If you’re looking at booking a Kilimanjaro climb, the numerous choices to be made can be a little daunting, especially if you’re worried that those choices could be the difference between summiting Kilimanjaro or not.
One of the major choices you’ll have to make is which route to take, and how many days to do it in. Looking specifically at the scheduled departures, whilst the Marangu Route is usually a six-day trek (including descent), the Machame Route can be done in either six days or seven days, while the Lemosho Route can be done in either seven days or eight days.
On the six day Machame climb, your fourth day will be a long day from Barranco Camp (3960m) to Barafu Camp (4640m). On the seven day climb, this day will be broken into two shorter days, and you’ll stay a night midway at Karanga Camp.
If tackling the Lemosho Route, the seven-day route will take you straight from Big Tree Camp (2780m) to Shira Camp 2 (3900m), while on the eight-day climb this long trek will be broken into two with an overnight at Shira Camp 1.
But apart from the basic itinerary changes, what difference does the number of days make, and which are the best options?
We generally advise our clients that whichever route they decide to tackle, the more days the better. Here are a couple of reasons why:
One of the major risks for Kilimanjaro climbers is altitude sickness. This can stop you from reaching the summit and, therefore, your goal, and in severe circumstances, it can cause real and dangerous damage to your body.
As soon as you begin your Kilimanjaro climb, you’ll quickly note that “pole pole” is the favourite mantra of your porters and guides. It means “slowly slowly” in Swahili, and is the key to a successful climb. The more slowly you ascend, the more time your body has to acclimatize, and therefore the better your chances of summiting successfully, and avoiding severe altitude sickness. So again, more days on the mountain usually helps with this.
With this in mind, we generally advise our clients against the Marangu Route, which is inferior to either Machame or Lemosho in terms of acclimatization, though it might be quicker and easier in terms of the hiking itself.
A fuller experience
Kilimanjaro is a strange, dramatic and beautiful place, and during your climb you’ll pass through a number of different climate zones and see a range of different landscapes. A longer trek allows you to take in more of this special place, and the slower pace and higher number of days on the mountain will mean you have more time and energy to really enjoy the experience, with shorter daily distances and more stops.
While the long Lemosho route gives the fullest picture of Kilimanjaro’s different climate zones, Machame is equally striking, and both are considerably less well-trodden than the popular Marangu Route.