Tips For A Successful Kilimanjaro Climb
What to do during a Kilimanjaro climb
That is Kiswahili for “slow and steady” and you will hear it day in, day out.
It’s the single most important thing to keep in mind during the climb. I can tell you now, no matter what you expect, you will be surprised when you see just HOW slow your guides make you walk. Everything on Kilimanjaro happens in slow motion.
You walk so slowly, the first days it seems ridiculous. You may even feel you just CAN’T possibly walk THAT slowly. (If you have that problem, breathe through your nose only. That’ll slow you down.)
Soon you will notice some changes. You stop for a photo and catching up with your group leaves you breathless. Drinking from your camel back while walking becomes an effort. The slow, slow speed does not seem so slow any more.
Whatever happens, do avoid exertion at all cost. Falling behind the group? So what? That’s why bigger groups have several guides.
Do not be tempted into speeding up because others are walking faster. (Serious altitude sickness is more common in groups than it is during private climbs!)
Another group overtaking? Let them! You will pass their crumpled bodies soon enough…
There is NOTHING to gain on Kilimanjaro by being the first.
Do you know which group has the lowest success rate? Young males between 20 and 30, exactly the people you think would do the best.
But they overestimate the role of fitness and underestimate the mountain. Often they feel they have to lead, they want to be the best, they don’t like being overtaken, and being strong and fit makes it just sooo easy to walk too fast.
Do you know that older people have a good success rate? They are wiser than that. And many of them just aren’t fit enough to make the mistake of walking too fast.
Extreme fitness can be a trap. You don’t feel the strain, but your body uses lots of oxygen all the same.
Ok, I think you got the message. Pole pole!
A few more tips on climbing Kilimanjaro and avoiding altitude sickness
The first point is very important for avoiding altitude sickness and your guides will likely keep reminding you:
Keep drinking! It’s VERY easy to dehydrate at altitude without noticing. The air is very dry so you breathe off more moisture. Also, your body adjusts to the high altitude by eliminating more water. Keep replacing it.
Also make sure you eat plenty! Most people lose their appetite at altitude, but the cold weather and the long days mean your body burns through a lot of calories. Keep replacing them. You will need them. High carbohydrate foods are better than fatty foods. (Any good tour operator will have considered that in their shopping and meal planning.)
And keep warm! The correct gear is a must, not just because shivering isn’t nice and hypothermia dangerous, but also because staying nice and toasty will lessen your risk of succumbing to altitude sickness.
Keep your day pack light. Only take what you really need. Every extra kilo needs extra oxygen to carry.
And that’s about it. Even if you are not in a position to afford extra preparation for the altitude (e.g. a Mt. Meru climb), if you are healthy, pick a good route and operator, arrive a couple of days early and take on board all of the above tips, you have a very good chance of making it to the summit.