Climbing For Christ


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Gary Fallesen

Guide to Kilimnajaro

About the mountain: Mount Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania near the border of Kenya, about 330 kilometers (205 miles) south of the equator. Kilimanjaro is a massif that measures 60 kilometers (37 miles) by 40 kilometers (25 miles). It consists of three extinct volcanoes: Kibo (5,895 meters/19,340 feet), Mawanzi (5,149 meters/16,893 feet), and Shira (3,962 meters/12,999 feet). Due to its proximity to the equator and the Indian Ocean and because of its height, Kilimanjaro features five ecological zones: lower slopes, montane forest zone, heath and moorland zone, alpine desert zone, and arctic zone. It is like climbing from the equatorial rain forest to the North Pole in the span of as few as 16 miles.

Routes: There are a half-dozen forest and moorland approach routes – Marangu, Mweka, Umbwe, Machame, Shira Plateau, and Rongai. These routes all begin below 6,000 feet and ascend to between 11,500 and 14,800 feet, where they connect with the South Circuit Path. The South Circuit Path takes climbers to one of three “easy” routes to the summit: the Normal Route (connected to Marangu and Rongai), the Barafu Route (Machame, Mweka, and Umbwe), or the Western Breach Route. (Note: The Western Breach Route was closed in January 2006 when rock fall on Arrow Glacier killed two American climbers and seriously injured a guide. The route remained closed during this climbing season.) Technical mountaineers can also choose other routes up the southern glaciers: Heim, Kersten, and Decken. Ascents take from five to seven days. Allow more time to acclimatize, improving your chances to summit and allowing you to soak in the many sights. See guidebooks such as Kilimanjaro & East Africa: A Climbing and Trekking Guide by Cameron M. Burns (The Mountaineers Books, Second Edition, 2006) for route details.

Cost: From North America, it will cost anywhere from $4,000 to $5,000 to make this climb, including airfare, outfitter expenses, and other fees. Guides and porters are required on Kilimanjaro. Porters should be paid a salary of $4.80 to $6.40 per day with a tip of about the same amount. This is a good wage in a country where the average annual income is an estimated $800. The Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project urges climbers to limit each porter’s load to 25 kilograms (55 pounds).

Tip: It can be extremely cold on summit day. Temperatures for the 2007 Climbing For Christ team began just below freezing but dropped to single digits with windchills estimated at minus-10 or colder. Although outfitters tell you not to bring crampons it has been our experience in two climbs on Kilimanjaro that these can and should be used.

Popularity: The popularity of the mountain has grown from about 6,000 climbers attempting the peak in 1982 to nearly 20,000 reaching the summit during this December-through-February climbing season. With a success rate of 40-to-50 percent, as many as 40,000 to 50,000 may have visited the mountain earlier this year. Expect a crowd with lines forming on summit day and congestion through sections such as the scramble up the 1,000-foot-high Barranco Wall above the Barranco Hut (12,800 feet). Patience is a virtue on a peak where the theme is “pole pole” (slowly, slowly).

Equipment list:
  • Bible.
  • Daypack for you to carry with a rain cover. You will be carrying a daypack with only your items you will need for the day. The rest of your gear will be given to a porter, so it will need to be stowed in a backpack for them to load on their head or back.
  • Pack for porter to carry (can be a duffle). You can pack everything in plastic bags to keep gear dry.
  • Duffle Bag to leave items behind in Moshi. Pack light. Some items can be left in Moshi at the Springlands Hotel.
  • Hking Shoes: You will need a general purpose medium weight mountaineering boot. Be sure they are well broken in. (I also suggest you either wear or carry these on the plane with you. If your gear doesn't show up you can get substitutes for most things, but you'd want your own hiking shoes.)
  • Light shoes, sneakers or other travel shoes.
  • Gaiters (optional). Can help keep you warmer up higher.
  • Socks: 2-3 pair of wool or synthetic.
  • 2 fleece jackets or one jacket and one vest.
  • Shirts: 2 short sleeve and 1 long sleeve for trek. 1 or 2 for town and travel.
  • Pants: 1 pair long pants for the trek. 1 pair shorts for men (for in tent or hotel room). 1 long underwear top and bottom.
  • Toilet Paper: 1 roll.
  • Rain gear: Be sure this is a good quality like a Gore Tex top and bottom, your life may depend on it.
  • Personal cleaning items including a small bottle of hand sanitizer.
  • Water purification, tablets or filter. (I can bring a filter for you.)
  • Sun hat.
  • Sun screen and lip balm with sunscreen.
  • Pocket knife or multi-tool.
  • Sun glasses.
  • Sleeping bag: minimum 20-degree bag.
  • Sleeping pad (mat).
  • Water bottle.
  • Wind shell top and bottom.
  • Mitten with over-mitt.
  • Winter hat.
  • Trekking poles.
  • Pepto Bismol tablets. These are strongly recommended. Travel/time zone changes, eating at different times, and eating different food will make your stomach feel "off" (this is natural). Pepto Bismol will help settle your stomach.
  • Strongly recommended that you get a prescription from your doctor for a broad based antibiotic like Cipro that can be used to treat stomach aliments. Take Cipro as soon as you feel your stomach going bad. Also carry Imodium for diarrhea.
  • Diamox from your physician. Recommended at one 2 times-per-day starting one day prior to climbing. You will need about 16 pills at 250 mg.
  • Malaria pills.
  • Camera.
  • Photos of home to show children, 
  • Don't forget your passport!


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