BEFORE CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN
Be properly equipped:
An essential part of your preparation will be to ensure that you are well equipped for your summit attempt.
Be physically prepared
It is important that your body is adequately prepared for the physical challenges of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Many people are able to climb Kilimanjaro without great difficulty. . This should be topmost in your mind when preparing for the summit attempt. You should always remain in a positive state of mind, but not overly confident. Try to anticipate various different scenarios, which you may possibly encounter on the mountain and try to work out the most suitable course of action, mentally by yourself or even as a group. Your mental stamina will, without a doubt, make the really difficult sections, like from Kibo to Uhuru or from Barafu to Uhuru, easier to complete. Remember if you are properly equipped, you will be mentally confident for the physical part of Kilimanjaro.
Adequate travel insurance
Make sure that you have adequate travel and medical insurance which will also cover you for the climb up Kilimanjaro.
On the Mountain:
Go slowly – “Pole Pole” as they say in Swahili! This is also very important during your first days of climbing. Even if you feel well, slow down and enjoy the scenery.
Drink enough water
Make sure that you drink at least 3 – 4 liters of liquid a day – preferably water. For both the Marangu and Machame routes, it is possible to buy mineral water at all the huts and camps. Although a little bit more expensive on the mountain, this is probably the most convenient option – we are however at this stage, not too sure how reliable the supply lines are. For your first day it is recommended that you take along fresh water which may be purchased in Moshi before your climb. Try to get the bottles with the screw tops, this way you will also have containers in which to take water further up the mountain.
Running water on the mountain is safe to drink from day 2 onwards, but care should still be taken. If you are not used to fresh water in nature, prevent any inconvenience by using water purification tablets. REMEMBER! A functioning “body water balance” is one of the keys to a successful climb.
Walk high – sleep low
If possible and especially on your acclimatization day “walk high – sleep low” Try to do a short evening stroll to a higher altitude and then descend to sleep at the camp at a lower altitude. This is essential on your acclimatization day.
Climb as lightly as possible, this becomes even more important on your summit night.
Remember that you will be on the mountain for at least 5 or 6 days. You need to take enough clothing, especially socks to last for this period. Due to frequent rainfall as well as numerous streams on the routes, it is advisable to pack items individually in your bag. These individually packed items should be wrapped in plastic bags to prevent them from getting wet in case of rain or of being accidentally dropped in a stream.
You will require the correct underwear, thermal hiking socks, gloves (preferably mittens), warm head protection, rain coat, sunglasses and sun protection cream. Also remember your hiking boots, hiking/running shoes (it is not necessary to walk with boots or climbers shoes until the last sections where screes and rocks are encountered), and very importantly, a walking stick / ski-pole.
One of the most critical items of clothing is an outer jacket. You want it to perform the functions of keeping you warm, protect you at temperatures of as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius, keep the wind out and yet still “breath”.
Try to avoid tight fitting clothing or underwear. This will hamper circulation, causing either cold or discomfort on the mountain. A balaclava is a must, as it will protect your face against cold, wind, sun and snow.
Other clothing like shorts, sweaters and T-shirts are strongly recommended, especially during hiking on the lower slopes, when the day temperatures are still high. The only way to ensure that you are dressed warmly is to follow the principal of wearing the correct clothing layers, starting from against the body.
A common mistake made by climbers is to wear almost everything they have and to start off with cotton against the skin. Cotton absorbs moisture perfectly, and moisture trapped against the skin will result in a definite lowering of the body temperature, which could even lead to hypothermia. It is therefore very important to use proper thermal underwear with “wicking” properties (a fabric which has the ability to draw moisture away from the body) and thus enabling it to evaporate to the outside. The middle layer should provide the insulation and a product like polar fleece will be adequate in this regard. The outer layer should be windproof, waterproof and breathable. Products like Ventex, Gore-Tex or Jeantex offer these properties. Short of altitude and physical exertion, cold is one of the most serious obstacles when attempting to summit Kilimanjaro.
Take a ski – pole
A ski – pole is essential, buy one or hire one but take one.
Replace your head lamp and camera batteries with new ones on your summit night.
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
AMS commonly affects some people at high altitude who are not accustomed to high altitude conditions. It is rare but AMS can be lethal if not treated immediately or if its symptoms are ignored; if the guide advises you to go down, then you must take that advice. Probably 70% of all people climbing Kilimanjaro will have mild symptoms of AMS. You should familiarize yourself with this condition and take preventative care. Make sure to have Diamox 250mg with you to counteract this condition.
Malaria occurs below 1800 meters and you should use the recommended prophylactics. Please consult your doctor about these. Lariam is very popular, but should be taken with care. Currently, there are various preventative medication products available which will be effective against the malaria strains currently found in Tanzania. Women using oral contraceptives should consult their physicians before using prophylactics.
Guides and Porters
Once on the Mountain, your well equipped guides and porters will rank second only to your mental determination, in terms of important factors contributing to a successful summit attempt. For the duration of your Kilimanjaro trek, your guide will be your advisor, he will lead you to the summit, and he will bring you down safely again. It will be important that you work closely with him and take note of his advice. African Trails also ensures that our porters are properly equipped against the elements on Kilimanjaro.
Qualified and experienced guides
Guides are compulsory for all routes on Kilimanjaro. Highly trained and qualified guides, registered and approved by the Kilimanjaro National Parks Board lead all our treks up the mountain. Each of our guides has been selected over years, based on experience, safety record and through feedback from previous clients.
Support staff ratios
The average ratio of our support staff to climbers is 2 porters per climber, a cook and one guide for a maximum of 4 climbers. This excellent staff to client ratio, bolstered by our superior support equipment, will ensure your safety and enjoyment on the mountain.
Porters and Cook
The porters do not only transport your gear and the supplies up and down the mountain. Arriving at every campsite long before you, they will have already erected your tent on your arrival. In the evening they will also boil drinking and washing water and the cook will prepare dinner of a quality that has surprised many previous clients.
Weight limits for Porters
Remember that there is a weight limit of 15-kg (30 lbs.) per climber, on the gear of each climber to be portered. A soft duffel bag (barrel type) is preferred – a rucksack is not necessary, as they prefer to porter the loads balanced on their heads and shoulders.
This is a “compulsory tradition” on every Kilimanjaro climb. There is no set amount, and it is usually dependent on the clients’ satisfaction and discretion.
How difficult is the climb? Can I do it?
About 22,000 climbers set out every year to conquer the Kilimanjaro peak. Several well-marked hiking routes lead to the summit of the mountain. To use the word “climber” is not always correct. Although none of these hikers’ routes really requires mountaineering skills, hiking to the “roof of Africa” is physically and mentally demanding and should not be underestimated. As much as 40% of those who set out to climb Kilimanjaro turn back before they reach Uhuru peak.
Today, hikers make up the bulk of all those who conquer Kilimanjaro, and the mountain is in fact one of the highest peaks accessible to hikers in the world. Of course there are extremely severe climbs available, including some grade 3+ climbs, but those we leave to the professional alpine climbers and experienced mountaineers.
The information on this website is primarily concerned with the hiking routes, which “the average hikers” can follow successfully. Preparation both physically and mentally are the keywords for success– this page contains valuable and comprehensive information obtained from over 10 years of experience and through the feedback from more than 3000 clients. We believe it will positively contribute to your chances of successfully conquering Kilimanjaro.