5 reasons NOT to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Why go to Mount Kilimanjaro if you have no intention to reach the top?

Mount Kilimanjaro is attracting thousands of tourists every year and they all have dreams to climb Africa`s highest mountain. Or almost everyone! – We are only walking across we are not climbing upwards! Every time we told friends that our next travel destination was Mount Kilimanjaro we had to clarify: – We are not climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro! And we where deadly serious. None of us have secret dreams of climbing the highest mountain peaks. So why did we want to go to Tanzania and Mount Kilimanjaro?

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

We wanted to see the mountain peak that we had heard so much about. The forest slopes of Kilimanjaro has a great biodiversity and my dream was to wander in the woods among trees and flowers and in peace admire nature and listen to the birds singing. Our plan was to find accommodation near the entrance to Kilimanjaro National Park and there on the green hillsides we planned to walk slowly and enjoy nature. I prepared by reading 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 and not climb Mount Kilimanjaro. And I have my reasons, all 5 good reasons NOT to climb Mount Kilimanjaro:

1. Altitude sickness:

The risk of getting some degree of altitude sickness is high. Most people get either headache, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, and shortness of breath or all of them. Do you really need to prove to yourself and others that you are capable of climbing higher than your body is made for? Even the Marangu route, which is considered relatively easy, demands a lot of preparations and it takes at least 5 days to climb the route.

2. Queuing:

You walk in line. Special the Marangu route tends to be busy. More than 40.000 people try to reach the top every year on the 7 official routes. It is not possible to set off on your own trying to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Nor is it possible to go on your own inside the boarders of Kilimanjaro National Park. You have to register and pay at the gate and go with a guide.

3. Space:

You have to follow your group. It is not much time to enjoy nature around you. You may only get a glimpse of the fantastic flora in the forest on you way up. Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the world`s greatest natural wonders and its sad not to have time to admire it.

4. Vulnerable nature:

You contribute to a long-term destruction of a vulnerable nature in a protected area. Even though there are strict rules and penalties for littering, the massive amount of tourists visiting this area every day of the year is so large that a negative impact on the environment is inevitable.

5. Where is this mountain?

Mount Kilimanjaro is often shrouded in clouds and you may risk never to see the peak at any distance. When reaching the top you are not guaranteed to see the famous view of Africa.   We stayed at Babylon Lodge pretty high up in the village Marangu. It was a very good starting point and had a nice view of Mount Kilimanjaro. We soon realized that only walking across not upwards was harder than we imagined. So we ended up walking upwards, but only for a one-day-trip up to the first base camp. Luckily we managed to get more walks outside the National Park on the hillsides in Marangu as we had hoped. This is a very beautiful area with nice and welcoming people and a very green and lush landscape. So travelling to Mount Kilimanjaro without the intention to climb the peak is highly recommended! Try across-walking on Mount Kilimanjaro as well!

Facts:

  • Mount Kilimanjaro is situated in Tanzania, near the boarder to Kenya.
  • Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa`s highest mountain, altitude 5885 m.
  • Mount Kilimanjaro consists of 3 volcano cones, Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira.
  • Mount Kilimanjaro`s peak is covered by a glacier, sadly its getting smaller and smaller
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Forest on our way to first Base camp, Mount Kilimanjaro.
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Porters help those climbing all the way, Mount Kilimanjaro.
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The goal for our day-trip Maundi Crater altitude 2775, Mount Kilimanjaro.
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Grass plains at Maundi Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro.
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Green and lush around Marangu at Mount Kilimanjaro.
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Babylon Lodge in Marangu, Mount Kilimanjaro.
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39 Comments

  • I am with you (not that I could actually climb it anyway) too many people do these things to tick off a travel list with no consideration of the damage they are doing. It would be amazing to just see the mountain without needing to climb it.

