Mount Kilimanjaro ascent: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost

At an altitude of 5895m, Mount Kilimanjaro, affectionately known as “Kili”, is Africa’s tallest mountain, a dormant volcano located in the breathtaking Tanzanian Eastern Rift Mountains on the border with Kenya. Uhuru, which means freedom in Swahili, is the name of its breathtaking summit, which is also considered the easiest to reach of the world’s seven summits. Of course, this does not mean it is easy, freedom seldom is. But, with preparation and the help of an experienced guide to lead the way, it is by all means doable! And it is not only for the sense of freedom that you will find reaching this summit appealing, it is also a place of myths, wakonyingo mountain dwarves and breathtaking beauty.

Start planning your trip with one of Explore-Share’s guides mountain climbing trips to Kilimanjaro and get ready for a trip you will never forget!

Ascent Routes and Duration

kilimanjaro
PH: Alpine Ascents International
  • There are many routes to explore the beautiful Kilimanjaro. Choosing the route will depend mostly on your preferences and expectations, and with some prior training and an experienced guide to show you the way, and specially to help coordinate logistics, you should be able reach the summit without trouble. Below, find a brief description of each of the routes you can take to the “Kili” top!
  • Machame Route- The most popular route on the list, Machame, enjoys a high success rate. It is also known as the “Whisky route”. Want to know why? Then sign up for this 7-day ascent via Machame and find out!
  • Marangu – If whisky is not your thing, or you like it Lemmy style, then you can try the Marangu or “Coca-cola route” which is also one of the easiest.  The nickname of this route is because the huts on the way up sell the soft drink. Additionally, they also offer dorms to sleep in, so for those that prefer hut to tent, this is the route for you. Tackle the summit on this 6-day tour that allows for proper acclimatization.
  • Rongai- to approach the summit from the less forested north side, take the more remote Rongai route where you will meet less people on the way without much variation in difficulty. This 7-day tour should do it!
  • Lemosho– with its panoramic views, this is one of the newer more scenic alternatives to tackle Kilimanjaro. Choose from a 6 to 8 day summit tour here.
  • The last two routes are less frequently chosen.  Umbwe is the steepest and thus not the best for acclimatization. On the other hand,  the Northern Circuit is a longer option.
Average trip time to the summit on most routes is a week. However, for those that want to take it a bit easier and explore some other surrounding options, you can also join a longer tour such as this 17-day guided ascent.

Mountain huts and accomodation

Kilimanjaro
PH: Jean Marc Kaufmann
The only route up Kilimanjaro that has proper huts is the Marangu route. All the rest have campsites, which is another reason why it is best to go with a guide that can arrange tents and other aspects of logistics. Also, on the way up you will find “toilets”, mostly little huts with holes in the ground. Additionally, campsites are reputed to be a bit noisy, so packing in some earplugs might come in handy for early or light sleepers!

Fitness and technical requirements

kilimanjaro
PH: Constantine Congema
Tackling the Kilimanjaro summit is a doable challenge for most people, of course, if you are not physically fit you should probably start training around 6 months prior to your trip as you will need to spend long days hiking up the mountain. No technical skills are required, however, as with all tall mountains, acclimatization is a must  and going at a steady slow pace is important which is why you will hear pole pole (slower, slower) from your porters.

Weather and climate

kilimanjaro
PH: Alpine Ascents International

There are two aspects you will need to consider in terms of weather and climate when planning your trip to Kilimanjaro. The first has to do with the season and the South-east trade winds and North-east anti-trade winds, and the second with the climatic zones on the mountain which vary dramatically depending on altitude.

In the first place, keep in mind that the best times of the year to climb “Kili” are the dry seasons. These are the months of January through March, and are colder than the busiest trekking dry season which is from June to October. April, May and November are the wettest months, so they are not ideal for trekking, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

In terms of Kilimanjaro climate, you need to consider that it has four climatic zones, each very different from the other, so you will probably have to pack wisely.

Starting from an altitude of 800 meters to 3000 meters, you will first encounter the rain forest zone. Expect stunning flora and fauna including orchids and monkeys as you ascend through this stretch of tropical rain forest with high humidity.

Next up is a low alpine zone with grasslands where the flora and fauna is more sparse. At night, temperatures drop to sub-zero levels which will be a continuing trend as you progress to higher altitudes.

