What A Woman Needs To Know When Climbing Kilimanjaro

Plus how to use a shewee

What A Woman Needs To Know When Climbing Kilimanjaro

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mountain kilimanjaro
Climbing Kilimanjaro is a bucket list experience. and seeing images of Mt Kilimanjaro is enough to inspire you to book a trip.

Seeing pictures of Mount Kilimanjaro might be enough to inspire you to plan a hike. If climbing Kilimanjaro is on your bucket list, your first question might be: how high is Kilimanjaro ? The height of Kilimanjaro is 5895m (19,341feet), which makes it the highest freestanding mountain in the world. If the elevation of Kilimanjaro doesn’t put you off you should know that 20,000 people attempt the climb every year and only 65% actually make it to the summit of Kilimanjaro.

If you’re not one of 1000 people on the Mount Kilimanjaro hike who are evacuated each year or one of the 10 people trekking Kilimanjaro who die from altitude sickness (yes, there are deaths on Mt Kilimanjaro each year), you’ll have a grand achievement under your belt.

The good news is you don’t have to be an expert hiker to tackle consider climbing Kilimanjaro. But before you rush off to make a booking, you need to do some planning.

elevation of kilimanjaro
Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro requires some thought about the toilet stops. Here’s a toilet at base of Mawenzi Peak on our Kilimanjaro climb. Photos: Irene Isaacson.

Mt Kilimanjaro Map

Mount Kilimanjaro map
Study a Mt Kilimanjaro map, even if you’re planning on climbing Kilimanjaro with a guide.

If you are not an experienced bush hiker, then you need an idea of what to expect when hiking Kilimanjaro.

Yes, you need to be fit and be able to walk for hours. Of course, you need to be mentally prepared to push your body and mind beyond your comfort zone. The altitude of Mount Kilimanjaro means there’s the potential of altitude sickness to consider. But the most important thing you must give some thought to before committing to hiking Kilimanjaro is how to manage your ablutions.

Finding a toilet while hiking Kilimanjaro (or Kili) is serious business.

For me, the physical challenges of hiking Kilimanjaro were on par with the challenges of  using the toilets during the climb.

Kilimanjaro routes

How long does it take to climb Kilimanjaro? That depends on the route you take. There are six routes to choose from when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

  • Marangu Route offers accommodation in huts.
  • Machame Route – most popular Kilimanjaro route
  • Rongai Route – the easiest Kilimanjaro route
  • Shira Route –  serious climb on day one
  • Lemosho Route – most scenic Kilimanjaro route
  • Umbwe Route: – spectacular and most demanding Kilimanjaro route
climbing kilimanjaro
How long does it take to climb Kilimanjaro?

Climbing Kilimanjaro – RONGAI ROUTE

The Rongai Route is a drier but less scenic route, however, it has great views of Kili, especially from the toilets. Here’s our Kilimanjaro climbing itinerary along the Rongai route.

Day 1:  Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro to Simba Camp

The Rongai route starts at Nalemaru Gate (1950m) and the toilet here sets the standard for the hike.

This is an easy day with warm temperatures and a day of slow gentle walking through green farmland and rainforest.

The evening campsite is surrounded by trees and high shrubs with a clear starry sky.

climbing mountain Kilimanjaro
Toilets along the Rongai route Kilimanjaro are as much of a test as the terrain when climbing Kilimanjaro. Left to right: Nalemaru Toilet/Simba Camp Toilet/ Inside Simba Camp Toilet

The Simba Camp bush toilet is a relatively clean wooden hut.

Watch out for the African guard in full military uniform with a rather large rifle over his shoulder.

The gun is ‘to protect you from wild buffalo or elephant, Missy’.

This is nothing like campsites back home, where the odd kangaroo might bound past as you dart for the ‘dunny’.

Guarding vulnerable tourist backsides against marauding wildlife is a job of great honour. After all, this is Africa.

Day 2:  Mount Kilimanjaro hike to Kikelewa Cave

Ascending Kilimanjaro, past the Second Cave at 3450m, the vegetation changes as you enter the heath zone.

You are encouraged to drink four to six litres of water a day, which seems like a sound piece of advice.

But the problem is unless you are a camel you will need to use the toilet more frequently than at the formal stops. You’ll appreciate my comment later – read on.

The evening is spent at Kikelewa Cave with spectacular views to towering Mawenzi in the distance.

climbing mt kilimanjaro
Kikelewa Cave Toilet With View of Mawezi is a welcome stop when you climb mt Kilimanjaro

Day 3: Cold winds while climbing Kilimanjaro to Mawenzi Tarn Hut

Mawenzi is an extinct cone of the three volcanic cones of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

At 5149m, the ‘long drop’ toilets at the base of Mawenzi offer great views of Mount Kilimanjaro’s majestic rocky outcrops whilst one does one’s business.

