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Mount Kilimanjaro

Climbing Travel Guider

Planning to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro? Many ask, "How long does it take?"

The journey to the Kilimanjaro Summit and back takes anywhere from five to nine days. The more days you spend, the better your chance of a successful summit. Spending more time helps your body adjust to the altitude, reducing fatigue.

Quick breakdown:

  • Going for a quick 5-day climb? Expect lower success rates.
  • Opting for an 8 or 9-day trek? Your chances of reaching the summit significantly improve.

Explore the best routes and their corresponding days for a well-prepared Kilimanjaro adventure.

Factors Influencing the Duration of Your Kilimanjaro Climb

Kilimanjaro stands as a “walk-up” mountain, free from technical climbing challenges. The time it takes to reach the summit hinges largely on your ability to acclimatize to the reduced oxygen levels at altitude.

Acclimatization:

The primary reason for climbers falling short of Kilimanjaro’s summit is inadequate acclimatization to the altitude.

How determined are you to reach the summit? If your goal is a successful climb, acclimatization is your main ally.

The encouraging news is that a deliberate and gradual pace allows your body to adjust steadily to the oxygen-deprived environment. The more days dedicated to acclimatization on the mountain, the greater the likelihood of reaching the pinnacle. Trekkers spending just 5 days on Kilimanjaro exhibit the lowest success rates, while those opting for an 8 or 9-day journey significantly improve their chances of standing atop the Roof of Africa.

The Wilderness Medical Society Practice Guidelines highlight that controlling the rate of ascent—measured in the number of meters gained daily—is a highly effective method for preventing altitude illness. A slow and steady climb provides the necessary time for your body to adapt, and although physical fitness may not directly impact acclimatization, it ensures ample time for rest and recovery after each day’s hike.

While obtaining up-to-date data from Kilimanjaro National Park proves challenging, estimates from 2006 underscored the success rate’s correlation with the number of days spent on the mountain. During that period:

  • 27% of those on a 5-day trek reached the summit.
  • 85% of trekkers dedicating 8 days to their climb achieved success.

Taking Your Time on Kilimanjaro: Routes, Fitness, and Acclimatization

Those numbers have probably gotten better now with better guides, better gear, and knowing more about how to hike the trail. But, they show you that it’s important to go slow on the mountain.

Being really fit doesn’t mean you’ll get used to the altitude better. Being fit makes walking easier, helps with tiredness, and stress, but it won’t help you get used to the altitude.

Time on Each Route: There are six routes to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, each with its own good and hard parts.

  • Marangu or Umbwe Route: The quickest ways to the top in 5 days (but not great for most hikers).

  • Lemosho, Machame, Rongai, or Northern Circuit Route: These longer walks take 6-10 days.

Picking a longer route gives your body more time to get used to the altitude, but there are other things to think about too. Unless you’re really fit, going the same distance in a shorter time can make you more tired, more likely to get hurt, and can make it less fun to enjoy the amazing views.