Alpine Ascents on Kilimanjaro
“Of all the great guide services on Kilimanjaro, Alpine Ascents might be the best. Its success rate is close to 95%, and though its treks are longer and pricier, they avoid the jam-packed Marangu Route.” – Outside Magazine
Acclaimed by climbers, industry professionals, and media alike, Alpine Ascents provides a one-of-a-kind experience on Kilimanjaro. We employ a professional mountain guide from our Seattle-based staff on each trip. Your guide is generally one of our full-time Alpine Ascents mountaineering guides and adds an unmatched level of summit success and safety based on their broad range of climbing experience. Our guides are Kilimanjaro climbing experts first and foremost, but have an extensive mountaineering and wilderness medical background.
We have about a 95% TRUE success rate on Kilimanjaro (taking into account all climbers who begin an expedition).
We Offer Two Routes To Climb Kilimanjaro
Every one of our Kilimanjaro expeditions is led by an Alpine Ascents mountain guide.
The right route for you: why we recommend the 7 Day Machame or the 9 Day Lemosho (hint: the Lemosho and Machame are the same route from day 3 onward)
Choosing a route is not as complicated as some would have you believe. The 7 Day Machame route is the best of all worlds: Alpine Ascents, using a western guide, has an approximately 95% success rate. On our Machame trips, we build plenty of time to acclimatize into the itinerary. Some companies offer an 8 Day ‘Lemosho’ route, which is essentially the Machame route with an a different starting point (as the Lemosho becomes the Machame on Day 3). Outfits like to sell the 8 Day version of the Lemosho as it adds an extra day which can be nice, but it is far from necessary and is more expensive. However, since the extra camp is at a lower altitude, these 8 Day programs do not help with acclimatization.
This is why mountaineering-focused companies (as opposed to safari-focused companies) use the Machame route. That said, one might consider a longer 9 Day Lemosho route in order to spend a night at the crater rim after reaching the summit. Alpine Ascents route choices are described below.
The Machame Route – This has been our bread-and-butter Kilimanjaro climbing route over the last 30 years, traveling through five distinct ecosystems in seven days. This is the classic climb of Kilimanjaro with Alpine Ascents.
The Lemosho Route – Our nine-day Kilimanjaro climbing itinerary is geared toward the very fit trekker/climber with a chance to sleep at the crater rim after summit. Our Lemosho has an extra camp in the middle of the climb to help with acclimatization. This should not be confused with the eight-day Lemosho that many companies offer, which has no distinct advantage over the Machame.
It is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Every aspect of the hike was enjoyable, including food, lodging, and extracurricular activities. Our guide was a very effective communicator and was patient and well-experienced. They reviewed goals and plans every day, as well as expectations and possible worst-case scenarios. Great route, expedition crew, and lead guide. I cannot think of a legitimate weakness. – 2017 Kilimanjaro climber
The level of care from Tom and his local team was outstanding. The incredible logistics and coordination needed to pull it off are simply hard to imagine. Well done AAI. From a returning customer who was impressed many years ago, you’ve managed to get even better.
– 2017 Kilimanjaro climber
Most outfitters employ local African staff with relatively limited climbing and medical skills, and many are simply safari or trekking companies, as their name implies. In addition to providing a professional, US-based guide, we offer the utmost in quality of services that include chef-prepared meals, dining tents, and real toilet tents. This creates a unique blend of high-end luxury tour company and professional mountain guiding.
Alpine Ascents’ Success on Kilimanjaro:
We have been guiding Kilimanjaro for over 20 years with over 90% true summit success, touting one of the highest success and safety records in the industry. In recent years we have led over 1,000 people to the summit! (Some outfitters do not count all climbers in their statistics.)
We were just named one of the Top 40 Adventure Tour Outfitters in the World by Travel + Leisure, who highlighted our Kilimanjaro trip. We are proud to be the only climbing company chosen.
Ascending Kilimanjaro with a mountain climbing organization will greatly improve your chances of success, and we provide one of our Seattle-based guides to lead every scheduled expedition. Every trip is organized with the utmost care and quality: from our lead Western guide, to chef-prepared meals, to dining and toilet tents. We look to take care of all elements with great attention to detail.
Every one of our Kilimanjaro expeditions is led by an Alpine Ascents mountain guide.
