Find below important information for our climbs. Click on a box to toggle open the content. See also resource information pages about SENE, Tanzania, safaris, eco-adventures, and Zanzibar. If you have any questions not answered here, please feel free to contact us.
SENE on Kilimanjaro
For safety reasons and team support we always have climbers hike with at least one guide and with other team members.
We use exclusively Mountain Hardwear Trango 3-person tents (shared by two people only) and Trango 2-person tents for singles. Our dining tents are either large Cabela’s Outback Lodge tents, Mountain Hardwear’s Space Station dome tent, or a specially-designed locally-made mess tent made from lightweight waterproof canvas. Collapsible lightweight dining tables and camp chairs are set up inside the dining tents.
We advise you bring the bare minimum of electronic equipment and charge items only when absolutely necessary as solar-generated power is at a premium on the (often cloudy) mountain. Enjoy as much as possible the beauty and silence around you, storing the memory of that in your mind to share in person later, rather than immediate electronic transmittal.
Please do not leave any trash on the mountain. We have reusable canvas trash bags for disposing of all non-biodegradable waste; look for it at camp or ask your guide, who carries one. In fact, you will see our guides and porters picking up trash left behind by less considerate climbers and carrying it to be dumped at the collection spots at the base of the mountain.
As one of the founding members and an ardent supporter, SENE strongly encourages the work of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) and strictly follows their policies for ethical porter treatment. KPAP is a Tanzanian NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) established by the International Mountain Explorers Connection (IMEC) with the mission to improve the working conditions of porters on Kilimanjaro. Please also see our SENE page about KPAP.
How much should I tip? We recommend 10-15% of your climb cost (approximately $300-500) per climber.
How much in tips do the crew receive? Tips are combined and distributed (proportionally, based on level of responsibility) among the climb crew and the staff at the Mbahe cottages. On average, the trip leader/head guide receives approximately $25-35/day, assistant guide(s) and head cook receive $20-25/day; assistant cook(s) and crew with special duties receive $8-12/day; and porters receive $5-10/day. The staff at Mbahe also receive tips from this pool to show appreciation for their important role in the complete climb experience.
We find that combining all tips from the climbers into a tip pool and then distributed among the climb crew in relative proportion to their salary creates a simple and equitable method of tip distribution. This also recognizes the true team effort required on a climb and does not favor the more outgoing and personable crew who become climber favorites over those shy crew whose quiet contributions are equally important to the team.
How do I know the tips are completely and fairly distributed? For transparency and to ensure trust among both climbers and crew we document the tip collection and distribution with sheets for Tips Given and Tips Received. At the conclusion of the climb, as tips are collected by Simon or a SENE manager, each climber writes his/her name, amount given, and signature on the Tips Given sheet as evidence of their tip. As tips are distributed, each guide and crew member sign the sheet next to their name and amount received on the Tips Received sheet as evidence of receipt of his fair share of the tips. The total amounts on Tips Given and Tips Received will be equal. These sheets are always available for all climbers and crew to review and check. In addition, KPAP regularly monitors tips received by porters to ensure fairness.
When do I give my tip?
At the conclusion of the climb at either the celebratory luncheon at Mweka or at the Mbahe cottages, depending on where your climb finishes. If you have stored cash at our office for safekeeping, it will be returned to you at that time.
What currency should I use for my tip?
Tips can be given in U.S. dollars or Tanzanian shillings. We cannot accept euros, other currency, nor travelers checks.
health and Safety
Breakfasts may include oatmeal, scrambled eggs, French toast, bacon, toast, fresh local fruit (pineapple, oranges, bananas, mango, papaya, apples, watermelon, etc.), brewed coffee from the Mtuy family farm, tea (including herbal), and cocoa. Lunches feature bread, sliced meats, tuna, cheese, homemade soup, peanut butter and jam, avocado, cucumber, tomato, fresh local fruit, juice, and hot drinks. Afternoon tea at camp after the day’s climb might have hot drinks, warm cashews and peanuts, popcorn, or cookies. Dinners always include a homemade soup made with organic vegetables from Simon’s garden (such as pumpkin, pea, butternut squash, lentil, and mixed vegetable), and may feature chicken, beef or lamb stew, fish, brown rice, couscous, coconut rice, pasta, sweet potatoes, salad, a wide variety of fresh steamed vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, squash, Swiss chard, etc.), with fresh fruit or cookies for desert.
