Tips and planning for success
What to know
Biking Kilimanjaro is one of the first tour operators to arrange mountain biking expeditions up Kilimanjaro. Biking Kilimanjaro is a department of Climbing Kilimanjaro. To date Climbing Kilimanjaro has more than 23 years of experience in leading hikers and climbers to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Our experienced guides have a proud summit success rate averaging between 96% – 98% and have safely guided thousands of clients to the top of the mountain.
This internet guide aims to provide the potential mountain bikers with valuable and accurate information on biking up Kilimanjaro, which will hopefully contribute towards increasing your chances of a successful summit attempt. We have compiled this information over years of experience as well as from feedback from previous clients. From all the information provided in this guide, the tips listed on this page is probably the most important.
Before the expedition
Be properly equipped
An essential part of your preparation will be to ensure that you are well equipped for your summit attempt. Print our final checklist and mark it off, to ensure that you are. Click on Final Checklist to get to this very important step in your preparation.
Be physically prepared
It is important that your body is adequately prepared for the physical challenges of Mount Kilimanjaro. We have developed a fitness training program which will assist you in getting your body in shape for your Kilimanjaro summit expedition. Please click Fitness Program for more information in this regard.
It is possible to summit Kilimanjaro successfully, many before you have succeeded. This should be topmost in your mind when preparing for the summit attempt. You should always remain in a positive state of mind, but not be overly arrogant. Try to anticipate various different scenarios, which you may possibly encounter on the mountain and try to work out the most suitable course of action, mentally by yourself or even as a group. Your mental determination, without a doubt, make the really difficult sections, like from Kibo hut to Uhuru peak, easier to complete. Remember if you are properly equipped, you have taken everything as indicated on the final checklist, you are physically prepared and have all the knowledge gained from this internet guide – you will be mentally confident for the physical part of Kilimanjaro.
Adequate travel insurance
Make sure that you have adequate travel and medical insurance, which will also provide you with cover for the biking expedition up Kilimanjaro. Please confirm with your insurance company that they will cover your mountain biking expedition. We also recommend that you take out separate insurance for your mountain bike.
We recommend that your mountain bike is functioning 100%. Make sure you replace the brake pads before the trip and that your brakes are functioning 100%. During the flight your bike could be turned upside down in the cargo hold and if there is any air trapped in your brake systems this could prevent your brakes from functioning properly. We recommend that your bike has good donkey gear, for the steep uphill sections and that all gears are functioning properly. After securing your booking with us, you’ll receive a comprehensive document, to guide you through the steps of what is required and recommended for your mountain bike.
On The Mountain
Go slowly – “Pole Pole” as they say in Swahili! This is also very important during your first days on the mountain. Even if you feel well, slow down and enjoy the scenery. The biggest cause of altitude sickness is ascending too high too fast! We recommend taking regular breaks, the slower you ascend, the more time you give your body to acclimatize.
Drink enough water
Make sure that you drink at least 3 – 4 litres of liquid a day – preferably water. For your first day it is recommended that you take along fresh water, which may be purchased at the hotel in Moshi before your climb. Running water on the mountain is safe to drink from day 2 onwards. As precaution we will treat all drinking water on the mountain with Pure Drops (similar to water purification tablets) on complimentary basis. REMEMBER! A functioning “body water balance” is one of the keys to a successful climb!
Bike high – sleep low
On the Kilema route, our program has been designed to allow bikers to bike high and sleep low for the first 3 days of the expedition. By biking high and sleeping low, a biker’s body is triggered to acclimatize faster, reducing the possibility to get altitude sickness. If possible on day 4, try to do a short afternoon stroll on the summit attempt path to a higher altitude and then descend back down to Kibo hut.
Bike as lightly as possible; this becomes even more important on your summit night. Extra weight will slow you down and will also make breathing more difficult.
Remember that you will be on the mountain for at least 5 days. You need to take enough clothing, especially socks to last for this period. Due to frequent rainfall as well as numerous streams on the routes, it is advisable to pack items individually in your bag. These individually packed items should be wrapped in plastic bags to prevent them from getting wet in case of rain or of being accidentally dropped in a stream.
You will require the correct underwear, thermal hiking socks, gloves (preferably mittens), warm head protection, rain coat, sunglasses and sun protection cream. Since it is likely that you will be pushing your bike a lot, it is very important that your cycling shoes are also comfortable to hike with. Many bikers use normal hiking boots for the trip, however it is possible to use cleats on the expedition. One of the most critical items of clothing is an outer jacket. You want it to perform the functions of keeping you warm, protect you at temperatures of as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius, keep the wind out and yet still “breath”. Try to avoid tight fitting clothing or underwear. This will hamper circulation, causing either cold or discomfort on the mountain. A balaclava is a must, as it will protect your face against cold, wind, sun and snow. Other clothing like shorts, sweaters and T-shirts are strongly recommended, especially during hiking on the lower slopes, when the day temperatures are still high.
