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Saturday 30 March 2013

Hiking Mt Kilimanjaro

MT Kilimanjaro

Africa’s highest peak and the world’s highest freestanding mountain. Standing at 5895 meters this hike has to be one of the most physically and mentally challenging things I have done. We did this as part of our Intrepid tour but can also be organised separately (range from about $1200 to $5500).

Ground work

Pre Training

We did some research for training before going and some seemed a bit over the top (Hill walking 20 miles with 15kg). However since we didn’t know exactly what to expect it was hard to say what and how much fitness is required. I would say I’m of average fitness (social sports, 5km runs, gym sessions, etc) and the pre training we did was bush walking / hiking, leg sessions (gym) and some hill walking.
Essentially I would say you need to be comfortable walking up hill 15kms per day (8 hours) for 5 days straight with about 5-10kgs on your back (3 litres of water, rain gear and snacks)
While I could say our fitness could have been a bit better (calf’s and quads were sore on the 4/5th day) you could probably say this regardless of how much you train, chances are you will be sore after the climb!

Packing List

Suggested packing list with some additions from what we took. We stayed at the Marangu Hotel who’s hospitality was fantastic. they did a pre climb check on our gear and gave us anything they felt we needed at no extra charge. Would highly recommend booking through them if possible!
• gloves/mittens
• scarf/neck warmer
• sunglasses / hat
• 2 pairs warm trousers (the zip off shorts seemed to be popular with our group)
• Thermal underpants and vest/long sleeved
• 6 pairs socks thin and thick
• T-shirts x 3, long sleeve shirts x 2-3
• Sweater/fleece x 1
• Waterproof trousers and jacket
• Boots and trainers/sandals
• Day pack, approx 30 litres
• Refillable water bottles (3 x 1 litre). These should be canteen style, some people said that they weren’t allowed to just take normal bottled water.
• Good quality, super-warm 4-season sleeping bag (the night in Kibo for us was quite cold!)
• Headache tablets (these came in handy at the Kibo hut)
• Imodium (loperamide)
• Climbers may like to consult their physicians about azetazolomide (Diamox), a drug that many find mitigates the ill effects of altitude, headache, diarrhoea & vomiting.
• Towel/soap/toiletries
• Torch/flashlight and spare batteries (head torches are really great/recommended)
• Gaiters (didn’t think I’d use them but they came in handy with the rain pants I had to save the bottom)
• Sunblock and high SPF lip balm
• Camera, film, extra batteries – you will not be able to recharge on the mountain but can at the Marangu Hotel before and after the climb
• Wet wipes
• Walking stick was really handy on the last day (we borrowed ours from the Mangaru hotel before leaving which saved us taking it all over the place)

On the ground

There are six official routes up the mountain (Machame, Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Umbwe, Shira) but the route we took was the Marangu which is the most popular route of all. This is most likely due to Marangu is the only route which offers Hut accomodation (as opposed to tents). Our Itinerary for the climb was as follows:
  • Day 1: Marangu Gate (1980 m) – Mandara hut (2700 m). Hiking time: 5 hours
  • Day 2: Mandara hut (2700) – Horombo hut (3720 m). Hiking time: 6 hours
  • Day 3: Horombo hut (3720 m) – Kibo hut (4700 m). Hiking time: 6 hours
  • Day 4: Kibo hut (4700m) - Uhuru Peak (5895 m) - Horombo hut (3720 m). Hiking time: 8 hours to Uhuru (start at 12am) – 6 hours to descend to Horombo (lunch and rest before descending)
  • Day 5: Horombo hut (3720 m) – Marangu Gate (1980 m). Hiking time: 6 hours

Meals & Accommodation

All meals were cooked by our support group (chef), very tasty and no complaints here :)
Hut accommodation is covered in the with pillow/mattress provided. The huts are mostly A frame which sleep 4 people in a bunk arrangement.

Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness or Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is caused by exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitude. The effects can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, short of breath, etc. While AMS is a serious issue, most people will feel some sort of adverse affect to being at high altitude (headaches / short of breath) and is expected. The treatment for AMS is quite simple; descend, descend, descend.

Drugs such as diamox are meant to help prevent AMS however with all drugs there are side effects. There was differing opinions on taking diamox among our group. When we were on safari we met a guy from Germany whom just finished the Kili climb before and he said he didn’t take it and many doctors / people in Europe recommend not to take it. He successfully reached the summit with just a few headache tablets.

I decided to only take it if I felt I had AMS and it could help reduce the effects. I took 1/2 a tablet before starting our ascend to make sure I did not have any adverse reactions to the drug. Fortunately for me I didn’t have to take any more (just a few headache tablets at Kibo).
Other members in the group took the diamox and also successfully reached the summit and they had no issue taking the drug so I would probably say at the end of the day it’s a personal choice. People successfully reach the top with and without taking diamox.

All 8 members of our group successfully completed the climb and I believe this had a lot to do with our guide Fataeli’s climbing method. Our leader was a 67 year old man whom makes the climb every week, right there is some motivation – if a 67 year old man can do it every week surely I can to? Also the pace he sets at times might seem slow but has been proven in the past with 95+% success rate. The biggest tip for success was that it’s not a race and you set your own pace. As long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other you will reach the top.

You don’t need any money on the mountain as there isn’t anything you can purchase after the entrance gate. We left all our personal belongings (passports, credit cards, etc) in the safe at the Marangu Hotel.
When tipping your crew after the climb we used the Marangu Hotels rule of thumb found here
we tipped approx $70 each (8 people in our group with 18 staff supporting)and shouted a few rounds of beers afterwards


All our costs were included in our intrepid tour apart from the snacks we brought and tipping afterwards.

Final words.

I’d say hiking Mt Kilimanjaro is 40% fitness 60% mental determination and 10% luck. If your fortunate enough not to get sick or injure yourself along the way or not be affected by altitude sickness your off to a good start. All that’s left is the level of fitness and commitment to reach the top. If you have all of these you should be fine!
Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro was a bit of a last minute decision but after completing the hike it definitely felt like an achievement as opposed to the usual relaxing holiday. If your an outdoors person and or adventurous I would highly recommend.

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