While meals on the climb are plentiful and provide the nutrition needed to summit Kilimanjaro, we advise that you also bring a stash of your favorite snack foods to eat while on the trail. These help you maintain your energy and replenish calories from your exertion. Bring foods that you will eat even when not hungry (altitude causes a loss of appetite), such as trail mix, hard candy, jerky, energy gels, chocolate, or bars of any sort.
SENE provides clean drinking water on the climb with a Swiss made purification pump, Katadyn® Expedition KFT purification filter.
During the hiking day climbers relieve themselves off the trail and away from water sources. The lead guides carries a trowel in case waste needs to be buried.
Contrary to popular belief, air is not sucked into the lungs but rather it is pushed in by atmospheric pressure. As altitude increases, pressure decreases and therefore less oxygen is pushed into the lungs. Hemoglobin is a protein that is carried by red blood cells. It picks up oxygen in the lungs and delivers it to cells throughout the body. At sea level, typically 96 to 98 percent of hemoglobin molecules in the blood are saturated with oxygen. As altitude increases, less oxygen gets to the blood so it becomes less fully saturated.
As the oxygen saturation percentage falls to the low 90s, most of us would be aware of “feeling different,” as the first symptoms of hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) appear. These sensations vary from person to person but may include lightheadedness, increased heart and respiratory rate, lip tingling, deterioration of night vision, and mild memory impairment. Other physiological changes that naturally occur at altitude include increased heart rate, respiratory rate, metabolic rate, and (sometimes) blood pressure.
You may notice this in the afternoon and evening after arriving at a (higher elevation) camp. Overnight your body adjusts and your oxygen saturation rises and the sensations dissipate – though the saturation rate will not return to your rate at sea level. At higher elevations blood may have as little as 70 percent or less saturation rate. Thus, the oxygen saturation rate that provides a good indicator of ones adaptation to high altitude and susceptibility to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), commonly known as altitude sickness.
Acute Mountain Sickness
The symptoms of AMS may include headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, a feeling of euphoria, or nausea. Four key factors usually determine whether a person will experience symptoms of AMS: (1) speed of ascent; (2) altitude reached; (3) health status (factors such as nutrition, dehydration, fatigue, and illness will increase risk); and (4) individual characteristics (genetic influences or some unusual metabolic or circulatory variant may affect susceptibility).
Although less common, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) are more serious than AMS. At higher altitude, fluid develops in the lung tissue that separates air sacs, alveoli, from capillaries. Typically this is promptly reabsorbed. If it is not and accumulates in the alveoli, movement of oxygen from the lungs to the blood is impaired and more fluid accumulates in the air sacs. Symptoms of HAPE include shortness of breath even at rest and an irritative cough that may produce a frothy, often blood-tinged sputum. Mental confusion, extreme fatigue, and a struggling drunken walk may soon follow; the climber will slip into coma unless treated promptly. HACE, although extremely rare, can be fatal with little to no warning. It is believed to be due to parts of the brain being waterlogged. One early sign of HACE is difficulty in walking (also seen in HAPE) and with finger and hand motions.
Some climbers choose to take acetazolamide (Diamox), which is known to be effective at reducing the symptoms of altitude sickness. It is available only by prescription, the use of which is the choice of individual climbers in consultation with a medical professional. Simon himself regularly uses homeopathic remedies for his health and when on the mountain. He recommends the following Homeopathic Climbing Kit for Kilimanjaro.
SENE delivers the highest quality safety measures on Kilimanjaro. We undertake the following practices on all climbs to help you safely enjoy your time on Kilimanjaro:
• We use a pulse oximeter to monitor your oxygen saturation and heart rate twice daily (more often if necessary). This medical instrument allows your guide to accurately determine how your body is adapting to the higher altitude.