It’s a little cool and somewhat breezy. But the wind keeps the flies at bay. This is a huge bonus on relatively warm days.

toilets when you climb mount kilimanjaro
More toilets when you climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Left to right: Toilet at the base of Mawenzi Peak/Long Drop Toilet At Mawenzi

As temperatures fall, however, positioning such toilets on the edge of a rocky precipice where howling and freezing winds pass through is by no means the height of ingenious African construction or forward thinking.

NIGHT TIME SHEWEE TO THE RESCUE

Using a bottle whilst enjoying the luxury of sleeping in a warm tent is easy for a man but a woman has to improvise.

This is where a female urination device or shewee comes in very handy. Shewees are a female urine funnel that can come in many shapes and colours.

I had a fancy pink, collapsible and washable latex version bought at our local hiking store.

Be diligent and watch a few YouTube videos before use. There is a technique required to use one properly!

I found my shewee very useful in the dark of the night. While crouching in our low two-person tent using my husband’s night time bottle, I managed to achieve a successful outcome whilst he snored.

Brilliant!

Here’s where you can buy a shewee

Day 4: We develop a rock hunting obsession as we climb Kilimanjaro

The guides will encourage you to drink lots.  But the more you drink, the more you pee. It’s simple mathematics.

hiking kilimanjaro
You learn to be obsessed with rocks as you climb Kilimanjaro. ‘Rock’ Toilets (Hike to Kibo)/Beware of Running Out of Rocks

This needs to be taken into consideration as the vegetation disappears and is replaced by alpine desert.

African shrubbery is slowly replaced by rocks.

Our guide often disappeared mumbling “I go look for rock”.

At first, I thought he was collecting small rocks along the way for one of his children as a momento. But I soon understood why he repeatedly went off rock hunting.

Upon increasing my fluid intake, I too joined in the hunt for a rock. And women need big ones to crouch and hide behind out of view whilst one drops one’s trousers and gets on with business.

The biggest problem is when you find the ideal rock, you can be sure that hundreds of trekkers before you have also used that rock.

What you see behind those rocks will supercharge you to hold on until your next lunch stop with a proper toilet!

Snow on Kilimanjaro and the shewee

Kibo is the only dormant volcanic cone of the three cones (4703m) and the point of the final ascent to Uhuru.

By now, the landscape is bare earth and volcanic dust, with sub-zero temperatures and light snow.

Kibo houses flashy ‘Tourist Toilets’ complete with partly tiled floors.

Compared to the bush rocks, it’s a luxurious touch. But walking to the toilet in the middle of freezing-cold nights is simply not an option.

climbing mountain kilimanjaro
These toilets are on the Mount Kilimanjaro tourist map.

Here’s where you’ll be thankful for your shewee.

Bouyed with confidence from my previous success, in the silence of the night, I positioned myself and my shewee perfectly.

I aimed into my husband’s bottle.

Hole-in-one I thought as I heard the trickling of my urine into the bottle.

But although I was greatly relieved of my bladder pressure, I soon realised I had a blowback effect and had leaked all over my sleeping bag – aaargh!

Thoughts of nursing homes and warm uriniferous beds came to mind.

Noooooo!

Thank God I had brought some perfume to mask the odour.

Yes, that’s another tip. Bring perfume while climbing Kilimanjaro.

You never know when you may need it!

Day 5: Trekking Kilimanjaro to the Kibo hut

Use the tourist toilets as much as possible during the day to prepare yourself for the final ascent to the summit of Kilimanjaro.

Wearing five to six layers of clothing in freezing cold conditions at night is not conducive to ablutions on the rooftop of Africa.

snow on kilimanjaro
Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro where you can see the snow on Kilimanjaro is an achievement to be proud of.
how long does it take to climb mt kilimanjaro
Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro is an amazing experience. The view from Stella Point At Sunrise is most memorable.

The tramp through the night to sunrise at Stella Point (5739m) and on to Uhuru Point (5895m) is without a toilet stop.

However, the exhilaration of getting to the top puts any thought of toileting well out of mind.

In fact, I don’t remember having to go until late afternoon back down at Kibo.

Day 6: Uhuru, Kibo and Horombo hut

By late morning when you return down the mountain to Kibo, the short toilet break and spaghetti and popcorn carbs top up after the 1000m vertical climb is very welcome.

The continued walk to the final stop late that afternoon at Horombo Hut is now a downward breeze.

mountkilimanjaro climb cost
Make sure the cost to climb Mount Kilimanjaro includes all your gear.
hiking kilimanjaro
Horombo camp has a toilet that flushes.

But there are also surprisingly civilised and new toilets there now, complete with a flush system, tiles and running water.

Oh what luxury! I slept like a baby through the night after the long 15-hour walk. And the best of all, I didn’t have to use the she-wee.