Kilimanjaro, at 19,340 ft. is an extreme, high-altitude climb and is perhaps the most underestimated of the seven summits. You should be comfortable walking four to eight hours per day. Summit day is the most demanding portion of the climb, typically involving eight hours for the ascent, and six to seven hours for the descent. Our expeditions require strength and endurance. Being in sound physical condition is the single most important aspect for climbers to maximize their climbing potential. The better your physical condition, the more likely you are to perform well and have an enjoyable experience. The most frequent comment we have received over the years is that climbers have underestimated the fitness level needed to fully enjoy their trip. Additionally, inadequate fitness will affect the atmosphere, pace, and overall enjoyment of the climb for all participants. We highly recommend checking with your physician before undertaking any strenuous activity. Comprehensive training information can be found here.
Crowned by eternal snows, the mighty Kilimanjaro (19,340 ft.) is the highest free-standing mountain in the world and dominates its landscape unlike any other mountain. Located in Tanzania, this dormant volcano looms over five ecosystems and large game reserves, and is certainly one of the world’s most impressive sights. The terrain is nothing short of dramatic. As a mountaineering company, we treat this adventure as a mountain climbing expedition. We offer scheduled departures for two routes on the mountain: the Machame Route and the Lemosho Route.
Kilimanjaro is unique in many ways, but stands as the only one of the seven summits (the highest points on each continent) that is truly a nontechnical climb. Using well-marked trails to the summit along with our expert guide staff, a fit enthusiast has an excellent chance of reaching the summit. The combination of our expert guides, choice of routes, success and safety has set Alpine Ascents apart from our peers. We invite you to review the “Why Climb With Us?” section of our website.
Kilimanjaro is an attractive climb for anyone interested in a physical challenge: climbers, wilderness enthusiasts, and hikers alike. Over the past 20 years, we have emerged as a leader in guiding climbs on Kilimanjaro, applying expertise from other formidable mountains to the wilds of Africa. We consider the Kilimanjaro climb and safari expedition to be one of the most appealing and treasured adventure experiences we offer.
Following our climb, we begin a four-day safari to the spectacular game parks of Tanzania, Ngorongoro Crater, The Tarangire River and National Park, and Serengeti National Park. Throughout the safari, we lodge in luxurious hotels and travel by Land Cruiser across the Great Rift Valley, following wildebeests, lions and other indigenous wildlife. More details can be found in our Safari Overview page and on our Itinerary pages.
Absolutely! Everything — from general coordination and accommodations to small details like the flowers on the table in our dining tent — was amazing. No detail was overlooked and if there were ever issues of any kind, then they were handled by the guides because I was never aware of any concerns. Everything was top-notch. All of the guides were wonderful. John, especially, embodies a leader in all ways – but was also a teacher and brought out those skills and qualities in all of us. Not only did the guides lead and teach by example, but John especially is a teacher by nature and helped us see how to problem solve any issues on our own. I feel I learned a lot from all of the guides – Swahili, backpacking and climbing skills, nutrition/hydration, dealing with altitude, and general information about the mountain, Tanzania, the culture, etc. By the end, the entire crew felt like a big family. I still miss everyone! Everything was top of the line. I was amazed at the five-course meals we had all day long – and a snack pack every day! All of it was wonderful. The guys in the Gear Department were SO helpful and patient! Not only did they get me all of the rental gear I needed in plenty of time, but they also helped me pick out just the right items to purchase. I was glad to rent my gear prior to arrival in Tanzania, as I think the people who waited and rented in Arusha had some difficulties. AA does so much so well that it would be difficult to list all of the strengths! Clearly everything is well-organized and executed. Our group was the envy of the mountain! You have found some great guides and crew – so keep doing what you’re doing!
My expectations were not just met, they were exceeded – in fact, they were exceeded time and time again! The level of organization for the entire trip was outstanding, from being met at the airport through the summit and return!
This is our bread-and-butter Kilimanjaro climb over the last 20 years. This full, seven-day climb of Kilimanjaro greatly helps summit success and acclimatization, though some try to climb in five days. The Machame travels through five distinct ecoystems. This is the classic climb of Kilimanjaro with Alpine Ascents, with a western guide as the lead.
- Alpine Ascents’ classic Kilimanjaro climb as highlighted in the media over the last 20 years
- We travel through five distinct ecosystems and utilize some lesser used camps
- We have an over 90% success rate on this route
- For sheer beauty while traveling at a moderate pace this trip is unsurpassed
- This is truly a five-star trip with dining tents, commode toilet tents, chefs, and a very talented African staff
- Our trips are led by a member of the Alpine Ascents Kilimanjaro guide staff
Best for: Novices and more seasoned climbers alike. Trekkers should be fit and follow the training regimen, but no prior experience is needed on this nontechnical route. This is a near perfect entry into the world of high-altitude trekking as well as climbing.
