Are you suffering from post-holiday blues and needing a bit of pick me up to get you motivated again? How about planning your next adventure, to put that spring in your step? Or do you have a week off work, but don’t know what to do? The world, as they say, is your oyster, so what’s it going to be? A week on the beach in Malta? Seven days camping in Cornwall? Or a week conquering the Roof of Africa?
Climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, at 5,895 metres above sea level, is the dream of many. This dormant volcano is the highest mountain in Africa, and majestically straddles the border between Kenya and Tanzania. Making it to the summit and watching the sun rise above Kilimanjaro’s crater rim is one of Africa’s most exhilarating challenges.
One option to make this climb, is to join Amanzi Travel’s seven day guided climb. This trip takes you to the ‘roof of Africa’, beginning and ending in Nairobi, Kenya, and which travels south to Moshi and Mount Kilimanjaro.
The Marangu Route is the easiest and shortest route to Kilimanjaro’s summit and is known as the “coca cola” route as it is the most popular for tourists. It is the only route that has communal sleeping huts at each stop off point, and offers bunks with sponge mattresses and pillows.
You would trek through the spectacular rain forests of the Kilimanjaro National Park on the first section of the ascent. All climbing groups, often from around the world, share dining huts along the way, which makes for a jovial and social atmosphere.
The next day’s climb is through stunningly beautiful open moor land. Sometimes it is advisable to plan an extra day here to acclimatize. The stark scenery from this altitude is remarkable and the vegetation (although seemingly sparse after the rain forests) seems quite alien.
The trek over “The Saddle” between the Mawenzi and Kibo peaks, is the final stage before the ascent to the summit. The total distance to the ascent is 32 km (20 miles).
Most of the climb to the summit will be done in the dark, so a head torch is essential to make it easier to navigate the path. It will also be extremely cold so you will definitely need warm layers, socks, gloves and beanies to see you through. As this is the last of the ascent it is taken very slowly – or “pole, pole” and an optimistic attitude, along with perseverance will get everyone there! Once the Uhuru Peak is reached, you will have the wonder of watching the sun rise over Tanzania and Kenya from Africa’s highest point. This will undoubtedly be a personal physical and emotional accomplishment, and a totally unique and joyous African experience.
“Kilimanjaro is a pretty tricky climb you know, most of it’s up until you reach the very very top, and then it tends to slope away rather sharply.” – Graham Chapman, Monty Python
Things to consider
Luggage – all items should be packed in a backpack with a day pack for smaller daily items such as snacks, drinking water, rain jackets and cameras etc. Climbers are expected to carry their own day pack, which should be able to sustain them until they reach camp at the end of the day. Climbers do not need to carry their own personal backpack, as these will be carried by the always-smiley and always-supportive and enthusiastic porters, shouting “jambo” and “asante sana” along the way. However, it is advisable to take your own personal first aid kit containing all the basic items, as well as rehydration salts, muscle rub, plasters/foot cushions for blistering, head ache tablets and possibly altitude sickness tablets.
Physical Fitness – Although Kilimanjaro is not a technical mountain climb, it is a major challenge and the rigors of altitude should not be under-estimated. Uhuru Peak is 500m higher than Everest Base Camp! The pace of ascent combined with good acclimatization will help on the climb but it is essential to be mentally and physically prepared. Regular hikes are a good way to prepare, increasing the frequency and length as the Kili trek approaches. All aerobic exercises such as cycling, running, swimming and aerobics are good for strengthening the cardiovascular system and generally any exercise that increases the heart rate for 20 minutes is helpful.
Altitude and Acclimatization – During the trek it is likely that all climbers will experience at least some form of mild altitude sickness. This is caused by the failure of the body to adapt quickly enough to the reduced level of oxygen in the air at an increased altitude. There are many different symptoms but the most common are headaches, light-headedness, nausea, loss of appetite, tingling in the toes and fingers and a mild swell of ankles and fingers. These mild forms are not serious and will normally disappear within 48 hours.
Photography – Cameras, whether video or film, need to be protected against the severe cold weather, either in a warm pouch or the interior pockets of clothing. They should not be kept in backpacks at higher elevations.
“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.” – Barry Finlay, Kilimanjaro and Beyond
Quite often, it is more than just reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro that you take away with you. It is the determination and pain you have endured to do it, it will be about the people you have met along the way, both foreigners and local, and it is undoubtedly about the worldly beauty you have experienced on your journey.