Ten Reasons to Climb Kilimanjaro

Photo: Mount Kilimanjaro

Getting short of breath on the last few hundred meters to Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro just minutes after sunrise. Photograph by Diane Groell, My Shot .

Tim Ward is the author of Zombies on Kilimanjaro: a Father-Son Journey Above the Clouds, the first literary narrative of climbing Kilimanjaro.

Why do 40,000 people a year seek to climb the world’s highest freestanding mountain–a mountain so popular it has become known as “Everyman’s Everest”? Here are the top ten reasons, from the most practical to the most profound:

1. Kilimanjaro is technically the easiest to climb of the Seven Summits . You don’t need ropes or special mountaineering gear, or even any previous mountain climbing experience. The youngest person to reach the summit was six years old, and the eldest (as of 2011), was 83. That does not mean Kilimanjaro is risks-free. Rockslides and acute altitude sickness kill ten climbers on average each year (the subject of a forthcoming post).

2. Paradoxically, Kilimanjaro is both remote and accessible. Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania, just south of the equator, next to the Serengeti. But regular flights fly nonstop from Europe to the Kilimanjaro airport. Around the mountain there’s surprisingly good support infrastructure for an impoverished country—decent hotels, outfitters, gear to rent, ground transportation. On the mountain there are sleeping huts along the main route, with porters who carry and set up tents and kitchen facilities on the other routes.

3. Kilimanjaro remains surprisingly pristine. While the base camp of Everest is strewn with trash, Kilimanjaro National Park is surprisingly clean. Park Rangers weigh all the bags coming on and off the mountain and trekking companies pay heavy fines if the bags come down light. This greatly reduces dumping on the trail. There are basic outhouses along the way what while far from luxurious, provide privacy and keep the mountain clean. There are only seven trails up to the summit, and no roads. As a result, despite relatively heavy traffic, the mountain has retained its wild nature.

4. Kilimanjaro one of the world’s greatest natural wonders: a snow covered mountain on the equator, an ocean of green forest surrounded by dry savannah. Climbing Kilimanjaro is like walking from the equator to the North Pole in a week, providing dramatic changes in vegetation and animal life day by day. Kilimanjaro is also a sky island. Its high altitudes have created habitat for strange and unique life forms found only on a few other peaks on the planet, such as the delicate elephant flower and the bizarre Kilimanjaro tree.

5. Kilimanjaro is a hot spot for studying climate change. Al Gore showed photos of its rapidly shrinking glaciers in An Inconvenient Truth. Ice cores show the glaciers to be 11,700 years old—and yet they will all be gone in the next 20-30 years. Teams of scientists are working on the ice to better monitor and understand exactly why this is happening. One researcher I met said to me: “You can stand next to the ice and see the glaciers turning to vapor before your eyes.” Xpedition Online runs treks for youth up Kilimanjaro, accompanied by climate scientists. Find out more at www.xpeditiononline.com.

6. Climbing Kilimanjaro contributes to a thriving local economy, generating about $20 million/year. Guides, porters, cooks, hotel staff, food producers, travel and trekking agencies, merchants, construction companies and banks all create local jobs in a region that remains one of the poorest on earth.

7. Kilimanjaro inspired a continent to freedom. Kilimanjaro belongs to Tanzania, the first nation in Africa to win independence from colonial powers (it was then called Tanganyika). Before independence in 1959, soon-to-be President Julius Nyerere said: “We, the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle and put it on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate, and dignity where before there was only humiliation.” Today, the summit is called Uhuru Peak–Uhuru is the Swahili word for “Freedom.”

8. People climb Kilimanjaro to mark a personal accomplishment. Individuals climb the mountain to mark important transitions: their graduation, their retirement, a marriage or a divorce. The event is significant enough that every year dozens of local newspapers write the story of a town resident who makes the journey to the peak.