• We listen to your lungs with a stethoscope to assess if there is any fluid on the lungs, a sign of HAPE.
• We monitor your fluid intake (and output!) to ensure proper hydration.
• We carry portable oxygen tanks – used only to aid climbers on descent when suffering from severe AMS. With proper acclimatization and pacing supplemental oxygen is not needed to reach the summit.
• We carry a portable hyperbaric chamber (Gamow bag) and have a system in place for immediate evacuation off the mountain.
• Our guides have communication via cell phone and radio with each other, with our office in Moshi, and with the Kilimanjaro National Park Authority rangers.
Emergency Medical Training
All our guides are trained in Wilderness First Aid and High Altitude First Aid. During the climbing low season in April SENE guides and staff are given refresher first aid courses taught by Tanzania-based Savanna Medics.
Simon himself is trained as a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) by the high altitude experts, Crested Butte Outdoors in Colorado, USA. The WFR course with certification by Wilderness Medical Associates is the gold-standard of medical training for outdoor educators, expedition medics, and guide companies working in remote regions of the world.
Simon teaches and instills these skills and knowledge in all those who guide for SENE, reinforcing that SENE’s primary responsibility as mountain guides on Kilimanjaro is the safety of our clients and crew.
- Eat regular nutritious meals
- Drink lots of fluids
- Gain altitude slowly (acclimatize)
- Sleep at least 8 hours
- Inform your guide of any signs or symptoms you experience – even if only minor
- Keep a smile on your face
Kilimanjaro is climbable at any time of year. However, the best months for climbing are January through mid-March and mid-June through October, the periods with less precipitation and the sky generally free of clouds each morning and evening.
Monthly weather variations on the mountain are as follows. Average temperatures on the summit vary little throughout the year, though April and May are measured as the warmest months. This is also the main rainy season in Tanzania, so while temperatures are higher, massive clouds reduce visibility and drop snow on the summit and rain on the lower slopes. The long dry season starts in June and cooler temperatures prevail while clear skies provide breathtaking views all around. July through September are consistently dry. It grows slightly warmer again from October and the days are clear, though a belt of mist may girdle the mountain in the moorland zone. In November and December, Tanzania’s short rainy season, it can be wet in the rain forest with snow toward the top of the mountain. However, clouds often disperse in the evening, allowing for excellent visibility in the night and morning. A shorter dry season begins again in January, extending into March, with average temperatures slightly increasing.
The mountain climate varies considerably by altitude, with the following observed patterns. In the forest at lower elevations it is warm and humid with temperatures around 60 to 75°F / 15 to 23°C. Ascending on days 2 and 3 it can be drier with temperatures around 50 to 65°F / 10 to 18°C. In the moorland zone and higher (from 11,000′ / 3300m) temperatures are cooler and expect freezing temperatures at night. At the summit average daytime highs are about 25°F / -4°C with overnight lows around 15°F / -10°C, though it always feels much warmer in the sun and much colder at night.
We thank Dr. Douglas Hardy, a climatologist at the University of Massachusetts studying the ice and snowfall on Kilimanjaro, for weather information.
Kilimanjaro is a challenging mountain and training prior to a climb is necessary. If not doing so already, we recommend that you start a training program several months before departure, then slowly build up to a more strenuous level. An effective conditioning program must contain aerobic activity that increase the heart rate for a minimum of 45-60 minutes four times per week. Strengthen leg muscles used for trekking by running, skiing, bicycling, rollerblading, hiking, stair-climbing or working on equivalent machines in a gym. Since training is sport-specific, always include some hiking, running, or strenuous walking into your program. Do these wearing a backpack of 11-15 lbs / 5-7 kgs, which will be the approximate weight of the day pack you will carry on Kilimanjaro. If you intend to use hiking poles, make sure you practice using them on both ascents and descents. Please consult your physician if your body is not responding well to exercise or if you have questions concerning your underlying health.
Being “in shape” does not necessarily guarantee good performance at altitude – but it helps since your body has adapted to working efficiently under physical duress. Everyone, even athletes who train compulsively, will experience a steady decrease in maximum exercise capacity with increasing altitude (3%/1,000′), as your physiological efficiency decreases as you climb higher. In any case, being “out of shape” definitely increases your chances of faring poorly on Kilimanjaro!
