Alpine Style on Kilimanjaro

On July 17, 2019 by keirobyn

[July 2019] Zoë and I climbed Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet) from July 11-15th, 2019.  It’s taken me several years to come to terms with the considerable cost of doing so, and to figure out how to make it a bit cheaper.  I hate the idea of hiking and camping with tons of support (people), but Zoë was keen to climb, which I thought was very cute and I figured out how to do it with a bit less support than normal.

We climbed the Marangu Route, because this route has huts, which means a lot less gear to carry with you.  (Tents, mats, toilet tents, mess tents etc..).  It’s also a lot warmer!

I also went for the 5 day option, which is the minimum. I had met others that had done this route, so I became reasonably confident that we could do it.  Almost everything you read on the internet and in Lonely Planet strongly discourages you from doing any less than 6 days.  For example, this website ( says that 5 day routes only have a 27% success rate. Based upon our experience, this seems like nonsense.  We had relatively little difficulty and most people we were trekking with made it to the top.  It seems to me the true success rate must be much higher than 50%.   But, who knows?

A 6th day is usually an ‘acclimatization’ day.  However, that’s a lot of time on the mountain (too much for me) and each day is very expensive!  I’m not sure it’s for everyone, but it worked for us.

However, we did both take diamox (altitude sickness pills. I gave 12 year old Zoë a half dose every 12 hours).  We also live in Nairobi at a bit of altitude (5400 feet), which must help.  Finally, we spent a few days at in a banda at 10,000 feet in the Aberdares for the 3 days before our Kili climb.  We drove straight from the Aberdares to the start of our trek (in 1 day), dropping Robyn off in Nairobi.  Not sure any of these precautions helped, but maybe….

Travel Tips

  • Almost everyone does full service trips, which basically start at $2000 and go way north of that.  Perhaps a bit less if you are in a large group.  However, you can do it for less.  I managed to organize it for $2000 for both Zoë and I.  It could be done for yet cheaper if you got a few more people together (to share the costs of the guides) and/or carried your own equipment (no porter).
  • The Marangu Route avoids the need for a lot gear, making the trip easier and cheaper.
  • It is challenging to find an operator that will help you organize anything less than a full service trip.  However, the Marangu Hotel (recommended in Lonely Planet), will do so. The Marangu Hotel calls this ‘the Hard Way’, although for the most part is just means you don’t have a cook (and save at least $500 per person).  I’m sure a bit of research would reveal other operators willing to help.
  • We encountered one hiker who arranged their hike the day before in Moshi.  Their operator allowed them to hike with a cook and 1 guide, but no porters at all!  He carried his own equipment, which is totally reasonable if you have any backpacking experience.  The entire hike is actually quite easy, except for the summit day, when you are not carrying your own stuff until you go down the Mountain.
  • Zoë (my daughter) was 12 and had almost no problems.  Park fees for under 16 are about $450 vs $700 for me.  The minimum age is 10.  We heard stories of other children hiking the mountain, but for the 5 days we were there, we encountered about 500 hikers but no one else who looked to be under 15.
  • Electronics and tech:  if you want to go without them more power to you.  However, I used kindles, USB chargeable headlamps, my phone camera, and gaia.  Black and white kindles have way longer battery life than the Kindle Fire. is great – it works offline and has all the hiking routes.  Gaia is great for creating a track of your route and telling you your altitude (a watch that can do this is also nice.)  I brought a solar panel to charge the electronics, but it turns out that the lower and middle huts have plugs in the dining areas.  (so bring your adaptor).  However, the panel was helpful at Kibo Huts.
  • There are restrooms and indoor tables at each of the huts. Water is available at the lower and middle huts, but not the top huts (your porters will carry up some water for you).
  • No disposable water bottles are allowed in the park, so bring a couple nalgene bottles or something similar.
  • Layers are key, as the temperature changes drastically every time a cloud moves.
  • I  recommend bringing walking poles or picking up a local, free one at Marangu hotel. I’m generally a skeptic of carrying anything that is not 100% necessary, but I was glad I had one pole.

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