Mount Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp
rank as two of the most popular “epic mountain” treks in the world. Both mountains are members of the seven summits, the highest peaks of the seven continents. With their spectacular views and long trek times through different types of landscape, they attract a range of visitors from hardened trekking veterans to more casual adventurers who want to experience these famous spots. These are popular trips; every year roughly 30,000 people will be trekking Kilimanjaro
departing from Moshi, in Tanzania, Africa. And annually over 40,000 make the trip from Lukla airport in Nepal, up to the Everest Base Camp
in the mighty Himalayan range.
With both treks being highly rated by travellers, it can be hard to decide between Mount Kilimanjaro vs Everest Base Camp trek. To help with that decision, many people ask
which one is more difficult. In this article, we look for the answer. Although on first glance Everest Base Camp trek seems like the more challenging option, the reality may surprise you! You can find some answers on forums like Tripadvisor
, but they are usually opinions which swing both ways depending on the individual’s experience.
Compare Everest vs Kilimanjaro. Resting on the EBC trek. Photo by Mike
What many trekkers fail to take into account when they compare these two trips is that the Kilimanjaro trek takes you right to the top of the mountain’s summit. The Everest trek takes you through mountainous terrain to the Everest Base Camp, which sits at 5364 m above sea level - but nearly 3000 m below Mount Everest’s summit (8848 m).
The Kilimanjaro summit for the treks, Uhuru Peak, sits at 5895 m - in fact making it slightly higher than Everest Base Camp by around 500 meters. What people underestimate about trekking Kilimanjaro is that it climaxes in climbing a very large mountain, bringing some extra challenges that Everest Base Camp trekkers will not face.
Success rates for trekking Kilimanjaro and Everest are notoriously unreliable, as official sources can be old, undependable or wrong, and trip operators naturally claim higher rates than reality. Success rates can also dip through factors like budget tours attracting clients who may not be as prepared for long mountainous treks.
In general though, if you sift through the averages from all sources, the Everest Base Camp trek has a very high success rate of around 90%. Kilimanjaro’s success rate is more variable, with some routes and operators scoring as low as 60% and others up to 90%. This means that one should choose a trek operator for climbing Kilimanjaro
What can we learn from these statistics? Well, the Everest Base Camp trek has a much more reliable success rate across the board. In part, this is due to there being one main, old and very well established route to the base camp with few variations. Tourism along this route has been established for decades. In comparison, climbing Kilimanjaro has been popular with tourist trekkers for a shorter time, there are multiple popular routes to the summit, some dubious operators and the tourist infrastructure is nowhere near as developed as the Everest trek. Many people underestimate hiking Kilimanjaro too, which also lowers the success rate. In other words, your experience on an Everest Base Camp trek will be fairly predictable, whereas for Kilimanjaro there are a lot of variables which can affect your probabilities of success. So it is key for Kilimanjaro to do your research, pick a good guide/company to trek with and make sure you are appropriately prepared for the challenge, maximizing your chance of success.
Compare Kilimnjaro vs Everest. Approaching the Everest Base Camp.. Photo by Mike
Comparing Everest vs Kilimanjaro, both treks are fairly long, with the shortest Everest Base Camp trek being around 12 days, and hiking Kilimanjaro only 5 days. These are using the standard routes, but for both treks it’s possible to increase your trip by days or even weeks by including extra segments or returning via a different route. In general, the Everest Base Camp treks are longer but the gradients more gradual.
It’s important to note that both treks are normal hiking on regular paths - there is no actual climbing involved and they are not technical in any way, making them suitable for all ages. However, you do need to be of a decent level of fitness due to the treks’ duration, steep climbs and high altitudes. Over half your trip will be going uphill and you can expect to spend 5-7 hours a day hiking. It is important to make sure that you are prepared beforehand by doing longer hikes and cardiovascular activity for extended periods. However, aim for endurance and longer periods of activity over speedy, high intensive exercise - on both treks the attitude is “slow and steady wins the race”, giving your body more time to adjust to the altitude changes and sensible pacing to avoid wearing yourself out. Also consider training at least a few months in advance if you consider yourself to be unfit - getting fit takes time!
For climbing Kilimanjaro , fitness is more important as the summit day is a steep climb and a long day, and the trek takes a shorter time overall but ascends more quickly. For this trek in addition to cardio training you should also think about doing some leg muscle and core exercises to strengthen up, or train by including steep hikes into your regime, both up and downhill. There are excellent resources for Kilimanjaro training
Compare Kilimnjaro vs Everest. Kilimanjaro Summit from the Lemosho Route. Photo by Mike
Despite Everest’s longer trek length, most trekkers still rate the Kilimanjaro climb as the most physically demanding of the two, mainly due to the intensive summit day. Whereas the Everest base camp trek is a fairly evenly paced hike with regular length days, Kilimanjaro has an intensive day when trekkers ascend to the summit. As trekkers want to see the sunrise from the mountain’s summit, this means departing in the dark. The set off time varies depending on the location of the lodge, your route and the fitness of your group, but it can range from 10pm the night before to 2 am that morning.
