How long does it take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

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17 July 2019

The Truth about Mount Kilimanjaro Hike Time

How long does it take to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro? What factors affect Kilimanjaro climb time? The answers to these questions from the leading mountaineering experts are below.

“How many days does it take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?” is one of the most popular questions we get every day. In short, for an ordinary person with average fitness level it takes five to nine days to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. At the same time, remember that the more days you spend on Kilimanjaro the more safe and comfortable your hiking experiences will be. Climbing tours with shorter Mt Kilimanjaro hike time (5/6-day adventures) are not recommended for inexperienced hikers. Climbing programs of 7/8/9-day duration via Lemosho, Machame and Rongai routes are the best choice for everyone because of the following reasons:

  • Longer programs mean more time for your body to get accustomed to the abnormal altitudes of Kilimanjaro;
  • Longer climbing programs feature the right profile for overnight camping - the camps are located at somewhat lower altitudes than your daily trekking routes. It is especially important for a smooth and successful acclimatization transition.

With those concerns in mind, for all climbers without prior high-altitude acclimatization (remember that it lasts for 6 months only) we recommend planning your adventure in a way that allows you to have enough time for a longer Kilimanjaro climbing adventure.

Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro is a great adventure, often mentioned as a life goal or on a bucket list. In order to reach Uhuru Peak you need:

Passion and determination - you should have a burning desire in your soul, motivating and urging you to keep going to the top;
Confidence - you should believe that you can do it. We will take of the rest;
Fortitude and stamina - while it does not take athletic skills to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, you should be ready to trek long distances, keep your spirits high and not give up.

Standing on Uhuru Peak, contemplating the majestic landscapes below will be your reward. In spite of the fact that Mount Kilimanjaro deservedly enjoys the reputation of a “hiking adventure”, ascending too fast is not recommended because of high-altitude acclimatization concerns. As we explained in our article about high-altitude acclimatization on Kilimanjaro, more days on the mountain mean better acclimatization transition and safer trekking experiences.

Professional preparation for the climb, good acclimatization transition and, most importantly, your attitude to the upcoming adventure will make your Tanzanian dream a reality.

How long does it take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

The importance of determination in Kilimanjaro expeditions

The best example of an unparalleled dedicated effort and determination to reach the summit was demonstrated in 2015 by Angela Vorobeva, an octonegrian from Russia and a current Guinness World Record holder, who reached Uhuru Peak when she was 87 years and 267 days of age. She chose Lemosho route for her adventure and it took 8 days for her to reach the summit. For this expedition Angela did not use oxygen supplies at all, becoming a living proof that a well-planned and professionally controlled acclimatization transition is the cornerstone of a successful Kilimanjaro climbing expedition.

Her approach to planning a Kilimanjaro adventure is also a good answer to the question “how long does it take to climb Mt Kilimanjaro”.

The guides of Altezza were proud to lead her way. A lot of preparations preceded the climb, but the outcome was possible only because of her attitude. “The idea of going back was the last thing on my mind” said Angela.

Our guides performed three instead of two usual check-ups for Angela, and were surprised to discover that the altitude impact on her health was minimal. Our ‘evacuation decision’ standard was heightened for the climber of such a venerable age, and the guides were instructed to start descending in case of the smallest physical distress. Angela, however, was a hardened veteran of the notorious siege of Leningrad (1941-1945). One year before her Kilimanjaro adventure she took part in an Antarctic expedition. Though the Kilimanjaro adventure was arduous for Angela, her made-of-steel body reacted to the abnormal altitude within acceptable limits.

Several months before she arrived in Tanzania, Angela asked us “how long does it take to climb Kilimanjaro?”. We replied honestly, informing her that in her age the only option was to consider Kilimanjaro programs with a long hike length, and explained the importance of acclimatization. Mrs Vorobeva was an attentive listener, in the best interest of success, she agreed to spend as much time as necessary to adjust to the altitude. This is the best illustration of the right attitude for a Mount Kilimanjaro adventure.

Altezza Travel suggested for Angela to choose Lemosho Route with 9-10 days Kilimanjaro hike length. Angela did it in 8!

Mandatory Duration


In an attempt to reduce the number of emergency evacuations from Kilimanjaro and safeguard irresponsible climbers against the jeopardies of ascending too fast, the Kilimanjaro National Park Authority has declared it mandatory to spend a certain number of days climbing, exact duration is dependent on the route. 

Thus, the Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing regulations say that it is mandatory to spend at least six days on all routes. There are two exceptions to this rule - Rongai and Marangu routes, where the regulations require you to spend at least five days.

Recommended Duration and Success Rate


Though we have our own assessment technique for calculating Kilimanjaro success rate (see below), strong evidence suggests that deciding on a longer Kilimanjaro climbing expedition increases your chances of successfully reaching Uhuru Peak.

Success Rate

Since you are curious to know how long it takes to climb Kilimanjaro, you are probably most interested to know the amount of time required to reach Uhuru Peak. Before we advance to the recommended durations and routes, we find it necessary to discourse about the idea of success rate, which is the ratio between those who attempted climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and those who made it to the top.

