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MOUNT KILIMANJARO FOR SENIOR HIKE: CLIMBING WHEN YOU’RE OVER 50

Mount Kilimanjaro for senior hike is a popular adventure for older individuals who are physically fit and looking for a challenge. Despite its towering height of 19,341 feet, Kilimanjaro is a non-technical climb, meaning it doesn’t require specialized mountaineering skills or equipment, making it accessible for seniors. However, it’s essential to be in good health, have a high level of fitness, and take time to acclimatize to the altitude. Mount Kilimanjaro offers guided hikes with porters and cooks, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro as a senior hiker over 50 is definitely possible and many people in this age group have successfully reached the summit. It’s essential to consider a few factors to ensure a safe and enjoyable climb.

Physical Preparation: As you age, your body undergoes natural changes that can affect your physical abilities. It’s crucial to train and condition yourself before embarking on the climb. Focus on exercises that improve your cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility. Hiking uphill and down, as well as incorporating strength training and stretching, can help prepare your body for the demands of climbing Kilimanjaro.

Acclimatization: The higher you climb, the lower the oxygen levels in the air. As a senior hiker, it’s essential to allow your body time to acclimatize to the changing altitudes. This can be achieved by taking rest days or descending to lower elevations if you experience any symptoms of altitude sickness.

Guided Tours: Consider joining a guided tour with experienced guides who have knowledge of the mountain and can provide support and assistance if needed. This can be especially helpful for senior hikers who may need extra guidance or assistance during the climb.

Insurance: Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage that includes emergency evacuation and medical expenses in case of an unexpected situation.

Mental Preparation: Climbing Kilimanjaro can be a challenging and mentally demanding experience. It’s essential to prepare yourself mentally by setting realistic goals, building confidence, and focusing on your strengths.

Best Time to Climb: The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is during the dry seasons, from December to early March and June to October. This will minimize the risk of bad weather and make the climb more comfortable.

Kilimanjaro for Seniors

ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS THAT KILIMANJARO SENIORS SHOULD TAKE WHEN ATTEMPTING TO SUMMIT MOUNT KILIMANJARO?

MEDICAL CHECKS

A trek on Mount Kilimanjaro is likely to cause considerable strain on your internal systems, so it can be a good idea to seek medical advice before considering such an undertaking. We strongly recommend medical checks for people in high and medium-risk categories …

HIGH RISK 

The following people are considered to be at high risk on Mount Kilimanjaro

… men over 60
… women over 65
… anyone with previous heart or respiratory problems.

If you fall into this category then we urge you to take a full medical before even considering whether to trek and then a further medical a couple of weeks before the trek. You must please advise us of your senior age when making a reservation so that we might tailor our service on the mountain accordingly.

MEDIUM RISK

The following people are considered to be at medium risk on Mount Kilimanjaro

… men over 40
… women over 50

If you fall into this category then you are advised to have a full medical a couple of weeks before the trek.

Disclaimer

This information is given as a general recommendation only and does not constitute medical advice. It’s up to you to determine whether you’re in a fit condition appropriate for undertaking a trek of this nature. If in doubt please consult a fully qualified medical practitioner.

OLDEST PERSON TO CLIMB KILIMANJARO – ALL OF THE OFFICIAL CANDIDATES 

Let’s take a closer look at all of the individuals who garnered the official title of the oldest person to climb Kilimanjaro – from the current record holder to the very first record breaker in this category:

Anne Lorimor (89 years old) – 12 July 2019

The oldest woman – and oldest person overall – to climb Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 meters; 19,340 feet) in Tanzania is Anne Lorimor (USA, b. 11 June 1930), who reached Uhuru Peak at 3.14 p.m. local time on 18 July 2019, aged 89 years 37 days. Lorimor and seven others set out on 12 July and scaled Kilimanjaro on the Rongai Route – the only route that approaches the mountain from the north – led by guide Elibahati Mamuya; the group returned on the Marangu Route. The round trip from base to summit to base took nine days. Lorimor completed the climb unassisted, with no oxygen or artificial aids.

Angela Vorobeva (86 years old) – 29 October 2015

This was the second time that the great-grandmother from Arizona, USA, had summitted Kilimanjaro in her 80s, having already scaled Africa’s tallest mountain when she was 85; in the same year, however, her record was surpassed by Angela Vorobeva (Russia, b. 4 February 1929), who reached the “Roof of Africa” aged 86 years 267 days on 29 October 2015.

Dr. Fred Distelhorst (88years old) – 20 July 2017

The oldest man to climb Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 meters; 19,340 feet) in Tanzania is Fred Distelhorst (USA, b. 21 January 1929), who reached the summit via the Rongai Route at 9.33 a.m. local time on 20 July 2017 aged 88 years 180 days. He made the climb as part of a group (including his granddaughter Ellen Edgerton) and four local guides; Fred made use of supplementary oxygen for the final stage of the ascent. The entire expedition took six days, four days of which for the ascent and two for the descent.

