Kilimanjaro makes a great family vacation! YES, children age ten and older can climb Kilimanjaro. The Tanzanian park authority does not allow children under the age of ten to climb over 3700 meters/12,000 feet. If your children are up for the adventure, you will want to take some extra precautions before you go:
First, discuss the trip with your pediatrician. Improper exposure to altitude can be very dangerous for a developing brain, and if your child has any health concerns it may not be worth your while to attempt Kili as a family at this time. A few years in the development of a child can make a big difference, depending upon your child’s age and stage of development it may be best to wait.
Second, prepare your child physically and mentally well in advance. Purchase good quality equipment and get your child used to wearing it and using it. Make family treks to break in your boots a frequent event in your household, and practice walking with a few water bottles in your pack. Discuss the possible challenges that you will face as a family on the mountain (bad weather, difficult days of hiking, symptoms of altitude sickness) and develop a family mantra to use to encourage one another as you train and again to encourage one another on the mountain. Be realistic about what your child can expect, but make an effort to discuss it with them in a positive nature with the emphasis of the conversation being on their ability to make it to the summit! If possible, try to take your child on a few short high altitude hikes to get a sense for how their body will respond.
Finally, be extra selective in choosing your route and outfitter. At KiliBound Adventures, we strongly recommend that children use the Lemosho Route due to the extra time it allows for acclimatization. Acclimatization is one of the biggest factors influencing whether or not you summit safely. It is not universally considered safe for adults or children to use oxygen during the summit, it is much better to allow your body extra days to acclimatize naturally. Look for outfitters that offer private toilets (you don’t want your child using the public long drops, they are very dirty) and personal porters to carry your child’s day pack and help them along the trek. Ask your outfitter how the staff feels about having children along for the trek, some are more comfortable working with that clientele than others.
So now you know that children can climb Kilimanjaro, but should your child climb? Climbing Kili is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of your life, and the families that have climbed with us have felt it especially meaningful to summit with their children. That being said, safety first! Listen to your gut, Kilimanjaro will wait for you.
Questions? We can put you in touch with climbers of all ages who have summited successfully, just contact us and request to speak with a parent or child who has climbed with us. We are always here to answer any of your questions about climbing Kilimanjaro!