As the tallest walkable peak on the planet, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa is certainly a challenge – and not one that should be taken lightly. To reach its summit (Uhuru Peak), you’ll ascend to 5,896 m above sea level, which is no easy feat.
What this means is that you need to be well prepared for the trek ahead of you, by both training before you travel to Tanzania and ensuring you have all the necessary equipment once you get to the mountain.
We’re going to run through some advice to help you prepare for your Kilimanjaro climb; if you’d like more details about the routes you can take or trip itineraries in general, visit this website.
Fitness: before you go
It’s no good turning up in Tanzania having done no preparation for the climb ahead of you. Kilimanjaro is a tough trek, regardless of which route you choose, and your success is by no means guaranteed.
Generally, it’s recommended that you combine cardiovascular workouts with strenuous hill walking to help get your body ready for what’s to come. The biggest problem encountered on the mountain is altitude sickness, which is caused due to the lower pressure of oxygen in the air as you ascend.
It therefore stands to reason that if your circulatory system is in good shape, your body will be more efficient at processing oxygen, which in turn means you’re likely to cope better with the altitude. However, it’s important to note that altitude sickness can strike anyone, so don’t be complacent.
Hill walking is obviously a good thing to do because it will improve your stamina and prepare your body for the kind of exercise you’ll be doing every day on your trek. A top tip is to plan a weekend or even three days of consecutive walking, as this can be quite different from a single long hike.
Equipment to take
One of the most important things to do when you’re trekking at altitude is to pace yourself. Some people find that walking poles help them to keep a steady stride as they trek – if this helps you make sure you pack some!
Comfortable and well-used hiking boots are, of course, a must, while it’s best to pack layers of clothing as you’re likely to get quite warm during the day when you’re walking but temperatures can plummet at night, particularly as you climb higher.
It’s not so much equipment, but a few packets of rehydration salts are a good addition to your pack. One of the ways to help prevent altitude sickness is by staying well hydrated, so drink plenty. Adding rehydration salts to your water can simply mean your body gets more benefit from the fluid you’re taking on.
However, don’t over-pack. There is a 15 kg weight limit on all baggage that is carried on the Kilimanjaro hike, so that the porters aren’t overloaded. Make sure that your pack isn’t heavier than this, otherwise you may have to pay extra fees to have your bag carried or the porters will refuse to take your luggage unless you take items out.
There are places in Arusha and Marangu (the starting point of your trek, depending on the route you’re taking) where you can leave things that are surplus to requirements on the mountain, so if you will be travelling elsewhere after your Kilimanjaro trek and therefore have more luggage, don’t worry too much.