Contrary to popular belief, reaching the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro does not require extreme body fitness and stamina. In fact, the Kilimanjaro Guide explains why men and women from the ages 40-60 have a higher success rate in climbing the mountain compared to seemingly healthier 20-30 year olds. This is because of the eagerness young climbers have to go quickly rather than pace themselves. Surprising right?
Well, if you are considering taking up the challenge of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, there are some preparation tips that you should know before you attempt to climb Africa’s tallest mountain, these include:
1. Walk, walk and more walking
This is absolutely essential if you hope to reach the summit of Africa. Much of your journey in Kilimanjaro is more walking than hiking and climbing, so if you hope to come close to reaching the top then you need to incorporate long walks in your training.
What many people fail to realize when planning to climb Kilimanjaro is that you reach your destination by being accustomed to walking for long periods of time, 5-8 hours in a day. It typically takes 6-8 days to reach Uhuru point-the peak of Kilimanjaro and so you and your group will be walking for 5-7 hours in a day. Make sure you are prepared for this!
2. Choose your route beforehand
It is normal to feel eager and excited about wanting to reach the summit of Africa but, you must also caution yourself and remember that there is no added benefit in rushing things.
It can actually prove to be more harmful if you do so, people wishing to complete the journey in 4-5 days may opt for the faster routes. But they fail to consider that the body needs time to adjust to the low levels of oxygen as you ascend higher, which is the reason why many individuals end up ill with altitude sickness rendering them unable to compete the journey. Instead, research all Kilimanjaro routes before your journey and read accounts of people’s experiences with these routes.
You will get an idea of the route that will work best for you in order to enjoyably and successfully compete your journey. Having to go back down the mountain is especially disappointing when you are physically capable of making it to Uhuru point but because of impatience, decided to take a faster route. So, remember Haraka haraka haina Baraka- hurry hurry has no blessings.
Also, your climbing guide will greatly influence your experience on Mt. Kilimanjaro, so take time to research and pick the perfect climbing guide for your trip.
3. Water is your best friend
Not a fan of water? Start getting used to it! Staying hydrated is absolutely necessary if you hope to make it far. Your body gets dehydrated much faster because of the high levels of altitude and this can lead to you feeling extremely dizzy or experiencing severe migraines.
Individuals who successfully made it to the top of the mountain and even managed to have a pleasant ascent, recommend drinking ATLEAST 5 liters of water in a day. This may seem daunting but it is very necessary if you hope to reach the top.
4. Add weight and incline to your practice hikes
When you climb Kilimanjaro, you will be carrying a heavy back pack and you will have to climb steep hills with that back pack.
A way to prepare for this is by carving out time in the week to go hiking at your most challenging local hills or plan hiking and camping trips around Tanzania. Remember to start small and build up as you get stronger, incorporate a packed backpack during your training sessions and add more weight in it as you further your training.
5. Keep your eyes on the prize
Did you know the oldest woman to make it to the summit is 86 years old? Angela Vorobeva was proof to many sceptical people wanting to climb Kilimanjaro that everyone is capable, being physically fit can only take you so far.
As you ascend Kili-the nickname locals have for Mt. Kilimanjaro. It is imperative to keep in sight why you are doing this, and what it will mean to you to accomplish your goal.
This will prove to be very helpful when you feel like giving up, hopefully your reason for climbing Kilimanjaro extends further than bragging rights.
6. Dress appropriately
It is absolutely critical that you have the right gear if you wish to not freeze or suffer from altitude sickness. Extensive research on the best pair of gloves, back pack, boots and even water resistant underwear! Goes a long way in ensuring you feel moderately comfortable in your journey up and down the mountain.
You don’t want to have to worry about cold feet, extremely chapped lips or no batteries for your headlight while your already extremely tired. Make your life easier by being well prepared with the adequate gear needed to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
7. Prepare for a low maintenance lifestyle
It should come as no shock to you, that during the 6-8 days you will be climbing the mountain you will be unable to shower. Ladies you will definitely be unable to apply make up!
So embrace your natural self and don’t sweat about it, your group will be in the same predicament.
It is harder for some to adjust to ‘tent life’ and the outdoors in general. Prior to your trip, try going on some camping trips if you are not accustomed to spending time in the great outdoors.
8. Altitude sickness is your enemy
There is honestly little you can do physically to prevent altitude sickness. Matter of fact, porters believed that athletes were more likely to be victim of extreme cases, because of their hurry to surpass the group and be in front.
This is not the way you will successfully reach the top and come back down without falling sick. The body needs time to adjust to the low oxygen levels and walking slowly gives you time to practice the deep breathing needed to manage the low levels.
Be prepared for minor headaches, severe headaches, cases of dehydration and vomiting. All of this is to be expected with a change of altitude, the best you can do is go pole pole and drink lots of water.
9. Shield yourself from the sun
As you ascend higher and higher, you receive less UV protection from the sun. The solar radiation you are taking in is quite dangerous, so when you can walk in more shaded areas.
Moreover, getting sun burned not only affects your appearance but your chances of reaching the summit. The body is more dehydrated when sun burnt so remember to carry plenty of good quality sunscreen as well.
10. Enjoy yourself
Climbing Kilimanjaro is an unforgettable unique experience. For many successful climbers, it is more of the journey that makes the experience wonderful than reaching Uhuru point.
You will experience all sorts of emotions as you climb, but you will also see different breath taking scenery.
So remember to take it all in and just enjoy the experience of actually climbing to the rooftop of Africa, it is truly a remarkable thing.