Does an extra day help acclimatization?

Most guidebooks recommend that climbers spend an extra day during the Marangu route climb especially. This is very much a personal decision, but our statistics do not indicate any greater success rate amongst 6 day Marangu route climbers over 5 day climbers. More important for success is the overall approach to the climb, right from the start. That said, many people like an extra day spent on the ascent because it makes the whole climb more relaxed and gives an opportunity to go on some pleasant walks on the slopes of Mawenzi.

I’ve heard many horror stories about Kilimanjaro. How do I know that it’s safe to climb with you?

Our organisation has been sending people up Kilimanjaro since 1932, and we have enormous experience. We arrange climbs for around 1500 climbers every year, and a number of us involved in the running of the hotel climb the mountain regularly so that our experience of conditions is always very recent. Our guides (numbering over 40 at the moment) only work for us, so we can be sure that our standards are consistent. In particular, you will not find yourself being harassed for tips by your crew during your climb.

If there is a problem on the mountain what are the rescue procedures?

The national park operates a rescue service, and the ranger stations at the huts and campsites around the mountain are linked to each other and to the park headquarters by radio. In the vast majority of emergency cases, the problem is altitude related and the solution is immediate descent to a lower altitude. Our mountain crew are all experienced at dealing with such cases and can bring climbers down to safe altitudes very quickly and without park assistance if it is not immediately available.

Is it possible to rent mountain equipment from the hotel?

We have a large stock of clothing, tents and sleeping bags. This is primarily for the free use of our fully equipped climbers but we also make equipment available for hire to hard way climbers where possible. In all cases, we encourage climbers to bring as much of their own warm clothing as possible. In particular, climbers should avoid having to hire or borrow boots.

I read in the Lonely Planet that the success rate on Kilimanjaro is less than thirty percent. Is this true and if so is there any reason for me to climb it knowing I won’t make it to the top?

Many people climb Kilimanjaro without knowing what they are letting themselves in for. Consequently they may be inadequately clothed and fed, and they therefore have a miserable and unsuccessful time. We make sure that you are properly informed and equipped, and our success rate to the crater rim is 87%. Our success rate to Uhuru peak is 70%. It should be noted that our climbers come from a very broad range of ages and abilities. However, we always stress that the main reason to climb Kilimanjaro (or any other mountain) is to have a safe and enjoyable time. Reaching the summit is a bonus, but should never be seen as the sole aim of the climb.

How cold does it get on Kilimanjaro?

The temperature at the top of the mountain can vary widely. Sometimes it is only a degree or two below freezing, but visitors should be prepared for the possibility of temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius, perhaps in conjunction with a wind.

Can children climb Kilimanjaro?

The national park rules stipulate that the minimum age for climbing above 3000 metres is 10 years. This is because altitude sickness can affect children very quickly and dangerously.

What should I know about altitude sickness?

There are different types of altitude sickness. “Mild acute mountain sickness” is very common, and is not as frightening as its name suggests. The symptoms are headaches, nausea and vomiting, though not everyone suffers from all the symptoms. Normally, symptoms fade after a few hours, but if they do not a climber may need to turn back, since the condition cannot be allowed to develop. Any enjoyment to be had from the climb will have disappeared by now anyway. A much more serious type of altitude sickness is called oedema. This is a build-up of fluid in the body, and when the fluid collects in the lungs or the brain a serious condition develops which requires immediate action in the form of descent to a lower altitude, where recovery is usually miraculously fast. To acclimatise properly, a climber should not climb more than around 300 metres per day,but all ascents on Kilimanjaro are very much faster than that. The secret, therefore, is to make each day’s ascent as slow as possible.
During your pre-climb briefing, we describe altitude sickness to you in detail, and advise you how to cope with it. The most important thing is not to fear it, but to respect it and to know how to deal with it. Our guides have seen every condition that the mountain produces, and they will always know how to deal with problems.

What is an anorak and what is a balaclava?

An anorak is a weatherproof jacket, such as Gore-tex and a balaclava is a woollen sock that fits over the head with slits for only the eyes and mouth.

How is cooking done on the mountain?

We use high pressure Kerosene stoves. These are very efficient (about 90% of the efficiency of gas, which is not always available here). We use gas stoves also, especially for larger climbing parties.

Why are tents used on the Machame route although there appear to be huts on that route?

Although there are one or two metal shelters at each of the Machame route camps (and these shelters were referred to as “huts” by the Kilimanjaro Mountain Club which built them long ago), they are now used by national park rangers. Both you and your crew sleep in tents.

If I choose a hard way climb, do I also have to provide food and equipment for my guides and porters?

No, food is provided for the guides and porters by the hotel.

I’ve heard that many Kilimanjaro operators don’t care if their crew sleep out in the open. Do you provide tents for guides and porters on camping routes?

Yes, we do.

Do you pay wages to your guides and porters? I’ve heard that the only reward they get is the tip at the end of the climb, which is why so many climbers get hassled for tips.

