Everest or Kilimanjaro? Trekking Comparison

Are you planning a trek and trying to decide between either Everest Base Camp or Kilimanjaro? I have been to both and wanted to put together a bit of a comparison of the experience on each. This comparison looks specifically at the Kilimanjaro’s Marangu Route which is the quickest and also one of the most popular summit approaches. The other routes to Kilimanjaro’s summit take more time and give trekkers a better chance to acclimatize.

Everest or Kilimanjaro: Which is more difficult?

View of Ama Dablam on Everest Trek

View of Ama Dablam on Everest Trek

The summit day on Kilimanjaro is definitely more difficult than any day on the Everest Base Camp trek and involves ascending 1200m to the summit and then descending nearly 2400m to camp. On the otherhand, the trek to Everest Base Camp is more of an endurance test taking 9 to 10 days or almost double the time required on Kilimanjaro. The rapid ascent and elevation change experienced on Kilimanjaro add an additional level of difficulty and creates more potential problems with acclimatization.

The Everest Base Camp trek is 122km (76 miles) round trip and one gains a total elevation of 4200m/13900feet accounting for ups and downs on the trail. In comparison, Kilimanjaro’s Marangu Route is 70km (42 miles) and requires an elevation gain of 4000m / 13100ft.

Everest or Kilimanjaro: The Scenery and Trekking Experience

Giant Groundsel on Kilimanjaro Climb

Giant Groundsel on Kilimanjaro Climb

Kilimanjaro and Everest both offer vastly different trekking experiences. The scenery on the Everest Base trek is incredible once you pass Namche Bazaar on the third day the views of the peaks are spectacular. The trail passes below the base of Ama Dablam (the Matterhorn of the Himalayas) and the trek offers views of 4 of the world’s 14 eight thousand meter peaks which include; Cho Oyu, Lhotse, Makalu and of course Everest. Kilimanjaro is a free standing peak and can’t offer the same mountain scenery but still provides an interesting experience as you traverse through the different eco-zones. The trek to Kilimanjaro starts off in the lowland rainforests at the base of the mountain which gradually thin and transition to cloud forest (heath zone) where bearded mosses and lichens covers the short stubby trees in the moist and often misty air. Leaving the Heath Zone one enters the Mooreland Zone which is a unique zone of vegetation well known for its Giant Lobelia and Groundsels (See photo). The highlight for me on the Kilimanjaro was getting to the summit and seeing the rising sun on the ice fields. I think Everest Base Camp wins in terms of scenery but Kilimanjaro is also a unique experience on a beautiful mountain.

Tengboche Monastery Everest Trek

Tengboche Monastery Everest Trek

The actual trekking experience also varies quite a bit. Kilimanjaro offers a mountain hut system on the Marangu Route and camping on other routes. The huts which are run by the national park service are comfortable and in the lower camps each small room is shared between four people. The huts provide a mat to sleep on and lighting but no electrical outlets. The “Tea House” experience in Nepal is quite a bit different and I think the hospitability of the Sherpa culture is part of the trekking experience that can’t be replicated in a hut system run by a national park service. On the Everest trek you will be hiking through small village’s dependant on tourism for their livelihood and offering the visitors a range of restaurants, lodging options and shops selling everything from souvenirs to snacks. Tea houses usually have a shared dining room where you can enjoy the fire and a beer in the evening as you get a chance to swap stories with others on the same journey. Rooms in the tea houses are either 1 or 2 person per room and have basic bedding and lighting. Some people may say that the tea house experiences is a bit commercialized but I think that provides some of its color as well and it’s something I prefer over the huts on Kilimanjaro although not everyone will have the same take on this.

Everest or Kilimanjaro: Acclimatization

Ice Fields of Kilimanjaro

Ice Fields of Kilimanjaro

Everest Base Camp at 5,380 m (17,700 ft) and Kilimanjaro at 5,895 m (19,341ft) are not substantially different in elevation and both require sufficient time for acclimatization. The main difference is that the trek to Everest Base Camp give you sufficient time to acclimatize while Kilimanjaro gains elevation much more quickly as a result trekkers are more likely to encounter problems. On a 5 day climb of Kilimanjaro your body never has a chance to properly acclimatize to elevations at the summit and it is only really possible since you go up and come down quick enough that problems are unlikely to develop. The bottom line is that more trekkers have problems on Kilimanjaro because of the shorter acclimatization period.

Check this post out: Acclimatizing for Everest Base Camp

Everest or Kilimanjaro: When to go + Weather

View of Everest an and Lhotse from Namche Bazar

View of Everest an and Lhotse from Namche Bazar

Everest or Kilimanjaro: When to go  + Weather and Seasons

Everest Base Camp can be trekked anytime from October until June. The Everest Trek can be quite cold during December and January but it is one of my favorite times of year as the crowds are completely absent and you have the mountain to yourself. Kilimanjaro has two seasons and is good climbing from June to September and during January and February. The busiest month on Kilimanjaro is September and January is the least busy month with typically good weather conditions.

Side-by-side Comparison
Number of Climbers: 40,000 Kilimanjaro
Number of Trekkers : 45,000 Everest Base Camp
Number of Days to Everest Base Camp: 10 Days
Number of Days to Kilimanjaro Summit: 5 Days
One Way Elevation Gain EBC: 4200m / 13900feet
One Way Elevation Gain Kilimanjaro Marangu Route: 4000m / 13100ft
Kilimanjaro Marangu Route Roudtrip Distance: 70km (42 miles)
Everest Base Camp Roudtrip Distance: 122km (76 miles)
Cost of 12 Day Everest Trip on Himalayanwonders: $1149
Cost of 7 Day Kilimanjaro Climb on Trekkinghero: $1489

Looking to Book Kilimanjaro – We Recommend TrekkingHero

Flickr : Image Credit
Pietro Columba
Franck Zecchin
Andy Hares