It looks like I'm going to be living in Nairobi for a few years. Along with all of the other amazing opportunities for adventure around here, there's this giant mountain just over the border. Since I'm so close, I've started thinking about whether I could/should attempt the climb, and what I would need to do to prepare.

Given that most of my hiking experience has been day hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, how would I begin to prepare myself for a trek of this magnitude? I've never really done any backpacking or multi day hikes, so I'm mostly starting from scratch. Where do I begin?

Like I said, I'll be here for a few years, so I've got lots of time to prepare. I don't want to go rushing into it willy-nilly. I guess I'm just looking for advice on how to get started with something like this.

4 Answers 4


According to regulations in Tanzania, you can't climb Kilimanjaro without a guide.

That means you will 100% be with somebody that understands the nature of acclimatization and has likely been up many many times previously.

When you hire a guide, or book a guided trip via a company, they will also take care of permits for you. Most companies automatically factor in the cost of porters also, whom will transport all food and equipment required for your time on the mountain.

With your accommodation and food covered, and a porter carrying your extra clothes and gear, the only thing left to do is hike! It sounds like you already have a good base to build on, so I would suggest working on your stamina like others suggested. Ideally you should mimic the conditions by doing multiple days of long day hikes, 4-8 hours a day is adequate.

Overnight trips are good too, since it will get you used to sleeping outdoors, but I'd rather you think of Kilimanjaro as a multiple long day trips over the course of a week. Some of the routes involve staying in wooden lodges with running water and really negate the need to feel comfortable in a tent.

Kilimanjaro is a very very popular mountain, and I think anyone in reasonable fitness is likely to reach the top with adequate support. Remember: If you aren't feeling up for walking 8 hours a day, just have your guide factor in addition days on the mountain, this will give you the ability to acclimatize properly, and reach the summit without your muscles being in total agony. I saw Martin and Esther Kafer hobbling around Vancouver last year. They are in their 80's, and currently the oldest people known to have reached the summit. If they can do it, so can you!

Pace yourself and have fun!

  • Even without reasonable fitness it is likely to summit. Tanzanians turned this mountain to a very profitable business and will do that even it takes to sell the trip to you. Even people in wheelchairs are dragged to the top. Btw if you are not comfortable camping they offer huts as well.
    – Val
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 10:02

I wrote up some notes here that me be helpful. Climbing Kilimanjaro is not a big deal. It doesn't require a lot of stamina or strength, because the need for gradual acclimatization severely limits how far you can go every day. It's not legal to climb without a guide, and when you pay for a guide, you're also typically also getting a lot of support, which is incredibly cheap by western standards. You have porters carrying all the heavy food and gear. You're simply a guinea pig being carefully tended over the course of a week as your body gradually adjusts to the altitude.

Since you're going to be in Kenya, spend some time on Mt. Kenya, which is more fun and more beautiful than Kilimanjaro. You can use it for acclimatization to Kili as well. That's what I did, and I felt great on summit day on Kili. You can also use time on Mt. Kenya to adjust your gear and observe how your body handles altitude.

Make sure you have warm clothing. I found it very helpful to have a full goretex rain suit, goretex boots, and thick, high-quality wool long underwear to sleep in. Bring a warm, high-quality down sleeping bag and a good pad for insulation. If porters are going to be carrying most of your gear, carefully figure out what your day pack is going to include, and make sure everything you want during the day fits in it. It's not normally necessary for you to carry a lot of water during the day.

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    Nice guide. I like the idea about doing mount kenya instead. You've made me want to give it a go!
    – user2766
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 8:32

Aligning the answer strictly for Kilimanjaro, I'd first recommend you to select the route that you are going to take. If you want to take the easiest way up, the Marangu route shall be perfectly suitable for you (No offence, just in case if you remain unprepared, if you have been preparing well, you might try the other routes.
I'd consider taking two different routes: One for ascent and the other for descent). You'd probably wanna take care of permits required, if there are any.

Once you are on field there, the thing you must be watchful for is Acclimatization.

This little part "how to get started with something like this" makes me add the below part to the answer.

As far preparing for the higher scale of mountaineering goes, as you predominantly mentioned that you have been doing Day hiking, it should get easier.

