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Mount Kilimanjaro, Kenya, Tanzania

The ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro, rising 5,895 m high above the surrounding plains of Kenya and Tanzania, is the most famous trek in Africa. It's not a technically difficult climb, and people from a wide range of ages have done this hike. However, it is a long trek, ranging from six to eight days, requiring excellent physical conditioning, and because it reaches a very high altitude, appropriate steps must be taken to avoid altitude sickness. The lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro are covered in rainforest, while the upper reaches offer sweeping views of the landscape. Like Mount Fuji, Mount Kilimanjaro is composed of three extinct volcanoes. The first person documented to have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro were Hans Meyer, a German geologist, Ludwig Purtscheller, an alpinist, and Yohannes Lauwo, a guide, in 1889.

Mount Kilimanjaro, Kenya, Tanzania

All persons wishing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro are required to employ a Tanzanian guide. Hiring a good guide service will be essential to the success of your trek. Your guide service will provide porters to carry your luggage, so you will only climb with a light daypack holding essentials, such as water, snacks and camera. Your guide service will provide meals for you during the hike. They should be able to recognise the signs of altitude sickness, and take corrective action. At the end of the hike, they can also set you up with a safari tour in Ngorongoro Crater or Serengeti National Park.

Previously, climbs were made in five days, but tours have now been lengthened, in order to allow hikers to acclimatise to the altitude during the first two days. Most guide services will ascend Mount Kilimanjaro using the Machame route, which offers a range of scenery in five different ecological zones, then descend by way of Mweka, a direct and fast route which allows climbers to reach safe altitudes quickly.

The Machame-Mweka route consists of the following portions:

Machame Gate to Machame Hut: 6 hours, 10km. The first part of the climb takes place in the jungle at the lower elevations. Water may be obtained from a stream behind Machame Hut.

Machame Hut to Shira Hut: 6 hours, 6km. A hike up to a plateau, then proceeding through sparse bush and grass. Water may be obtained near Shira Cava. A seven hour side trip is possible to Shira Cathedral, a massive column of rock reached along a precipitous but highly rewarding route.

Shira Hut to Barranco Hut: 6 hours, 10km. A gradual climb through open plain, passes a volcanic spire known as Lava Tower, finishing within Great Barranco Valley.

Barranco Hut to Barafu Hut: 8.5 hours, 8km. This segment is often broken up into two shorter segments, by staying next to Karanga River. If proceeding on to Barranco Hut, water must be carried from Karanga River.

Barafu Hut to Mweka Hut: 12 hours, 17km. The final stage is the most arduous, and passes over Uhuru Peak. Beware of the cold and the high altitude. Hikers usually around midnight, and reach the peak by 6 am. It is possible to bypass Uhuru Peak and proceed straight to Mweka Hut. Water can be obtained near Mweka Hut.

Finally, once you've made the descent, it's time to spend a few well-deserved days relaxing on a safari at Ngorongoro Crater or Serengeti National Park.


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