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Gary Clevenger, Managing Director of Freska Produce / Cal Sun and his Father Ira departed today from LAX on their way to Kenya, Africa and an epic adventure.

The Father - Son Team hope to climb Mount Kilimanjaro .

Mount Kilimanjaro

While Mt Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s largest topographical features, none of the six routes requires any technical skills or specialist equipment to climb, (though for Western Breach climbers we recommend that some supplementary equipment be considered). And although the height gained from the different start points to Kili’s peak at 5,895m is around 15% greater than from Mount Everest’s southern Base Camp to its summit, the ascent of Kilimanjaro does not require the use of slow and arduous Himalayan-style siege tactics, or of supplemental oxygen. It is therefore a perfectly manageable - and hugely fulfilling - challenge within the context of just a week or two’s holidays - provided the trekker has found enough time to do some fitness and endurance training at home beforehand.

For those as yet entirely unacquainted with the mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro is a volcano situated quite close to where Africa’s three main tectonic plates meet. For perhaps distantly historical reasons, there remains a widespread misconception that Kili is either in Kenya or at least straddles the Kenyan-Tanzanian border. This is not true, however, as the mountain sits entirely within Tanzania and is managed by the Tanzania National Park Authority (TANAPA), through the local administration of the Kilimanjaro National Park Authority (KINAPA). There is therefore no sense in which an expedition can legally be launched from within Kenya, and all attempts must be registered at either Londorossi (Shira and Lemosho Routes), Machame (Machame and Umbwe Routes), or Marangu Gates (Marangu and Rongai Routes), in Northern Tanzania.

Climbing Kilimanjaro

Unlike mountainous regions in most of the developed countries of the world, Mt. Kilimanjaro cannot be accessed solo, or without paying fees and subscribing to local regulations. We are sympathetic to the objections of some climbers against the stringent constraints of timings, movement and method, that are imposed by these regulations, but it should nonetheless please be understood that the National Parks of Tanzania are resources that are costly to preserve intact, and that the entrance fees that they accrue are a very valuable source of revenue to a grateful country that suffers a GDP per capita of approximately just 1.3% of that of the UK, and that in order safely to manage the sought-after high volumes of climbers that attempt the mountain every year (between 20,000 and 35,000), the authorities deem it necessary to exert a very careful degree of control over factors such as camp locations and direction of travel.

How hard is it to climb Kilimanjaro?

While we are often told by those who have climbed with us - including professional athletes - that they underestimated how difficult it would be to climb Kilimanjaro and that it turned out to be one of the hardest things they had ever done in their lives, in spite of this, almost anyone who is willing to train two or three times a week for three months, and who is strongly self-motivated and does not give up easily when faced with hardship and mental and physical discomfort, would be expected to reach the summit, Uhuru Peak.

That said, we encourage readers to explore this website in some detail, as there are nonetheless some inevitable - but largely mitigable - risks to the health and safety of trekkers on the mountain that everyone should be aware of. Such risks include the onset of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and its possible development to life-threatening conditions such as pulmonary or cerebral oedema (HAPE and HACE), if not identified and treated at the earliest stages - a process that largely requires the climber’s own cooperation and communication - as well as non-lethal threats that can compromise an otherwise successful tour, such as failure to anticipate the extent to which low oxygen environments inhibit circulation. Such considerations may mean that in spite of the fact that a climber has previously experienced comfort while wearing ski gloves at minus 15 degrees Centigrade when skiing at 2,000 metres, at 5,000 metres they will nonetheless risk frostbite at only minus 10 unless they wear generously filled down mittens, or similar. Such issues are not obvious or extrapolatable from non-altitude related pursuits and since we have encountered many disappointed climbers on Kilimanjaro who evidently did not consult their organiser in very great depth, we would emphasise the extent to which early and detailed communication with your chosen expedition coordinator is in your best interests, if wanting to summit comfortably and safely.

Kilimanjaro Routes

All climbers on Kilimanjaro are required to climb via one of only six officially sanctioned routes. These are, from west to east, Shira, Lemosho, Machame, Umbwe, Marangu, and Rongai. The western routes, (Shira, Lemosho, Machame and Umbwe), are required by KINAPA to descend via the Umbwe Route, a descent-only route, while the eastern routes, (Marangu and Rongai), must descend via the Marangu Route. Climbers are required - via their tour operator - to inform the park authorities which route they are electing to use, and are not permitted to switch routes while on the mountain.

Although there are only six trekking ‘routes’ on Kilimanjaro, that is only to say that there are six different locations from which it is permitted to begin an ascent. Provided that the correct descent route is used, there is actually a very high number of possible route permutations that can be followed, particularly on longer treks. Rongai, for example, has at least 11 variations along which we could configure a climb, if asked to. But although there is a great deal of route choice available, very few of the available options can be argued to be intelligent, or in any way optimal. It should be remembered that when the original standard routes were originally built, there was virtually no input from mountaineers, and route selection was simply a matter of how obstacles of topography and vegetation might most simply be overcome, and usually by people who were already well acclimatised and possessed no knowledge or scientific understanding of the process of acclimatising to high altitude. The consequence of such limited route selection criteria means that the standard route options that have evolved are generally very poor in mountaineering terms and will result in unnecessary exposure to headaches and nausea, and reduced prospects for summit success.

Our Use of Unique Trekking Routes

In terms of general year-round usage, since none of the original routes were deemed by Team Kilimanjaro to be acceptable in terms of incorporating sufficient exploitable topography with respect to the principles of safe and thorough acclimatisation; minimising exposure to crowds, and enhancing prospects for wildlife confrontation, we were constrained to develop entirely new route variants, that until very recently, were used only by our climb teams. These routes still remain almost exclusive to us, with only a very small handful of fellow operators having succeeded in following suit. By far our most successful route to date has been TK Rongai, which we designed in January 2007, with 61% of our climbers choosing to use that route last year. TK Rongai works extremely well throughout most of the year, having the greatest climb-high, sleep-low differential of all the mountain’s route variants, but it shares a crowded summit assault with Shira, Lemosho, Machame and Umbwe, in the very busiest months, and cannot be accessed in the wettest months; so route choice is not necessarily obvious, and we strongly advise close consultation with our coordinators. That said, we employ a means of further minimising exposure to crowds – even on the summit bid – by branching north away from the traditional trail and intercepting the standard, slippery assault route halfway to the crater rim, via a firmer path that offers a more gentle approach used by very few other climbers.

Our expedition coordinators will be very happy to assist with your route selection, however we advise climbers to begin with quite a comprehensive assessment of their options, by perusing our page on ‘how to choose your Kilimanjaro route’.

Team Kilimanjaro

This is probably where we are expected to say that Team Kilimanjaro are the best Kilimanjaro tour operators, and that our company has the best guides and offers the best treks; but apart from being perceived as rather arrogant, to actually say such things would be repugnant to us (regardless of what we actually believed), so we will have to leave our good readers to reach their conclusions independently of our subjectivity.

Cheap Kilimanjaro Тreks

Team Kilimanjaro aspires to offer the some of the highest quality climbs, staffed by some of the best trained and most motivated mountain professionals in the industry. We aim to provide the best foods and provisions and to use some of the best mountain equipment obtainable. These measures involve higher costs than are involved with budget-oriented climbs. For those who are required to prioritise budgeting and who therefore need to look for a relatively cheap Kilimanjaro climb, we are very pleased to recommend our sister operations, the Kilimanjaro Alpine Service and Team Maasai.

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