At 5,895 m (19,341 ft), Kilimanjaro is Africa's highest mountain and the world's highest free standing peak. Towering above the Tanzanian plains in East Africa it is actually a dormant volcano. Its snow-capped summit is often obscured by cloud.
Routes up the mountain pass through varying climate zones, from sweltering heat at the bottom of the mountain to freezing temperatures at the summit. Trekkers should therefore be prepared for all weather conditions on the mountain.
As it rises, the mountain’s landscape alters from the cultivated plains, through lush rainforest, heath, alpine meadow and then finally to the Arctic conditions at the top, giving a rich biodiversity with many plant species.
There are six main trekking ascents, most of which will take about a week to complete. The easiest but most crowded ascent is Marangu with huts as well as camping. The Lemosho route is quiet and more remote and gives the best chance of acclimatising to mountain conditions. Machame is a little steeper than some routes but popular because of its reputation for being the most scenic. Some degree of discomfort should be expected on the ascent but on reaching the summit climbers can expect to feel a huge sense of achievement when finally standing at the very top of Africa.
While ascending Kilimanjaro does not require the technical expertise that is needed in the high Andes or Himalayas, it should not be taken lightly. People die annually on the mountain from hypothermia, falls and the effects of altitude. Most climbers will suffer some degree of altitude sickness; and the final ascent to the summit can be arduous. However, the challenge of Kilimanjaro is achievable by most physically fit people with appropriate planning and preparation.