To think of conquering such a big mountain is a dream that requires mental toughness and physical preparedness to make your climb enjoyable and a success. Even during the trek, itself, you have to have a good strategy with every step you take towards and away from the summit.
Tips to help you summit Kilimanjaro and reach Uhuru Peak
1. Physical preparedness
No, you don’t have to be a fitness expert to climb Kilimanjaro, but bear in mind that climbing Kilimanjaro is physically demanding. To make your climb more doable and at the same time enjoyable, you have got to put in the work. Do some strength training especially for your legs as you are going to be walking for days. For endurance, do so cardio exercises like running, cycling or hiking.
2. Slow and steady
You have heard or read this a number of times “Kilimanjaro is not a race”. So, pace yourself reasonably the moment you set foot at the game and into the rain-forest at the mountain lower slopes. Do not worry much if you are slower that the other trekkers, listen to your body it will guide you. The good is that the lead guides also always take it slow to give everyone a chance to settle into the climb and find their footing.
3. Hiking equipment
Pack the right equipment beforehand. Triple check your bag to make sure everything on the packing list is in.
Most importantly, try on your hiking clothes and hiking boots to make sure they are a perfect fit and comfortable enough to spend the whole day in walking up a mountain.
Best way is to wear your hiking boots (the pair you plan to take to Kilimanjaro) to your next hike as you work on your physical fitness.
You wouldn’t wish to get blisters while on your climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro just because your new boots are not the right fit.
4. The right hiking route
Kilimanjaro has 7 hiking routes with different difficulty levels. Choosing the best one for yourself will increase your possible chances of reaching Uhuru peak. Longer routes offer better acclimatization possibilities for first time trekkers even the experienced who would like to minimize their chances of getting altitude sickness and have an enjoyable climb. Choose a route that fits your preferences and capabilities.
5. Make water your best friend
Hydration is key to helping your body cop and adapt to the harsh conditions on Kilimanjaro. One is advised to drink up to 4 liters of water on a daily. A hydration bladder of 2L is highly recommend to help you keep sipping on water as you walk and an extra 1L water bottle in your day pack.
6. Keep your energy levels up
A snack like an energy bar here and there is going to help fuel your body on your climb. You will be using a lot of energy at some / most points on the mountain as elevation increases, snacking a long the way will keep you going. Anything from energy bars, nuts and dried fruits will do you good. All other meals will be provided by your tour operator throughout the whole time you will be on the mountain.
7. Layered dressing
Mount Kilimanjaro temperatures greatly vary and keep changing from hot to warm to freezing. Layering your clothing will allow you to easily adjust to the temperatures as you climb without having to reach for your day bag each time. Your base layer should be sweat wicking to keep sweat off your body, have on a fleece jack and a warm or winter jacket for when it gets really cold, especially for summit day. Do not forget your gloves/mittens and beanies.
8. Hiking poles
An essential equipment while hiking Kilimanjaro. They help with balance and stability as they also take reduce the stress and strain from your knees and ankles especially during descent.
9. Wet wipes
Considering that you will not be having any showers will on Kilimanjaro. The wet wipes will come in handy in keeping you clean and refreshed after a long sweaty day once you reach the camp. Well unless if you are using the Marangu route which has hut accommodation and showers, wet wipes are a must have on your hike.
10. Expect altitude sickness:
Anyone climbing Kilimanjaro should expect to get some symptoms of altitude sickness. Like nausea, headaches and lack of sleep. Pack some medication like Diamox (commonly used) to help alleviate the symptoms. Having enough rest and drinking enough water can help too. Be sure to let you guides know once you experience any of the symptoms.
11. Follow the leader
Your guide on the climb up the mountain knows the ins and outs of Mount Kilimanjaro. Their guidance is important for a safe, enjoyable and successful climb. Listen to their instructions and you will do just fine. Ask them as many questions as you can.
I know your goal is to reach Uhuru peak, at the roof top of Africa, but the journey to the summit is also important. Take moments to look around you, you will not be disappointed because Kilimanjaro has stunning breathtaking views with each increase in elevation and different vegetation zones. Enjoy the journey, you will have an amazing story to tell.
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