At 4200 meters, you will enter the high alpine zone where you will experience a dramatic polarity between a hot and sunny arid desert environment during the day and below freezing nights. You will need to think both of the sun and the dust, sunscreen and wipes.

Finally, at 5000 meters, the climate changes again as you enter the glacial zone. The oxygen levels are around half the levels at the lower parts of the mountain and you will encounter high altitude arctic conditions. One of the keys to the success of your “Kili” ascent will be proper clothing and acclimatization, both of which a seasoned guide can help you with.

Equipment

Kilimanjaro
PH: Alpine Ascents International

Keeping in mind the variations in climatic conditions, you will need to consider your equipment accordingly. In terms of sleeping, most guides provide tents, however, you will need a four seasons sleeping bag, an insulated mattress, and ideally a liner.

As for clothing, you will need thermal, insular, trekking clothes and shoes, and you will probably benefit from layering so as to adapt to the varying temperatures throughout the day. Waterproof is best, a trekking towel that dries well is always a good investment, a trekking pole, and sunglasses, sun hat, warm beanie and gloves a no-brainer. In terms of accessories, make sure to take sunscreen (both hi SPF and absorbent), baby wipes, toilet paper, water purifying tablets and general medication.

For additional equipment such as crampons and ropes, if you decide on a more challenging climb, you can ask your guide for suggestions and recommendations.

Estimated price

Kilimanjaro
PH: Constantine Congema

Estimated price for a Kilimanjaro summit tour is rounding USD $2500-1700 per person. These prices vary on group size and duration of the tour. They include accommodation, food and entrance fees, but don’t include airfare. Additionally, suggested tips per group are:  $15-20 day for guides, $10-12 day for assistant guides, $10-12 day cooks, $6-10 day porter.

Other attractions in the area

Kilimanjaro
By A_Peach from Berlin, Germany (Coming down from up high)

Tanzania is a beautiful country to explore, and as such you should not miss the chance to visit some other gorgeous spots in the area. At explore-share we suggest:

Kikuletwa Hotsprings- after finding freedom at Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru, go on an excursion to the breathtaking Kikuletwa hotsprings and rest your weary bones under the shade of beautiful fig trees.

Materuni Waterfall– One of the longest waterfalls near Moshi. Plus, comes with a hike though some homesteads, plus the possibility of touring a coffee plantation and tasting banana wine. A must!

Lake Chala– dating back 250,000 years, this stunning lake at the border of Kenya and Tanzania is a beautiful landmark just 8km away from Kilimanjaro and though not necessarily safe to swim in due to the crocodiles that inhabit it, well worth the visit. You can also camp in the area.

Take a look at our guides’ offer for mountain climbing trips to Kilimanjaro and start planning! Not convinced? Then read this happy account of one of our client’s  killer “Kili” experience!

Hiking in Corsica: the Epic GR20 and other Hiking Routes

Touring the eclectic and isolated beauty of Corsica is a life-changing experience. From the deep-rooted history of its culture-rich cities to the plentiful peaks of ancient granite, this island paradise has established a particularly alluring reputation for worldwide travelers with a flair for adventure. The French territory is the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean Sea, located off the southwestern coast of mainland France and west of the Italian Peninsula, with Sardinia sitting directly to its south.

There are a plethora of scenic hiking trails in Corsica, with trekkers and hikers from all across the globe flocking to its remote island wilderness. Programs for families and beginners who want to enjoy its culture and beauty are just as plentiful as the demanding routes for dedicated backpackers and seasoned veterans intent on defeating the most arduous and compelling topography in the Mediterranean.

It is an especially intriguing destination for its GR20 hiking trail. Among other fabulous routes crawling across the island, none can compare to Europe’s alleged most difficult hiking trail. Not only does it cover the entire island, it moves from shore to captivating shore through the unusual terrain that is unique to Corsica.

The citadel standing tall in Corse. Photo: Emma Jack.

Whether you are taking in the Mediterranean meadow-lands on the southern leg of the journey, maneuvering through the Aiguilles de Bavella and their thrilling granite spires, or admiring the surreal Lac de Nino and its pozzines, the GR20 is sure to leave a lasting impression of Corsica.