Acclimatization: We utilize seven days to climb and descend Kilimanjaro, while some outfitters offer the Machame as a five- or six-day climb. A seven-day itinerary offers the best chance of acclimatizing and enjoying your journey, and includes more time to rest on the shorter days. Days 3 and 4 include important high points to acclimatize and rest before the move to High Camp on Day 5.
Lemosho Route with Crater Floor Camp
This nine-day itinerary is geared toward the very fit trekker/climber with a chance to sleep at the crater floor after summit. This is a more demanding route than the Machame, and climbers must acclimatize well to 18,600 ft. to use the crater floor camp (we will have a lower camp available). This is also a nontechnical climb but recommended for those with prior trekking and/or high-altitude experience. This trip is also led by one of our Seattle-based professional mountain guides, which is extremely important for a climb of this caliber.
- Begins at a more remote and less traveled route via the western approach, joining the Machame Route on Day 4
- Chance to sleep at crater rim
- Potential to explore the Furtwängler Glacier and northern ice field glaciers
- Walk to the rim of the ash pit and view the blowhole of the volcano
- Witness the sunset across the west from a high vantage point
- This is truly a five-star trip with dining tents, commode toilet tents, chefs, and a very talented African staff
Best for: Very fit adventurous trekker preferably with some high-altitude trekking experience as one must acclimatize well to sleep at a 18,600 ft. crater floor camp. (Lower camp available if needed.)
Acclimatization: The nine-day itinerary offers time to acclimatize and the opportunity to sleep at the crater floor camp.
Alpine Ascents Kilimanjaro Safari Locations
Following our climb we begin a four-day safari to the spectacular game parks of Tanzania. Throughout the safari, we lodge in luxurious hotels and travel by Land Cruiser across the Great Rift Valley, following wildebeests, lions and other indigenous wildlife.
The Ngorongoro Crater
The largest intact crater in the world and second largest extinct crater in the world, the area has a spectacular concentration of wildlife. Ngorongoro was an active volcano some eight million years ago whose cone collapsed, leaving a Crater. The Crater rim is wooded with mountain forest vegetation. It is oval in shape and 20 km in diameter. It is blooming in acres of flowers like blue, pink and white lupines, candle white lilies, blue hyacinth and many more. The view from the crater rim is breathtaking and descending deep into the belly of the crater will encounter almost every animal species found in east Africa.
The Tarangire River and National Park
South of Lake Manyara, Tarangire is a huge wildlife retreat during the dry season This park is scattered with baobab trees alternating with open acacia woodland open bush, plains, swamps and rivers and stands palm trees. Big game and birds are abundant and we usually sight animals such as kongoni, wildebeest and zebra. With any luck, safarists will also see rhino and leopard amongst a variety of gazelle, giraffe, elephant and impala. It also has extremely rich and varied bird-life.
Serengeti National Park
Tanzania’s signature park, covers nearly 15,000 square miles and spans into Kenya where it connects to the Masai Mara reserve. The word Serengeti conjures images of wild African game in all its glory. The abundance of animals running at will, creates an overwhelming experience and fulfills the dream of life before the “great white hunters”. The sheer mass of animals is both staggering and long remembered.
Alpine Ascents Climb Kilimanjaro Frequently Asked Questions
Upon sign up we will forward our famed, comprehensive confirmation package. This package will include all of the details for your trip.
Note: we do not offer an eight-day Lemosho as we feel this is a poor choice for most climbers because the route intersects with the Machame Route on Day 3.
All of our Kilimanjaro climbs avoid the two rainy seasons in Tanzania: the “long rains” in April and May and the “short rains” from late October through November. It is important to understand, however, that weather on Kilimanjaro is as changeable and unpredictable as mountain weather all over the world is. Some light rain is virtually constant in the lower sections of the mountain throughout the year, but it might dry out on any given day or week. And the upper reaches of the mountain, which are quite arid, can see passing rain or snow storms at any time of year.
