Everest or Kilimanjaro - which trek is for you?

Everest or Kilimanjaro - which trek is for you?

When it comes to scenery, difficulty, training and kit, there is plenty to set Everest Base Camp and Kilimanjaro treks apart. Adventurer Jo Bradshaw explains.


They are just as special and as tough as each other for many different reasons.

Kili is a full on, six, seven, eight (or more) day trek with changeable weather conditions, camping, no showers and basic conditions - but it is the most beautiful landscape and is the only place you can trek from rainforest to arctic in one mountain. You'll have an amazing crew, singing and dancing in camp because they love it, and while there will be tough times, there'll also be many laughs along the way too. 

Kilimanjaro rainforest

On Kili, you'll walk through rainforest, pine forest, moorland, alpine and arctic landscapes

I think the three best routes are Machame, Rongai or Lemosho. Each has a good acclimatisation profile for this mountain.

Whichever you choose, you are at the summit and out of Kili before you would have reached Everest Base Camp in real terms, so the feel to the two treks is very different. With EBC you are walking in the footsteps of our greatest mountaineers and get to see the most iconic mountain on this planet. 

It’s twice as long due to the distance and acclimatisation and much more of a cultural experience as you are walking through villages and seeing daily life just as it is in the Khumbu Valley. 

Everest Base Camp village
Heading through villages in the Khumbu Valley

You can stay in tea houses, sharing mess rooms with other trekkers and mountaineers and can be sat next to an Everest summiteer and not even know it.

The big difference mentally between the two is the mindset. Kili is a short, sharp, heads down get-on-with-it trek whereas EBC is a more gentle and gradual trek where endurance is the key.
Kili treks Everest treks
 

Which has the best scenery?

The scenery is totally different on each trip. 

On Kilimanjaro, you are trekking through rainforest, into moorland, alpine desert and then into the arctic - all on the highest freestanding mountain in the world. Going from the summit, which can be as low as -20c down to the rainforest at +30c in a 24 hour period is something to behold.

Kilimanjaro summit
From snow at the top of Kili to +30c in the space of a day

There is little wildlife to be seen, depending on your route - bar some incredible Colobus and Blue Monkeys in the rainforest - but what you do see and how they manage to survive in such a harsh environment is a testament to adaptability. 

The different plant life has to be seen to be believed, with giant lobelia and giant groundsel looking like they’ve been dropped in from a sci-fi movie. 

You'll be walking on good solid footing, on paths trodden down by trekkers and crew for decades, with the Barranco Wall for a bit of added flavour and then onto the scree slopes on summit night.

For EBC, many of the challenges start with a short but breathtaking flight from Kathmandu to Lukla.

Lukla airport
Lukla's airport has now been renamed Tenzing–Hillary Airport

You are then walking in the most famous mountain range in the world.

You'll marvel at the jagged peaks, beautiful rhododendron forests and centuries-old monasteries as you work your way up to the Base Camp. 

The route from there is on well-trodden paths, up through the valleys to EBC. As with Kili the terrain changes as you go higher, as do the plants and trees and it’s incredible what survives at the higher altitudes.

Everest Base Camp tents
You'll be immersed in the world's most famous mountain range at Everest Base Camp
 

Which is more difficult?

The difficulty levels are about the same, but for different reasons. 

As I’ve said above, the mindset is different. With Kili you are there for one reason, to climb the mountain and be out in the time you have. It’s a tight-run schedule with some very slow walking, good food and sleeping in tents. 

For EBC, it feels like a more leisurely trek due to the length - 12 or 13 days up and down.
Kili treks Everest treks

Bridge near Everest Base Camp
It's a more gradual journey up to Everest Base Camp

On most treks you have two acclimatisation days on the way up, where you get the chance to chill out in the afternoon and take in the great bakeries of the bustling Namche Bazaar and Dingboche, chatting to tea house owners who have summited Everest multiple times. 

Namche Bazaar at night
There's usually time to take in the charms of Namche Bazaar

It is still a tough trek as you are on the go for more days, staying higher for longer, so good warm kit is essential. 

And never underestimate the importance of training properly for whichever trek you choose.

Fitness is key and the fitter you are, the more mentally prepared you will be - more mentally reassured that you are capable of the challenges ahead. 

I am always amazed when people commit to a trek of a lifetime, get all the latest kit and gadgetry and then don’t put in the effort to be physically prepared, which at the end of the day is going to get you to your goal more than the fancy kit.
 

NEXT STEPS

InfoAll you need to know
When's best to go, kit and gear requirements, how much you'll need to carry and other essential info is covered via the links below.
Kili Everest Coping with altitude
 
WildlifeMake the most of your time
There's often the possibility of adding on an extension before or after your trek - Kili options include bike rides and safaris in the nearby National Parks.
 
Machu PicchuWant something different?
If Kilimanjaro or Everest Base Camp aren't quite right for you then don't worry - there are lots of alternatives.
Great Wall of China Machu Picchu All treks

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