A Woman’s Guide to Trekking Kilimanjaro
Woman Kilimanjaro Trek

What sets Mount Kilimanjaro apart as a popular adventure travel destination is its accessibility to climbers of all kinds. Whether you are a man, woman, child, young, old, in your prime, or have physical limitations, the experience of climbing Kilimanjaro remains largely the same. Everyone faces similar challenges and requirements when attempting to conquer Africa’s tallest peak. It is essential to choose the right route, plan your climb during optimal conditions, undergo proper training, and pack the necessary equipment. However, it is important to consider specific considerations that women may need to keep in mind while trekking to the summit of Africa’s highest point. Let’s explore some of the most frequently asked questions. When it comes to the allure of Mount Kilimanjaro, what truly sets it apart is its incredible accessibility to adventurers from all walks of life. This means that regardless of your gender, age, physical abilities, or personal circumstances, the exhilaration and thrill of conquering this majestic African peak are within your grasp. The unique experiences and challenges captivate all who embark on this extraordinary journey. From careful route selection to meticulous planning during favourable weather conditions, essential training, and proper equipment preparation, these prerequisites hold true for everyone. Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge the specific considerations that women may encounter during their trek to the summit of Africa’s loftiest point.

Climbing Kilimanjaro is an enviable adventure that is easily accessible to both sexes. However, achieving the summit is not easy and should not be undertaken lightly. It is crucial to prioritize the right preparations, and this is a good starting point. After all, being a woman does not make you less welcome; quite the contrary, it simply generates an extra sense of admiration and unity from porters, guides, and other climbers present. So, this is an invitation to all women who are considering climbing Kilimanjaro. Do not be afraid to follow your dreams.

Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest summit in Africa and is located in Tanzania. It is considered the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, rising 5,895 meters above the savannah. Kilimanjaro is a giant stratovolcano and is composed of three cones: Shira, Mawenzi, and Kibo, the tallest. The top of Kilimanjaro is ice-capped, with glaciers and permanent ice fields.

In this enlightening exploration, let us delve into the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions that arise on this remarkable experience.

Am I Safe On and Off the Mountain?

When considering safety measures on Mount Kilimanjaro, the usual concerns revolve around issues like acute mountain sickness, potential rockfalls, and injuries. However, female travellers, especially those journeying alone, often express specific concerns about their safety in relation to crimes such as theft, sexual assault, and physical harm. During your time on the mountain, you can rest assured that you will be well taken care of. Our mountain teams are comprised of multiple staff members for each client we guide. In addition to the main guide, there are assistant guides, cooks, and porters present on every expedition. Moreover, the trails and campsites are frequented by a multitude of other trekkers and crews. This means that you will never be left by yourself on the mountain, greatly reducing the likelihood of any unfortunate incidents occurring. Now, shifting our focus to Tanzania as a whole. It is generally considered a safe country to travel in (even safer than major cities in the United States). When accompanied by our knowledgeable staff, the chances of being targeted by criminals are minimal. However, as with any destination, whether domestic or foreign, it is advisable to take reasonable precautions to ensure a smooth and trouble-free trip. Here are some general travel tips to keep in mind during your time in Tanzania.

  • Don’t use public transportation. You should not hail a cab on the street; instead, have your hotel or tour company call for a car. We can pick up and drop off our guests at the airport.
  • Don’t wear really fancy or pricey shoes, jewellery, watches, purses, or other items. Leave them at home, actually.
  • Don’t carry your phone around with you or check it all the time while you’re out in public. Put it away.
  • Don’t show off your money. Don’t keep all of your cash in one place. Spread it out.
  • Do not go on trips by yourself in empty or faraway places, especially at night. It’s usually okay to travel by yourself in crowded or busy places, like tourist spots.
  • When you talk to people you don’t know on the street, don’t give away too much. Be nice, but don’t talk. Keep in mind that anyone who comes up to you could be trying to scam, rob, or steal from you.
  • Always be aware of what’s going on around you. When you feel bad about a person or situation, leave.

Will It Be Too Cold for Me on Mount Kilimanjaro?

