How Long Does It Take to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa at 19,341 feet, is a dream climb for many adventurous trekkers. Though not technical, the combination of high altitude, varied terrain, distance and changeable weather makes scaling Kilimanjaro a significant challenge. So how many days does it take to climb Kilimanjaro?

The time it takes to summit Kilimanjaro can range from 5 days up to 9 days or more, depending on the route taken, the weather conditions and the pace of your group. With the right preparation and fitness level, most trekkers reach the summit in 6 to 8 days.

Here’s a detailed overview of the factors that determine how long it will take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro:

Route Choice

There are six main routes up Kilimanjaro, each with differing technical difficulty, scenery and acclimatization requirements:

  • Marangu Route (5-7 days) – Considered the easiest route, but with less scenic variation. Allows rapid ascent which can increase altitude sickness risk.
  • Machame Route (6-8 days) – A scenic route that allows better acclimatization. Steeper than Marangu but more scenic.
  • Rongai Route (6-8 days) – A drier route approaching from the north. Offers excellent scenery and a high summit success rate.
  • Lemosho Route (6-8 days) – Beautiful route with more gradual ascent for better acclimatization.
  • Northern Circuit Route (7-9 days) – Quieter route allowing excellent acclimatization. Considered very scenic but long.
  • Umbwe Route (7-9 days) – A challenging, steep route with excellent scenery and vegetation. Better acclimatization profile.

As you can see, the route you take can vary the length of your climb by several days. The shorter routes like Marangu are more challenging due to quicker ascent while longer routes provide better acclimatization.

Fitness Level and Pace

Your fitness level plays a huge role in determining your speed and stamina on the mountain. The more cardiovascular training you put in before the climb, the stronger you will be. Being in peak physical condition allows you to maintain a faster pace without over-exerting yourself.

Take the time to get in shape several months in advance through hiking, cardio and strength training. This will quicken your pace up and down the mountain.

Weather Conditions

Kilimanjaro is famous for its unpredictable weather patterns. Conditions vary greatly from base to summit and across seasons. You may encounter rain, wind, snow, ice, and more based on the time of year.

Poor weather conditions like storms can significantly slow the pace on the trail. Protective gear like waterproofs and gaiters allows you to more safely continue climbing in rain or snow, but you may still need to slow down in high winds and low visibility.

Acclimatization Needs

A huge challenge on Kilimanjaro is acclimatizing properly to the decreasing oxygen levels at higher altitudes. Different routes have different acclimatization profiles based on their gradients and time spent at higher elevations.

The faster routes allow less time for acclimatization, while longer routes build in more time walking at higher elevations like on the Shira Plateau before attempting the summit. This allows your body more time to adjust to the altitude.

Taking the needed rest and acclimatization days will improve your chances of summit success and reduce your chances of developing acute mountain sickness.

The Bottom Line

Most climbers take between 6 to 8 days to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro, depending on the route chosen, weather and pace of acclimatization. Following one of the longer routes like the Machame, Lemosho or Rongai, spending proper time acclimatizing at higher elevations, and being in excellent physical condition can help ensure you successfully reach the Roof of Africa!

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