Kilimanjaro for Seniors

Mount Kilimanjaro questions and answers

 

DO YOU WANT AN  EASIER ROUTE?

I must add here that NO route on Kilimanjaro is easy, just that some are classified as “easier” than others. This is due to the amount of altitude gained in a day compared to the distance traveled. On a route such as Marangu, on day 2 you do 12km and climb around 1000m. Compare this to the Umbwe route where you do 1000m gain in just 7km. Ultimately, what this means is that routes such as Umbwe, Machame, and Lemosho tend to be steeper. This leaves you with Rongai, Northern Route, and Marangu.

DO YOU MIND STAYING IN TENTS?

If staying in tents is something you want to avoid at all costs, then your option is limited to the Marangu route. Marangu is the only route on Kilimanjaro where you can stay in shared dormitory-style huts.

DO YOU NEED YOUR WI-FI?

If you are in contact with the rest of the world while you climb, to post your pictures and Instagram your day, then Marangu is your best option. While you can pick up intermittent signals on all other routes, the signal towers are installed along Marangu.

ARE YOU AFRAID OF HEIGHTS AND STEEP DROP-OFFS?

If this is the case and the thought of scrambling up the side of a rocky area leaves you quivering in your boots, then it is best to avoid any route that uses the Baranco wall. This includes Umbwe, Lemosho, and Machame Routes.

DO YOU WANT A QUIET ROUTE WHERE YOU DON’T SEE MANY OTHER PEOPLE?

If you prefer your quiet open spaces without many folks around you, then there are several options. The quietest route overall is the Northern circuit or the Lemosho-Northern variant. The Northern route is by far the quietest, followed by the Rongai route.  The Umbwe route is also seldom used but if you want to avoid a steep route, then best to avoid this one too.

ARE YOU LOOKING FOR SCENERY?

If you are looking for some of the best scenery on Kilimanjaro, then our advice is to do the Machame or Lemosho route. Machame heads off in a southwesterly direction before turning in an easterly direction at Shira and finally approaches the summit from the west. Lemosho starts on the far western side of the mountain and requires a lengthy transfer of around 4 hours to get to the Park Gate. It is also a much longer approach with a longer period being spent in the rain forest and also a very tough day trek to get up to Shira Camp I. It then joins up with Machame near Lava Tower and follows the same route to the summit.

DO YOU WANT TO EXPERIENCE THE FORESTS?

Many people often believe that if they choose Northern Circuit or Rongai, they won’t get to see much forest. There is indeed only a tiny section of forest on Rongai, however, on both routes, you will get to experience the forest on the descent. These are just a few pointers and I hope that they help you narrow down your route of choice.

ARE THERE ANY AGE RESTRICTIONS FOR THOSE WANTING TO CLIMB MOUNT KILIMANJARO?

Unlike many other adventures, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro has no age restrictions. This means that as long as you are physically fit and have the determination to reach the summit, you can embark on this incredible expedition. Whether you’re in your 20s or your 70s, the mighty Kilimanjaro welcomes adventurers of all ages with open arms.

Is Kilimanjaro a technical climb?

No. Kilimanjaro is a trekking peak in that you essentially hike or trek to the summit. No technical expertise is required, nor the use of rope, etc. There are sections on the mountain that require a scramble up rocky areas, depending  on which trekking path you follow

 How long does it take to climb Mount Kilimanjaro? 

The shortest number of days required to climb to Uhuru Peak is on a 5-day Marangu route, a total of 7 by the time you have added on arrival and departure days. However, it is not advisable to do it over 5 as the ascent is very quick and the overall success rate, is low. It is better to do the trek over a minimum of 6 or 7 days to increase your chances of success.

Where do we get water from at camps? 

There are several streams on the trail and porters will collect water from them. The cook then boils this water for you to fill your water bottles for your day’s hike. You can also use purifier tablets in stream water or add it to your boiled water however it can also have an effect on the diamox and make you feel nauseous. The higher you climb the less water there is. On the Machame trail, for example, the last water point is at the Karanga Valley, the lunch stop before Barafu; on Marangu, it’s just before the Saddle. For this reason, you must carry enough bottles for at least two liters.

 How fit do I need to be for Climbing Kilimanjaro?

Although Kilimanjaro is classified as a ‘ trek,’ it has a very fast altitude gain.   Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro requires physical fitness training stamina and most importantly, mental fitness training. Your legs will get you up the first 4-5 days but for your summit night, mental strength will get you to the top – (assuming of course that you are not affected by altitude, sickness, or pure fatigue). A good exercise and training program is essential. The climb should not be undertaken lightly, after all, why spend the money if you are not willing to prepare yourself physically as well

Do I need to undergo specific medical tests? 

This depends on the operator you travel through. The parks Kilimanjaro Park Authority do not ask for any medical information on the climbers when permits are purchased. Some operators request the clients complete a medical form, others do not. We require that all of our clients complete a medical form and based on the answers, we may request a letter from your medical practitioner. People suffering from conditions such as severe asthma e.g. should not climb. Regardless, anyone attempting the climb, or any climb for that matter, should ensure that they are medically fit, and convey any medical conditions to the operator they book with.