Women typically have a higher sensitivity to cold temperatures compared to men, and this can be attributed to certain scientific factors. Firstly, women generally possess higher core body temperatures than men. Furthermore, women have slower metabolic rates which can decrease their heat production capability. Therefore, it is essential for both men and women to have appropriate cold-weather gear when engaging in activities such as climbing. It is recommended to ensure that essentials like sleeping bags, sleeping pads, down jackets, soft shells, and shoes are of high quality. Following expert gear suggestions when selecting items to bring along is crucial. Those who are prone to feeling cold easily should opt for extra warm items such as renting a -30F sleeping bag rather than a 0F-degree one. It is advisable to bring a sleeping pad to supplement provided foam mats, select thicker fleece jackets, consider wearing expedition-weight socks and insulated boots for the summit, and have a substantial down jacket. Despite challenges posed by extreme temperatures in places like Antarctica and Mount Everest, women can overcome them by having the appropriate gear. With the right equipment, the impact of temperature becomes irrelevant.

Is Climbing Kilimanjaro Too Physically Difficult for Me?

We have led numerous women to the top of the mountain. Based on our observations, there is no discernible gap in achievement rates between males and females. Consequently, female climbers do not face any disadvantages when attempting to conquer Kilimanjaro. Both genders encounter similar levels of success and setbacks. Our recommendations apply universally. Dedicate a minimum of two months to training in order to enhance your physical strength for sustained activity. Strap on your backpack and durable footwear, embarking on day-long hikes with substantial elevation gains whenever possible. If this isn’t feasible, focus on extensive training on stairs or a stair-climbing machine. The primary goal is to build up endurance through prolonged, low-intensity workouts.

Am I at a Higher Risk of Altitude Sickness as a Woman?

Several studies have indicated that women may be at a slightly higher risk of experiencing altitude sickness compared to men. Nevertheless, the overall risk is thought to be similar for both genders. Interestingly, when it comes to climbing Kilimanjaro, it appears that young, fit males are more prone to altitude sickness. This may seem surprising, but there is a logical explanation. The primary cause of altitude sickness is ascending too rapidly, which is often the case with strong hikers such as young, fit males who tend to push themselves without taking necessary breaks for acclimatization. For a safer climb, it is advised to spend at least 7 days on the mountain. Even better is to choose the 8-day Lemosho Route or the 9-day Northern Circuit, which are highly recommended routes. On Kilimanjaro, our experienced guides purposely set a slower pace to allow for longer periods on the trail. This gradual approach to reaching higher altitudes gives your body the necessary time to adjust properly. Even if you feel capable of moving faster, it is best to follow the guides’ pace as they are knowledgeable about the process.

How Do I Use the Bathroom on Kilimanjaro?

Each of our trips come equipped with private toilet tents for added comfort. These convenient facilities feature a plastic pump-flush toilet enclosed within a freestanding tent for personal privacy. Placed at each campsite, these portable loos are maintained by a dedicated porter to ensure cleanliness and readiness for use. While on a hike, it’s advised to venture off the trail to discreet spots, often found behind rocks or bushes, for bathroom breaks. If unsure of a suitable location, our knowledgeable guides are available for guidance. For female travellers, a “she wee” device may be a useful addition to allow urination without the need to remove clothing.

Can I Shower on Kilimanjaro?

There are limited shower facilities available on the camping routes of Mount Kilimanjaro, particularly on the Marangu route which is not usually recommended. Cold showers can be found in some rooms at the newly constructed huts at Mandara and Horombo, but advance booking is required. Most climbers rely on basic hygiene practices to stay clean during their trek. Soap and warm water are provided at the campsites for washing the face, neck, hands, and arms. It is understood that dirt and sweat are inevitable during backpacking. However, maintaining hand hygiene is crucial before meals and after using the bathroom. Hand sanitiser should be used on the trail, while soap and water are recommended at camp. To freshen up further, a bowl of warm water and a camp towel can be used for a quick wipe-down. Wet wipes are also handy for staying clean. Hair washing can be done sparingly using the water bowls, keeping in mind the limited water supply. It is advisable to keep fingernails short to avoid trapping dirt underneath, which can lead to unsanitary conditions while hiking.

What if I Have My Period on the Mountain?

Higher elevations can impact hormonal cycles, leading to unexpected menstruation. It is advised to be prepared with tampons or maxipads. Use eco-friendly bags to carry and dispose of used products in designated trash receptacles at campsites.