  • Bente, you are right about your reasons you may not want to climb. However, there are ways to mitigate these 5 factors. Take a long route to increase your acclimatization period, thus reducing the chance of altitude sickness. Climb using a less trafficked route to avoid the queues. Book a private climb and you don’t have to follow the pack. Kilimanjaro is very well maintained considering the number of people that climb every year. Finally, climb during the dry season to maximize nice weather and clear views.

    • You are of course right, I can overcome these obstacles. But why? I am perfectly happy doing the cross hill walking, the same way I like cross coyntry skiing, not down hill skiing! I am also certain that a lot of people climg Kilimanjaro and love it and they should do so and enjoy it.

  • Wow, thank you so much for sharing this and for your honesty! This is something I always thought about doing but was never really sure . . . and these points truly make sense to me! Thanks again!

  • I agree with a couple of your points, about the sheer amount of crowds at Kilimanjaro and the effect this is having on the environment. The authorities do need to do something to limit this. Maybe with a permit system or closing it off for sections of the year. But as for the others, no. Altitude sickness is easily counteracted with time and proper presentation, the problem is there are too many tourists trying to do the trek too quickly as part of an itinerary. Done properly, it is still an achievement worth striving for.

    • Altitude sicknes is merely an excuse! The fact is that I do not want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and it was a fun titel for a blog post. Thanks for your comment. Have you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro?

  • Since I know that I could never climb Mt Kilimanjaro without some serious training before hand, I like the sound of an across-walk as an alternate option. But, a friend of mine climbed it last year and although it looked horrendously tough, the achievement is so great that I think it’s all worth it! I hope one day I’ll be able to get in shape and manage a climb myself 🙂

  • I think for those who can’t or don’t want to climb, walking around is a good way to see the area. However, I think some of your points are counter to many of our planned experiences in climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro next month. We won’t be in any lines as we’ll be doing one of the other routes (there are several less trafficked routes than Marangu) and won’t be following any groups as it’ll just be my partner and I and our guides. Our local contacts in Africa tell us the best views of the mountain are actually from Kenya which we hope to see on our way to the mountain. We’ll see if we can make it!

  • You’re not alone – there are plenty of people who like being in the mountains but not actually climbing them. (But I’m not one of those.) 🙂 I hope to make it there one day.

  • Bente, great article. You are the first I hear about not wanting to climb the Kilimanjaro. But now I know why. I guess no one climbing up has the time and energy to see as much as you did. They may pass those sights but their focus is somewhere else. 🙂

    • Agree, the important thing is to do as you want and trav3el where you want to. Even though life is not always fun, I try to make as much aout of it as possible. Have a nice and safe travel and thanks for commenting.

  • Those day hikes in the hills surrounding Kili sound ideal! I was on the other side of the mountain in Kenya earlier this year, very sad about the receding glaciers.

  • The flora is so lush and colorful, some of these photos could be mistaken for somewhere in Asia. Sounds like one heck of a nice trek–my father went there once, but I have yet to make it. Despite the reasons NOT to climb it, I’d still love to 😀 And I promise not to litter!

  • Aww.. This post makes too much sense, unfortunately 🙁 It would be lovely to experience these places in all their glory, but it hardly seems possible any more with all the queue-ing and crowds and the damage to nature.

  • Looks like you had a lovely walk! I would love to climb it or at least do the baby climb but I am not at all for crowds and much rather do my own thing. Perhaps the walk across the hills are the better option!

  • Kilimanjaro is actually one of the only mountains in the world I would want to climb! I’ve always heard that it’s one of the easier famous mountains, requiring no technical mountaineering skills like many other peaks. (Not sure if that’s true or not.) Good point on the mistiness though. How disappointing it would be to spend 5 days getting to the summit only to see absolutely nothing!

  • Great Bente. It is right every work does hold some sorts of difficulties. But holding the nerves to reach the success is the key. I had a similar experience in my life to climb a different mountain (not Kilimanjaro) and came across same sorts of problems. I must have hold my nerves but it is my body that doesn’t resist to the change of altitude.
    By the way thanks for this blog and keep coming up with such great experience.
    With Cheers!
    Stella

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