Challenge Central Logo

How fit do you need to be to climb Kilimanjaro?

Over the last few years when chatting with our participants as we trek up and down the UK mountains, I often hear misconceptions about Kilimanjaro, which is a climb on the hit list of just about every trekker I’ve ever met. I’ll hear things like:

“I want to build up my fitness for Kilimanjaro” or “I’d never be fit enough to climb Kilimanjaro”

Kilimanjaro is certainly much higher than anything we face in the UK but it’s not physically any harder.

Personally I would rank the physical difficultly level as equal or slightly less than that of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks or the National 3 Peaks. I actually wrote a previous blog comparing the difficultly of these two challenges – What’s tougher?

Kilimanjaro has nothing on The Welsh 3000s, which is definitely the toughest trekking challenge we organise.

Now you might have noticed I used the word “physically” when comparing the challenges and that is because there are other components for Kilimanjaro that make it a different sort of challenge all together.

From a physical aspect, if you can complete the National 3 Peaks, I’ve no doubt that you have the walking strength to reach the summit of Africa’s highest peak.

Acclimatisation to the altitude however is a different and ultimately the key question for successfully reaching the top of Kilimanjaro.

The speed at which we acclimatise to height differs from person to person and it has no correlation to fitness levels.

Therefore trekking too fast, which normal walking speed is considered to be, has the most damaging effect on participants’ chances of summiting.

This oddly puts people at a higher level of fitness at greater risk of moving too fast in the beginning and suffering from altitude sickness later in the trek.

For me, patience is the key for this challenge. You need to walk very slowly, even when it feels ridiculously easy and must ensure you drink plenty of water.

It is not my intention to paint this challenge as easy because that’s certainly not the case. There are other factors to consider in addition to fitness and altitude adaptation including trekking experience, camping on the mountain and equipment selection.

I am also not suggesting that fitness training shouldn’t be a key part of preparation for Kilimanjaro either; it is absolutely essential to be in good physical and healthy condition.

My point is solely that Kilimanjaro is achievable for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and that the trek is no more physically demanding than our popular UK based 3 Peak Challenges.

For anyone interested in learning more about climbing Kilimanjaro, I recommend attending one of our free information evenings to meet with the CC team and other participants who have experienced the challenge themselves.

Keep setting goals.