The only way to ensure that you are dressed warmly is to follow the principal of wearing the correct clothing layers, starting from against the body. A common mistake made by bikers is to wear almost everything they have and to start off with cotton against the skin. Cotton absorbs moisture perfectly, and moisture trapped against the skin will result in a definite lowering of the body temperature, which could even lead to hypothermia. It is therefore very important to use proper thermal underwear with “wicking” properties (a fabric which has the ability to draw moisture away from the body) and thus enabling it to evaporate to the outside. The middle layer should provide the insulation and a product like polar fleece will be adequate in this regard. The outer layer should be windproof, waterproof and breathable. Products like Ventex, Goretex or Jeantex offer these properties. Short of altitude and physical exertion, cold is one of the most serious obstacles when attempting to summit Kilimanjaro. After securing your booking with us, you’ll receive a comprehensive document, to guide you through the steps of purchasing the correct gear.
Replace your head lamp and camera batteries with new ones on your summit night.
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
AMS commonly affects people at high altitude, who are not accustomed to high altitude conditions. AMS can be lethal if not treated immediately or if its symptoms are ignored. Probably 80% of all people biking up Kilimanjaro will suffer to some extent from AMS. You should familiarize yourself with this condition and take preventative care. Click Altitude Sickness for more information on this medical condition.
Malaria occurs below 1800 meters and you should use the recommended prophylactics. Please consult your doctor about these. Currently, there are various preventative medication products available which will be effective against the malaria strains currently found in Tanzania. Women using oral contraceptives should consult their physicians before using prophylactics.
Other useful tips
There are only ice cold showers at Mandara hut and Horombo hut and showering is not recommended. Every biker will receive a small bowl of hot water, every morning and evening for basic washing. We recommend bringing Wet Wipes for additional cleaning.
Take enough snacks like energy bars etc. Avoid the toffee like energy bars (as they get very hard and difficult to eat in low temperatures) but rather but the cereal type energy bars.
Adequate sun protection
Wear a good quality pair of sunglasses (with UV protection) and use adequate sun protection cream with a protection factor of at least 20+.
Use a thermal flask for your water on the summit night, other water bottles might freeze solid. If using a camel back, make sure the drinking hose is insulated.
Taking pictures with a fully automatic camera at the summit of Kilimanjaro is possible, and most people do this. The secret is to always have a new battery in your camera when going into cold areas at high altitude. A mechanical camera works just as well, provided you have the knowledge to operate it successfully. Cameras exposed to cold do not cease functioning, but remember that if you keep your camera inside your jacket and the lens becomes warm, chances are that it will form condensation when suddenly exposed to extreme cold. This condensation will freeze under conditions at the summit. Therefore, keep your camera dry at all times. Moisture will freeze at the summit which WILL cause your camera to stop functioning.
THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP OF ALL – ENJOY THIS ONCE IN A LIFE TIME EXPERIENCE!!!
Other useful tips:
- Make sure all your clothes and sleeping bag are packed in plastic bag inside the duffel bag, to ensure they stay dry in the event of rain, even if your duffel bag is waterproof. Once something gets wet on the mountain it is difficult, even impossible to dry!
- Vaseline is good on the summit attempt. Moist air coming from your nose or on your lips will freeze and become very uncomfortable, Vaseline will protect your nose / lips.
- Vicks Vaporub is also good on the summit attempt, as it will help keep your nose open during the summit attempt.
- Sound travel at night and many people snore on Kilimanjaro – bring some ear plugs to sleep with.
- The trail is very dusty and sinus congestion is a problem with many bikers. Bring a good decongestant spray or tablet.
- Female bikers suffer more from the cold than male bikers. Hand / feet warmers are a good idea (or even a hot water bottle – hot water is available during meal times) and will help keep you warmer in the sleeping bag (minus temperatures to be encountered from the first night onwards)
- Travel with your most important gear as hand luggage, missing luggage is a common problem.
- Bring some blister plasters, Vaseline and liner socks. If you start to get blisters it will help a lot.
- There is mobile reception on most of the mountain (except on the final day at Kibo hut and on the Shira route). If you bring your mobile, make sure you activate international roaming. Because you cannot recharge the battery, only have the phone on an hour or two daily.