Thousands of people have climbed Kilimanjaro safely and successfully, but even the mildest route is fraught with difficulty. Make it easy on yourself by preparing well, and here are our top five tips to help you.
Kilimanjaro is wild – it can be boiling hot, freezing cold and the push for the summit is in pitch darkness. Make sure you pack the right equipment that will make your days and nights safer and more comfortable. We recommend at least the following: head torch and hand torch plus batteries; ski pole; warm clothing including decent socks; camera and extra SD cards for all the photographs you’re going to take; toilet paper (very useful!) and wet wipes; a travel pillow; sun cream and sunglasses; and don’t forget snacks like energy bars. And it’s always fun to take some easy-to-carry games for your evenings under the stars. This isn’t a definitive list by any means, so research carefully so that you have everything covered.
Kilimanjaro is a tough hike and the best way to prepare is by hiking! Make sure you’re comfortable walking and scrambling up and downhill for long distances; you might like to try some one and two day hikes where you live, and put in the distance through a walking programme. You can also test out equipment such as your hiking shoes, during your training. Resistance training to prepare your muscles won’t hurt, either.
Kilimanjaro isn’t Everest but it still has challenges that can be overcome more easily with a solidly positive outlook. It’s not going to be comfortable. Sometimes it’ll be cloudy and when you’re in the clouds it’ll be damp and grey. You’re not going to be able to wash easily and you’ll be wearing the same clothes for days. There are no flush toilets….sometimes there are no toilets! If you have a tough mental attitude that can overcome all these inconveniences and if you can focus on what’s just ahead of you rather than the target far away then you’ll be fine. It’s an experience like no other and hikers who view it as a privilege and an opportunity get far more out of it.
Choose the route that’s right for you
If you’re an inexperienced climber, you’ll need time to acclimatise to the harsh conditions to avoid altitude sickness as much as possible. Choose a longer route for greater time to acclimatize and don’t forget to “walk high, sleep low”, which prepares your body better than a full march straight to the top.
The Marangu route is traditionally the easiest climb. It is the only route with hut accommodation in a dormitory style, so you won’t need camping equipment. It’s a less busy route because there are a limited number of beds in the huts, so only a certain number of climbers are allowed per day. But as it’s a rapid climb, acclimatization can be a problem.
The Machame route is tougher but more picturesque than the Marangu route. The Lemosho route is quiet and the Rongai route quieter still. The Umbwe route is the newest and toughest so only recommended for experienced hikers.
Your Kilimanjaro challenge will be over before you know it: the blur of excitement, toughness, magical moments and deep conversations will pass by so quickly, and although all your pictures will tell a story and remind you of your adventure, journaling daily can be a great way to record the things that happen, the feelings you have and the emotional detail that pictures just can’t reflect.
Preparation is the key to a successful and (almost) comfortable hike up Kilimanjaro. If you prepare well, then you’ve given yourself the best opportunity to really enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.