Day 7: Mount Kilimanjaro hike back to civilisation

Be conscious of celebration too much during your last night on the mountain as there is only a very old toilet midway during the walk out of the park.

I was about to use it out of sheer desperation until I went inside.

hiking kilimanjaro
More Mount Kilimanjaro images of toilets. The photo speaks for itself and is one of the Mount Kilimanjaro hiking low points.

It didn’t take a split second to decide to wait till the lunch stop at Mandara Hut.

The very nice, clean luxury style western toilet at Mandara is a blessing indeed.

mount kilimanjaro pictures of toilets
When researching facts about Kilimanjaro, don’t forget the toilets. Here’s the Mandara Hut Toilet at Marangu Gate. It’s a luxurious palace compared to some of the others.

Passing through Marangu Gate at the end requires a dance of victory and a celebration of a return to relative civilisation.

Treat yourself to a night in a luxury western-style hotel room with a well-earned bath, cold beer and a long sit on the loo.

Fresh toilet paper? Now you are talking!

Facts about Mount Kilimanjaro 

How high is Mount Kilimanjaro?

At 5895m (19,341feet) Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is the highest freestanding mountain in the world. The lofty elevation of Kilimanjaro has given it the nickname Roof of Africa.

Best time to climb Kilimanjaro

Although it’s possible to hike Mount Kilimanjaro at any time of the year, the weather on Mt Kilimanjaro dictates when most climbers choose to go. The best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro are from January to March (colder and the possibility of snow) and June to October. January to March is less busy as Europeans and US trekkers usually go during the June to October season. The worse months to trek are March, April and November. If you want to avoid snow in Kilimanjaro don’t go from December to May.

Climbing Kilimanjaro cost

The cost of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro can vary between USD$1000 and USD$4000. When choosing a package, make sure it includes accommodation (before and after the climb) and equipment. Safety is paramount, so make sure the guide you choose is familiar with the terrain and idiosyncrasies of the mountain.

You may want to consider a charity climb of Kilimanjaro to help those in need while achieving your own lifetime goal. The cost of climbing Mt Kilimanjaro for charity may even be more than a normal tour but you’ll feel better for helping someone else.

Irene Isaacson was armed with toilet paper and shewee while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro at her own expense.

Discover Africa

After climbing Kilimanjaro, treat yourself to a Uganda gorilla trek. While in Africa, a Masai Mara safari is one of the most popular holidays for wildlife lovers.

There are several luxury camps in the Maasai Mara, including Governor’s CampOlare Mara Kempinski, Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri and the famous Olonana. Riding in a hot air balloon over the Maasai Mara is a bucket list experience.

Africa offers plenty of volunteering opportunities where you can walk with lions and get close to the wildlife.

Climbing Kilimanjaro

Climbing Kilimanjaro

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6 COMMENTS

  1. While I was reading your post, I realised, it is a very serious concern about going to the toilet. I am not much of a mountain climber but I was told that if I ever want to attempt one, Kili might be the best option considering it is an easier terrain as compared to most others. Finding a decent toilet wold be a concern and thankfully it seem that some places do have manageable ones (as long as you’re protected from the wildlife haha). But then I read on to realise, many places don’t have toilets at all and that’s where you’ve used a device I’ve been reading about a lot lately – the Shewees. I’m not sure I like the idea of it, though I am sure it makes it easier to wee in the wild mountains with no toilets!

  2. Great tip! You have certainly covered an important factor when going on hikes especially for us women. Using the toilet is really hard when doing a hike. I’ve never heard of a shewee before but it sounds amazing and very efficient especially for major climbs like Mt. Kilimanjaro.

  3. Wow, this sounds like a very difficult hike. I don’t even dare to think of such an endeavor. I experienced first hand what altitude sickness means when we did a short hike on Jungfraujoch, in Switzerland, some years ago. My husband and I did some serious hiking in Patagonia a few months ago and I know the difficulties you encounter in remote places like these. Although, Patagonia’s altitude is not even close that of Kilimanjaro.

  4. Climbing Kili is certainly not a difficult hike. You just need to be able to walk for 3-5hrs a day, with an 8-10 hr walk on the night/day you summit. Its the altitude that takes getting used to and unless you can do altitude training beforehand, which most of us can’t do, you just don’t know if you will be affected or not. Its good to take as much time to do it, if you can. The most common is a 6 day walk but some people do do a longer walk, its just a matter of how much time and money you want to spend. And yes, the shewee is a great idea, just get one and practice using it before you go…lol!

  5. Wow! Now this seems like a great adventure. The 19000 feet hike to Mount Kilimanjaro is a big achievement. I can well imagine people dying of altitude sickness there. The Shewee looks like a big time savior for every hike.

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