9. Many people climb Kilimanjaro to draw attention to a worthy cause or charity: to raise money to cure cancer or bring attention to a condition such as autism. Individuals with disabilities have climbed to mountain to demonstrate that with courage perseverance, a disability need not be a limitation.

10. Kilimanjaro inspires transformation. When you climb Kilimanjaro and stand on the roof of Africa, you see the world a different way. What seemed impossible in your life might just be doable. The mountain top is a place for vision, inspiration, and a new beginning. As the famous song by Juluka goes: “I’m sittin’ on top of Kilimanjaro, I can see a new tomorrow. I’m sittin’ on top of Kilimanjaro. I cast away all my sorrows.”

Tim Ward is the author of Zombies on Kilimanjaro: a Father-Son Journey Above the Clouds, the first literary narrative of climbing Kilimanjaro.

“A High-Altitude Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” – James O’Reilly.

Comments

  1. eli gregory
    Port Harcourt
    June 25, 2012, 1:41 am

    What a delight!

  2. Godfrey Tara
    Tanzania
    June 25, 2012, 1:55 am

    Kilimajaro,the highest mountain in africa,most popular for it incredible features,found in a shinny & awesome country ‘TANZANIA’.The mountain that carry a deep messaGE toward the first living man on the surface of the earth,the mountain that every successful people want to climb,and if you know you are successful in you life is better to climb this mountain.It’s not a lift off of appolo 11 to went to moon,is lift off to go the highest peak and the heart of the Africa.

  3. Mike
    CPH, Dk.
    June 25, 2012, 10:09 am

    A delightful article. It is easy to climb, I have done it as far as Gilman’s Point, ironically it had snowed heavily that night, making the last bit to Uhuru peak impassable. But it felt so great!
    At risk of nit picking, Tanganyika actually became independent in 1961- 9 December, I witnessed the flag raising at the then National Stadium. While that was going on a torch was lit on the summit with a suitable statement about shining the light of freedom across Africa. 1959 must have been the self government date, a different kettle of fish. Tanzania came into being with the union with Zanzibar in ’64. Meanwhile Ghana had become independent in 1958 (I think)

  4. Omar_Ahmad
    Egypt/Alexandria/45 meyami
    June 25, 2012, 12:30 pm

    i am Kid Has 14 Years Old And you can Say i am Crazy Becouse i watch National Channal 3-7 Hours in Day And my comment in this picture Good So Cool And Nice i think its …………………………….No comment its So Awesome i will take it for my Wallpaper

  5. Luciano Lucci
    http://lucianolucci.tumblr.com/
    June 25, 2012, 5:22 pm

    WOW !

  6. Amanda
    June 26, 2012, 2:38 am

    Getting closer…

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  8. Bert
    June 27, 2012, 4:13 pm

    Was at the top in March 2012 with 7 friends, it was great experience.

  9. [...] Ten Reasons to Climb Kilimanjaro Posted by Tim Ward on June 21, 2012 More » [...]

  10. Tom
    UK
    July 17, 2012, 11:05 am

    As Mike pointed out, I think Dr Nkrumah et al. in Ghana might disagree with point 7. Still 9 good reasons though.

  11. eman83
    Bangladesh
    July 28, 2012, 12:31 am

    Wow!
    Its really a good news for of all us who want to climb Mountain.

  12. Mohamed
    Dubai
    August 10, 2012, 4:27 pm

    Great article! I was lucky enough to climb Kili last summer. It was just such an incredible experience. I blogged about it here: http://mohamedks.blogspot.com/2011/07/kilimanjaro-11.html

