The many faces of Mount Kilimanjaro

When many of our readers think of Mount Kilimanjaro, they think of a snow capped peak, the famous’congratulations’ sign at the summit, and that’s about it. Few realise the sheer variety of terrain that you have to scale to reach the summit – and for that reason, it still remains one of the most underrated adventures out there. Matt Cahill, from our charity partner Childreach International, takes us through the surprises that await a Kili climber.

Mount Kilimanjaro

Sub-tropical Rainforest

‘Few expect their first day on Kilimanjaro to be trampling through a sub-tropical rainforest, in fact, most people are surprised to find a rainforest in East Africa full stop! With monkeys calling through the emerald green trees, the first day is a pleasant stroll through moist, muddy paths – most unexpected! The guides will even tell you about a mysterious elephant who roams the forests of Kilimanjaro, solitary and alone. Keep your eyes peeled, but this might just be a ploy to make sure you’re not thinking too much about the trek to come!

Rainforest, Mount Kilimanjaro

Moorlands in the Starlight

The second day on Kilimanjaro is completely different from the first, as the forest fades away behind you, leaving desolate, desert-like moorland. The trudge for the first few hours can be draining, but when you break through your first cloud layer half way through the day, the sight completely changes. And when the sun goes down and the mountain is enveloped in darkness, don’t forget to look up. From above the clouds, with no pollution, every star shines with thrice the brightness, and appears much larger. It’s a truly magical, mesmerising sight to end your second day.

Stargazing, Mount Kilimanjaro

The Dormant Volcano

You’ll forget that Kilimanjaro was once an active volcano, until you reach the majestic Lava Tower on day three. It has become an iconic feature of the mountain, and looms over you as the rocks beneath your feet slowly darken to greyish black. Every day is like walking onto a different film set, from Avatar on day one, and Star Wars on your second day, you’ve now arrived in Mordor. But you won’t stay for long – this is an acclimatisation day to help you fend off the dreaded altitude sickness.

Lava Tower, Mount Kilimanjaro

The Rocky Mountain

It’s day four by the time you really realise that you’re climbing the world’s tallest free standing mountain. Scaling Barranco Wall, a large cliff face that leads directly to Barafu Camp (Kilimanjaro’s base camp) is a really enjoyable climb through winding rocky paths. Hopping rock to rock, and finishing an incredible 4600 metres above sea level, you finish the day 2 or 3 cloud layers up, with views only bettered by those at the summit itself!

Barranco Wall, Mount Kilimanjaro

 The Snow-capped Summit

“The final challenge is the early-morning summit ascent, where you will really earn every penny your friends have sponsored you- and it will be the image of the children you have helped through your climb that will drive you onwards. Trekking ever onwards through the darkness, just as you hardly believe the end will come, the sun rises in the East just as you reach Stella Point, filling you with warmth and energy to drive you through the final furlong. The dark purple sky starts to lighten with each slow step forward. Hiking through an incredible landscape of scree and rubble, with thin air, bright sunlight, snow and ice, with guides and porters urging you onwards, dragging you by the hand…at last, the famous sign appears in the distance. Ten long steps later you have made it, and the last five days have all been worthwhile. The feeling is almost indescribable- the pride, relief and elation our climbers feel stays with them for a long, long time. And with a 96% summit success rate, Childreach International’s expedition is really second to none.”

Mount Kilimanjaro summit

The Savannahs and Shores

“After such an amazing, but exhausting adventure, most climbers choose to unwind and enjoy one last example of the amazing diversity of East Africa- from the rainforests, moorlands, rocks and snow of the mountain, they then find themselves on the famous safari across the Tanzanian savannah, or resting on the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar. Childreach offer extensions that combine both, allowing our climbers to really get the full East African experience.”

Zanzibar, Tanzania

The real face of Tanzania

“The very best bit of climbing Kilimanjaro with Childreach International is the chance to visit one of the schools that your fundraising has helped to support. Childreach International work to restore children’s rights to education, healthcare and child protection across Asia, Africa and the UK, and before your climb you get to meet the children who have benefited from your hard work. With an award winning fundraising team in the UK, you know that you will be in safe hands throughout your year of fundraising, and seeing the smiles and songs of the children in their new and improved schools will make the whole trip worthwhile!”

Don’t miss out this year and sign up now to scale Mount Kilimanjaro in 2015. To get started visit or contact [email protected]

And exclusive to Adventure Travel Magazine, save £50 on the registration fee for Kilimanjaro or any of Childreach International’s challenges with the discount code “TRAVMAG50”. But hurry- only 15 codes are available!

Intro photo: Paul Shaffner