The 10 Common Misconceptions About Climbing Kilimanjaro
Misconceptions About Climbing Kilimanjaro

Many people have their own conceptions or lack of the same about Mount Kilimanjaro, the awe-inspiring and majestic mountain that proudly stands as the tallest peak in Africa, has long been a source of fascination for intrepid explorers and daring adventurers. Its towering presence amidst the vast continent has never failed to captivate the hearts and minds of those who dare to dream of conquering its lofty heights. Its allure is so immense that individuals from far and wide are drawn to its mythical status, enticed by the promise of exhilarating experiences and personal triumphs beyond belief. However, amidst the widespread popularity and well-deserved reputation that Mount Kilimanjaro enjoys, there exists a tangled web of misconceptions and unfounded rumours that serve to obscure the truth of this extraordinary trek. These falsehoods, like a thick fog, cast shadows over the path to conquering this great mountain, leading many to doubt its true nature and the challenges it presents. In this illuminating and enlightening piece, we set forth on a remarkable journey, unravelling the threads of myth and revealing the ten prevailing fallacies that enshroud the path to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Prepare yourself, for we shall cast aside doubts and expand your knowledge as we lay bare the unadulterated truth that lies beneath the extraordinary tale of this truly awe-inspiring mountain. Let us embark on this exploration together, leaving no stone unturned and no misconception unchallenged, as we venture into the heart of Kilimanjaro’s remarkable tale.

Misconception #1: You’ll Need to Rock Climb

Many individuals hold the belief that ascending Kilimanjaro necessitates proficiency in technical climbing. They erroneously assume that they will be expected to tackle sheer cliffs employing rock climbing techniques. This misconception is easily understandable, as we commonly refer to the experience as “climbing” Kilimanjaro, whereas a more precise representation would be “hiking” Kilimanjaro. The truth of the matter is that scaling Kilimanjaro does not call for specialized mountaineering skills. While certain routes may entail occasional scrambling, utilizing both hands and feet to navigate challenging terrain, the majority of the ascent primarily comprises of walking. These routes are meticulously maintained and do not require specialized equipment such as ropes and harnesses. Consequently, there is no necessity to engage in training at an indoor climbing facility in preparation for Kilimanjaro. The ability to place one foot in front of the other is sufficient for conquering the summit of Kilimanjaro.

Misconception #2: The Mountain Weather is Warm

When individuals think of Africa, they visualize scorching and parched plains basking under an unforgiving sun. Consequently, many assume that ascending Kilimanjaro will be a warm and comfortable experience. However, this is a misconception far from reality. The climate on Kilimanjaro undergoes significant variations as one ascends to higher altitudes. While the base of the mountain may offer warmth, temperatures significantly drop during the ascent. Frost, snow, and ice are common phenomena at the elevated regions. Therefore, trekkers must come equipped with appropriate clothing to combat the chilling cold. During daytime hikes, a single layer of clothing on the upper body often suffices as the temperatures are relatively mild. However, in the evenings, temperatures plummet to the 40’s or 50’s (Fahrenheit) on the lower slopes and fall even lower, to the 20’s (Fahrenheit), at high camp. During nighttime summit attempts, temperatures can range from 20F to -20F. Generally, individuals wear four to six layers on the upper body and three layers on the lower body for the summit endeavor, regardless of the time of year. Once beyond 16,500 feet, you enter the arctic zone on Kilimanjaro, devoid of any warm seasons.

Misconception #3: You Have to Be Super Fit to Do It

Climbing a mountain the size of Kilimanjaro definitely requires a good level of physical fitness. Some people think that only elite athletes with strong bodies and exceptional endurance can attempt this feat. However, this is not true. Everyday individuals, from all walks of life, successfully reach the summit on a regular basis. With proper training, mental preparation, and support from our staff, our clients perform exceptionally well. While being in great shape certainly helps, it is not a requirement. The main obstacle that hinders people from reaching the top is acclimatizing to Kilimanjaro’s high altitude. The best way to adjust to this is by walking slowly and steadily, so as not to strain the body’s cardiovascular system and conserve energy. This gradual ascent allows individuals with a reasonable level of fitness to conquer the mountain, as long as they can adapt to the altitude.

Misconception #4: The Mountain is Really Dangerous

Climbing Kilimanjaro comes with its own set of dangers. Whenever you make your way into a remote and treacherous environment with extreme altitudes, there is always the potential for life-threatening obstacles. However, contrary to what some may believe, it is not as perilous as it seems. A study conducted in 2004 examined the deaths of tourists who climbed Kilimanjaro over the course of eight years, revealing that the overall mortality rate was 13.6 per 100,000 climbers, equivalent to .0136%. This can be compared to the death rate of K2, which stands at 32%, or Mount Everest’s 6.5%, clearly indicating that Kilimanjaro is relatively safe to explore. There are various reasons why Kilimanjaro stands out as a safer option compared to the most hazardous mountains in the world. Firstly, the altitude is not as drastic, significantly reducing the prevalence of severe altitude-related illnesses. Secondly, Kilimanjaro is a non-technical mountain, meaning climbers are not confronted with steep icy and rocky surfaces or crevasses. Thirdly, the weather on Kilimanjaro is not as severe as on other towering peaks, with white-out conditions and strong winds being less common. Lastly, Kilimanjaro has a well-established infrastructure for trekking, allowing for quick evacuation from any point within the park, thanks to the presence of emergency services in the town below.