Trekkers will ascend over 1200 m before sunrise to see the views from the top, and then spend the rest of the day skirting the crater before steeply descending to the next campsite or lodge. The average summit day trek time is 10-12 hours and leaves most people tired, and exhilarated. Adverse weather conditions can also make the climb more challenging. Most people agree that although Everest has its tough moments, they are eclipsed by Kilimanjaro summit day, so it’s important to be aware of and be appropriately prepared.
Both the Kilimanjaro and Everest treks are at high enough altitudes for altitude sickness to be a problem. This happens when you ascend too quickly for your body to adapt to the pressure of the oxygen in the air. Altitude sickness manifests itself in a variety of nasty symptoms and can even lead to death, making it a dangerous factor that can’t be ignored.
The Everest Base Camp trek takes this into account, a few days of these treks are typically “rest days” in mountain villages, to give the body time to acclimatise before continuing upwards. These breaks also give trekkers a chance to recover from previous day’s climbing and many take the opportunity to relax in tea houses, or explore the surrounding area as their bodies adjust. Most Everest tour operators and guides are responsible and always have these enforced stops in order not to endanger their clients. This means that cases of altitude sickness are low on this trek.
The Kilimanjaro climb is also at high altitude. Trekkers need to be aware that they will be ascending more quickly than on the Everest trek and therefore may be more susceptible to altitude sickness. The Marangu route is one of the shortest and the cheapest, but has a higher rate of failure to summit due to failure to acclimatize. Responsible operators will allow more time to acclimatize, or you could take one of the longer routes which ascend more gradually, giving your body time to adjust. The 9 day Northern Circuit
is the safest in this regard, with a slow gradual climb to the summit. This route up Kilimanjaro do not offer as impressive views, so another alternative, such as the 8 day Lemosho Route
, combines the best of both worlds.
Regardless of whether you opt for the Everest trek or the Kilimanjaro climb, take a look into altitude sickness, the risks and symptoms and make sure your trekking guide or company is taking it into account. Many trekkers find that anti-altitude sickness medication is a big help, especially on the big ascent days.
Wistful adventurers might imagine the Everest Base Camp trek to be just like the days of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s successful summit bid in 1953. A quiet, narrow path through remote traditional villages full of yaks and farmers, passing remote monasteries and friendly monks. The reality today is somewhat different. Everest Base Camp trekking, like most of the other Nepalese trekking circuits, is a well-oiled tourist machine. Much of the route is paved with stone, thousands of visitors
tromp up and down the trail with guides, and sherpas, mules and yak trains squeeze past each other. What were once tiny, basic farming villages are now bustling hives full of charming tourist “tea houses”.
Compare Kilimnjaro vs Everest. Tea House along Everest Base Camp. Photo by John
Most trekkers to Everest Base Camp can enjoy real beds with thick blankets in private or shared rooms and cooked meals. They’ll have a homely atmosphere in busy lounges with roaring fires, electricity in many lodges and slow wi-fi, western toilets, and even hot showers for a price. Little shops offer snacks, drinks, souvenirs and trekking supplies - some villages even have German bakeries! There are more basic options available such as camping but many visitors do not need to do this, as “tea house trekking” is cheap enough. Its perfect for more elderly travellers but crucially ensures that most trekkers get a decent rest after each long day.
Compared to the Everest Base Camp, Mount Kilimanjaro climb is more basic. Although the Marangu route has lodges along its length, compared to Nepal these are more reminiscent of traditional mountain huts such as in the Alps or New Zealand, offering dormitories, heating and toilets but little in the way of luxury. Food is usually brought up the mountain by porters and cooked by guides and there is limited electricity. If you aren’t staying in lodges, or are taking any other route to climb Kilimanjaro, you’ll be camping. Although staying in a tent is a good adventure, it’s a tiring way to trek as it’s simply not as comfortable as a real bed, and can get very cold once you reach higher altitudes. Older travellers or the more unfit travellers may find that Everest is a more comfortable option but the younger, experienced and adventurous will have no problems with Kilimanjaro’s options - just be prepared!
So we’ve learned that Everest Base Camp trek, although still a challenge, is a slightly easier prospect than the Mount Kilimanjaro climb. Thanks to Everest’s well-established tourist infrastructure and longer duration the physical demands of this longer trek are less than the Kilimanjaro climb. Everest tends to be a cheaper option thanks to Nepal’s economy. It’s probably worth considering Everest over Kilimanjaro if you are elderly, less fit, or have a lower trip budget.
The Kilimanjaro trek is great, but not to be taken lightly. It’s a more adventurous option with less luxury but more exciting prospects. The major benefits are a spectacular summit view (something that Everest doesn’t offer), and a shorter overall trek time. Although it’s more challenging than Everest, if you do your research beforehand and pick an appropriate route and a good company to travel with, it’s perfectly achievable and an amazing experience.
You must take the advice about altitude sickness into account and be prepared for a more basic living style on this trek. You also have to be prepared for the challenging summit day climb and need to be physically prepared for the trek. More elderly or less fit travellers would be best opting for one of the longer routes that spreads the climb out over more days and camping, or taking a longer time to do the shorter routes, where you will have lodges. But however you do it, this trek should be a very rewarding trip through many types of landscape and a memorable experience.