Location

The GR20 runs diagonally from the northwest to the southeast, splitting Corsica down the middle. The starting and finishing cities are relatively close to the coast, and the hike covers the varied landscape of the island every step of the way.

Calvi is a coastal city with ample accommodations within 13 kilometers of Calenzana, making it a natural point of entry for GR20 hikers and those scouring the north for great treks. In the southeast, Porto Vecchio is near the GR20 hub of Conca, and is a great place to start for eastern and southern hikes.

Cap Corse north of Bastia. Photo: Alex Duo des Cimes.

Larger cities, like the capital Ajaccio in the west, Bonifacio at the southern tip of the island, and Bastia in the northeast, are fantastic jumping off points for other memorable hikes, as well. They have unparalleled access to the coasts, and boat trips can make any excursion a more enjoyable affair. Anyone with a taste for rock climbing in Corsica can benefit from these spots.

Trek Distance

The trail is about 180 kilometers in total from Calenzana to Conca (or vice versa, depending on your starting point). While this can seem a daunting distance to undertake for any level of trekker, the GR20 can be broken down into smaller hikes, most notably the northern section from Calenzana to Vizzavona and the southern section from Vizzavona to Conca. There is no advantage to starting in the north or the south.

Because of its steep paths and rugged footfalls, the northern section is considered the more difficult portion of the trail. The stunning landscape in the north tends to be superior to that of its southern counterpart. This section features Cirque de la Solitude, a steep portion of chained climbing, and the serene Lac de Nino amidst quaint mountain meadows. If you have time to divert from the trail, Monte Cinto is a reasonable side trip that is certainly worth the effort.

Traversing the Mare e Monti Trail. Photo: Cedric Specia.

Not to be outdone, the southern part contains the amazing meadows of the Coscione Plateau with Monte Incudine (2,134m) towering over it. The less demanding trail also allows hikers and trekkers uncompromising opportunities to take in this fascinating island, with the evocative cliffs of Bavella awaiting you near the end of the trail.

Duration

For most adventurers taking part in this hike, it lasts about 15 days. This all depends on the weather, the strength and ability of the trekkers, and the personal objectives of the individuals. With the right mindset and preparation, a devoted backpacker could hustle through the course in five days. Most participants, however, take the time to appreciate the immaculate terrain, the exciting challenges, and the once-in-a-lifetime experience of conquering the most difficult hike in Europe.

Since the route is quite a sustained undertaking, it can be broken down into different segments. It is common to hike only part of the trail to make it a more personalized and manageable experience. There are tons of great GR20 hiking trips that include, some, part, or all of the route.

Across the Coscione Plateau. Photo: Julie Michel.

Accommodation

It is generally accepted that trekkers will stay at mountain refuges throughout the trek, with an option to camp near the huts should vacancy be limited. It is always a good idea to plan ahead and reserve your place at the huts. They can sleep anywhere from 25 hikers to 50, supplementing a stay with food and possibly supplies. Trekkers can expect to pay around €10 a night for a refuge and €5 a night to camp. Camping is available only in designated places near the huts and is not permitted along the trail itself.

Each day is considered a “stage,” so the route contains 15 stages. There are other options with regards to mountain huts and refuges, but the following is a guide when planning your way across the GR20:

  1. Calenzana – Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu
  2. Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu – Refuge de Carrozzu
  3. Refuge de Carrozzu – Refuge d’Asco Stagnu
  4. Refuge d’Asco Stagnu – Refuge Tighjettu
  5. Refuge Tighjettu – Refuge de Ciottulu di i Mori
  6. Refuge de Ciottulu di i Mori – Refuge de Manganu
  7. Refuge de Mananu – Refuge de Pietra Piana
  8. Refuge de Pietra Piana – Refuge de l’Onda
  9. Refuge de l’Onda – Vizzavona
  10. Vizzavona – Bergeries de Capannelle
  11. Bergeries de Capannelle – Refuge de Prati
  12. Refuge de Prati – Refuge d’Usciolu
  13. Refuge d’Usciolu – Refuge d’Asinao
  14. Refuge d’Asinao – Refuge de Paliri
  15. Refuge de Paliri – Conca
Pristine mountain lakes along the GR20. Photo: Emma Jack.