    Mohamed

  13. neshon
    france
    August 13, 2012, 5:33 am

    Safari! Safari! Safari! A Swahili word meaning a long journey. And a long journey or safari back to Africa is what I had been waiting for very many years and it happened in Jan/Feb 2012. Having lived in the UK for the last ten years, the desire to go back home was overwhelming. A friend of mine from the UK joined me too. As Tanzania is so popular for various safari destinations, I was in a dilemma of whether to explore the southern circuit or the Northern circuit. Having done my research and drawn by the ever popular Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti plains and the likes of Lake Manyara, we settled on doing the Northern circuit. As a keen traveller, I never succumb to package holidays, so naturally I found it very exciting to put together an itinerary that consisted of visiting Tranagire National Park, Lake Manyara, Serengeti Plains and the Ngorongoro Crater with a combination of accommodation (campsite as well as lodge) covering over 4 nights and 5 days. We decided to gather as many email addresses as possible of the tour operators based in Arusha, Moshi and Dar Es Salaam. At this stage I only had a vague idea of what I wanted to cover as part of the safari but I was heavily relying on the expert advice of the tour operators in customising my journey taking into consideration the cost, the duration, accommodation, places visited etc. We received an over whelming response from the tour operators but the cost of the safari varied drastically from one to another. As I was planning the safari from abroad, I was happy to pay a reasonable but realistic price to ensure that we had the smoothest and best possible experience – this was going to be afterall a life time experience. Once company that raised our confidence very highly was Adventureland Safaris Limited which is based in Arusha (http://www.adventurelandsafari.com ). My very first email (and all the others thereafter) were answered warmly and courteously by Mr Arnold Ringo who is one of the owners of the company. Arnold was very prompt and professional in his replies and above all I found Adventureland Safaris genuinely had my interest in mind especially given the fact that I was inviting a friend to Tanzania and I had certain expectations to live by. This was very well taken care by Arnold and his team. Arnold gave me several safari options and his local knowledge was excellent. Cost was to be the deciding factor but we were offered the best value for money for the package that was being offered. The package included a private jeep (4×4) for the duration for the safari, a driver who was also our guide and highly knowledgeable with game drives, accompanying chef for the days we stayed at a fabulous campsite who cooked us some of the best African (and western) food , all the cooking utensils, drinking water, battery charging equipment in the jeep, camping equipment, the full lot. We wanted to experience the adventure of wild campsite and a bit of luxury, so our accommodation was a combination of two nights in campsite accommodation and two nights in lodge accommodation. The fact that drew us to Adventureland Safari out of the rest of the tour operators I had communicated with was the fact that they were very accommodating in customising our safari to meet our request and nothing was too much trouble for them. Before confirming and agreeing to make a deposit, I decided to google the company on the internet and obtain any comments that may help me confirm my decision. My heart sank when I read one very negative remark on TripAdviser. I contacted Arnold to explain my dilemma and that I have been taken off guard but I also had the opportunity to hear his side of the story and how they had been exploited as a local company. Having heard his version of the story and despite the negative remark, I decided to go ahead with the company as I had build up a good rapport with Arnold over emails and had faith in his promises. And a good job I did because I have had no regrets whatsoever!! Whoever reads that negative comment, I would like to assure you that the experience we had with Adventureland Safari was out of this world, nothing like how the company has been portrayed by that review. Right from my first communication to the first day of the safari and beyond, the services provided were excellent and exceptional. We were picked up by Arnold and his colleague Johnston in Arusha on our arrival and very warmly welcomed. It was good to meet Arnold in person and his warm and friendly welcome assured me of the safari ahead. We were taken to our accommodation for the night and after checking in and refreshed, Arnold and Johnston took us through the entire itinerary in more details which was incredibly exciting. They offered us if we wanted to see the annual migration in the Ndutu area and relying on their local expertise, we took up the offer and good job we did as it turned out to be a great experience. They were once again present first thing the next morning before our safari was to begin. During our safari, we were fortunate to see the Big Five. Amongst those, we saw a migration of Buffaloes in Serengeti, hundreds of hipppoes in a pool, ostriches, hyenas, wild beasts, zebras, giraffes, a lion on a hunt which is a rare sight, beautiful flora and fauna, amazing landscapes, breathtaking sunsets, visit to a Masaai village and so on. We also had a very early morning game drive to be able to see the Serengeti sunrise and an opportunity to see the animals early in the morning. This was followed by a very nice brunch prepared by our chef. The campsite accommodation was adventure in itself. One can hear hyenas crying (or laughing) in the wilderness at night. Our reservations at the luxury wildlife lodges was made promptly by Arnold and his team and we were smoothly checked in on our arrival. As this was a private safari for the two, the guide was at our disposal in terms of how we spent our time and didn’t feel rushed or cramped. This is also generally the case for group tours too organised by Adventureland Safari. There were moments in Serengeti when we felt that we were driving for hours on end without seeing anything but that is natural given the vast size of Serengeti plains. The highlight was ascending and descending the Ngorongoro Crater. Given its size, the concentration of wildlife in the Crater is immense. It’s an experience not to be missed. That concluded our safari and in fact was icing on the cake. Upon returning to Arusha and to our accommodation, we caught up once again with Arnold and Johnston. We couldn’t thank them enough for their hospitality and services. Now back in the UK, I felt compelled to write in praise of Adventureland Safari Limited for making our once in a life time experience well and truly memorable one. Arnold and his team ensured that we had the best time and without any problems and they certainly delivered what they promised. For those who may feel dissuaded by the negative remark made for Adventureland Safaris, I would hope that after reading this you may choose to use Adventureland Safari for your Kilimanjaro or safari holidays. They are honest and hard working company who have their clients’ best interest in mind. Right from the start, they gave us good information and advice, there were no hidden costs or agenda, went out of their way to make our safari a fantastic adventure, replied to my correspondence promptly hence giving me a peace of mind and assurance, were highly accommodating and above all very professional. I will certainly be using them again for my future African adventures and I can’t recommend Adventureland Safari highly enough. Thank you for making my dream of a safari a greatly memorable one!
    Visited February 2012