Woman climbing KilimanjaroPreparing Physically and Mentally

It is quite normal to be on your feet for five to ten hours a day at high altitude while climbing a big mountain. Then, once you are used to walking in general, prepare by doing a fair amount of altitude-relevant training, such as climbing stairs or steep hikes. Make sure that you are comfortable with a slow hiking pace, and that you don’t mind climbing the stairs over and over again.

Training for Kilimanjaro doesn’t require extreme cardio workouts, but becoming comfortable with longer hikes or walks can help you in the long run. Take out all the stress and work on lasting easily without burning out. The idea isn’t so much to experience the physical fatigue as much as possible, but to prepare your mind for it.

Train for this adventure without overstressing your body or mind.

Training and Fitness for Women

You might want to do some lung, leg, and knee stretches to keep you from getting too stiff. We have also found that women generally do a better job with Kilimanjaro’s altitude. All fitness levels and ages are welcome. Your training should incorporate Hiking – Stair Climbing – Core – Cardio – Strength – Flexibility and Balance. The key is to keep your heart rate at a good level for the time you are hiking or working out. Whether inside or out, the more time and energy you put into training, the more you will get out of the experience when you are on the mountain. Remember, anything you can do to be stronger, healthier, and get in better shape prior to departure will minimize your risk of altitude sickness and pain on the mountain. Go ahead, indulge in an occasional massage or spa treatment to reward and rejuvenate yourself for all your hard work. Can’t you just feel the stress melting away already?

We want you healthy and happy and ready to take it all in and enjoy every minute of your trip. Help your chances of success by increasing your exercise workout for the last couple of months before your trip. Endurance is key. Hiking, preferably in a mountainous or hilly terrain, is the best activity to help you meet your goal. Walk the dog, walk around the golf course, walk to work, walk upstairs and down hills, anything that will get you on your feet and in motion. Spend some time on the treadmill, but if you do, use it for longer periods and at steeper inclines. Keep a steady pace to get the best benefits.

See and download the best training plan for Kilimanjaro treks

Mental Preparation

Climbing Kilimanjaro is usually an emotional experience. Despite the hardships on the mountain, the mountain is often more lovely than the trekkers expected. Uncertainty is always making part of the journey to the top. Initial fear is transformed into admiration, pride, and gratitude as they reach the summit. It is not unusual to see a few tears – of joy at reaching the peak and sadness at ending their time on the mountain. Climbing Kilimanjaro can be transformative for women. It’s a wonderful, enriching experience. Keep a positive perspective. How you think influences your trek and success in more ways than you may realize. You must remain committed to the expedition process. Remember, perception can be influenced heavily by reality. Make it real, make it happen! Don’t overthink the climb. Just enjoy it! You must let go of who you think you should be and be who you are. You don’t try to be somebody else, every person presents a special form of strength, perspective, and beauty to the final team. This is important advice for any mountaineering experience.

The most important thing about climbing to the Roof Africa is a positive mindset. Kilimanjaro is a mental challenge as much as a physical one. Remember this and keep your thinking positive. Unrealistic expectations can make women particularly susceptible to altitude sickness and a sense of failure. Adjust your expectations before you leave home. When you are on the mountain, the secret is to keep following the process. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep a steady pace. If you are fit enough to train ahead of time, you are strong enough to summit. When you give yourself the time to go on the journey of climbing Kilimanjaro, you also give yourself the chance to experience everything the expedition has to offer. The pleasure of the trek is walking from one camp to another, visiting weird landscapes such as the barren plain of the Shira Plateau, the caldera at Kibo, the ash pit or the Barranco Wall, which evoke the thrill of discovery and adventure. It’s pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, speaking with your companions and experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells.

Gear and Equipment

Other clothing should be non-allergenic and easy to dry; the nights can be wet or damp. As some long days are encountered on the mountain, it is also beneficial if items are not too heavy. Clothing for the climb should be selected for good insulation and versatility in a layered system. Numerous items of clothing are often recommended for your climb, but you will most likely be wearing the same items on the summit attempt and the descent, and four days of hiking in the same clothes is often not pleasant. Remember, although some of the nights can be quite cold on Kilimanjaro, do not go overboard with extreme cold and frostbite prevention; moderation can bring great comfort. These are the requirements, and they should be met with the most versatile gear available. The main problem for trekkers is the expense, especially for those climbers travelling halfway around the world to ascend Kilimanjaro.

