What do I need to climb Kilimanjaro?

I admit it. My title is designed to help me show up in search engines.

But it is a good question.

Climbing Kilimanjaro is easier than most people think. It is not technical. It doesn’t involve any mountaineering skills, and in fact, novice hikers can likely handle it. All it takes is moderate fitness, the right preparation, and – excuse the cliche – a will to do it.

Which company?

I’m going to skip over the gear because plenty of sites offer lists of stuff (though I will mention one thing – bring hiking poles). I want to address what I think is the real first step in summiting Kilimanjaro: the tour company. There are a lot out there and it can be quite time-consuming finding the right one. So let me save you some time:

Book with Zara Tours.

One of my chief concerns was finding an American-based company. I wanted to make sure that I was sending my money off to a reputable source. Of course, being American doesn’t make a company trustworthy, but I figured it was better than a foreign company based in a country I had never visited. As it turns out, though, I had sent my money off to a middle man. He was nice enough, if somewhat difficult to contact over the phone, but I didn’t really need him. He just set up my trip through Zara Tours, a company based in Tanzania, naturally charging me more than if I cut him out of the picture.

Which route?

Again, I’m not going to list out detailed descriptions of things that can be found in a million other places, but I will recommend the route I took: Lemosho. I’m sure the others are fine, but it depends on the person. Personally, I didn’t want to sleep in a hut. The reason? A lot of other people do want to sleep in them. That makes for a messier, more crowded campground. Not that any route isn’t going to be crowded during high season, but I prefer a relatively quieter area. Lemosho provided that, especially since it is tent-only.

Here are some campgrounds. This first one is one where I actually stayed:

If I recall, more groups eventually did show up, but it was still pretty quiet. Higher up, however, it gets more crowded because several of the routes converge:

I actually stayed at a site about 30 minutes from here (Shira 2, maybe?), but this is pretty representative. Continue further and it gets more and more crowded. It never got overwhelming, but do expect to see some people up there.

When?

Plenty of sites list out climate information, so I’m not going to knock out a list myself. But for my experience, my trip was from the tail end of August into September, which was dry. In fact, I experienced 15 minutes of drizzle the whole time, and that was only because I was in a cloud. (It also snowed a couple of inches at the final camp before summit, but I’m told it was rather unusual for that time; besides, it happened at night.)

I would recommend to obviously go during the dry season. The mountain is still accessible in the wet season, but scheduling will be more restricted and a successful climb may not be in the cards. Also, many people like to go during a full moon. I personally wanted a new moon so I could see the stars more intensely (plus there would be fewer people). As it turned out, I had a long night filled with amazing stars, later giving way to a yellow quarter moon, capped with the most incredible sunrise I have ever seen. On this one it’s to each his own, but I don’t think disappointment is possible with any choice.

Money?

The Zara link above will list out how much it costs for the climb, which may change at any given time. I personally paid about $1850 with the middle man. That isn’t the rock bottom price, but it is somewhat on the lower end, and the guides and porters were fantastic. What I wish I had have done, given my half-day or so ride from the frickin’ Serengeti, was spring the extra few bucks (okay, a lot bucks) for a safari. Don’t be overly concerned with money. I plan on revisiting Africa at some point, so a safari will happen for me, but my Tanzania trip could just as easily be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It would have been worth it to go all-out.

Also be sure to budget cash for the loose ends. I was short on cash because, duh, Tanzania doesn’t much like debit or credit cards. The visa, which can easily be had immediately after landing, was $100 (cash only). I also had to buy some meals and (of course) beer at the hotel (cash only). They weren’t expensive by any means, but it is a cost. For the tips for the guides and porters (cash only) I had to use an ATM in Moshi. It was a disconcerting experience to put my card in a machine so far from home, to say the least. I believe I only gave them around $200, but the average is probably more like $250. (And given the incredible people I had, I wish I had have withdrawn more.) Don’t worry about how to dole everything out; I know a lot of sites make a big deal out of it, but all the money just goes to the head guide. Clean and simple.

Why?

Because it is there.

I’ve barely scratched the surface for the sort of questions people have, so feel free to ask in the comment section: you will get an answer.

Thought of the day

If God creates morality, then morality is ultimately arbitrary; an act is not intrinsically good, but only good on the say so of God. What this means is that murder is not always wrong and that rape might be okay some day. However, if morality transcends God, then God is not the only thing which is eternal. This conflicts with most Christian beliefs, and certainly with many Christian ‘proofs’ for God.

But then, I’m never really surprised when I note yet another unresolvable problem for Christians.

Kid Rock and the Confederate flag

Some NAACP supporters (not the organization itself) is boycotting a fundraiser honoring Kid Rock. The reason is his continued use of the Confederate flag:

But Adolph Mongo, a longtime political consultant and head of Detroiters for Progress, said he and others will sit out over Kid Rock’s use of the controversial Confederate flag during performances.

“It’s a slap in the face for anyone who fought for civil rights in this country,” Mongo said Thursday. “It’s a symbol of hatred and bigotry.”

Of course, Kid Rock stands by his use of the flag, calling it a symbol of southern rock.

I don’t see what’s so hard to get about this. Whether the flag means one thing or another to a specific person, it has the larger representation of the slave-holding South. It means, at its very core, the preservation of slavery. Honestly. I recall convincing a Confederate flag-supporting friend that it had very little to do with anything remotely positive or representative of modern Western values. All it took was a website explaining its basic history in a matter of a few lines. And that was when we were maybe 14 years old. What excuse do adults have?

But all this aside, I feel that a far more valid reason for boycotting anything honoring Kid Rock is that he makes shitty music.

Professor apologizes to fragile children

The professor who allowed a live sex act as part of an after-class event originally had this to say:

I certainly have no regrets concerning Northwestern students, who have demonstrated that they are open-minded grown ups rather than fragile children.

That was great. Treat adults like adults. Wonderful.

But this is America:

“I regret allowing the controversial after class demonstration on February 21st,” Professor J. Michael Bailey, who teaches a popular class on human sexuality, wrote in a statement.

“I regret the effect that this has had on Northwestern University’s reputation, and I regret upsetting so many people in this particular manner. I apologize,” he wrote.

Gov. Walker backs down on tax cuts

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker looks to be backing down on the massive tax cuts he wants to give big business:

Walker’s spokesman, Cullen Werwie, wrote in an e-mail Saturday that Walker wouldn’t publicly comment on the negotiations but was focused on balancing the budget and following through on his campaign pledge to create 250,000 new jobs. Walker has said he wouldn’t compromise on the collective bargaining issue or anything that saves the state money.

I can only presume by that final line that he isn’t going to waste everyone’s time by letting unneedy people hoard money.

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