  14. Emma Tameside
    August 28, 2012, 11:35 pm

    All extremely great reasons to climb Kilimanjaro, I had already setup a kilimanjaro trip with my brother before reading this, although it’s definitely confirmed my reason for going. Number eight is the big one on my list, climbing the mountain will be a massive personal achievement for me. I’ve always wanted to en devour in this type of challenge, although haven’t had the time. Recently I got some well-deserved holiday time and I’ve decided to use it wisely.

    A fun read, thank you for the article! I’ll forward it to my brother to ensure he stays focused on going! He’s a little apprehensive as he’s not much of a climber but I know he’d love it.

  15. Chris H
    Melbourne - Australia
    September 11, 2012, 1:44 am

    A lovely atricle. And I really hate to correct anything in it…but.
    Point one, saying that it is technically the easiest mountain of the seven to climb? I think Mt. Kosciuszko in Australia (assuming the Bass list of seven summits) is easier. A short 6km walk from the top of the chairlift, it is almost wheelchair accessible.
    If anyone is doing the seven highest mountains, I might suggest that while they’re in Australia they take the short (4hr) drive from Mt. Kosciuszko to Mt. Wycheproof – officially the worlds Lowest mountain. (43m high).
    Personally, I have my eye on Kilimanjaro for next year. Can’t wait!

  16. Robert
    http://sojournsafaris.com/mt-kilimanjaro-climbing/lemosho-route
    November 12, 2012, 5:43 am

    Thats a great motivation to climb the mt Kilimanjaro. Climbing mt Kilimanjaro for charity reasons is the best way to feel useful. http://sojournsafaris.com/mt-kilimanjaro-climbing/lemosho-route

  17. Jogalog
    London
    November 14, 2012, 10:10 am

    I had a fantastic time climbing Kilimanjaro and would love to climb more mountains in the future. I love to do these things just for the personal challenge of it all.

    http://www.squidoo.com/heading-into-the-clouds-of-mount-kilimanjaro

  18. Christian Rene Friborg
    Germany
    November 29, 2012, 2:44 am

    Can’t wait for our climb to Kilimanjaro next year!!