Footwear is often considered the most important item of equipment and will depend on individual preference and the time of year that Kilimanjaro is climbed. Although some hikers prefer to hike in one pair of top-quality boots, most trekkers prefer a good trekking shoe for the lower reaches and a light climbing boot for the upper mountain. There are many people who can and do climb Kilimanjaro in trainers, but please be aware that there is a high incidence of sprains on the descent. Boots should be well broken in and tough. Lace-to-the-toe styles seem to be the best at reducing the number of people with bruised toes on the mountain.

There are two vital factors that need to be considered when deciding what to pack: one, that the human body has to be carried up anything over 3,000m or approximately 9,000 ft, and two, that the weather on Kilimanjaro can change quickly and become very cold. This means that the clothing and equipment list becomes longer and more expensive as the altitude and the duration of the climb increase.

Essential Clothing and Footwear

During the first few hours of the day, the layer you wear as you start walking can soon feel far too warm as you gain altitude, so dressing in layers is the right way to go. You’ll have a good chance to take off clothes as you walk and then put them back on as you cool down. In addition to layering up your clothing, you should also have the ability to protect yourself from the wind and cold with the right equipment – hat, gloves, and head torch.

When it comes to clothing and the weather, that’s for the most part quite mild. After all, the route is based on the odd chance that you’ll get a summertime blizzard. But it’s obviously better to be over-prepared than under – and it can be extreme! Daytime temperatures can range from 20˚C to 30˚C at the start – rather hot for long trousers. The weather often turns colder as you climb, with frost at night from around 4,000m; day temperatures are then anything from 15˚C down to freezing. By Kilimanjaro’s summit, day temperatures are typically below freezing and can at times drop to -20˚C with the wind chill. Often, it’s windy so it feels much colder.

Special Considerations for Women’s Gear

Training for and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro are serious business. Take the physical and health deprivation concerns into consideration before embarking on your journey either during your menstrual period or when pregnant. After all, Mount Kilimanjaro will always be there and can be climbed at times when the conditions are not a safety risk. Women with the appropriate training and experience can climb Mount Kilimanjaro with those considerations in mind.

Tampons are cheap and easily available in Tanzania, just walk into any shopping supermarket in Moshi or Arusha and ask for one.. If this is your menstrual method of choice, go for it. Sanitary Pads are also readily available; guard them from getting wet. Be sure to take any used items with you, as there will not be any disposal facilities on Kilimanjaro. The newest product specifically designed for travellers and climbers is called the Keeper. It is made of flexible latex rubber and is a small measured cup that catches the menstrual flow. This method is more convenient over both pads and tampons in areas without plumbing.

On the Mountain

For most hikers, the climb to the peak is a mentally and physically exhausting ten-hour plus ordeal. It takes special endurance to climb through the pain. It is here on this climb where no one can breathe properly and the chill is icy that hikers realize what it means to attain a goal that is important to them. Kilimanjaro is possible. The route from Barafu Camp to the summit of Uhuru Peak at 19,340 feet is not the technical part; it is just the long part that usually digs deep into the reserves. Conditions on Uhuru are primitive at best, and it will be crowded with climbers and porters. On your desired photo of reaching for the skies, head half a mile further to the actual peak.

After six days of climbing, summit day finally arrives. For you, the hardest part about summit day might be the lack of sleep. For others, it will be headaches, fatigue, joint pain, stomach issues, and/or the genuine need to lie down. Temperatures will hover well below zero, and the climb from Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak is rocky and steep. It is not unusual for the sheer difficulty of the climb and the challenges of nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or extreme fatigue to dampen spirits. While many of these situations may not be preventable, keep in mind that the body will perform better if it is both healthy and well-warmed. Ensure that you are bundled up at the start of the climb and, as you ascend, shed layers if (and I emphasize if) necessary.

