Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime experience. At 5,895 meters above sea level, Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa – and the highest freestanding mountain in the world. As such, summiting this mighty mountain is no easy feat. So how do you prepare for this bucket-list mountain adventure?
The enthusiastic and experienced Tanzania Specialist climbing guides, Nico and Paul, have safely guided countless climbers to the top of the Kilimanjaro over their professional climbing careers with one of the world’s leading Tanzania safari companies. Here they share their top five tips for a successful experience trekking Mount Kilimanjaro.
Preparing for Kilimanjaro Tip 1: Training
The first piece of advice is to train properly – and to start well before your Mt Kilimanjaro climb! Kilimanjaro offers many hiking and trekking routes: start hiking in areas closer to home to see what level of hike you are going to be comfortable with. Start with walking for a couple of solid hours. Over a few months, slowly increase the duration and intensity of your hikes until you are comfortable with hikes lasting two days or more.
This kind of preparation makes sure your muscles are ready for strenuous and heavy walking. Our top tip: if you’re struggling, it’s always better to increase the distance and keep a slower pace.
Kilimanjaro Tip 2: Simulate the conditions
Ideally, you will practice your hikes under simulated conditions to what you will find when trekking in Tanzania. We recommend taking a daypack with you with enough water and food for a couple of days – even if you are only going for an afternoon! Try to opt for walks on hills and mountains rather than largely flat areas when you can.
Hiking to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro involves plenty of challenging terrains in almost every weather condition, so also head out on your practice hikes in the rain, during warmer and colder days, and even when you really don’t feel like it. Make sure you wear the same gear as what you’re planning to take to Tanzania with you – especially when it comes to hiking boots! There is nothing worse than a sore blister from new shoes on hour one of your climb.
Climbing Kilimanjaro Tip 3: Eat healthily
It’s no secret that we are what we eat, and drinking and eating well during your Kilimanjaro climb almost goes without saying. When climbing with the experts at Tanzania Specialist, the professional guide team prepares healthy, hot and nutritious food twice a day, with plenty of snacks and energy-rich foods during the day. This gives you the energy you need to complete a grueling full day of hiking Kilimanjaro and speeds up the recovery of the muscles.
Drinking enough water is an essential element of keeping fit and healthy during your climb. Dehydration occurs faster at higher altitudes and can cause headaches, dizziness and nausea. Try to drink frequently throughout the day and always tend to drink more than you think you need. Up to four liters per day is about right when you are putting your body through the constant strenuous activity!
Kilimanjaro trekking Tip 4: Choose the best guide
Once you have made the decision to climb Kilimanjaro, one of the key questions is which travel guide you should choose to trust with the responsibility of getting you up and down safely. We know from experience that the expertise and professionality of your chosen guide can make or break this bucket-list experience. In fact, your chances of even reaching the summit depend on the knowledge of your guides for a large part.
Tanzania Specialist selects the best climbing guides in Africa to lead their Mount Kilimanjaro expeditions. To secure your safety, the expert climbing guides check each client’s pulse rate and oxygen saturation each day, making sure that no one suffers from altitude sickness and is healthy enough to go on safely. It’s also important to choose a climbing route that fits you best and gives your body time to properly acclimatize. The seven different routes offered by the majority of Kilimanjaro tour operators all vary in length, difficulty, scenery, traffic, accommodation and more. Choose wisely!
The best of Kilimanjaro Tip 5: Stretch!
Stretching is the best way to make sure that your body feels rested and repaired enough to continue on the mountain for days at a time. Simple stretching exercises encourage your muscles to recover – and just 10 minutes towards the end of the day can make a big difference to your sleep and the aches of pains the next day!
For a simple but effective stretch for your lower back and hamstrings, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Take a deep breath, stretch your arms upwards over your head, and on the exhale slowly roll down until your arms and head are hanging towards the floor. Reach towards the floor with your fingertips, but don’t push yourself to extremes! Hang around here for a couple of breaths, slowly moving from side to side, before slowing rising back upwards – vertebra by vertebra. Teamed with a couple of minutes of deep, controlled breathing before you settle down in camp for the night, you may be in for the most peaceful sleep of your life.
Read about the advantages and disadvantages of all Kilimanjaro Routes or have a look at the Climbing Kilimanjaro itineraries on Tanzania Specialist to start your bucket-list adventure climbing Africa’s highest mountain.