Kilimanjaro Group Climbing vs. Solo Climbing vs Private Climbing
group solo, private climbs

The first step in making a decision on how to climb Kilimanjaro is to have an overall understanding of what is involved in the climb. Climbing Kilimanjaro involves hiking up to the summit of the highest mountain in Africa. At 19,340 feet above sea level, it is a grueling 5-9 day climb depending on which route you take. The most common routes people take are the Marangu and Machame routes. The primary difference in the two is that the Marangu route has dormitory style housing on the trail, and is the only route that has access to Coca-Cola huts. Every other route features tents as the primary form of accommodation. No matter what the route you take, climbing Kili is a hike. The only climbing that will be done is some brief and minor rock climbing. This can be a turn off to experienced mountaineers who want to scale a mountain with an ice axe and climbing ropes, but the exotic landscape and the fact it is a climb up the highest free standing mountain in the world will be an allure to any nature lover.

This essay will analyze the differences between climbing Mount Kilimanjaro as part of a group and climbing solo. The main purpose of the essay is to provide potential climbers with a comprehensive understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of each option. The essay will assist a potential climber in deciding which option is the most suitable for them.

Purpose of the Comparison

If this is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a successful ascent is of paramount importance to you, then the best option is to contact a company and arrange a private climb. The downside to this, however, is that for one person it is relatively expensive. For a private climb, the cost is between 3000 and 4000 USD per person, with a significant reduction in price for each person added to the group up to a maximum of 12 people. So those with a larger group of friends can tailor the date of a scheduled climb to suit them, and possibly fill all the places on the climb with their own friends or family. As most services provided in Tanzania are negotiable, it is also worth discussing the price of a climb with the company, and cheaper or more expensive services can be arranged. Be careful not to fall into the trap of selecting a company offering a private climb for a good price, but who will not be able to provide the quality of experience and the chance of a successful ascent.

Comparing the option of climbing Kilimanjaro as part of a group to climbing alone is an important step in the planning process, and one which deserves careful consideration. Kilimanjaro is a more serious undertaking for those with minimal experience of trekking and camping at altitude, so you should be in no doubt that the decision to climb Kilimanjaro was correct in the first place. The purpose of comparing the options is to find out which is the better investment in terms of both your money and your time.

Group Climbing – See our group climbs here

Teamwork and safety are the main advantages of a group climb. A team of 4-6 climbers will have a couple of guides, a cook, and more than ten porters. This means that when climbing with a group, it is possible to concentrate all your energy into reaching the summit, rather than how you are going to feed yourself, set up camp, and when you are going to rest for the next day. All these will be organized for you, and much more efficiently than you would do it yourself. It is said that for every climber on Kilimanjaro, it takes 3 porters to get all the gear up the mountain. For the solo climber, this means hiring at least 4 staff, which is quite expensive. However, for the group, the cost per person is greatly reduced. Also, the information and experience of the guides is invaluable. They have climbed the mountain countless times and know exactly how to pace each day, can judge conditions, and make crucial decisions. The group will also benefit from the cook’s experience, knowledge, and creativity, producing good quality food that is vital for nourishment at high altitudes. With the combined effort of guides, porters, and cooks, there is a good chance of securing a comfortable and safe camp at the end of each day. The main disadvantages of group climbing are that it is less flexible and the climb process can become long and drawn out. With more people, there are more personalities, more ideas, and more complications. This can lead to friction between individuals and discussion might be long and frustrating. It would be rare for everyone to agree on all decisions made throughout the climb. The climb could become an example of democracy in its least efficient form. More people means more gear, more food, and more mess at campsites. This would decrease the quality of the wilderness experience and would unsettle environmentalists. Group climbing is certainly a more social experience, however given the varied nationalities of clients, it can be a struggle to maintain a common and decent level of conversation.

