Now to answer the question: Which Trek is harder?
There is no cut and dry answer as to which one is easier. There are outside variables out of anyone’s control that will make your experience on one trek more difficult than the other such as the weather or how your body deals with altitude on a particular day.
Additionally on Kilimanjaro there are several different route and certain routes are more challenging than others despite going to the same summit. I took the Lomosho route since it gives trekkers time to acclimate to the elevation by ascending slowly, thus proving to have the highest success rate out of all the Kilimanjaro routes. Comparing my experience on the Lomosho route to my experience on the EBC trek, Kilimanjaro seemed more of a challenge. I’ll break down each aspect of both treks.
SLEEPING AND EATING
The facilities between Kilimanjaro and EBC were different, which added to the comfort and convenience factor that ultimately affected moral on the trek. On Everest Base Camp(EBC), I stayed in tea houses and was eating in proper dining tables at kitchens offering a variety of choices. In contrast, Kilimanjaro was all about camping in tents and eating in dining tents. I was properly fed on either trek, but the sleeping quarters on EBC were way more comfortable.
On the EBC trek, there are shower facilities in Namche Bazaar. This is a major village on the EBC trail where one can buy any necessary trekking gear they forgot in Kathmandu. Higher up on the EBC trail, proper showers aren’t available(more like a water spickets), but you’re still have the comfort of just plopping down in a tea house or sitting around the warm stove burning petrified yak crap. In Kilimanjaro everyone gathers in the dining tent for dinner and then it’s off to bed because some nights it’s simply too cold to sit around.
The summit push on Kilimanjaro started at 11pm for most groups(it started at 10:30p because we were a slow, but surely moving group) for the 7 or 8 hour return trek from the Barafu camp. The trek was steep, cold, and dark. This part of the Kilimanjaro trek is the most demanding and where most people have to descend either to exhaustion or altitude. From the following video, you can see my buddy, Andrew’s face and almost feel how cold it is at the summit.
On EBC, the push to base camp started at Gorak Shep in the morning after I was all nicely rested in the warmth of the teahouse. Most the walk was not steep nor was it terribly cold because it was during the day and because the taller peaks block the wind.
EBC trek was about 12 days return from Lukla. Kilimanjaro was 8 days return. Despite EBC being longer, there were 2 full acclimatization days in my itinerary where we sat around for most of the day with the exception of a short hike.
On Kilimanjaro, there was about 6 hours hiking each day with the exception of the summit night. The hikes each day didn’t seem like it was terribly long, but when I was leaving Shira 2 I started to feel the affects of the altitude and started taking acetazolomide and contented to take 250mg does once a day. On summit day, when we had to be up at 10:30pm and be ready to make it to the summit by 6am, I took a 500 mg dose.
The facilities on the EBC were far better because we were in teahouses where there was plumbing. There were some instances where the tea houses had out houses, but if I recall correctly, most of the ones we stayed at had flushing ones.
Kilimanjaro there were no running water or flushing toilets. Each campsite has it’s own variation of outhouses, but that conditions aren’t that great and most trekkers pay the $100 for a toilet tent to have a cleaner experience while avoiding to trek a little ways to the outhouses.
On EBC, there’s herds of yak carrying supplies on the trail with that said there were heaps(Australian slang) of yak crap every where on the trail. It’s unavoidable as getting wet during a rainstorm. The stink from the crap just lingers around and nauseating sometimes.
Kilimanjaro doesn’t have any yaks or large animals other than body odor that stink up the trail. In this sense, the trail is much cleaner and pleasant for the olfactory.
Both treks are pretty strenuous. It takes a certain level of physical fitness to accomplish either one that said. there was still a wide age demographic on both treks from the young backpacker travelers to the retired folks. For both treks, I did have guides. On Kilimanjaro, guides are mandator, but Everest, one could trek on their own while mapping out their itinerary. I feel it’s much safer to take a guide on EBC who knows the terrain and language to assist if problems arise.