Climbing Kilimanjaro is no easy task. It’s daunting but definitely worth it should you reach the summit. Before you can achieve this feat however, here are some things to lookout for before climbing the great Mt. Kilimanjaro.
10. Route and Season Choice is Important
Mt. Kilimanjaro has seven known routes to the summit. However, most climbers only make selections from three routes. The Rongai route approaches the mountain from the east and takes about 6 to 7 days to manoeuvre; The Machame Route runs up the southern flank of the summit, and also takes 6 to 7 days to reach—has the best view of the mountain; The Lemosho Route is a journey from the western ridge of the mountain and is the longest route averaging 7 to 9 days to the peak—this route has the highest success rate.
Mt. Kilimanjaro enjoys two rainy seasons. The first runs from March to May; the second from November to February. The northern slopes are dryer than the south establishing Rongai route as the best route during rainy months. Keep in mind, however, that you may still experience sleet on the upper levels of the mountain.
9. Choose a tour Operator that provides private toilet tent
Remember, you’re going to be on the mountain for a couple of days, if not weeks. So, you’ll need to hire a tour operator who can provide you with this necessity: a portable zippered waterproof bathroom tent. Having a tent of your own will help you be as comfortable as possible when camping on the mountain; otherwise you’ll find yourself sharing primitive toilets often found in wooden outhouses around the mountain.
8. Put your bags on a Scale
A strict rule that is enforced on the mountain is that no porter should carry a load weighing more than 15kg (33 pounds). If you can adhere to this rule, then you could save yourself a lot of money. Here’s why: Your bags will be put on scale when you arrive and every time a porter leaves the mountain camp. The best practice is to pack light and ensure your bag doesn’t exceed 15kg or 33 pounds. Because if does, you will get charged for the extra porter. Usually, your tour operator gives you a list of items to pack for the trip.
7. Keep in Shape
Of course, you don’t have to be the ‘Sylvester Stallone’ to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. You simply need to have a good level of health and fitness. The truth is, many fit climbers, even the super fit ones, struggle to reach the peak of the mountain. The reason is because they exert too much energy on the ascent phase of the climb when they should be acclimatising to the mountain climate.
Know that you will have to trek 5-7 hours per day. Preparing yourself beforehand can help build your fitness for the climb. Run or cycle more; engage in more cardiovascular exercises. Being fit won’t automatically get you to the summit, but it just might be the deciding factor.
6. Dedicate time to Acclimatize
Due to high altitude, mountain climate is drastically different from mainland climate. Once you get to the mountain, you will realise that all tour guides prefer to take the climb slow and steady. Don’t be surprised or angered by the lack of pace, taking it slow and steady is the best way to navigate any mountain, most especially Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Choose a route that best suits the ‘walk high, sleep low’ strategy. Impatient climbing will only drain your energy before you get to the upper reaches of the mountain. At such time, your body will find it hard to adjust to the low oxygen levels on the higher altitude.
5. Water is Important on Kilimanjaro
Having enough water is crucial to achieving your summit goals. Tour guides know the importance of water on Kilimanjaro. Your tour guide will, every day, give you 2-3 litres and may sometimes mandate that you finish it before you reach the camp. Dehydration is something you will encounter on each day of climbing, so ensure you remain hydrated, else you may experience tension headaches.
To make your water less bland, you could add flavouring or energy tablets to it.
4. The Mountain Must Be Respected
While the aim is to have fun climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, never take it lightly. The climb is a herculean task. First, remember that you are climbing from practically sea level to over 5900m above sea level. In other words, Mt Kilimanjaro is the highest standing mountain in existence!
The mountain requires gut and determination to reach the summit. You will encounter blaring winds, sleeting rain, melting snow and scorching sun. Guided tours provide the safest trek, but the climb still remains herculean. So don’t get carried away—less than half of climbers make the summit. As you prepare physically for the trek, also prepare yourself mentally for Mt Kilimanjaro.
3. Learn from Kilimanjaro Guides and Porters
Mt Kilimanjaro has guides and porters stationed at the mountain day in, day out. Most of them are locals who speak Swahili, but the guides often know English. You will be amazed at how well these guys climb. Every Kilimanjaro porter carries 15kg of kit on their backs and somehow comfortably go past climbers on the mountain climb.
Keep in mind that the Kilimanjaro guides and porters are the mountain’s best climbers. It would help you a lot to get tips from them. (Also, don’t forget to tip them; you get more out of them this way)
2. Courage and Determination
Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is a sort of marathon. It’s not about ‘how fast’ you go, but about ‘how well’. Getting to the summit involves a lot of determination. There will come a time at the summit where you may feel like giving up—precisely around Gilman’s Point or Stella point. It is very important to keep your head up at your lowest point, and remind yourself that you’re almost at the summit. If you feel awfully sick or exhausted, stay close to your guide. Take it one step at a time and you’ll surely get there.
Don’t worry; the view is definitely worth it.
1. Have Fun with It
It’s always a blessing to get away from the hustle and bustle of your daily life in order to do something you want. Climbing Kilimanjaro is a humbling experience. Once you are on the mountain, you see everything different. There is a feeling of freedom and tranquillity. For once in your life, you are one with nature.
Enjoy the experience: listen to the musical quietness of the woods, feel the air dance around you, smell the heavenly scent of the ambience, watch the magnificent views above the clouds, stargaze when night comes and appreciate the solitude.
Live. Breathe. Climb!