Here’s what it takes to ice climb Kilimanjaro

As glaciers melt, this adventure is becoming a rare experience.

Photograph by Christian Pondella

On Kilimanjaro, most climbers go straight for the Tanzanian mountain’s famous summit. But those who take the more dangerous western route have found glaciers up to 100 feet tall. These ancient frozen masses are tropical anomalies—ice doesn’t often last long near the Equator. The sun’s rays cause the foot of a glacier to melt first, leading to calving, breakaways, and, sometimes, stand-alone towers of ice (pictured above). Kilimanjaro’s ice climbing can be some of the best on Earth, says climber Will Gadd. One reason to go soon: These glaciers—like glaciers everywhere—are melting.

Any attempt on this mountain requires serious physical and mental preparation. To build fitness, starting at least half a year in advance, Gadd suggests daily weight and cardio workouts paired with a diet of whole foods and lean red meat. During training climbs, he advises, explorers should be alert to warning signs like sustained winds or impending rain.

High-quality gear is the key to both enjoying ice climbs and surviving them, Gadd says. He’s adamant about taking the following:

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