  19. [...] Ten Reasons to Climb Kilimanjaro [...]

  20. Paul Deakin
    UK
    January 30, 2013, 3:22 am

    Climbing Kilimanjaro is the ultimate mini challenge. Just 7 days off work and you can summit the highest mountain in Africa. A lKiliamnjaro climb is a great physical and mental challenge.

  21. Danielle
    NYC
    February 13, 2013, 10:05 am

    Re: #7 — Actually I think Ghana was the first African nation to gain independence from colonial powers. That was in 1957.

  22. [...] Ten Reasons to Climb Kilimanjaro (adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com) [...]

  23. Links We Love | Love & Adventure
    February 23, 2013, 11:00 am

    [...] Ten reasons to climb Kilimanjaro - we would love to do this! What about you? [...]

  24. Andre B
    New York
    March 18, 2013, 11:42 am

    I saw Tim Wards presentation last year. It was so inspiring that my son and I are now booked to climb Kilimanjaro this summer! We can’t wait. We are booked with Ultimate Kilimanjaro- the same outfitter Tim and his son climbed with.
    Http:/www.ultimatekilimanjaro.com

  25. [...] Source: Ten Reasons to Climb Kilimanjaro [...]

  26. Ahmed Almaziad
    September 25, 2013, 2:43 am

    Great blog. Its a great experience climbing Uhuru that I had a couple of years ago. Please check my website http://www.saudihiker.com

  27. Andrea Morassutti
    Toronto, ON, Canada
    October 15, 2013, 9:32 pm

    What a great list! Definitely the trip of a lifetime. I’m planning on climbing Kili in August of 2014, and I can’t wait. I’m documenting my travels on my website (http://www.andreamorassutti.com/) and I’d love it if you’d check it out. Any advice on how to make some of the tough decisions leading up to the trip would be appreciated!

  28. Adam Ayo
    Tanzania, Arusha
    February 7, 7:15 am

    I climbed Kili this february, it was the most unforgetable adventure i had in my life,i will never forget it and sure,am ready to accompany any person who wish to climb the mountain for this year and other years to come and lucky enough am now student of wildlife tourism in college of African Wildlife Tourism here Down the mount Kilimanjaro….welcome friends

  29. […] Ten Reasons to Climb Kilimanjaro […]

  30. Lawrence U.
    Boulder, CO
    March 24, 8:52 pm

    Tim, I read your book while preparing to climb. We also went Ultimate Kilimanjaro (http://www.ultimatekilimanjaro.com). It was fun to see/hear things on the mountain, and think– “Hey, that’s what Tim was talking about in his book!” Recommended reading for everyone who wants to climb Kili.

  31. david livingstone
    kilimanjaro
    April 6, 11:22 am
  32. david livingstone
    kilimanjaro
    April 6, 11:24 am

    If you want more info about Kilimanjaro Mt Climbing you can visit this website below
    http://www.summit2sandsafaris.com

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  34. […] people per year seek to climb the world’s highest free standing mountain, nestled in the northeastern corner of Tanzania, just a glance away from […]

  35. […] det ville være å eventuelt bestige Kilimanjaro. Blant annet leste jeg Tim Ward sin artikkel 10 reasons to climb Kilimanjaro, på bloggen til National Geographic. Det overbeviste meg ikke, jeg ønsket fortsatt bare å gå […]

  36. […] a lot about how it might be to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Among others I read Tim Ward`s article 10 reasons to climb Kilimanjaro on National Geographic`s blog. It did not convince me, I still wanted to walk across the hillsides […]

  37. Mason Bretha
    United States
    June 9, 10:47 am

    I also climbed Kilimanjaro with Tim’s operator, Ultimate Kilimanjaro (http://www.ultimatekilimanjaro.com), and followed your tips. In a party of 12, we had 100% success and saw the most amazing sunrise ever. Tim, I hope you keep writing stories of your adventures. Karibu!