I don’t really have a bucket list, but if I did climbing Kilimanjaro would certainly have been on it. After wanting to take this epic trip for several years, I finally found the time to prepare and booked my holiday with Kilimanjaro Tours. I’ve always enjoyed hiking and have seen some beautiful scenery, but nothing prepared me for the beauty I experienced seeing this most unique mountain in rural Africa in person.
I knew that trekking Kilimanjaro was accessible to many people, but also knew that I shouldn’t take this trip lightly and started preparing as soon I had confirmed my dates, even though the trip was several months away. So before I go into the actual trip, I want to share with you what I did to get ready for this adventure of adventures in hopes that it will help someone have a trip as memorable as I had. And I had questions, lots of question which Kilimanjaro Tours were very happy to answer.
Getting in Shape
OK, before the trip I was in fairly good shape. I do a lot of hiking and go swimming at least four times a week, but I knew I needed to do more. I needed to adjust my fitness regime to prepare me for this mammoth trip and that included fitness training and adjusting my diet. This plan needed some research. How fit did I have to be? What were the best exercises to do to build myself up in the correct way? I already knew that I would need stamina, as almost a week of full days of hiking, adding altitude to the mix meant this is what I had to focus on. This meant that I needed to walk, walk, and do some more walking. I slowly increased my walking distances by both hill hiking and using the treadmill at the gym. It also meant that I needed to condition my muscles to be strong enough to withstand the epic trek that awaited.
I spent every other day in the gym. At the gym I made sure to do some resistance training with weight machines and kettlebells. I then spent some time on the treadmill, just walking at a brisk pace, starting with 15-minutes and building up to an hour. In addition to all this, I kept up my pool work. Swimming is a great whole body workout, without stressing the joints. It helped to improve my cardio capacity as well as provided muscle resistance training. I started with 10 laps and built myself up to 50. As far as non-gym days, these were spent hiking. I found a handy preparation walking programme that started with 1 hour 10 minute walks on flat terrain. In weeks two to three the walking time was the same, but started to include more uphill work. The total walking programme is eight weeks long. If you don’t have access to a gym focus on the hiking; this is the most important fitness preparation anyway.
Also essential to preparation is eating the right kind of diet. Plenty of lean protein will provide you with the necessary ingredients to repair and build muscle. Make sure to eat a wide variety and lots of fresh vegetables and fruits to ensure you are well stocked up on minerals and vitamins that will help keep you healthy by strengthening your immune system.
What to Buy
Do not scrimp on your climbing gear, this is no ordinary walk. You will want to make sure you have suitable clothes and a super warm sleeping bag. Another item that many people overlook is their hiking boots, often by purchasing a new pair and not wearing them until they arrive at the base of the mountain – which I can say from my mistakes on previous hiking trips is a very bad idea. Make sure you find warm, comfortable boots that will keep your feet dry and wear them while doing your walking training – you most definitely want them to be well broken in.
Kilimanjaro Tours has a thorough and excellence kit list – look at it, think about it, ask the them any questions and then set out to buy what you need.
Now, finally to the trip itself. Before departing I felt pretty good. I felt like my fitness was good and I had the right gear. After three flights I finally arrived at the base hotel in Moshi. I admit I was a bit in shock that I was actually there about the do something I imagined I would never get the opportunity to do. I was able to meet my fellow climbers and was filled in on important details of the trek before some dinner and a good night’s sleep. The next morning was the day and I was wide awake well before I had to be.
We were taken to the Kilimanjaro National Park Gate for the Marangu route and commenced our first half-day’s worth of hiking before stopping for the night. Much of this hike took us through dense forest and was absolutely amazing. On the second day of hiking we broke free of the lush trees and came on to wild moors. We hiked for a solid 6 hours and my legs were feeling it a bit at this point. I was happy when we reached out hut for the night. The following day was for acclimatization – we were now at 12,000-feet. The hike took us to Mawenzi and back to the hut we’d stayed in the night before.
The fourth day of hiking took us higher. I could definitely feel the air thinning at this point, but luckily I seemed to be acclimatizing well, something you can never be sure of until you get there. We hiked for seven hours going past the final water point and headed to Kibo hut. It was hard work at this altitude, but I didn’t feel over taxed. The views were breathtaking. The final day of hiking was the pinnacle of my entire trip. I couldn’t believe I had gotten this far. An early wake up was called for and we headed up before the sun was up to reach Gilman’s Point to watch what I can say is only the most spectacular, surreal sunrise I’ve ever seen. After this we moved on to that point that everyone strives for, the legendary Uhuru Peak and stood upon the highest place in all of Africa.