Getting there

The two most popular ways to get to the island are by air and sea. Flying into one of the two larger hubs, Ajaccio or Bastia, are common and easier to plan. For any travelers who are taking their time while heading to the trail, this is a reasonable option and even allows for trekkers to explore different areas and hikes on the island.

Hikers who wish to start the trail in Calenzana can fly into the Sainte Catherine Airport in the northwest corner of the island. It is roughly 13 kilometers from the trailhead, and about seven kilometers to the coastal city of Calvi. There is no public transportation service from the airport, so hang on to a few Euros to pay for a taxi.

For southern trekkers, flying into the Figari South Corsica Airport – about a 44-kilometer drive from Conca – is also possible. There are phenomenal destinations in the area, like Bonifacio in the south or Porto-Vecchio on the way, that have incredible views of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Mediterranean.

Sunset over the Corsican Mountains. Photo: Emma Jack.

There is ferry service to Calvi in the north and Porto Vecchio in the south. Passengers can enjoy a delightful boat ride from mainland European countries that most definitely enhances the aesthetic pleasures of the trip.

Physical Condition / Difficulty

The beauty of the GR20 lies within its exciting challenges. The gorgeous Corsican countryside abounds with heart-pumping trails that should be taken seriously. Previous experience hiking and trekking – and even mountaineering – is an invaluable asset. Participants will be trekking roughly six or seven hours a day, including elevation changes over difficult terrain.

For the most part, the route itself is clearly marked, but being comfortable with route finding and navigating is beneficial along the GR20. Some of the northern areas have more technical portions that occasionally come equipped with ladders and chains for assistance.

Gulf of Porto with the family. Photo: Alex Duo des Cimes.

Having the mental fortitude to complete the trek is often one of the most difficult obstacles for participants along the trail. It is important to prepare for the mental duration of the route to complement the physical requirements to safely complete the GR20.

Weather

The best time to hike the on the GR20 and in Corsica is within the summer months, taking advantage of the comfortable Mediterranean climate. The conditions from June all the way through October are the most favorable for the sustained trek, though the throngs may hit the trail during July and August. If you wanted to avoid the crowds, consider early- or late-season hikes – the temperatures are milder during June, September, and October.

The temperature is generally pleasant, with average temperatures (in Celsius) in the 20s. While hikers can expect sunny and dry days, the weather can be unpredictable. Storms are common and tend to be more frequent at higher altitudes. It is reasonable to add an extra day or two to a trip for inclement weather.

Fog in the mountains. Photo: Cedric Specia.

Other Hiking Routes in Corsica

While the GR20 dominates the central landscape of the island, Corsica has impeccably enchanting hikes of all shapes and sizes. The western coast of the island is full of wonderful routes, including Mare e Monti.

Traversing this region is a great way for intermediate trekkers to stay busy with captivating challenges and unforgiving beauty, scouting places like the Gulf of Porto – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and the Scandola Reserve. Check out this timeless trip that covers all of this and even includes a bit of the GR20. Keep an eye out for the Calanques de Piana, the iconic red cliffs in the Gulf of Porto.

Cap Corse at the northeastern tip of the island is a remarkable region to hike. From Bastia to the Agriates Desert to the high ridges with views of the Alps, there are several hikes in this island corner abound. Some journeys even feature a jaunt to the vineyard for an exclusive tasting of tasty regional wines.

One of the many pure lakes of the GR20. Photo: Emma Jack.

Destinations that you just can’t miss include Restonica Valley with its unforgettable mountain lakes and Bonifacio, at the southern tip of the island, with its extraordinary citadel. The beaches also have the varied landscape the island is known for, so surprising adventures are always within reach.

Hiking adventures can even combine canyoning trips to add an extra level of excitement to your program!

What are you waiting for? Book a trek now and explore the never-ending beauty of an iconic island!

The coast of Corsica is straight out of a dream. Photo: Emma Jack.

Traverse an entire island by grabbing a guide and hiking the illustrious GR20! Or check out one of the many other hiking trails on the incomparable island of Corsica and discover the magic in the middle of the Mediterranean!

Hiking the Ausangate Trail in Peru: Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Cost

The Ausangate trek is a 70-kilometer looping hike through some of the most beautiful scenery and highest peaks of the Peruvian Andes.

