Although Kilimanjaro is not a technical mountain climb, it is a major challenge and the rigors of altitude should not be underestimated. Remember that Uhuru Peak is 500m higher than Everest Base Camp! The pace of your ascent coupled with good acclimatisation will help you on the climb but it is essential to be mentally and physically prepared before you start. Regular hikes are one of the best ways to prepare, increasing frequency and length as you get closer to the trek. All aerobic exercises such as; cycling, running, swimming and funnily enough aerobics are good for strengthening the cardiovascular system. Generally, any exercise that increases the heart rate for 20 minutes is helpful but don't over do it just before the climb.
- Altitudes are generally defined as ...
- High altitude 2,400m - 4,200m
- Very high altitude 4,200m - 5,400m
- Extreme altitude above 5,400m (Uhuru Peak is 5895m)
During the trek it is likely that all climbers will experience at least some form of mild altitude sickness. It 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 extremities (toes, fingers) and a mild swelling of the face, ankles and fingers. These symptoms in a mild form are not serious and will normally disappear within 48 hours, the result of poor circulation or a small leakage of fluid within the body. In serious cases, the leakage can become large and start to fill up the brain cavity (Cerebral Oedema) or the lung cavity (Pulmonary Oedema). Cerebral Oedema is recognised by severe headaches, loss of balance and dizziness leading to coma. Pulmonary Oedema results in the coughing up of pink sputum. Both conditions, if left unchecked, will lead to coma and death unless a rapid descent is made.
Six factors that affect the incidence and severity of altitude illness ...
- Rate of ascent
- Altitude attained
- Length of exposure
- Level of exertion
- Hydration and diet
- Inherent physiological susceptibility
The following three steps are a guide to achieving acclimatisation:Water:
A fluid intake of 4 - 5 liters per day is recommended. Fluid intake improves circulation and most other bodily functions, but does not increase fluid leakage from the body. Thirst should not be an indicator of proper fluid intake, if your urine is clear then you are drinking enough. On the lower slopes, bottled mineral water will be provided but on the higher slopes drinking water is taken from mountain streams. The water is double-pumped and iodine is added for purification (Good enough to drink but you may wish to add extra purification tablets). All climbers should bring their own water bottles.Slow Walk:
Pace is a critical factor on all routes. Unless there is a very steep uphill section your breathing rate should be the same as if you were walking down the street. If you cannot hold a conversation you are walking too fast. Breathing through the nose for the first 2 days of the climb will limit the pace. Walk "softly" allowing your knees to gently cushion each pace. "Pole pole" (go slowly) is the phrase of the day.Walk high sleep low:
If you have enough energy, take an afternoon stroll further up the mountain before descending to sleep (not if you have any symptoms of altitude sickness!)
Almost all routes offer an extra day for acclimatisation. Taking this day increases your chances of getting to the by 30% and increases you chances of actually getting some enjoyment out of the experience by much more than that. An extra day is a considerable expense, but we recommend that all climbers take this option. On some routes there is the option for two extra days - for this day you can read 'optional'. For the first extra day you should read 'necessary'.
Some climbers take Diamox, which is widely used to combat the effects of mild altitude sickness by causing the body to breathe more deeply during sleep. This is of course a personal preference.
If you plan to take any medication during your climb, you must consult your doctor prior to departure. The effects of medications may vary with altitude and stress. All climbers should consult their doctor or a specialised travel clinic well in advance of their trip. On the climb, guides carry all basic medications but it is recommend that all climbers should take a small, personal first aid kit.
In the event of an emergency on the mountain the rescue team plus one of the assistant guides will descend with the casualty to the park gate. At the gate our agent will take over and make the necessary arrangements.What is equipment supplied
All equipment such as tents and cooking equipment are provided by the climb teams.What you should bring along
All other equipment from sleeping bags to walking poles can be hired in Tanzania, although it is essential that you pre-book any equipment that you might wish to hire well in advance of your arrival. Total luggage should be kept to about 15kg on the mountain. A day sack with a capacity of 25 – 40 liters should be used to carry all clothing and personal items. The porters will carry all other items. Extra luggage can be safely stored in your hotel.
The Kili climb is a once in a life time experience for most people and most people wish to preserve the event on film.
Cameras, whether video or film, need to be protected against the severe cold either in warm pouch or the interior pockets of your clothing. (Do not keep your camera in your backpack at higher elevations). A selection of lenses will aid the final results although weight and bulk will obviously influence your selection. A polarizer or neutral density filter is recommended as is slide film rather than print. Bring your own film as it can be hard to find and expensive in Tanzania.
For digital equipment, check with the manufacturer's specifications for temperature range (especially battery life), water-tightness and general hardiness.