While this concept should have evolved into the primary mechanism for analyzing and developing effective practices for safe, sustainable and responsible Kilimanjaro climbing, unfortunately it eventually became nothing but a tool for travel marketers to entice more tourists.

Many climbing tour operators are deceptively bragging about having “over 98% climbing success rate”. Some claim having as high as 100%. Not a single responsible trekking operator engages in these dubious marketing practices. First, it is misleading. Second, it is a huge violation of mountaineering ethics - deceiving the clients in an attempt to encourage them signing up for the climb is fiercely frowned upon in our community.

A perfunctory analysis of the KINAPA (Kilimanjaro National Park Administration) records show that only 45% of climbers reachUhuru Peak. This information is long outdated (the latest report was published in 2006), and the achievement rate has probably somewhat increased since those days because of emergence of the longer trails, improved infrastructure and equipment, increased awareness of pitfalls of choosing short treks, etc. However, the figure is far from even 80% today. The leading expert in Kilimanjaro climbing, Mr. Mark Whitman, estimated it to be roughly 65%.

Although longer programs feature substantially higher success rate than the shorter ones do (discussed further), even those figures are distant from 95-100%. Either those claiming to have attained these figures are very selective in their clients, admitting Iron-men only, or they are distributing blatant falsehood. The second being more plausible.

The Truth about Mount Kilimanjaro Hike Time

Success Rate at Altezza Travel

We at Altezza Travel have our own definition of Kilimanjaro climbing success rate. For us, each successful Kilimanjaro expedition has two important elements:

  • Our clients do not have any medical complications caused by altitude or fatigue;
  • Our clients are happy to have enjoyed the pristine wilderness of Kilimanjaro and the performance of our climbing crews.

We understand and respect that for many of you, standing on the roof of Africa is the BIG GOAL of your Tanzanian adventure. Some of our clients, who had to finish their expedition earlier than expected because of fatigue or acclimatization problems, were upset upon return to our climbing base, but motivated to make another attempt with Altezza in the future. We strongly believe that our guides have made the right choice to have those people evacuated, and our clients shared this view.

We are here to make this dream of yours a reality, and our climbing crews and office experts take all possible measures and precautions to maximize your chances. We suggest taking longer climbing itineraries. We have extra oxygen supplies (for all climbs irrespective of the tariff), a well-balanced and nutritional diet to boost your stamina, and our guides are skilled in detecting the slightest symptoms of high-altitude sickness.

Our biggest achievement is that many of our clients have reached the summit, and those who have not enjoyed their climb only to return the next year and repeat their attempt.

We will not answer how many of those who signed up have eventually made it. Firstly, in doing so we will join the ranks of the companies with poor mountaineering ethics. Secondly, although our real figures are higher than the figures spouting99-and-above’, they will not look as impressive as their cooked-up statistics.

We never prioritize your climbing triumph over your health. Our Wilderness First Responder guides perform two medical check-ups per day, measuring your blood oxygen saturation level, temperature and blood pressure. Our medical kits are full of pills and materials for any climbing emergency. Diamox is administered as a preventive measure, and you’ll receive oxygen doses as soon as the first symptoms of acclimatization distress come to light. The guides meticulously record everything in a special file for each climber for any future reference by a medical practitioner. At the same time, our guides are definitely not alarmists or scaremongers. If a climber is about to give up mentally or spiritually - the guides will be encouraging and lifting morale, giving all boosts in their arsenal.

Our mission is to make Kilimanjaro climbs safe, comfortable and successful. In this order only.

It is important to remember that the question “how long to climb Kilimanjaro?” is not just a matter of planning the number of days to spend in Tanzania, but a serious element of preparation for this amazing adventure.

Recommended Duration on Different Routes


Kilimanjaro routes have varying acclimatization transition profiles, resulting in the different success rates. The best routes are those that offer “walk high-sleep low” climbing and camping, which is important for good acclimatization. You may read about this important rule in our article about acclimatization guidelines on Kilimanjaro.

This information is the product of our own internal statistics, the findings kindly provided by our responsible Kilimanjaro partner companies (though they may be our competitors in the business field, other responsible tour operators are our partners in making Mount Kilimanjaro a center of ecotourism. We respect and trust them) and secondary research.

Lemosho Route

Lemosho Route Detail

(Kilimanjaro hike distance - 56 km/35 mi)

Lemosho is the top-choice of Altezza Travel. Being one of the least frequented, and hence the least crowded, it starts in the south-western slopes of Kilimanjaro. Lemosho features nearly intimate trekking experiences with Kilimanjaro, ultimately converging with Machame in Shira 2 Camp. 6/7/8 day Lemosho climbs are available.

Lemosho is one of the few routes having perfect ‘walk high-sleep low’ climbing throughout.

Though our own records show somewhat higher successful summiting success rates, the information which we collected from the different sources says that the climbing statistics for Lemosho route is the following:

ROUTE SUCCESSFUL SUMMITING RATE
Lemosho 6-day program 65%
Lemosho 7-day program 85%
Lemosho 8-day program 90%

This route should be taken into consideration by climbing novices and beginners.