Even though it is only about three degrees south of the equator, Northern Tanzania has surprisingly variable temperatures through different times of the year. July and August are generally referred to as “winter” by the locals, and it is the coolest time of the year in Nairobi and Arusha. Nighttime lows are typically about 48 degrees F, and daytime highs might only be in the high 60’s or 70’s. You are probably thinking these sound like very pleasant temperatures, and you are right. We tell people, “if you leave the US in the summer months and travel to East Africa, you are going to a cooler climate.” This is surprising to most people, but very true. Safari, and the time you spend in Arusha during these months, can be wonderful in terms of weather – never as hot and steamy as you probably imagine tropical Africa to be. Similarly, if you are on a trip during our winter, you will find the weather to be as much influenced by altitude as latitude. It is warmer in December or February, but it is still not extremely humid or hot.
The above description is for the lower elevations. It gets very different on the upper reaches of the mountain. Talk to anyone who has climbed Kilimanjaro at any time of the year, and they will probably comment about how cold they got on summit day. This has more to do with the mild hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and the exertion that climbers experience, than it has to do with temperatures, or even wind. When you go to 19,000 ft., anywhere on the earth, at any time of year, you need to have very efficient insulation and be prepared to conserve your body’s energy effectively. There is little difference in the degree of “warm” that can be experienced on a summit day on Kilimanjaro at any given time of year.
The most popular months on Kilimanjaro are July and August, with December running a close third. Alpine Ascents’ trips tend to fill at any time of year they are run, but you will see fewer people from other groups in months other than August or December.
Most trips run with between 12 and 15 people – though we will run smaller groups if a certain date has fewer sign ups. We also run Private Climbs year round.
We currently use three-person tents on our Kilimanjaro program. Two climbers per tent.
Yes, we have a large dining tent and tables and chairs that are used at all camps. (OK, sometimes we forgo the table and chairs at High Camp) These are especially nice if it happens to rain. Often people will go inside to get their food and then eat outdoors in beautiful evening light. We also provide toilet tents with commodes.
You will need a medium-sized backpack (say 2,500 to 3,500 cubic inches) that can hold your layers of clothing for changing temperatures and activity levels through the day. One thing that many people do not expect is the porters who carry your large bags will probably move slower that you do. It is not uncommon to get to camp as the afternoon and evening temperatures cool off, ahead of the porters, but with lots of photographs to be taken and relaxing to be done. You need to be prepared to be inactive through part of each day, as well as to hike. Most people carry packs that weigh about 20 lbs. You could pare this down to perhaps 15 if you were careful, but with a lot of camera equipment, or other personal preference-type items, it might be more.
We always plan to go to Uhuru, the true summit of Kilimanjaro, at 19,340 ft. A medical emergency that would require a lead guide’s attention rather than an African guide’s would be the only reason that they would not, but this has not happened to date.
We normally take one or two lead, or “chief,” African guides, plus three assistant African guides, for a total of five guides (including our guide) on a typical summit attempt. All of these guides are well-known to us and we have done many successful summits together. Obviously, this does not leave options for an unlimited number of turn-arounds during the summit attempt, but we have always been able to get people who really need to descend headed in the right direction very quickly, and under excellent care and supervision. This is in addition to our staff of lesser assistant guides, porters, cooks, cooks’ helpers – a staff of 50+ on full expeditions.
We offer carefully planned, highly nutritious meals prepared by trained chefs on the mountain; food quality is one of the highest praises we receive. It is not just about the great food, but getting the right food during such a demanding climb. As a climbing company (as opposed to a safari or light trekking company), we understand what and how people need to eat while in the mountains. We are happy to give you an outline of our menu plan. The quality of our expedition food is well known for all our expeditions, but is something special on Kilimanjaro climbs.
Resupplying during our trip allows us to provide lots of fresh and whole grain cooked foods. We have the best chefs and food on the mountain, hands down.
We have private toilet tents set up at every camp. These are clean, sit down, commode-type toilets with water.
Yes, all hotels for the scheduled trip, meals on the mountain and on safari, airport transfers, and shuttle to Arusha are included. One thing that is not included in town and on safari are bottled drinks (soft drinks, bottled water, alcohol.) Also not included are tips at the hotels, tips for safari drivers, and tips for guides and porters at the end of the trip on the mountain.
We stay in high-standard safari lodges run by the renowned Sopa chain. We use these places to relax and reward ourselves after a rigorous climb. They really are beautiful in terms of setting and amenities. The safari drives have their own demands, long dusty days, and a lot of excitement and adventure with all the wildlife. One of the greatest feelings is to go into your room at the end of one of these days, get a shower and some clean clothes on, and go have a nice dinner with your friends who you recently climbed Kilimanjaro with. The sun will be setting on the African landscape and the large glass windows will scarcely separate you from this. Pretty civilized. We currently stay at the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, Tarangire Sopa Lodge, and Serengeti Sopa Lodge on our four-day, three-night Safari.
