An Amateur’s Guide to Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

The joys of strolling through the mountain’s four main eco-zones, from sultry forest to windswept alpine desert. The blissful evenings put in scoffing popcorn and gazing at the personalities with your fellow trekkers. And the esprit de corps that builds between you and your team as you progress the slopes. It really is for these reasons that 40,000 people a year try to climb Kilimanjaro.

So here’s our guide to taking it on, from the choice of routes to the summit, to getting physically and mentally fit for the duty ahead. Deep breath… Acceptable, let’s go.

Seven steps to success
1. Learn about the mountain
Select the right time and route

Your try to Climbing Kilimanjaro should start months before you set foot in Africa. The success of your trip will depend on to a sizable degree on making the right decisions from the get-go – and make the right decisions, you will need to learn about the mountain.

Decide when you want to climb. In conditions of weather, January to February and June to October will be the best calendar months, with February and September especially fine (though the latter can be quite occupied, too). April-May and November will be the months to avoid, matching with Tanzania’s two rainy times – though it’s still possible to climb at these times.

Next, decide which route you want to take the hill, by researching online and reading guidebooks (try Trailblazer’s Kilimanjaro Trekking Guide). There are six main routes, each with their own figure, and also a few variations like a last ascent via the notorious Traditional western Breach Route. Your options vary long, cost and landscape – select the one that’s best for you.

Marangu is one of the shorter ways up, allowing less time for acclimatisation. It has a reputation to be ‘easy’ (it’s not) but success rates are comparably low (perhaps because a lot more ill-prepared flock to it).

It’s the sole path with dormitory-style hut accommodation – all others are camping only – rendering it cheaper as fewer porters are needed.

Lemosho is the longest and arguably most beautiful path, with sumptuous forest on the low slopes and great views over the Shira Plateau to the Kibo summit on times two to four. It had been made to replace the almost defunct Shira Route, now essentially a 4WD keep tabs on employed by emergency vehicles.

Machame is currently the busiest way – indeed, too busy – but has a good success rate (about 80% plus). The excess day (in comparison with Marangu) allows for better acclimatisation. It’s a wonderful option, traversing Kili’s flanks, climbing from the mountain’s lush south-western aspect. In clear weather, the optimum is a constant, looming associate from the end of the first day. Like Lemosho and Umbwe, on Machame you may choose to reach the summit from Kibo’s Western area on the American Breach Route.

Umbwe is steeper than Machame, and renowned as both the quietest and hardest route on the pile. The views are extraordinary, and there are quite portions through flower-scattered woodland. Despite the difficulty, it has a descent summit success rate – but perhaps because its difficulty deters all but the hardiest of trekkers.

Previously little-used, the Rongai route is growing a lot more popular. It’s unique in from the north and the border with Kenya, instead of the south, though this makes the start-point a long way from the Kili hub towns of Moshi and Arusha. It includes different – and stunning – pile views, as well as better wildlife-spotting.

2. Choose the right tour operator
Your trekking staff is all-important

Take your time whenever choosing who to travel with – and it’s compulsory to discover a travel operator, as you’re not allowed to climb Kilimanjaro independently. Read online reviews, ask tons of questions, and discover around you can about what this company will provide, what their service is similar to and their safeness procedures. Ask if indeed they can put you touching past trekkers.

Don’t go for the cheaper companies: they need to make money somehow, which often means lowering costs by lowering the quality of service they offer or by exploiting the people that benefit them.

3. Enter shape
Climbing means legwork

First, the good thing: you don’t absolutely need to be super-fit to climb Kilimanjaro. The main reason why people fail to reach the summit is because of altitude sickness (see below) rather than insufficient necessary strength or stamina.

Having said that, the trek could be more enjoyable for you the fitter you are, so pre-trip training can help. An average daily exercise programme for Kilimanjaro should be began about four a few months before your climb and include a great deal of aerobic fitness exercise such as running, cycling, climbing stairs or brisk walking. Start off with thirty minutes a day when possible, and build from there.

Leg-strengthening exercises are of help (see container, right, for illustrations). However, there is nothing better prep than going for a long walk – it’s excellent aerobic exercise, great for strengthening quads and, if the walk is long enough and requires uphills, can be ideal for improving strength too.