1. Strength building and Load Carrying: Mountaineering doesn’t require outright power-lifting skills, nor it requires a well-gymmed body, or weight-lifting ability, but it does require a fair bit of strength in limbs and shoulders. You’re not just climbing the mountain, but also also probably hauling a large and heavy pack on your back and your body needs to be able to move with that extra weight. As you have been doing day hikes, as assume you are aware of how to walk the mountains. You'll need to practice carrying much a bigger backpack, and still be able to cover the distance. For that you'll need stamina.

2. Increasing the stamina: Unlike one day hikes, you are not going to scale down a mountain in an hour or two, so increasing your stamina is a huge piece of training for mountain climbing. Being able to keep moving and alert for hours is a key skill for mountaineers. Exercises such as stair climbing (may be with a pack?) and hiking steep terrain are great for working those lower body parts. Even Cycling and Swimming helps to develop stamina.

3. List down the things to pack and way they are packed: I suggest preparing a list of the things that you do not want to miss out when you are on the mountain. There is wide range of the things and in initial days I used to forget on or the other. Its always rightly said that, "I'd always prefer to carry a thing that I may not use up there, but I would rather not prefer not having it when I need it".
e.g. A Flashlight on a day hike? We always plan to finish the activity before sunset, we most of the time do. What if we don't?
So, list down the things, and pack them as you need them. Things which you may need more frequently, you should have them packed in a manner that they are easily accessible. The bulky and light stuff should go at the bottom of the pack. This question here covers almost every bit about packing the backpack.

4. Get acquainted with necessary Gear and Equipment: Firstly, You'll need a good backpack to put all the things into it. Get one that suits you. Get acquainted with the terms and the actual equipment that you may have to/want to use. For Kilimanjaro I think you may not need much of a equipment. Just a good backpack, a tent, a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag, a good footwear along with the regular stuff from your Day Hike packs will be more than enough.

5. Get Mad about it to get better: On a bad day at a Day hike you can be a bit harsh on you and keep going, and at the end of the day you'll find yourself at home safe and sound. In multiday hikes, thats not the case. After a bad day, you may have to still keep going so that things don't get worse. At the most, you'll have a night in the tent or a mountain hut to recuperate in order to either turn back or go with the plan. You gotta fight tough times. And, Practice and Consistency are key to sustain mountaineering habits. It's always easy to fall off the grid and loose the shape and stop doing the things. It's rather difficult to keep going, keeping the hunger to go on and climb bigger mountains. For me the greediness to trek as much as can keeps me doing the stuff, and sideways, keep doing the stuff prepares me for bigger stuff. Just pat your back and keep it going! There are always new challenges to scale down.

Have a good safe one!

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    I disagree with the emphasis on physical fitness. Physical fitness is basically irrelevant for climbing Kilimanjaro. Because of the need for acclimatization, you can't even climb very much each day. It's all easy trail-walking, and anyone who can carry a pack and hike a few miles a day can handle it.
    – user2169
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 19:41
  • 1
    "Get Mad about it to get batter." I can't work out what that was supposed to say. Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 20:11
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    @benCrowell: Hey, This little part "how to get started with something like this" makes me add the below part to the answer part of my answer says it all. The part from this onward os more about getting started with multi-day hikes and mountaineering. I didn't answer any of the bulletted part for Kilimanjaro specifically.
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 6:07

Killamanjaro has relatively simple terrain. The main issue with climbing it is it's height (it's nearly 6000m/20,000feet).

You will need to acclimatise correctly. It will take several days to do this so you will need to spend some time on the mountain (this won't be a day hike!)

Most people who climb this mountain do so as part of an organised group. If you've only done day hikes I'd recommend joining one. In fact as Ben, says in comments (you need one!)

You will need a permit.

Many, many people climb Killamanjaro. It's not overly testing. To prepare you're probably best doing plenty of cardio training and/or climb some smaller peaks to get used to the exertion needed in climbing mountains.

  • Good advice about joining a group. I missed out on that. +1 mate!
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 13:31
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    It's not even legal to climb it alone. There's a legal requirement to have a guide.
    – user2169
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 19:39

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