Advantages of Group Climbing

When you are in a group, you are more likely to succeed. The same stands true for climbing Kilimanjaro. Due to its unpredictable nature in terms of weather and its relatively low technological intensity, Kilimanjaro is best climbed without being solo. Wilderness travel from altitude can present a variety of practical problems and dangers, many of which are better solved by several people working together. A study of search and rescue records in the National Parks showed that solo hikers were three times more likely to die from an unplanned event than those traveling in parties. High altitude pulmonary and cerebral edema are reported to be less acute in victims who are members of groups. Climbing with other people is simply safer. In terms of which type of group to climb with, in an unexploited market there is little in the way of price discrimination to limit the consumer. This means that everything from full mountain support with porters, cooks and toilet tents, to the bare basic requirement of a park permit and a guide are available for the group trek. High altitude porters not only carry equipment, but provide crucial local knowledge and expertise and if you choose not to employ them, their guidance can still be invaluable. In the event of a porter-less trek, make sure that your chosen guide has experience in high altitude trekking and has the relevant certification.

Here are some of the key benefits of group climbing:

  1. Shared Experience and Camaraderie: Climbing as part of a group fosters a sense of camaraderie and shared experience among participants. Sharing the challenges, triumphs, and breathtaking views with fellow climbers can enhance the overall enjoyment of the journey and create lasting bonds and memories.
  2. Safety in Numbers: Group climbing provides an additional layer of safety and security, particularly on remote and challenging routes like Kilimanjaro. In a group setting, climbers can look out for each other, offer assistance when needed, and provide moral support during difficult sections of the climb. In the event of an emergency, having multiple individuals on hand increases the likelihood of prompt assistance and effective response.
  3. Professional Guides and Support: Many group climbing expeditions are led by experienced guides and support staff who are familiar with the terrain, weather conditions, and potential hazards of the route. These guides provide valuable expertise, guidance, and support throughout the climb, helping participants navigate safely and make informed decisions. From route planning and navigation to first aid and emergency response, professional guides play a crucial role in ensuring a safe and successful ascent.
  4. Cost Sharing: Group climbing often allows participants to share the cost of permits, equipment, transportation, and other expenses associated with the expedition. By pooling resources and splitting expenses among group members, climbers can enjoy significant cost savings compared to solo or independent climbs. This cost-sharing aspect makes group climbing more accessible and affordable for individuals who may have budget constraints but still want to experience the thrill of summiting iconic peaks like Kilimanjaro.

Disadvantages of Group Climbing

When climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with your own formed group, you might get a few extra problems that you will not get when taking a chance with other people you do not know. One of the more common problems is that one of your group members may not be able to continue the ascent. If this happens, then according to park regulations, one or two assistant guides, having confirmed the client’s inability to continue the trek, will complete a Client Assistant Form and issue it to the client. Then the client will descend the mountain with one or two assistant guides, a waiter, and an emergency porter. It is also required that a guide stay with the client until the client has been evacuated to a clinic or hospital, and the guide will only rejoin his crew on the mountain after ensuring the safe evacuation of his client. This means that your entire group must descend the mountain to continue to ensure safety for everyone in it. Another problem is if someone in your group gets seriously injured or ill, you will not be able to stick together as a group and continue climbing. Normally when this happens, a certain member or members will escort the injured or ill person back down the mountain to speak with the head guide and evaluate the situation. Then a decision will be made as to the next plan of action, most likely resulting in the entire group having to turn around and descend the mountain. This is due to liability issues, as the company is now responsible for a person’s safe evacuation and they cannot risk the possibility of another accident occurring while the injured or ill person is left unsupervised.

  1. Lack of Flexibility: Group climbing often follows a predetermined itinerary, leaving little room for spontaneity or individual preferences. This lack of flexibility can be frustrating for climbers who prefer to adjust their plans based on changing conditions or personal preferences.
  2. Limited Personal Attention: In large group expeditions, climbers may receive limited personal attention from guides or instructors. With a high participant-to-guide ratio, it can be challenging for individuals to receive individualized instruction or assistance, particularly in complex or technical terrain.
  3. Potential Conflict with Group Dynamics: Group dynamics can sometimes lead to conflicts or tensions among participants. Differences in personalities, expectations, or climbing abilities may result in misunderstandings or disagreements within the group, detracting from the overall experience.

