Kilimanjaro starts on the dusty hot plains around Moshi town and then moves to the lush villages on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. From here you ascend through tropical rainforest, to alpine desert and finally to near-Arctic conditions at the summit. Many people fail because they are ill-equipped, and sometimes people die in attempting the climb.
Be properly equipped. It is an essential part of your preparation to ensure that you are well equipped for the attempt on Kilimanjaro. Draw up a check list or print one out from one of the many Kilimanjaro specialist websites.
It is important to be physically prepared. You will be hiking to the top, and it is a demanding climb, so make sure your body is adequately prepared for the physical challenges that lie ahead. In the months and weeks before your departure for Tanzania take part in a training programme to ensure your body is in shape for your Kilimanjaro expedition.
Mental preparation is also important. You should always remain in a positive state of mind, but not overly confident. Your mental stamina will, without a doubt, make the difference on the last day when you climb toward the summit. Try to look ahead at what may happen, situations you may encounter on the mountain and try to work out the most suitable course of action, either by yourself and then as a group.
Adequate travel insurance is important. Be certain that your travel and medical insurance will also provide you with cover for the climb up Kilimanjaro.
Listen to the guides. Your guides will instruct you on the best way to reach the top of Kilimanjaro. It is in their interest that you reach the top so listen to them – They Know Best. When climbing you will be repeatedly told: “pole pole“, which is Swahili for “go slowly”. Besides, for the first day or two the scenery is lovely, so take it slowly and enjoy the surroundings. Many times people want to take the climb quickly and altitude sickness stops them short of reaching their goal: the highest point in Africa.
Drink plenty of water. You will be also told to drink water; make sure you drink at least four litres of liquid per day – preferably water. Water on the mountain is safe to drink from the second day onwards, but care should always be taken. Remember a stomach upset can dehydrate you and this will make the climb all the more difficult, if not dangerous.
Don’t overburden yourself. Climb as lightly as possible. This becomes even more important on your summit night – extra weight will slow you down and will also make breathing more difficult. Clothing lists are available from most specialist websites.
And finally… A ski-pole is essential as it reduces external and internal loads on the knee joints. Using one ski-pole is a must, but two poles are recommended. These can be rented in Tanzania. Replace your head-lamp and camera batteries with new ones on your summit night.
Do a little research and be a good scout and be prepared, and most of all enjoy the climb.