Mount Kilimanjaro (19340’) (5895m) lies just 3 degrees south of the equator and is one of the highest volcanoes in the world. It rises some (15000’) (4572m) above the surrounding plains and savannahs. The Kilimanjaro National Park covers some 1864 sq. Km (720 sq. miles) The base of this immense mountain has a diameter of 80 Km (48 Miles) and the outstanding features are its three major volcanic centers: Shira (4160m) in the west. Mawenzi (5280 m) to the east and the permanently snowcapped Kibo in the middle.
In climbing, the terrain passes from a tropical to an arctic clime in just a few days. The encircling rain forest ensures the fertility of the lower lying shambas and is rich in bird life. Above the rain forest lies the Alpine Meadow, a beautiful moorland, offering many splendid views. Exotic plants such as the giant Lobelia and the fork-like Groundsel are to be seen. The latter blooming once every 50 – 70 years. Leaving the Alpine Meadow we reach the Alpine Desert and eventually the ‘’snows of Kilimanjaro’’.
Take a look at the routes available up the mountain ranging from the least demanding Marangu to the rugged and spectacular Umbwe or long and wild Lemosho. The Machame Route is a popular one as it combines the beautiful and varied scenery with plenty of opportunities to acclimatize.
If you are not accustomed to camping and mountain walking you could consider the Marangu Route as the most suitable. This follows easy angled paths through magnificent rain forests to the Mandara Hut. Shortly beyond it passes Maundi Crater, a fine view point located at the edge of the forest belt. Above you enter the moorlands with their fine giant heathers stands, groundsels, lobelia and other exotic tropical high altitude plants. The next hut is the Horombo Hut, soon after this hut you reach the Saddle, a high altitude desert separating the rugged Mawenzi summit from Kibo. The final ascent starts from the Kibo Hut and involves steep paths on loose scree. There is fresh running water at all the huts apart from Kibo where it will be carried by your porters. You will be accommodated generally in 4 person clean huts with mattresses.
The other routes are all more demanding as regards steepness and in places involve some scrambling. Accommodation is in tents and there is no running water at the campsites though warm water for washing is provided. The scenery more than compensates for these difficulties. Whichever route you choose it is essential to allow enough time for acclimatization to the altitude.
Although Mt. Kilimanjaro can be climbed throughout the year it is worth avoiding the two rainy seasons (late March to mid-June and October to the beginning of December) when the route becomes slippery. Probably the best time to visit is January to February and September to October when there is usually no cloud.
The Marangu Route
One of the better-known climbs, the Marangu Route gives the novice hiker an excellent opportunity to reach the summit. Clearly defined paths and fewer steep sections make this a more straightforward ascent.