Acclimatization and Altitude Sickness

And if you follow the golden rule stated above, it should keep you strong and healthy. You must be aware of the symptoms to recognize early if you are suffering from altitude sickness. Symptoms include headache, loss of appetite, fatigue, lethargy, and nausea. Common symptoms of altitude emergency are ataxia, breathlessness, coughing, rales, gurgling, incomprehensible commands, and tiredness. Equally important are related factors such as adequate fluid and nutritional intake. People burn a huge amount of calories while climbing, which amounts to burning an additional 3000-4000 calories a day. Ensure you pack enough high-energy foods, such as energy bars, nuts, and dried fruits.

To attain the best chance of a successful summit, use an itinerary that allows for maximum acclimatization and minimizes the risk of altitude-related problems. Acclimatization is best achieved by gradual ascent, which favors longer periods of rest. Ascending slowly, thus giving the body more time to acclimatize, is the best approach. The golden rule of trekking is “climb high, sleep low.” You must ascend and sleep at a lower altitude than the spot where you arrived. Experienced climbers know that doing additional climbs during an acclimatization day further improves their chance of success. Use carefully planned acclimatization days, and especially climb high to Lava Tower, even if it is a rather long day for doing so. Tension headaches may occur during the climb up to the summit. You should try to drink four to six liters of fluid. Soup or a milky drink normally works. Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates to maximize your energy levels.

Navigation and Group Dynamics

Challenges and rewards: Navigate gusts of wind, slippery peal rocks, and acclimatize to the rainforest. Try to enjoy climbing smaller peaks first and make sure you see some glaciers before they have melted away. You really have seen the top once you are standing on Uhuru’s Point. Monitoring the rescue effort and finding out about old friends after returning to your former residence are definitely worth your time. Being able to say you climbed the highest peak in America and the tallest mountain in Africa—especially during an Olympic year that will bring humanitarian aid and business to East Africa—is worth a lot of clout anywhere you go. Accomplishing an arduous physical feat can empower you and give you new confidence, energy, and a more positive outlook on life. And remember what I said about the bragging rights. Now, get climbing!

Navigation and group dynamics: You might think that it would be impossible to get lost climbing up Kilimanjaro. The trail is well worn and easy to follow, and the terrain makes it virtually impossible to veer off of the main route. But some people with spatial disorientation occasionally get lost on the trip – for example, wandering off into the wilderness or becoming separated from their group – so all responsible tour operators will offer a trained guide taking clients up and down the mountain. These guides not only are skilled at providing first-aid, spotting altitude sickness, infectious diseases, and physical exhaustion, but they are also trained to assess different personality types, manage interpersonal conflicts, and pre-empt social competition, which can cause undue group rivalry and frequently lead to severe injuries and deaths. Consequently, go to your guide for any kind of assistance, and don’t try to pass him or her up to go to a rival in your group (or consider such actions). Be frank and honest about your health, dreams, and fears, disclose any lifetime personal problems that you might be dealing with, mental illness, or distrust of previous authority figures. Then agree to regard your guide as your authority figure for the trip and to respect his or her instructions within any reasonable boundary line (in summary, just agree that you are there to be taken care of and say so when you give your goodbye briefing to the group of finalists).

Post-Climb Reflections

Returning to Life: After the climb, set aside uninterrupted time to write and reflect on the experience. This is very important, and we encourage you to spend more time in self-reflection than on getting back to work and home life. Depending on your schedule, give yourself one to three days to “decompress” from the climb and take time to write in silence, by yourself. This is a chance to put in writing what the climb meant to you, what you learned and felt, and what you will take away from the experience as a whole. Note what change or improvements you would like to make in your life based on your experiences with the mountain and the people on your journey. What positives did you feel and take away? At work, what tasks/goals were you excited to accomplish and ready to tackle? Make commitments to act on these learnings and then discuss your experiences with others, especially those you have reflected on. You will need the support to assist in making your aspirations happen. Discuss not just the climb, but how you felt and what you learned on the climb. They too may have learned something by experiencing your adventure either firsthand or from the stories you recount.

Reflect: In preparing for the climb, take a few moments to reflect on what the climb means to you both personally and beyond. On the mountain, recognize your personal fears or hesitations and face them head-on. What scared you and why? Take advantage of the time to think, let your mind wander, and analyze what comes up. About mid-climb or higher, reflect on the days thus far – the relationships, the landscape, the challenges, what is going well, and what is different from life at home, and let it sink in.


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