Even better, go for a walk in a pile region. This will provide you with a good idea of how the body copes with the lack of air pressure. In the event that you accomplish this a week or two before climbing Kili, it will help with the acclimatisation process. Many people climb Support Meru – Tanzania’s second-highest hill at 4,566m in support of 60km from Kili – for this very reason; it’s a beautiful three/four day hike, too.

4. Consider mountain sickness
Coping with the lows of the highs

Have a look at altitude illnesses so you’re able to position the symptoms. Most people are affected from Acute Pile Sickness (AMS) to some extent, whether ‘just’ a pain or nausea/vomiting, or more serious symptoms like a lack of coordination, or difficulty with inhaling, even at recovery.

Acetazolamide (brand name: Diamox) is a drug that fights altitude illnesses. Many medical experts were primarily sceptical about Diamox, uncertain if it actually helped to combat AMS or just masked the symptoms. Various professional medical studies in the Himalayas and Andes show that it’s a highly effective drug for combating AMS, though it does not work if people ascend at crazy rates. You will have to consult a health care provider to obtain a prescription for Diamox and can then discuss the potential risks and benefits; people who are allergic to sulphur drugs may also be allergic to Diamox.

You should also pack some throat pastilles (sore throats are common on Kili), antiseptic and plasters (including blister plasters), painkillers, rehydration powders, sunscreen, lip salve or chapstick, antiseptic handwash and a little bar of soap. Although your staff should boil all normal water, take some normal water purification tablets, too.

5. Sort your head out
Bye-bye safe place…

You need to get ready yourself mentally for climbing Kilimanjaro. It’s one thing to neglect to reach the summit anticipated to altitude sickness, but quite another to fail from frame of mind sickness. Are you set for the hardships? The chilly, cold times sleeping under canvas, the changeable weather, the exhaustion, having less creature comforts, the horror of the long-drop loos? If you’re going to attain the summit you should be ready to accept many of these.

6. Pay attention to your guide
Exercise those ears

You’ve booked your trek, bought your plane tickets, got all the apparatus and spent a few months in the gym honing the body into its current supreme health – don’t undo everything that good work by being careless on the trail. Listen to your pile guide and do what he tells you.

The most frequent phrase you’ll hear on Kili is polé polé – ‘slowly slowly’ in Swahili – a mantra repeated regularly to ensure people walk as slowly as is feasible, in order to provide their bodies an opportunity to acclimatise to the rarefied air.

Eat plenty, too, particularly glucose and high-protein food, and drink at least 3 litres of normal water a day – in case you don’t feel just like doing either. This will help you to push away AMS and increase your odds of addressing the summit.

7. Don’t stress, be happy!
Be sure you enjoy yourself

While there are many hardships to endure – and even some danger to avoid – there’s also an enormous amount of pleasure to are based on climbing Africa’s highest pile. Concentrating on the positives can not only make the trek more enjoyable, it will help spur you on to the summit.

You’ll have the opportunity to spot some unique nature, from monkeys and mice to elephants and eland. You’ll get sumptuous views, both for the summit and down towards the plains of Kenya and Tanzania. And you’ll feel a warm sense of camaraderie, spending an strong couple of days with folks from different cultures, whether it be your fellow trekkers or the hard-working guides and porters. Finally, the overwhelming sense of achievements you’ll feel, in the event you reach the summit, can make it possibly the most remarkable – and, yes, even gratifying – trip of your life.

Yes, the climb up Kibo – the snow-topped crater this is the highest point of Kilimanjaro – is steep. It’s also bitterly wintry. But it’s a distinctive chance to check yourself against everything that nature can put at you.

The final summit push is usually undertaken at night time – expect to set off around midnight. If you don’t publication your trek to coincide your summit attempt with the entire moon (a good idea), the only thing you’ll see for a lot of the ascent is the group of ground lit up by your headtorch.

The altitude will account for some trekkers, exhaustion and injury for others. But all being well, at around 5am you’ll arrive on the crater rim, and the genuine summit itself, Uhuru Peak, finally hoves into view.

Your work isn’t quite done – there are several false summits to negotiate. But, all being well, by the time the sun shows up, you’ll be standing at Uhuru Optimum, by that famous old real wood signal, 5,895m above sea level, with an overpowering sense of pleasure, wearing the largest grin of your life.