Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (For Non-Mountain Climbers)

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I don’t climb, I don’t trek, I barely like walking, yet somehow made it. I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

So these tips for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro are dedicated to those of you like me who thinks Kilimanjaro should just be a beer.

Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is one of the biggest mountains to climb. It’s Africa’s tallest peak at 5,896m.

Tip: It’s important to make sure that you are properly covered with a good travel insurance before you embark on any mountain climbing trek. There are certain travel insurance companies that insure especially for hiking and trekking trips.

Mountains to climb - Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

Training for climbing Kilimanjaro

I live in the flattest part of England, but ventured to Mount Snowdon a couple of times. About 6 months prior to departure I climbed up and down the stairs 30 times 3 times a week, which admittedly sounds ridiculous but it really does help, after you’ve done your 30’s a few times you do start noticing a difference. I also started walking to work, 10 miles there and back, once a week (then twice a week with 2 months to go).

Besides walking a lot, try exercises like Pilates that will strengthen your back as you’ll be carrying your back pack around all day I think it does help.

I would recommend a Power Breather too just to give you that extra umph.

Packing for climbing Kilimanjaro

I’m sure if you are planning on doing this trip you would have seen the what to take list. I’ll just highlight the really important things – wet wipes, hand santizer, sunglasses and foot powder. Maybe think twice about taking reading books, they take up room (you can squeeze in another loo roll instead) and by the time you get to camp you’ll probably just want to pass out.

Diamox seems to swing people both ways. My advice is to take it with you, but only actually take it if you think you really need it. Some people in the group did and some didn’t take any…..we all made it. Make sure you do your own research into it either way.

Check out this list of trekking essentials for more guidance.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

The Mountain

The first few days are ok, you get to know everyone, meet the guides, eat a mystery soup every night, start wondering what that smell is…oh it’s you and begin peeing outdoors in confidence. You also will start feeling the cold quite drastically in the evening.

If you’re going on a route that takes you across the saddle, be prepared! I was initially looking forward to this day of walking on flat ground, but you realise soon that it’s very deceiving not physically but mentally. You are completely open to the elements, winds batter you from all angles for hours, you’ll be so covered up you wont be able to talk to people around you and the speck that’s Kibo huts wont seem to get any closer.

But if you start off knowing this and try to stay positive and find ways to motivate yourself you’ll be fine. Do not underestimate the saddle day!

The summit

Obviously this is brutal. The climb is steep starting at midnight. You look up and see a trail of headlights miles up directly above you, hours later, you look up and see the same thing and it’s very soul-destroying.

Fatigue will well and truly set in and you’ll wonder why you ever thought this was a good idea. Everyone will have the same battle going on in their heads. ‘Damn it Cheryl Cole did it’ ran through my head repeatedly. I was throwing up all over the place too.

You must remember to drink when you can and eat a lot of sweets. But when you somehow get to Gilmans Point you’ll momentarily forget all that. I slumped down and sobbed my little heart out. I don’t think I’ve ever been such an emotional wreck. After a quick hot tea, you’ll have the choice of attempting Uhuru.

I really felt the altitude on this stretch. My head was spinning and I couldn’t walk 5 minutes without taking a minute break. This was single handedly the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Just remember, one foot in front of the other and you’ll get there!

Once I reached Uhuru I barely knew what my own name was. I had my photo taken and tried to get down as quickly as possible.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
The summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

The end

Coming down isn’t really a breeze either. The scree is deep and you need to take care not to face plant it all the way down to Kibo.

On the Rongai route the descent is through the Marangu route. You’ll realise how quiet your original route has been it also…wait for it…gets a lot easier! The thought of a hot shower and a Kili beer powered me along.

And then it was over. I couldn’t believe it. My friends couldn’t believe it. I had done it!

A few little pointers before you start packing your bags (or unpacking after reading this) – Don’t worry about it too much. I spent sleepless nights thinking about climbing Kilimanjaro but I needn’t have.

When you’re there enjoy the views, the people and try not to think too much about summit night. You might make it you might not, the fact that you’ve even attempted it is worth something and it’s an experience that you’ll never forget.

After climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, head to Zanzibar for a few days and relax on the beach and enjoy the Zanzibar nightlife.

How to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

There are various ways to climb mount Kilimanjaro. One of them is to go with a tour company.

Intrepid Travel offers a range of Kilimanjaro routes to suit every trekkers experience and fitness levels, getting you to the summit with the best team possible.

The three routes that they offer include:

All of the trips include all meals, transfers, accommodation, limited equipment, English-speaking mountain guides, National Park fees, emergency oxygen and comprehensive first aid kits, and porterage.

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