Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What you need to know: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

September/October 2013

 I found information slightly easier to find than I did when we did the Inca Trail in 2011. So here's my take on whats good to know before you go...

Guides/Tour Operators
We thought about doing this with g adventures again and then found they used a local company called Zara Tours. The more research we did, the more we felt we wanted to book with a local company rather than an international company who charged more (significantly) and used a local team you may or may not have been able to research.

Zara Tours was excellent. From the endless questions that the staff answered on email before we left, to the fantastic guide, assistant guide, cook and porters on the trail. The amount of support we received during the hike, particularly on summit day was fantastic and I couldn't have asked for more. I would highly recommend them.

There are a number of different routes you can do, over different duration's. This website has pretty good explanations of the more popular routes. We choose the Rongai Route, over 7 days (one day of acclimatization). We choose this route and duration for a number of reasons. The first was its a less trafficked route so more quiet (which it was), it uses a different route up and down allowing you to see different aspects of the mountain and park and we choose the acclimatization day to give ourselves any advantage possible.

There are a lot of lists if you google Kilimanjaro pack lists. Pack as light as possible, for both you and the porters (don't give them things to carry that you won't use). At the end of the climb you will be dirty and you will smell by the end.

  • Camera
  • A good goretex jacket
  • Snacks (if needed, we didn't)
  • Hydration pouch for water (1.5L, we could have done with more)
  • Hiking poles (we rented these from Zara)
  • A cover for your pack
  • Fleece jumper
  • Gloves and beanie
  • 2-3 socks (we used these and they were fantastic)
  • Sunscreen
  • Good hiking boots with ankle support are a must (worn in)
  • 1 spare hiking pants
  • 1 spare shirt
  • Sports bra
  • Thermals (one for wearing, one for sleeping)
  • Ski pants (optional but kept us nice and warm, and would have kept us dry if needed)
  • Down jackets (a last minute purchase but worth every cent)
  • Plastic bags to keep things water proof
  • First aid kit
  • Sunhat
I wish we had neck warmers, because my nose got very cold on summit day.

We didn't do a lot of specific training for this one. We were training for a half marathon (which we ran the weekend before we left on our trip), running 50 km a week. But we did do a few 15 km hikes in the months leading up. I think general fitness helps for a significant portion of this hike, I don't know if it made summit day any easier. There is NO chance for acclimatization training in Australia, we don't have that high an altitude.

On the Trail
Your guides will tell you to go Pole Pole the whole time (except part of summit night!), which is slow slow. There is no hurry, don't over push yourself, let yourself enjoy the view, take pictures (we didn't take enough of the days prior to or of the summit).

The summit night is the most difficult, the altitude is likely to affect you in some way. Its the only time our guide "pushed" us by telling us not to give up. Don't think that starting during the day instead of at mid-night will mean your refreshed, mentally its much more difficult to see where you are going and keep climbing. Its tough but worth it.

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