Machame Route

Machame Route Detail

(Kilimanjaro hike distance 49 km/30 mi)

The most popular Kilimanjaro climbing route, Machame has over 50% of all climbers. If you decide to choose Machame for your Kilimanjaro adventure, it will never be a mistake - this route has a fantastic ‘walk-high sleep-low’ trekking style, resulting in safe acclimatization transition. 6/7 day Machame climbs are available. Our rough estimates show that Kilimanjaro summit success rates via Machame routes are the following:

ROUTE SUCCESSFUL SUMMITING RATE
Machame 6-day program 53%
Machame 7-day program 85%

Rongai Route

Rongai Route Detail

(Kilimanjaro hike distance 65 km/40 mi)

Rongai Route is the only one that starts in the Northern foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. 6 and 7-day Rongai route Kilimanjaro climbs are available.

The ‘walk-high sleep-low’ trekking style of Rongai is inferior to Lemosho and Machame ones.
Approximate summiting success rate at Rongai are the following:

ROUTE SUCCESSFUL SUMMITING RATE
Rongai 6-day program 65%
Rongai 7-day program 80%

Northern Circuit Route

Northern Circuit Route Detail

(Kilimanjaro hike distance 90 km/56 mi)

Opening the beauty of the Northern side of the Mount, Northern Traverse is offered by Altezza as a 9-day Kilimanjaro trekking adventure, or as a 10-day expedition with an overnight stay in the crater.

Though it is the longest, and therefore the most physically demanding route on the Mount, it has an amazing acclimatization transition. It is the safest climbing option with picturesque landscapes and captivating wildlife.Together with Lemosho Route it is the least visited trek, which may be important for those seeking seclusion and privacy. Northern Circuit has a 85% record of successful climbs.

Marangu Route

Marangu Route Detail

(Kilimanjaro hike distance 64 km/40 mi)

Marangu was the first route to be used by the climbers for Kilimanjaro climbing expeditions. It is the only route where overnight stays are in huts, and for that reason it is often chosen by low-profile Kilimanjaro operators (there is no need to purchase expensive equipment such as tents or sleeping bags). There are false rumors circulating in the global web, describing Marangu as the easiest route with a high success rate. The practice, however, shows that in reality this route has one of the lowest number of climbers who successfully reach Uhuru Peak.

5-day and 6-day Marangu climbing programs are available nowadays.

ROUTE SUCCESSFUL SUMMITING RATE
Marangu 5-day program 45%
Marangu 6-day program 55%

Though the 6-day Kilimanjaro trekking option provides the “trek high - sleep low” profile, daily altitude gain is still too high for many climbers to adapt smoothly to the increasing altitudes.

Umbwe Route

Umbwe Route Detail

(Kilimanjaro hike distance 37 km/23 mi)

Umbwe Route is known to be a choice for hardened mountaineering experts with many climbs under their belt. The route provides the fastest, yet the steepest, way to Uhuru Peak with poor acclimatization transition.

There is no reliable success rate statistics on Umbwe route Kilimanjaro expeditions. What is known is that the majority of experienced mountaineers with prior acclimatization mainly reach Peak Uhuru, while the Umbwe summiting rate among the beginners is very low.

Longer Routes are a Better Choice


Many to-be climbers often choose 5-day or 6-day treks to reduce the price. However, because the Kilimanjaro climbing adventure is not cheap, (although, in terms of trekking one of the Seven Summits, it is considerably affordable!) the price difference between a 6 or 7 day adventure is not significant. Consider instead, causing unnecessary stress to your body, or increasing your chances of reaching Uhuru Peak and enjoying the trek.

Furthermore, as we illustrated above, taking a shorter adventure in an attempt to save costs may put at risk the whole adventure. After all, obviously the purpose of yourKilimanjaro adventure is actually to reach the Peak of Africa. Though the trek itself is a fascinating adventure, jeopardizing the sense of a lifetime achievement of reaching Uhuru Peak by avoiding extra costs does not justify the minimal savings of a single day.

Overall, you should take the question “how long to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?” very seriously. However unimportant it may seem, deciding how many days to climb Kilimanjaro is one of the most important elements of your travel preparations.

If you still have doubts on how long it takes to hike Mount Kilimanjaro, or if you have any specific questions - drop us a line at [email protected]. Our experts are always ready to share our knowledge of Mt Kilimanjaro.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dima is a Tanzania-based travel expert with multiple Kilimanjaro hikes under his belt. He contributed his knowledge and skills to many notable expeditions, including Wings of Kilimanjaro 2019, BASE-jump trip with Red Bull, National Geographic trips and many other adventures.

At Altezza Travel Dima is the Kilimanjaro Expeditions Coordinator. Every year he supervises the departure of over 1500 Kilimanjaro trekkers, appoints the guides and makes sure that everything goes as planned before, during and after the expedition.
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