Yes, we do pay them wages at the levels recommended by Kilimanjaro National Park and the Kilimanjaro Porters Association. We also pay guides and porters immediately after each climb. We also provide our crews with food, fuel, and essential warm and waterproof clothing. Our crews all know that tips from climbers are discretionary. And even if you do want to give a tip, we always ask you not to do it on the mountain but back at the hotel after the climb is over. There, everything is relaxed and open.

How much should I tip my mountain guides and porters?

First of all, it is customary on Kilimanjaro to give a tip to guides and porters if pleased with the service they have given, although we stress that tipping is always discretionary. Depending on the size of the group and the duration of the climb, climbers are advised to budget between $100 to $200 for this purpose – the larger the climbing party, the less each climber generally needs to contribute for tips. In particular, we urge climbers to give a tip to each crew member, and not just to give all the money to the guide and tell him to deal with it.  This can be unfair both to guide and crew. More guidance is given about mountain tipping in pre-climb briefings, and upon returning to the hotel after your climb, if required, you will be assisted with organising tips.

Do your guides speak English?

All of our guides speak sufficient English to be able to deal with emergency matters like altitude sickness.  None of them speak English so fluently that one could have a complex discussion regarding politics, for instance, but a number can chat fairly fluently about normal everyday topics.  There are other guides on the mountain who can speak really very good English, and posters to websites have sometimes compared our guides with these others.  The difference lies in attitude and experience.  We have always valued our guides more for the way they can deal with emergencies, and for how they can observe and gently encourage climbers to do their best than for how charming and chatty they are – indeed one climber commented to us about how put off she was by the “in your face” attitude, as she put it, of some of the other guides she had observed on the mountain. Where a good command of English on the guide’s part is very important to a climber, we allocate a guide who is more proficient in the language.

Why is the Marangu route called the “Coca Cola” route?  Is it really dirty and overcrowded?

There has been a lot of negative press about Marangu.  In our view, and we arrange treks on all the routes, it is very unfair.  This is the only route that uses huts rather than tents and some years ago there was a serious problem with overcrowding in the huts.  In those years the Machame route was much less frequented. But we think the main reason that operators (mostly from Arusha) – speak against the Marangu and boost the Machame is that the booking system for Marangu is demanding of operators’ time.  There is no booking system for Machame (nor the other camping routes).  You just show up at the Machame gate the first morning of the trek.  No one ever knows how many people will be on the trail until the gate closes for that day.  There is a daily quota of only about 70 climbers allowed to start on the Marangu route on any day (this is why booking is not always easy). There are many days in the season when there are many more climbers on the Machame route than on the Marangu. This is not in any way to denigrate the very beautiful Machame route.  But these are things to bear in mind when hearing the Marangu route described as the tourist, easy or Coca Cola route and the Machame as the scenic or the whisky route!  It is true that you will hear many people who have climbed Machame say that it is better than Marangu, and this is conveyed to many of the guide book writers.  But remember that the overwhelming majority of climbers only ever climb one route.  The chances are that the climbers who say this have never been on the Marangu route and are simply repeating what they have been told or have read.

How is the Marangu route different from the Machame route?

Physically, the Marangu and Machame routes are rather different.  The main force of Kibo’s volcanic activity occurred out towards the west (the Machame side) and so Machame is steeper – especially in the first day and a half – and more rugged than Marangu.  It is often considered more scenic because the views of Kibo are more impressive than from the south-east (the Marangu approach), but many consider the vegetation on day 2 of the Marangu route to be more attractive than anything seen on the western side.  As always with mountains, every route has its advantages and drawbacks.  The difficulty grading has Marangu as a 1, and Machame a 1+, so there’s not a great deal in it.

Your prices seem higher than others we’ve been able to find.  Why is that?

The cheaper operators often cut costs in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Not paying their crew properly.  Marangu Hotel is one of a handful of companies paying top rates to guides and porters.  A recent Kilimanjaro Porters’ Assistance Project study indicates that the greater number of climb companies are paying less than 50% of what Marangu Hotel is paying.  We also provide food, fuel and essential warm and waterproof clothing to our crews, and they are not charged for that.
  • Overloading porters to cut down on numbers.
  • Not providing a sufficient number of guides to accompany a group to the summit.
  • Not providing sufficient tents for their guides and porters to sleep in on the mountain, forcing them all to cram together in tents.
  • Charging you extra for any equipment or clothing you lack and which you need to borrow.
  • Providing sub-standard or insufficient food and equipment.
  • Being unlicensed to conduct mountain climbs, and being part of the underground economy.
  • Cheating the national park by not paying the full amount of park entrance and camping fees.

There are operators in Arusha and Moshi who engage in some or all of the practices mentioned above.  We work hard to run what we think is a quality operation, giving value for money.

If you you would like to arrange your responsible climb, please contact us.