The ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet) in Tanzania and Mount Aconcagua (22,840 feet) in Argentina, the highest peaks on two of the seven continents, is an admirable endeavor, and I can see why you and so many others are drawn to them.
The main routes to the summit are more like “long walks” than actual mountaineering expeditions. Nonetheless, they can still present formidable obstacles. Both treks are highly demanding and will require several days to finish. You’ll also have to deal with their unpredictable weather, the thin air at high altitudes, and the chance of getting altitude sickness. In other words, success in climbing either mountain is not assured.
We’ll review the advantages and disadvantages so you can decide based on at least some information.
To Climb: Kilimanjaro
- PROS: A hike up the well-known Marangu Route is the most abundant, out-of-the-way, high-altitude experience, with tea stands en route for refreshments and huts to spend the night in. Most reputable guide services on the mountain also provide teams of cooks who are surprisingly excellent and porters who can carry all of your gear. Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro, a snow-covered volcanic cone just an hour from the local airport, will leave you breathless, not just from the altitude.
- CONS: If you’re one of the roughly 15,000 people who make it to the top every year, you might get the impression that everyone else got there simultaneously. It isn’t a one-off and is not a purely technical problem.
- SUCCESS RATE: Statistics show that only 40% of climbers reach the summit.
To Climb: Aconcagua
- PROS: This craggy, humpbacked mountain stands at an impressive 22,840 feet, making it the highest mountain outside Asia. If you take the well-traveled Normal Route up the mountain’s northern face, you can avoid carrying the crampons and ropes you’d need.
- CONS: The weather can turn nasty at any time on the summit, and the strong winds can be downright dangerous. A feeling of exposure and vulnerability almost equals the intensity of the sun’s rays through the thin air at altitudes well above 20,000 feet.
- SUCCESS RATE: There are no official statistics, but around half of climbers make it to the peak.
Should you Climb Aconcagua or Kilimanjaro?
It’s an admirable goal to scale the tallest peak on the seven continents. You can see why Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Aconcagua in Argentina are so famous among mountaineers. Most people use the term “long hike,” rather than “mountaineering trip,” to describe ascents via the standard routes to the peaks.
Both treks are arduous and will take several days to complete. You’ll have to deal with high altitude, thin air, and the potentially dangerous symptoms of altitude sickness, not to mention the unpredictability of the weather on them.
Which one to climb, Kilimanjaro or Aconcagua?
Even though there are many reasons to climb to the top of Kilimanjaro, such as the beautiful views and the chance to see the legendary snows, the snows cover its peak before global warming melts them away, for some, the biggest reward is just being able to say they did it. A significant time commitment is involved in climbing Aconcagua; the process takes around two weeks, and the weather can be much more severe. The reward is a view of the Andes’ peaks, over 20,000 feet high.