Kilimanjaro: 5 tips for the top
The inspiration to tackle Kilimanjaro is often an impulse followed by a feeling of “Help!! Now what!” With a summit success rate of 98% Venture Co can share a couple of good ideas:-
- Get fit – Kili is a mountain that needs you to be in shape before you arrive, rather than getting fit as the trek unfolds. The whole experience is so much better if you’re relaxed and at ease from the get-go. 7 or 8 days of walking at altitude requires trekkers to have decent cardiovascular fitness. The better your body is at extracting oxygen from your blood, the better you will fare at altitude. Hitting the gym isn’t as important as power-walking, biking, running, swimming, riding; in fact anything that raises your respiration rate.
2. Train with your trekking kit –makes sense; but we all know it won’t happen. Try to include some long treks with a heavy backpack (not that you carry a full pack on Kili, but you will be carrying a day-pack, at altitude). Get used to walking with poles, particularly on descents. The rule is to set the pole length so that hands and just lower than elbows. Make friends with your boots – modern boots are nearly there straight off the shelf, but much better to get some miles in before reaching Tanzania. Letting your boots form to the shape of your feet reduces any chance of blisters. The goal is to walk about 80 Km at a 5% gradient. Easy!!
3. Pole-pole – is Swahili for “Slowly slowly” and refers to walking slowly, and don’t cram an 8 day itinerary into a 6 day slot to save money; and if you can, include a trek up Mount Meru before Kili (3 days extra). If you can tackle Mt Meru first, you’re virtually guaranteed to summit Kili. Besides, the view of Kili from the summit of Meru is astonishing. Don’t rush any aspect of this trek.
4. Tent craft – home will be under canvas for a week, so get used to being hyper-organised. You need to know where everything is in your bag; and how to change in a confined space. Boots and wet gear in one place and dry gear separate. Can you get into and out of your sleeping bag smoothly? All this is easy in your bedroom, but gets harder as the altitude rises.
- Work on your mental stamina– you may experience headaches, nausea and fatigue due to altitude. And on summit day you really do need to place mind over matter and battle through: the body will hurt but you have to have the mental strength to keep going. The Mountain Rescue has a phrase “LMF” which stands for “lack of moral fibre” and you don’t want to be in that category!
Climbing Kilimanjaro should be unforgettable; the trek of a lifetime. The feedback we hear most regularly is that the experience was life-enhancing; friendships will be forged; excitement and some discomfort shared, and ultimately the experience of standing on the roof of Africa will be yours.