Private and Solo Climbing

It is widely believed that “Climbing” to the peak of Africa’s highest mountain is the ultimate freedom to the soul from the hectic and dull routine of urban life. It is an opportunity to seek adventure and solitude like no other place on earth. This can be best experienced if you choose to a “solo” venture to the Roof of Africa. Planning a private climb can surely go a long way towards helping you achieve your personal goals of reaching the summit. You can avoid the large distracting crowds that seem to be growing each year on Kilimanjaro. If you choose to climb with one of the many tour operators who offer group climbs, you can request to buy a private climb, where only you and your friends will be on the mountain with their staff. But it is usually costly and just not the same as being truly “solo” on the mountain. With the growing popularity of Kilimanjaro climbs, which has grown each year since the 90’s, there are now all kinds of “climbers” on the mountain. People from the neighboring towns and villages often attempt to park their taxi or motorcycle up at the park gates to “climb” the mountain and then return to their vehicle and go back home! There are others who simply want to visit the park huts and then return. And of course there are the serious trekkers and climbers from around the world who are truly seeking an outdoor adventure experience. Unfortunately the various routes on Kilimanjaro are becoming infested with many groups of tourists and “armchair adventurers” who are there only to say that have been on the mountain and seen the glaciers. Often you may find that the man with whom you are sharing a bunk at the camps, has no intention of going any higher!

More about private climbs

Advantages of Solo Climbing

All this adds up to a higher probability of success. The summit rates for single climbers are consistently higher than those for climbers on organized group trips. A data sample from the National Park gate shows that 44.5% of all climbers attempting Kilimanjaro climb solo to the summit and 48.5% of private climbs are successful. This compares to 30% for group climbs, 41.5% on the 5-day public campsite routes, and only 18% on the 6 or 7-day Marangu route. So statistics suggest that the fewer people you climb with, the higher your chances of success.

When climbing solo, there are a number of distinct advantages. Firstly, there is never any doubt that you will reach the summit! You can plan your climb at your own pace and take as long as you like acclimatizing to the altitude along the way. Your schedule is your own, and you do not have to take account of the needs or wishes of a less motivated companion. If you see something of interest off the main trail, you are free to investigate, and there are no compromises to be made. You can choose your own route, and if you find yourself competing for the same space on the mountain with a larger group, the availability of alternative routes can be a real bonus.

  1. Complete Independence and Freedom: Private climbing provides climbers with the freedom to pursue their adventure on their terms. Without the constraints of group dynamics or itinerary restrictions, private climbers have the autonomy to make decisions based solely on their preferences and comfort levels. They can set their own pace, choose their routes, and adjust their plans as they see fit, enjoying a sense of independence throughout their journey.
  2. Personalized Experience and Flexibility: Private climbing allows climbers to tailor their experience to suit their interests, goals, and abilities. With the flexibility to customize their itinerary, adjust their schedule, and explore different routes or variations, private climbers can optimize their adventure to meet their specific needs and desires. Whether seeking a challenging ascent, a leisurely trek, or a combination of both, private climbers have the freedom to create a personalized experience that aligns with their vision of the perfect climb.
  3. Self-Reflection and Personal Growth: Private climbing provides an opportunity for introspection, self-discovery, and personal growth. Climbers embark on a journey of self-reliance, resilience, and inner strength as they navigate the challenges of the climb independently. The solitude and solitude of private climbing create an environment conducive to self-reflection and self-improvement, allowing climbers to push their limits, overcome obstacles, and emerge stronger, both physically and mentally, from the experience.