If you are enthusiastic, open-minded, and physically fit for hiking you will be well-prepared for your Kilimanjaro climb!
It is very important to have the proper clothing and gear, but avoid overloading yourself or the porters with unnecessary items. Our SENE Kilimanjaro Packing List is based on Simon’s more than 20 years of experience guiding on Kilimanjaro.
Each climber’s duffel bag, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad are placed into one extra large water-repellent canvas duffel bag provided by SENE and carried by the mountain crew.
The Climb Group
Regardless of the size of the group, we provide our complete climb services and equipment for safety and comfort.
To confirm a climb we require a minimum of 2 climbers. We can confirm a climb with 1 climber if the person agrees to pay a solo supplement should no other climbers join the group (we can never guarantee that others will book a particular climb). See information below on solo climber versus single climber.
Single climbers who book a climb on which there are no other confirmed climbers (or who request a private 1-person climb) must pay a solo supplement (which is higher than a single supplement; rates vary by route). If others join the climb then the solo supplement is waived. However, we can never guarantee that other climbers will join any particular climb group.
We advise a minimum of 7 days climb to ensure adequate time to acclimate properly as you ascend and to increase your chances of summiting. Our 9 and 10 day climbs allow for maximum acclimatization and nearly 100% success rate. We will guide 6 day climbs (via Umbwe or Rongai), but only after consultation to gauge climbers’ capability.
The pace of the climb is set by the SENE lead guide to allow time to acclimatize to the altitude and maximize chances of a successful ascent. Our guides are highly trained and very experienced and will offer guidance on each section of the climb. You will encounter some sections of easy rock scrambling that may require use of your hands. A small amount of snow can be found near the summit, but it does not require crampons or an ice axe. Hiking and camping experience are beneficial, but are not prerequisites for participation. You won’t have to carry a heavy pack, set up a tent, or cook on a camp stove, thus allowing you to better enjoy the beauty of the mountain and the pleasure of the wilderness.
An overnight camping in the soft sand of the crater (18,800′ / 5730m) can be a magical experience for the solitude of the camp under the brilliant night sky. A crater overnight also provides you the opportunity to explore the Reusch Crater, ash pit, Furtwangler Glacier, and Northern Ice Field, as well as avoid rising in the middle of the night for your summit ascent – as it is only 45 minutes from crater camp to Uhuru Peak. We include a crater overnight in our Lemosho Crater and Northern Circuit routes, but it can be added to any climb route on request (when booking).
Those spending a night in the crater will have a day time ascent to the crater rim and down into the crater on the day prior to the crater overnight. The next morning climbers begin their summit ascent at daybreak or slightly before as it is a modest 45-minute hike to the summit from the crater floor.
Some climbers not overnighting in the crater may prefer a day time summit. We can accommodate this by making route adjustments that include a much longer descent on the final day. Please note that a day time ascent means the summit is likely to be shrouded in clouds upon arrival (early afternoon) and with a greater likelihood of inclement weather. A day time summit must be requested at the time of booking your climb and must be observed by all climbers in the group (we cannot split up a climb group into separate night time and day time summiters).
In 2006 there was a rock slide on the Breach that killed 3 climbers. The route was closed until early 2008, at which time the Kilimanjaro National Park Authority re-opened it with strict procedural requirements to ensure all climbers’ safety (early morning ascents before the afternoon ice melt loosens rocks; a route that avoids areas of greatest danger; use of helmets by all clients). At that time SENE again used the Western Breach ascent on Lemosho Crater climbs, strictly adhering to all KINAPA regulations.
In September 2015 there was another rock slide killing 1 climber. Based on the timing and nature of this recent slide, it appears to have been a geologic event not attributable to the ice melt that is the more common cause for slides on the Breach. Since then SENE has stopped guiding climbs via the Breach because of the extreme danger it poses to our climbers and crew due to the unpredictable timing and location of the slides. All our Lemosho Crater routes now ascend via Barafu to Stella Point and into the crater.