Misconception #5: There’s Lots of Mosquitoes and Bugs

When people want to enjoy nature, they often find it unpleasant to deal with annoying bugs. In fact, there are some individuals who completely avoid going outdoors due to their dislike of insects. Fortunately, the immense height of Kilimanjaro ensures that it surpasses the altitude where most bugs and mosquitoes are typically found. Climbers swiftly leave behind the lower altitudes, which are prone to bugs. As they progress towards the high alpine and arctic zones, where the air is thin and temperatures drop significantly, the presence of insects becomes nonexistent. The only likely place for mosquitoes or other bugs to bother climbers is in Moshi, the town from which our climbs commence, or during a safari. Remarkably, I have personally never experienced a mosquito bite or encountered any other bug while on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Misconception #6: You’ll Eat Dehydrated Food

If you are a regular backpacker, chances are you have consumed dehydrated meals. Brands such as Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry produce a range of freeze-dried foods. These meals are lightweight, packed with calories, and can easily be prepared on the trail by simply adding hot water to the bag. One might assume that during a long expedition like Mount Kilimanjaro, only dehydrated or packaged food is provided. However, our clients are pleasantly surprised by the high-quality and diverse meals offered on the mountain. Our skilled chefs prepare hot meals using fresh ingredients sourced locally. These meals are specially designed to meet your specific nutritional needs and ensure they are enjoyable, familiar, and easy to digest. The food not only nourishes trekkers but also elevates the overall experience. It’s important to note that not all Kilimanjaro companies offer the same quality of meals. Some provide cheap, low-quality box lunches that lack flavor and become unappetizing when consumed day after day. However, with Tranquil Kilimanjaro, I can personally guarantee that you will eat exceptionally well and be pleased with the delicious taste and variety of food we serve.

Misconception #7: You’ll Have Nights by a Campfire

Imagine the delight of sitting around a cozy campfire, mesmerized by the twinkling stars above. Picture yourself huddled with newfound friends on a frosty night atop Kilimanjaro, taking solace in the warmth of the flames. However, let us regretfully inform you that campfires are strictly forbidden on this majestic mountain. The underlying reason for this prohibition lies in the detrimental impact campfires would impose on Kilimanjaro’s delicate ecosystems. To sustain a fire, firewood is indispensable. Yet, at higher altitudes such as the alpine and arctic zones, the availability of firewood is severely limited. Furthermore, the trees that do thrive on the lower slopes play a vital role in maintaining the delicate balance of the ecosystem. These trees provide a safe haven for wildlife, combat erosion, and actively combat climate change. Beyond the scarcity of firewood, the risks associated with open fires are cause for concern. The unpredictable winds that sweep across the mountain make managing a campfire an arduous task. Even in the absence of campfires, incidents have occurred involving camp stoves, resulting in perilous wildfires. Regrettably, campfires are unequivocally excluded from consideration on Kilimanjaro’s slopes.

Misconception #8: It Doesn’t Rain During the Dry Season

The optimal time to ascend Kilimanjaro is during the two dry seasons. However, it is important to note that referring to them as dry seasons does not mean that the mountain will be completely devoid of rain or adverse weather conditions. Although the dry season is generally characterized by minimal rainfall, it is still possible for rain and snow to occur during this period. It is crucial to consider that the starting point for the routes is located in the rainforest ecological zone. The name rainforest is given for a valid reason – it is consistently wet. As you gain elevation, the conditions tend to become drier and less humid, but the weather on the mountain retains its unpredictability. The occurrence of heavy rainstorms and even blizzards is quite possible. Therefore, hikers should bring appropriate rain gear and be prepared for wet conditions at any given time. The mountain’s diverse microclimates can result in unexpected and atypical weather patterns, regardless of the time you choose to visit.

Misconception #9: It’s Going to Be Cheap

Ascending Kilimanjaro may seem more affordable given that Tanzania is classified as a third-world country. However, the reality is quite different. The expenses associated with climbing the mountain are substantial. A significant portion of these costs arises from park fees and value added taxes, which are uncontrollable. At present, these expenses accumulate to around $150 per client per day. Additionally, there are supplementary costs such as wages for staff, food, equipment, and transportation. Ultimately, climbing Kilimanjaro is not a financially feasible pursuit and can amount to several thousand dollars. Here at Tranquil Kilimanjaro, we prioritize the safety and overall experience of our climbers. This is why we employ well-trained personnel, furnish high-quality equipment, and serve hot, nutritious meals. We do not compromise on these essentials as they are essential for your well-being. Although we may not be the most economical company available, we take pride in delivering superior climbs at a reasonable price. Our prices enable us to cover all park fees, provide fair wages to our staff, ensure ample sustenance and appropriate equipment, and still offer exceptional service to our clients.

Misconception #10: The Shortest Routes are the Easiest Routes

Some individuals hold the belief that shorter routes are designed for novices, while the longer routes are reserved for experienced hikers. The 5-day Marangu route, often referred to as the “Coca-Cola” route due to its relative popularity, is frequently perceived as the simplest path to the summit. Many individuals who embark on the Kilimanjaro climb choose the Marangu route out of uncertainty regarding their physical fitness and capabilities. However, this is a flawed assumption. Although the Marangu route is less physically demanding compared to other routes, it is by no means the easiest. In reality, it boasts the lowest success rate on the mountain. Although the shorter duration may appear appealing, the rapid ascent can result in a heightened risk of altitude sickness due to inadequate time for acclimatization. On the other hand, alternative routes such as the 9-day Northern Circuit and the 8-day Lemosho offer a more gradual ascent, thereby increasing climbers’ chances of reaching the summit while minimizing altitude-related hazards. Thus, it is crucial not to select a shorter route merely based on the assumption of it being easier. Short routes are more suited for experienced climbers who possess confidence in their ability to acclimate rapidly. For those lacking such confidence, it is advisable to choose a longer route, preferably with itineraries consisting of 7 days or more.


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