Over the course of roughly one week, you will hike through some of the wildest and most remote areas in Peru. Along the way you will pass over mountain ridges, descend into alpine valleys, hike along the shores of glacial lakes and explore native Peruvian villages.

You will also get to see snow-capped peaks, ancient glaciers, some of Peru’s most rare and exotic wildlife and the stunning Rainbow Mountains of Vinicunca as you go. A number of guides also add the option of visiting Machu Picchu to the end of the trek, allowing you to cross yet another iconic site off of your bucket list.

One of the numerous views you get throughout the trek of its namesake, Ausangate Peak. Photo courtesy of Quique Apolinario Villafan.

Here are 8 tips for you to consider before you start planning for this once-in-a-lifetime mountaineering adventure!

1. Routes and duration

The standard route usually takes about six days and is fairly strenuous due to the high altitude at which you will be hiking.

However, there are a number of variations depending on your physical fitness and how long you want to travel. Some guides offer single-day treks along parts of the trail and others include it as part of larger itinerary of the whole region.

2. Starting point and distance

Alpacas are one of the many local specimens of fauna you may encounter along the way. Photo courtesy of Adner Choqqe Lique.

The Ausangate trail begins and ends in the village of Tinqui. The whole loop, which circumnavigates Mount Ausangate is about 70 kilometers in distance. Over the course of this distance, you generally will be hiking between 4.000 and 5.000 meters above sea level with some sections exceeding 5.000 m. The overall elevation gain for the trek is about 2.800 meters.

3. Required physicality and difficulty

Due to the high altitude at which this trek takes place, it is considered fairly difficult. The Ausangate trail is not appropriate for first time trekkers. However, if you are a strong walker and completed moderate treks before, you should be fine.

All participants should be in good shape before making this trek and should also arrive in Cusco a few days before they plan to begin in order to properly acclimatize. Many guided treks will include days for acclimatization at the beginning of the itinerary.

Weather conditions and acute mountain sickness are two things that all trekkers should be aware of before they begin. Weather conditions in the higher altitudes can change quickly and even in the dry season, storms are not uncommon.

Acute mountain sickness is also something that may affect you at the higher altitudes of this trek. A certified guide will be aware of this and build all the necessary precautions into any itinerary.

4. Accommodation along the way

Over the course of this 1-week journey, you will hike over mountain passes, through alpine valleys and past sky-blue glacial lakes. Photo courtesy of Bruno Beauvais.

The most common practice for this trek is camping in tents along the way. However, some guides offer the trip as a hut-to-hut trek, allowing you to stay in basic lodges each night.

5. Best time to go and weather

The best time for this trek is during Peru’s dry season, which runs from May to September. Of these months, July and August generally have the warmest temperatures and best weather. The conditions are usually good enough in April and October too, but the nights will be much colder.

This trek is both long and remote, so even during peak months there should not be much traffic on the trails.

6. Equipment

  • Trekking poles
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Sunglasses and sun hat
  • Warm hat
  • Trekking pants
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Fleece jacket or windbreaker
  • Gloves
  • Hiking boots and socks
  • Backpack capable of carrying and distributing 15 kilograms of weight
  • Water bottle
  • Sleeping bag for up to -5°C and insulated sleeping mat
  • Headlamp and flashlight
  • Toiletries
  • Camera and extra batteries
  • High-energy snacks

7. Estimated costs

Even during the peak of the high season, the Ausagate trail is never busy, allowing you to enjoy peace and solitude throughout the trek. Photo courtesy of Adner Choqqe Lique.

The estimated cost of the traditional, 1-week trek is about $600 USD per person. This is likely (but not guaranteed) to include guide fees, camping equipment, all meals during the trip, transportation to the beginning of the trip and luggage transfer during the trip.

It is likely NOT to include flights or accommodations before and after the trip.

8. What to do in the surrounding area

The region of Peru surrounding Cusco offers numerous activities for adventurers. For one, it is the base point for just about every guided tour of Machu Picchu. It is also right nearby the Salkantay trail, which is one of Peru’s other world-renowned trekking routes.

Here you can check all the different options for guided hiking trips starting from Cusco.

Rainbow mountain is listed one of National Geographic’s top places to see before you die.

So what are you waiting for? Begin planning your adventure-of-a-lifetime, trekking along the Ausangate trail right now!