You will be in a Land Cruiser, with a maximum of five or six per vehicle. An experienced guide will drive your vehicle. He is the only person who ever drives his vehicle and is responsible for its complete safe operation and maintenance for the two to three years it sees service after it is purchased new by our agent in Arusha. The only seat that sometimes becomes undesirable if the vehicle is full is the front seat with the driver. Everyone in the back is under a canopy that extends up so that you can stand for wildlife viewing and photography while you are in the parks.
On the mountain, we will provide you with a large three- to four-gallon cooler of water at each camp, and during our sit down lunches. This water is cartridge filtered by the staff using a large, commercial Katydyn filter. We strongly recommend that each client then treats this water one liter at a time as you fill your bottles several times each day, using iodine or other recommended water treatment solutions. We have found that this two-stage process is the most effective in preventing water-borne issues. Steri Pens work well, but use a lot of batteries and can break, so you always need the backup treatment pills.
For the past few seasons, we have relied on the satellite phone for possible emergency communication while we are on the mountain. Things change from season to season, however. We also carry a cell phone and radio phone on the mountain and safari. All our Kilimanjaro trips are run in our normal, self-contained expedition style. That is to say, complete medical kits and equipment to deal with emergencies travel with us. This self-reliant approach is especially important in Tanzania where, unlike, say, Nepal, helicopter evacuation is very limited. The staff of 40+ experienced Chagga men who travel with each group are who we really rely on for possible emergency response. If necessary, they could carry an injured person, and they can run from any location on our route to a road head and telephones in less than one day.
As the standard Lemosho Route becomes the Machame Route on Day 3, we don’t see this as a great benefit to having an eight-day Lemosho that many offer. We feel the seven-day Machame or the nine-day Lemosho (with a night at the crater rim) are much better options, financially and otherwise.
This is a highly recommended shortlist and we would be happy to pass on a longer reading list for those interested. These links will bounce to Amazon.com with reviews.
During the 2011 Kilimanjaro climbing season, Alpine Ascents began a simple garbage clean-up plan.
Created by longtime Kilimanjaro guide, Eric Murphy, with help from our local contractor, Nicholas Minja of Big Expeditions, we began utilizing an extra porter or two on each trip, and instructed them to pick up any excess garbage from other groups during our seven days on the mountain. During an average trip, we were removing up to 80 kg (165 lbs.) of extra trash. The Kilimanjaro National Park quickly took notice. In late 2012, a new park warden was elected to manage Kilimanjaro National Park, and he increased the national park’s enforcement of garbage removal. The park is now looking the cleanest we have seen it in recent times. We continue to encourage Kilimanjaro National Park to educate local operators, tourists, and porters about Leave No Trace principles (LNT) while enjoying the mountain.
Alpine Ascents is deeply committed to maintaining ecosystems at home and around the world. With each expedition, trek, and course, we not only attempt to leave the environment as we found it, but strive to assist the local population in protecting the land and people indigenous to that region. Alpine Ascents reaches for the highest ethical business practices at home and abroad. Each staff member is dedicated to environmentally sound alpine ascents. On Kilimanjaro, Alpine Ascents now hires at least one porter per trip whose sole purpose is to oversee waste removal and clean up.
At Alpine Ascents, environmental stewardship remains one of our core values and we take Leave No Trace ethics and practices very seriously. The mountains are our home and we are unwilling to sacrifice their preservation for human objectives. On every one of our courses and climbs we teach and follow the environmentally appropriate Leave No Trace principles and practices.
Over the years, with the assistance of our Sherpa teams, we have stepped up efforts to clean Mt. Everest. Our Wag Bag® program made a pioneering step in human waste management for the National Park System and Forest Service in the North Cascades. On Aconcagua, we pioneered a waste removal system on our climbs, utilizing the WAG Bag® system. And we continue our on-going maintenance and minimal impact plans wherever we guide. We believe that given the proper information, most people will do all they can to help protect and maintain the environment. Alpine Ascents is committed to developing safe, self-reliant, and environmentally conscious mountaineers.
Without question, John’s disposition, especially within the role of guide has made this client-to-guide experience for me to be one of the best. Having been on various climbs previously with different guides, I would say that the interaction with John has been the most connected for me.