More about Kilimanjaro solo climbs

Disadvantages of Solo Climbing

Phase two affects people who ascend faster than the body can acclimatize. This is the most concerning, as the common misconception is that it is sufficient to take drugs to prevent altitude sickness and continue with rapid ascent. This may be okay at lower ranges of altitude; however, drug prevention is not a cure, and rapid ascent at higher altitudes can cause a person to get altitude sickness regardless. The only solution for altitude sickness is to acclimatize or descend. Failure to do so will just cause the symptoms to worsen and may progress to altitude sickness in its more severe forms. At no point should drugs be considered a method for a quick fix to altitude sickness. Failure to understand this scenario may cause the individual to regret not reaching the summit because they ‘gave up’ due to sickness. An educated person will understand that failure to reach the summit on the first attempt of a Kilimanjaro climb does not equate to failure. The extremely long Machame route is an ideal way to ensure proper acclimatization with a high success rate of reaching the summit. Nevertheless, a well-educated person may choose to attempt the Umbwe again, knowing that the route itself was not too difficult and that given enough time for acclimatization, they could have reached the summit.

The Umbwe route is too short to acclimatize properly. Failure to acclimatize is the most common reason for not reaching the summit. It is essential for the human body to adjust to decreased oxygen levels at higher altitudes. This process can take anywhere from 7-10 days. High altitude sickness typifies red blood cell loss. The signs of mild altitude sickness can be lack of appetite, nausea, fatigue, and mild headaches. These conditions are normal at high altitudes, and a person will still be able to continue. The body usually adjusts, and the symptoms will gradually decrease if a person does not ascend. However, if the person ascends too quickly, they may find themselves in a worse state with severe headaches, sickness, and difficulty breathing. In the most extreme cases, cerebral or pulmonary edema can be fatal if the person does not descend. Phase one usually occurs at altitudes of 2500-4000 meters with symptoms clearing up on their own if the person does not ascend. Phase two occurs at higher altitudes but with slower progression due to the body’s attempts to adjust.

Umbwe is the hardest route. Many clients request a tough route. However, when it comes down to it, there is often a blurred line between what a client thinks they are capable of and what they have actually chosen. We have experienced a large number of climbers on the Umbwe who are discouraged by the difficulty of the route. While we believe that the Umbwe route is realistic for anyone of reasonable fitness level, it is undeniable that it is essential for a person to be aware of what they have signed up for and that the route may be too tough. This must sit comfortably with the person throughout the trek. Failure of this may equate to cognitive dissonance, i.e. the individual convinces themselves that it would have been better to take a different route and that they may not have been educated about the toughness of the Umbwe.

There are several reasons why many trekkers and climbers from around the globe prefer not to attempt the Umbwe route. Some say it is because the route is too difficult, others that it is too expensive. From our perspective, we believe the underlying issue is that trekkers are worried that they might not reach the summit and don’t want to risk wasting their money. Many people who begin the Umbwe climb do not reach the summit. This is not because they are not capable of reaching the top, but rather because they have not given themselves enough time to acclimatize and truly experience the magic of the mountain.

  1. Increased Risk and Safety Concerns: Solo climbing inherently carries higher risks compared to climbing in a group or with a partner. Without the safety net of companionship or assistance, solo climbers face greater exposure to potential hazards, accidents, and emergencies. In the event of an injury, illness, or unforeseen circumstances, solo climbers may find themselves without immediate help or support, amplifying the consequences of any mishap.
  2. Higher Costs: Solo climbing can be more expensive than group climbing due to the lack of cost-sharing opportunities. Solo climbers are responsible for covering all expenses associated with the expedition, including permits, equipment rental or purchase, transportation, accommodation, and guide fees, without the benefit of splitting costs with other climbers. As a result, solo climbing may require a larger financial investment, making it less accessible to climbers with limited budgets.
  3. Lack of Support and Guidance: Solo climbers may face challenges in terms of support and guidance during their climb. Without the assistance of experienced guides or fellow climbers, solo climbers must rely solely on their own knowledge, skills, and judgment to navigate the terrain, make decisions, and manage potential difficulties. This lack of external support can be daunting, especially for less experienced climbers or those tackling unfamiliar routes or environments.


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