Climbing Kilimanjaro in February

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of November 6-12, 1997
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Climbing Kilimanjaro in February
Question: Is February a good time of year to climb Mount Kilimanjaro? What is the best route to use? A travel company is offering treks on the Marangu and Machame routes. Any assistance is much appreciated.

Steven Moe
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Adventure Adviser: February is one of the most recommended months to climb Kilimanjaro. Right in the middle of a Tanzanian summer, it will be much warmer at high altitudes with less snow to battle.

February is also the last summer month before the rainy season sets in. Once March and April hit, you'll be sliding in mud up to your eyeballs.

As for routes, the most crowded by far is the Marangu route, otherwise known as the Coca-Cola route. Not only is it the most touristed, but it only takes three days to complete, which means you will not be able to properly acclimatize.

In fact, of the people who take this route, more than half don't make it to the summit. If you can only choose between the Marangu and Machame routes, I'd choose the Machame route.

However, I think the best way to climb the mountain is the Shira Plateau Route. It follows the western flank of Kilimanjaro, far from the maddening crowd. Plus the route takes six days to summit, which gives you ample time to acclimatize.

The only problem is you'll have more difficulty finding an outfitter who offers the Shira Plateau Route. American companies Wilderness Travel (800-368-2794), Geographic Expeditions (800-777-8183), and Mountain Madness (800-328-5925) all offer trips along the Shira Plateau route. You may want to inquire further with each company.

Finally, one last bit of food for thought. Though Kilimanjaro is a relatively benign mountain to climb compared to many others, it still isn't easy. Be prepared for altitude sickness, bouts of freezing temperatures, and extreme heat at the lower elevations.

You should also plan to train by doing some serious cardiovascular work, as well as deep knee lunges to prepare for the brutal trip down the mountain after you've summitted.

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