Is summiting Kilimanjaro on your bucket list? Mount Kilimanjaro is called “The Roof of Africa” because at 19,000’ (5,895m), it is the highest peak on the whole continent. Because you don't need to have any technical climbing skills to summit Kilimanjaro, it has become one of the most desired mountains to hike in the world by all types of people. About 25,000 people try to reach the snowy summit every year. I’ve put together some advice to help hikers prepare for their Kilimanjaro trip, or to help inspire you to plan a trip someday!
1. Take your time reaching the summit
“Pole, Pole” You will hear this the second you start your grand hiking adventure until the second it’s over. ‘Pole, pole’ means slowly, slowly in Kiswahili. It is the best advice I can give! The number one reason people don’t make it to the summit of Kilimanjaro is because they have not given their bodies enough time to adjust to the altitude. Give yourself as many days as possible! If the company you have found to hike with offers 7+ days on the route you want to take, do it! I would not recommend trying to reach the summit on a 5 or 6 day itinerary.
2. Bring the right gear
It is important to make sure you have the right equipment for the trek. If you are going to get caught in rain, snow, wind, or sunshine, you want to be prepared. Nothing is worse than wet feet or freezing fingers! If you want more information on what to pack be sure to check out 8 Essential Items to Bring From Home for Climbing Kilimanjaro.
3. Talk with your doctor
Before you go it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor about climbing Kilimanjaro. Your doctor most likely knows your history and can give you tailored advice for your situation. Your doctor is also the only place you can find a prescription for Diamox, which is a great medication for reversing altitude sickness. Diamox does help but it also has side effects that are good to be aware off. I would recommend trying out the prescription a couple weeks before you climb Kilimanjaro to see how your body reacts to it, but I'm not a doctor so be sure to talk to yours.
4. Physical preparation
When people say anyone can reach the summit of Kilimanjaro, it really is true! No matter your physical fitness it is possible to get there! There have been many amazing stories of people without legs and/or arms as well as people in wheel chairs that have reached the top! One person even ran to the top in less than 6 hours!!! (WHAT! I couldn't even fathom that.) All in all, it doesn’t hurt to train and get in better shape before attempting this trek. You will be hiking up (and down) 5-10 hours every day, and sometimes on very little sleep.
One good way to prepare for this would be to deprive yourself of oxygen so that you can condition your body to what it will be like the closer you get to the summit. For most of us however it is not possible to pay the expenses of exercising in an altitude chamber, so the next best way to prepare is to hike any and all mountains close to you! You can even hike with a heavy backpack on to strengthen your muscles even more. (Don't worry you won't need to carry your own gear on Kilimanjaro, a porter will help you out.) I went to Tanzania in the middle of the winter, and so getting out to the local mountains was not an option. I decided to run up and down my stairs, increasing my heart rate and building my muscles. But lifting weights and doing the stair stepper at a gym are also good options.
5. Mental preparation
In my opinion, this is the most important part. Without mental strength, you will not get there. You have to believe in yourself and remember YOU CAN DO THIS! Yes, it is hard, yes you might cry a little (or a lot), but I know you can do it!
A lot of people climb Kili. to raise funds or awareness for a cause they find really inspiring. This can be a way to help you push yourself to achieve something you never thought you could.
Some lucky people make it to the summit without feeling any of the effects of the altitude, but most suffer at least a little. To get you through this tough time it is important to be able to call on your mental strength and remember to tell yourself constantly how much of a bad a** you are!
Have you summited Kilimanjaro? Let us know what tips you have for getting to the top!