Kili Footprints Top tips for climbing Kilimanjaro successfully

Climbing Kilimanjaro is an incredible experience physical and Mental stamina training can be achieved by most, regardless of age or physical well being.

Once you have your cardiovascular system up and running then all you need is a positive attitude and ready to push yourself. Allowing your body to acclimatize to the altitude. More often altitude sickness is a major factor for not reaching the Summit.

Uhuru peak kilimanjaro
Cycling on mount Kilimanjaro

Training

Most days climbing Kilimanjaro are no worse than an average day hiking anywhere. There are though a number of factors that make this a really complex challenge.

First, you will be hiking for at least 5 to 7 days continuously. This puts a big strain on all your muscles and joints.

Second, as you climb, the oxygen content in the air drops rapidly. This means that with every breath you are getting less and less energy. At the summit each breath has about half the amount of oxygen that you would normally have. Oxygen suppliment cylinder supplied incase of any emergency tend to happen.

Third, although most days are not overly difficult, summit night is extremely hard with an ascent of over 1500m, a descent of nearly 3000m and between 16-18 hours walking on average on stoney and rocky trails. TO be successful you need to be in the best physical condition of your life. We have detailed advice on training for kilimanjaro. Strength Training include this squats, Front and reverse leg curls, Lunges, Step aerobics, sit up, kettlebell row/swings. Mental stamina Just as important as physical stamina is mental stamina and attitude they all applied most often during summit night.

The key factors are cardio- strength, muscle strength in the legs and flexibility. If at all possible try to get out and do some long days hiking at least twice in the weeks before your climb. And don’t forget that the biggest difference between those who summit successfully and those who turn back is often just mental tenacity. 

Staying well hydrated and eating plenty

Each day as you climb Kilimanjaro you will burn about 4000 calories. This is almost double your normal intake. On summit night you will burn well over 6000 calories. And as mountaineers say, you need to fuel the climb! So even if you have lost your appetite because of the effects of altitude you have to keep eating. Our menus are designed to be varied and really tasty but even if you don’t feel hungry you must eat. Before you travel to Tanzania find a number of snacks that you really enjoy. Bring a good and varied supply. Even if you love Mars Bars you can find that when you are faced with your third in a night they are not quite so appetising.

And drinking plenty is even more important than eating. In the cold, dry air it is very easy to become dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration are very similar to altitude sickness. It is not uncommon for someone to descend and then find that all they needed was lots of water. You will be given 2 litres of water daily. There will also be unlimited amounts of hot drinks at breakfast and dinner. You must ensure that you keep drinking. As a good guide, if your pee is yellow you are under-hydrated and need to drink more. Try to looking after yourself on kilimanjaro that way in such way.

Good equipment

Good equipment starts with your feet. Do not turn up for your climb in a shiny new pair of boots. Make sure your boots are well worn in and are comfortable. After your feet make sure you are looking after your head. On the lower slopes you will need something that provides good sun protection. For summit night you need a really warm beanie or even balaclava. These can double up as a nightcap on really cold nights.

Finally, think about clothing layers. The daily temperature variation can be as much as 35c. The best way of coping with this is with layering rather than relying on one single jacket. Also, we strongly recommend gaiters and mittens. Kilimanjaro is very dusty and a boot full of dust is very uncomfortable. And we have not found a pair of gloves that are really warm enough for summit night so make sure to pack mittens or over-mittens.

Other critical items are a 4 season sleeping bag, trekking poles for the descent, a head torch for the night climb, a comfortable day pack and lots and lots of high factor sunscreen. We recommend the next packing list for kilimanjaro that you can review right now!

Careful acclimatisation

The single biggest reason why people fail to summit is because they have not acclimatised well. We have lots of information on acclimatisation how to avoid altitude sickness but there are three key points to remember. First is go slowly. No matter how fit you are, if you go too quickly the risk of getting altitude sickness goes up. You will always hear our guides advising “Pole Pole”, swahili for slowly, slowly. As a good measure of your speed, if you cannot manage a conversation comfortably you are going fast.

Second is hydration, the really serious problems caused by altitude are due to changes in pressure. This happens badly in the lungs where fluid from your blood leaks into your lungs giving pneumonia like symptoms. It also happens in your skull where fluid moves from your brain into the gap between the brain and the skull causing pressure headaches. If you are poorly hydrated you will increase the risk that this becomes a problem.

And third is consider taking Diamox. This is a drug that is proven to help the body acclimatise to altitude faster. It is not a cure though and you can still get ill taking it. For most people though it is a safe way to reduce the risk of getting ill. You will need to see your doctor to obtain a prescription for Diamox. He can assess you personally for suitability.

Kilimanjaro crator camp 5,730M (18,865 feet)

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