Africa and safaris, go hand-in-hand; well, almost. In Tanzania, the lure of tourism is not its wild animals, but its awesome freestanding Mt Kilimanjaro, so lofty at 5896 meters (19,340 feet) it is capped with snow and endowed with one of the world’s most beautiful panoramas. The best things that you can dream of doing, once you get to the peak, is to gaze.
As simple as it may sound, you’ll be in awe as you wander your eye. Only then will you realize that gazing alone is enough once you get to the top. No wonder it has easily been among the top visited attractions in the continent since its official opening in 1977.
Never Underestimate Kili
As you see tens of thousands of trekkers trooping to the summit, you may easily conclude it is for you or anyone wanting the label “Kili Survivor.” The truth is scaling the height of Mt Kilimanjaro is a serious undertaking. Just because climbers are not using ropes or those without technical climbing experience can make it to the top doesn’t it will be easy even if you are not in good shape.
It is true that the majority of the climbers can get as high as Uhuru Peak without much trouble, but you need to be aware that the height can make you dizzy if you aren’t fit enough. Even seasoned porters and trekkers get into trouble on the way up. News about people dying along the way to the peak is not unheard. If you are bent on pursuing this, better come prepared.
A View to Prepare For
You are not just climbing a hill for a beautiful sunset; you are scaling Mt Kili! You need to prepare hard to get to the summit and back in one piece to tell your story. If you have set your gaze and mind on the goal, start by perusing practical tips such as Anouk Zijlma’s tips on How To Climb Kilimanjaro posted in About Travel.
“… snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is Africa’s highest peak. It is the world’s tallest walkable mountain, and what a walk it is. You go through 5 different climatic zones to reach the summit. Follow the advice and tips below and you should reach the “roof of Africa” in good health. Difficulty: HardTime Required: 7 -10 Days”
Zijlma’s How-to Tips
- Find a good tour operator. Safety depends on your operator. Be savvy; choose based on the operator’s safety history and experience. There are also specific routes you can take; going on your own will be very risky.
- Book in advance. Climbing during the peak season means paying more, but only because this is the best, and safest, time of the year. For best weather conditions, you have a choice when to go – January to March, or September to October.
- Get fit. Build your stamina with the simplest exercise: walking. You can climb stairs, walk in the park or walk the dog. Don’t forget to get a medical checkup before your holiday.
- Pack well. Remember to pack lightly, but make sure you have what you need to handle the altitude and the temperature. Each porter can carry up to 15 kilos (30 pounds) of stuff; plan well what to pack using a recommended checklist.
- Choose your route. To be properly acclimatized, your hike must not be less than 6-7 days. There are several routes with varying levels of difficulty, choose the one that is suitable for your level of fitness. The easier ones are Rongai and Marangu. The difficult ones are Shira, Machame and Limosho. Longer routes give you more time to be acclimatized increasing your chance of getting to the peak.
- Dealing with altitude. Heed the tips of the guides. Don’t rush and drink lots of water. Ask your doctor for a safe medication to counter altitude sickness. Make sure your guides are ready with emergency gear – communication device, oxygen, and a recompression bag.
- Reaching the summit. The final steps to Uhuru peak is customarily programed in time for the sunrise. Enjoy the view; this is what you came here for. After taking a few snapshots, get back down before sickness due to high altitude sets in.
The author also offers some practical tips about the cost of the trek to the peak and back, about leaving behind valuables to the hotel base for security reasons, and about keeping a digital camera warm to function when you need it to record your “feat” at the peak. Finally, you are advised to be familiar with the symptoms of AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness, so you’ll be able to deal with it promptly, reducing the risk of more serious consequences.
And, every year some trekkers and porters die on the mountain. Come prepared with appropriate footwear and clothing, and most importantly, allow yourself enough time. If you’re interested in reaching the top, seriously consider adding at least one extra day onto the ‘standard’ climb itineraries: accepted medical advice is to increase sleeping altitude by only 300m per day once above 3000m – which is about one-third of the daily altitude gains above 3000m on the standard Kili climb-routes offered by most operators.