Mount Kilimanjaro. The name in itself sounds sheer exotica brimming with adventure. And to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro not only happens to be on my bucket lists, but also a dream of many. One of my friends was lucky enough to get the chance to summit, making it all the way to the top, Uhuru Peak. The entire climbing scenario and feel of was more than something to accomplish for her but a journey in and out.
Gliding beyond the undulated tea plantations and low northeastern Tanzanian hills, Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,340′) is Africa’s highest peak. On this once-in-a-lifetime trek of hers, my friend took in extraordinary views that extended to hundreds of miles while witnessing the sunrise from the roof of Africa.
- Climbing the tallest free-standing mountain and sleeping on its crater floor.
- Exploring rain forests, heather moors, lava formations, and glaciers.
- Exploring the unique flora and fauna of the mountain with local guides.
If you’ve been wondering all the way about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, here are some useful tips that I’ve jot down straight from her experience to turn yours into a successful realm.
Choose your route
No matter which Kilimanjaro route you opt for, booking a group tour is highly recommended. After all, it’s way more of an enjoyment to trek with a group of people with whom you can share the excitement of the journey. And most importantly, the added support from fellow trekkers would aid you in tackling problems if and when situations get tough towards the top.
While choosing a route, you should remember that all will lead to the same place that’s Uhuru Peak (5,895 meters/19,340 feet). So it’s better to take a look at the Kilimanjaro trek comparison guide to find the best matches that suit your interests, sleeping preference (huts or tents), budget, time, and fitness level.
To climb Mt. Kilimanjaro is not a big ordeal, nor does it entail too much of technical or specialized mountain climbing gear. No need to spend a fortune on a set of new gear for this trek, only a few key items would fit the bill.
What you need to bring along:
- comfortable pants, shirts, undergarment
- fleece jacket
- hiking shoes with ankle support
- long johns or silk underwear (need many layers for summit day)
- hats (one for sun protection, another for warmth)
Also, no need to worry if you do not own the items already as you can rent them in Moshi instead of purchasing. This will also cut the weight of your extra luggage for flights and other travel.
- Sleeping bag – make sure you get the warmest one available (-20 to -30 Celsius)
- Waterproof pants and jacket
- Walking sticks – used mostly on the way down, but can also offer support on the ascent
- Gaiters – particularly if you expect snow in and around the peak (if you are trekking in dry season, they may not be necessary)
Dealing with Altitude
No matter whichever route you are taking, you will observe that you have gradually gained a significant amount of elevation in a short time span.
Everyone’s body has a different reaction towards altitude. Some people are more susceptible to altitude sickness as compared to the rest. Here are some steps that will help your body in dealing with altitude by boosting your confidence level and reducing any anxiety cause by your body’s vulnerable reactions to high elevation.
- Drink as much water as possible. It’s the single best medicine for your body that will help in altitude sickness prevention.
- Pole Slowly, the key mantra for all climbers! Every guide and porter recommends this to you the very moment your climb is begun. By moving slowly, you conserve energy and your body gains that adequate time to adjust to the changes in elevation.
- Sleep, Eat, Repeat! This will become more difficult as you climb higher in elevation, so it’s better to stock up on them in lower altitudes.
Most importantly, on Kili, the biggest challenge is mental, not physical.
Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is physically challenging to a large extent, no doubt and summit day can seem all the more brutal. But, right from the altitude anxiety to the fear of not being able to make it, Kilimanjaro is every bit mental as it is physical.
When those doubtful voices hurl you conscience or you’re hit by that extreme altitude sickness, try putting them in their place by focusing at the task at hand and taking the support of your climbing team. The agenda is dig deep within you to explore that ample energy and perseverance to continue. Slowly and gradually!
Enjoy the journey
Everybody’s target is to hit the top, up to Uhuru Peak. But Mount Kilimanjaro is not merely about getting to the top. Look around while climbing. Take significant pauses and keeping looking back to reflect on how far you’ve come along. Your position above the horizon is the bliss to be relished.
Mount Kilimanjaro has breathtakingly beautiful surroundings in store for you along with a mind-boggling hike, a healthy rendezvous with people around, those transforming landscapes, an extremely supportive trekking team and above all, that satisfaction and contentment after overcoming challenges.