How will the altitude affect me on Kilimanjaro?

This is one of the most often asked questions – “How will I cope with the altitude”. To be honest, this is an ‘ unknown’ factor as no one can predict how your body will cope at Kilimanjaro altitude. People who have been to altitude many times in the past without problems, may on one climb suddenly develop problems. Many factors play a role. The only way to help combat this is to take all of the necessary precautions and walk slowly. Choosing a path like Machame where you get to follow the principle of “climb high, sleep low” is also advisable.

What gear do I need on Kilimanjaro?

Certain essentials are needed for most climbs and Kilimanjaro is no different.  The best way to draw up your list is from the base up, i.e. thermal underwear, then hands and feet (gloves, socks, etc.). Then boots which must be waterproof with good ankle support, trekking pants, trekking tops, short and long sleeves, thermal jacket, outer shell jacket which likewise is windproof and waterproof, hat, scarf, beanie, and balaclava. Then consider sleeping, i.e. sleeping bag, mat, etc. Most companies supply sleeping mats so check before you buy one. Then, the last items to add are personal items like toiletries, cameras, medicines, water bottles, backpacks, cameras, etc.                        

Most companies will supply you with a comprehensive list for your trek, as do we. If you arrive in Kilimanjaro and are missing items, you can normally rent most gear. Do not, however, rely on buying your gear on arrival

What if I have to turn back?

Unfortunately, this is something every trekker has to consider.  Anything from a stomach bug to altitude sickness can quickly stop a trekker in their tracks. If you are ill and need to turn back or even too tired to continue,  a porter will walk off the mountain with you and your gear. If you are too sick to walk, then part of your fee includes evacuation by teams already on the mountain and employed by the park authorities

 Do I need climbing insurance?

Yes, you do. We (Mount Kilimanjaro Guide ) do not allow anyone to climb with us unless they have adequate travel insurance. Adequate, means you must be covered for                        

1) trekking or hiking – this may sound strange, but many insurance lists that as an exclusion.                          

2) altitude up to 6,000 meters. Most travel insurance providers do not include this under their standard option and often limit it to 3500m or less.

3) Sprains strains and physiotherapy – yes, many insurers exclude this, though ironically, this is what you will most likely need cover for.

4) personal accident – this is the horrible part of insurance. Yes, you need to be covered in the case of death. We are often told by clients – “if anything happens to me, just leave me there.” Bodies need to be brought home or laid to rest overseas, and this can run into thousands of dollars, creating a huge burden on family members.                            

What are the routes on Kilimanjaro and how do I choose one?

There are 7 summit routes; namely, Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Shira, Umbwe, and Machame. Of all, Machame is by far the most scenic albeit steeper path up the mountain. The Rongai is the easiest camping route and the Marangu is also easier but accommodation is in huts. As a result,  it tends to be very busy, and ascent and descent are the same. Both of the latter have lower prospects of acclimatizing by the climb high sleep low principle unless one adds on extra days. The Northern Circuit, approaches Kibo Volcano from the west, crossing the caldera of Shira Volcano before turning north to follow the trail through Moir Valley and around the northern side of Kilimanjaro.   For a quick overview, we have a quick reference panel on the right of the screen. For a detailed look, click on  Kilimanjaro Trekking Routes.

How much does it cost to climb Kilimanjaro?

The Kilimanjaro National Park fees are something that nobody can escape and are a large portion of your climb cost. For a six-day/five-night camping trek you pay about $800 in fees alone!  So on average, a climb will cost you between $2000 and $7000 depending on the number of days, number of people, and the route that you take. Some operators will quote you $1000 for a trek – ask yourself, what are they skimping on and who is going to suffer as a  result? You? Your safety? The porters?

What Is Included In The Mount Kilimanjaro Trek Price?

We include all guiding services, camping gear, and meals, plus private transport to and from the mountain. Entry fees and camping fees are always included too, though priced separately

What Is NOT Included In The Mount Kilimanjaro Trek Price?

Not included are airport transfers, hotels before or after the trek (unless on one of our group treks, which includes one night in a lodge before the trek), air evacuation services, evacuation insurance, emergency transport expenses, any additional transport or overnights in lodges if you descend early, or tips

What If I Don’t Have Anyone To Climb With Me?

We arrange treks from just 1 person on their own with a guide and porters to large groups. If you climb alone you will still get to meet other people on the mountain if you are sociable.

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Josephat Mashehe is a seasoned Kilimanjaro guide who offers his expertise to those looking to conquer Africa's highest peak. With years of experience under his belt, Josephat provides comprehensive guidance, ensuring a safe and memorable journey for adventurers. His services include detailed planning, safety measures, and on-site assistance, making him an invaluable asset for anyone aiming to tackle the challenging climb of Mount Kilimanjaro.
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