Why We Recommend Crampons For Every Kilimanjaro Trekker
As of June 2018, Mount Kilimanjaro has been receiving some unseasonably heavy snowfall on its slopes. This makes for a stunning, white-wintery approach to the Roof of Africa, but it also means slippery, icy trail conditions.
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But worry not: with the appropriate gear and Easy Travel's world-class, KPAP-certified guides and porters Kili's summit is accessible year-round. Easy Travel has been leading trips up Mount Kilimanjaro for decades, and our guides have ascended and descended through every imaginable condition.
However, if this June-August is your first attempt at hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, you must come prepared.
After reading our more comprehensive packing list for hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, we are recommending all Easy Travel trekkers to buy or rent crampons before arriving into Tanzania. This is solely for your personal safety. There will be no options for obtaining crampons in-country and several trekkers have had to recently turn around short of the summit due to inadequate gear. Don't let this be you.
What are Crampons?
Crampons are any "traction device that is attached to footwear to improve mobility on now and ice during ice climbing." Basically, crampons are soccer cleats on steroids, those spiky things strapped to the bottom of mountaineer's boots and armed with a dozen metal teeth that cling to ice and snow when walking or climbing.
Though the word "crampon" and their application might stir some indwelling fear for those with little to no mountaineering experience, but crampons help tremendously when navigating any slippery ice/snow terrain, no matter how technical or recreational. Fear less the crampon and more the dangerous slip-and-slide if you don't have them.
Mount Kilimanjaro treks require no technical climbing skills. No ropes, no harnesses, and no specialized climbing experience are necessary for this trek. Mount Kilimanjaro is considered to be one of the highest non-technical hikes in the world, but this does not mean it's a cakewalk. At 19,341 feet (5895m), Kili's summit requires great effort. And when there's heavy snowfall years (read: now), trekkers find crampons to help greatly with traction on the ascent, and, more importantly, the way back down.
How Do I Use Crampons?
Crampons are fairly straightforward. Some are quick-strap cinches that fasten around your boot's toes and heel, while others with more minimal spikes ("microspikes") act merely as additional traction that you stretch onto the sole of your boot. Each crampon style is different; talk to your local gear shop.
Not all Crampons are Created Equal. Most crampons can only fit on semi or fully stiff boots, not casual, flexible walking sneakers or hikers. There's a rating system you'll find for crampons (C1-C3) and boots (B0-B3). Basically, the higher the number, the higher the technical mountaineering. Take a look:click here
If you choose to only wear semi-firm hiking shoes (B0), you might consider lighter traction like microspikes. Two brands we know and love are Kahtoola and Yaktrax. Under ideal conditions, you can normally reach Kilimanjaro's summit wearing modest hiking shoes, but we advise also packing a sturdy pair of trekking boots for the final days. In recent events of increased snowfall, Easy Travel is recommending all trekkers arrive with crampons (which only work with sturdy boots).
Here's a short video to get your oriented on how to use crampons for walking up mountains:
But I Thought June-August is a Great Time to Climb Kilimanjaro?
True. According to meteorological patterns, the long rains typically occur in Northern Tanzania between March and late May, followed by a dry and cool season June through August. These favorable months correspond with summer holiday in the Northern Hemisphere, which results in Kilimanjaro's high season.
But as the largest freestanding mountain on the planet, Kili creates its own weather patterns on its own time. And like any high elevation trek, you must be fully prepared—mentally, physically, and gear-wise. Easy Travel will be fully prepared to guide you every step of the way, but as the trekker you must be prepared with the appropriate gear, prepared for any and all conditions.
Are you looking at climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and still unsure when the best time to visit is? Take a look at our recent post which includes the top 3 things to consider when choosing when to climb Mt Kili.
What If I Don't Have Crampons?
If you don't have crampons, your chances of successfully reaching the summit will be reduced. The final summit day is steep and challenging (even without snow!) and crampons or alternative traction points will assist with each step. And believe me, when you trekking at 19,000 feet, any assistance is welcome.
These days, crampons are being manufactured lighter and more economical than ever. With the recent heavy snowfall on Mount Kilimanjaro, we are recommending you pack a pair of crampons and sturdy boots for your trek. Remember: there will be no option to rent or purchase crampons in Arusha. Here are some crampons to consider: learn more. Have specific questions? Contact us.
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