate you from this. Pretty civilized. We currently stay at the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, Tarangire Sopa Lodge and Serengeti Sopa Lodge on our 4 day 3 night Safari.
14. What type of vehicles are used on safari?
You will be in a Land Cruiser, maximum 5 or 6 per vehicle. Your vehicle will be driven by an experienced Guide/Driver. He is the only person who ever drives his vehicle and is responsible for its complete safe operation and maintenance for the 2 to 3 years it sees service after it is purchased new by our agent in Arusha. The only seat that sometimes becomes undesirable if the vehicle is full is the front seat with the driver. Everyone in the back is under a canopy that extends up so that you can stand for wildlife viewing and photography while you are in the parks.
15. Why has Alpine Ascents chosen the Machame route for the ascent and the Mweka route for the descent over the Marangu route?
The Marangu Route, also know as the "Tourist Route" or "Coca Cola route" is convenient for people who choose not to prepare for Kilimanjaro as an expedition. You can stay in crude, rather crowded shelters, so you do not need tents. The route is very crowded by anyone's standards and, truth be known, the success rate on this route is very low because people tend to ascend too quickly. If you look at a map of Kilimanjaro you will see that our route, the Machame Route, climbs to over 12,000 feet on the mountain and then traverses a significant portion of Kilimanjaro at this elevation. Altogether we spend three nights in different camps at the same approximate elevation, before we ascend to high camp for our summit attempt. This part of the trip is beautiful in its own right - unlike anything you will see on the Marangu Route - and it has the added benefit of allowing us to acclimatize by taking the longer route. With regard to our descent, the Mweka is beautiful, feels very remote, and is direct. The last day out, after our very long summit day, it is only 2 - 4 hours back to the Land Rovers at the Mweka Gate.
16. On the climb and on the safari, how is the drinking water situation handled?
On the mountain you will be provided a large 3-4 gallon cooler of water at each camp, and the sit down lunch. This water is cartridge filtered by the staff using a large, commercial Katydyn filter. We strongly recommend that each client then treats this water 1L at a time as you fill your bottles, several times each day, using iodine, or other recommended water treatment solutions. We have found that this 2 stage process is the most effective in preventing water borne issues. Steri Pens work well, but use a lot of batteries and can break, so you always need the backup treatment pills.
17. Do you have access to radio communications for any emergency needs if one were to arise?
For the past few seasons, we have relied on the satellite phone for possible emergency communication while we are on the mountain. Things change from season to season however. We also carry a cell phone and radio phone on the mountain and safari. All our Kili trips are run in our normal, self contained expedition style. That is to say, complete medical kits, and equipment to deal with emergencies travel with us. This self-reliant approach is especially important in Tanzania where unlike, say Nepal, helicopter evacuation is very limited. The staff of 40 plus experienced Chagga men who travel with each group are who we really rely on for possible emergency response. If necessary they could carry an injured person, and they can run from any location on our route to a road head and telephones in less than one day.