In this article, we’ve gathered the best six tips for outdoor enthusiasts who are going to scale the Roof of Africa. Let’s jump right in!
1. Choose the right route
There are seven official Kilimanjaro climbing routes to choose from. Some are more scenic than others, while some offer easier ascent. They also differ in length, for example, Umbwe, the shortest route, is 37 km long while Northern Circuit is a whopping 90 km long. It’s important to know that the longer the route, the better, especially for inexperienced climbers, as you have more time to acclimatize and thus better chances of success. Also, keep in mind that some routes are inaccessible in the rainy season. Finally, some routes are more popular than others, which makes them overcrowded during the high season. However, remember that in most cases, treks are popular not because they are easy, but because they are closer to the airport. Taking all these things into account, pick the route that is most likely to meet your needs and expectations.
2. Get physically and mentally prepared
Although Kilimanjaro is considered to be comparatively easy to climb, it still requires a good physical shape to conquer this 5,895-meter giant. The earlier you can start training, the better. Eight weeks is the bare minimum you need to be ready to walk up Kilimanjaro in hiking boots and with a backpack on your back. It’s essential to stick to your training schedule. It would be perfect if you could devote a couple of hours three times a week to your training. Remember that balance is critical, so make sure your training plan includes the following types of exercise:
Cardio sessions are imperative when you’re preparing for a Kilimanjaro climb, as they help improve the overall fitness of your heart and lungs as well as get your body used to consuming oxygen effectively. You can go running, cycling, swimming, rowing, or dancing. Start with shorter aerobic training sessions and eventually increase their duration.
Secondly, include interval training into your plan, every three days in your schedule. Interval training is a series of high-intensity workouts alternated with low-intensity periods. During the low-intensity periods, you restore your energy and enhance your overall performance with the intense training. This type of exercise is especially beneficial for climbers, as it trains your body to work at different paces.
Strength and endurance
Next, it’s imperative to build up strength in all major leg muscles and your core muscles. Core training is important because your body will be under strain for long hours, and working out this area helps maintain balance.
Finally, prepare for your trip mentally. You need to understand that your adventure will include long days on the trek, living in a tent, baby wipe showers and going to the toilet outdoors.
3. Bring the right gear
A week-long climb means that you need to bring reliable gear. Make sure you use a comfortable, sturdy backpack that won’t let you down in the middle of the trek. Also, get a pair of good waterproof trekking boots and make sure you break them in before you arrive in Tanzania. It will help you avoid getting nasty blisters during the climb. It goes without saying that you need to stock up on socks to make your feet feel comfortable, dry and warm when it gets cold. Lastly, remember that Kilimanjaro has five different climatic zones, so prepare appropriate clothes. A T-shirt and shorts are enough to walk through the hot and humid rainforest, but you’ll definitely need a down jacket and other warm clothes for the freezing arctic zone.
4. Know symptoms of altitude sickness
Mountain climbers are at risk of developing altitude sickness, which may be harmful or even fatal if ignored. It happens when the body doesn’t have enough time to adjust to reduced oxygen and changes in air pressure as you ascend the mountain. On Kilimanjaro, hikers typically experience the symptoms of altitude sickness when they’re trekking through the moorland zone, usually on the second and third day of the trek. The initial symptoms can include:
- drop in performance
- loss of appetite
- lack of coordination
As soon as your body adjusts to elevation, symptoms disappear. It’s impossible to prevent altitude sickness, however, you can reduce some of the symptoms through medication, proper nutrition and hydration. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and aspirin along with diamox (acetazolamide) are commonly used to treat altitude sickness. Don’t forget to arrange an appointment with your doctor before you set off to discuss your trip and get expert advice.
Again, minor symptoms are quite normal. For your peace of mind, choose a reputable operator, for instance, Follow Alice, and climb with an experienced team that know how to spot the signs of severe altitude sickness.
5. Prepare to drink a lot of water
Keeping yourself hydrated should be one of your top priorities when you’re scaling Kilimanjaro. Remember that at a higher altitude, the body is likely to dehydrate way faster than at sea level, so you’ll need to make sure that you drink enough water to compensate for the loss. In general, it’s recommended to drink 4-5 liters of water daily while on the mountain. It’s also a good idea to have all of your water drunk before 5 pm in order to avoid waking up at night to pee. Drinking five liters of water a day may sound daunting, but it’s crucial for your success on the mountain. Getting used to drinking plenty of water ahead of the trip is a good solution.
6. Bring sun protection
As you climb Kilimanjaro, UV is filtered out less and its radiation increases by 4% with every 300 metres of height gain, making it important to protect yourself from the sun. Bring a hat that covers ears, and a buff to protect your neck. It’s necessary to use a sunscreen with high SPF protection and renew the application every two hours. You’ll also need sunglasses with protection level 3, or even 4 to protect your eyes against harmful UV-rays. Lastly, don’t forget to bring protective lip balm as your lips are especially vulnerable to extreme UV levels.