How to prepare and what to expect when you climb Mount Kilimanjaro

It isn’t something many people get to do and it is, of course, a once in a lifetime experience. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is something I am proud to say I achieved when I was 19. It was a tough week, though, and here is some advice if you are thinking you might like a taste of it yourself.

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Before you book…

Before you go there are things to consider. For instance, equipment you will need is a never ending list, and you will need nothing but the best, meaning it won’t be cheap. Of course, most people considering doing Kilimanjaro will already be somewhat experienced in climbing but there may be some people as crazy as me, who want to dive in at the deep end and go straight to the highest mountain in the continent of Africa.

It is also important to take into account the cost of flights and accommodation. And, of course, tipping the porters helping you up the mountain. Tanzania also has a tipping culture, meaning nothing (and I mean nothing) is free. Be prepared for someone to kindly help you with your bags and then wait expectantly with open hands. It is also important to take into account vaccinations and medication which can easily cost over £200.

Physical fitness

I trained a fair amount for me climb but it got harder with my 8:30-5:30 Monday-Friday summer job. I worked out my legs, shoulders, back and arms. Abs are also a very important part that helps you get up to the summit. In hindsight, I should have also worked on my cardio and stamina as this is a vital part of your fitness. Personally, I would advise you start training at least 3 months before your trip, for at least 3 times a week.

Mental fitness

As much as physical fitness is key to your success, I found my mental state is what actually got me to the top. I would say 60% of the battle is mental and only 40% is physical. I won’t lie, I cried most of the climb, thinking why did I pick this as my holiday instead of sipping wine by the pool? But then I thought I couldn’t settle for anything other than making it to the top and I imagined the faces of my parents and my boyfriend when I told them I made it. So I put on my motivational music and kept going.

Side effects

There are many side effects to the altitude you experience on the trek. For instance, my hands and feet swelled drastically (make sure you don’t wear rings). I also ended up with little, weird bumps on my head which were a mixture of dirt, sweat and grease from my hair (disgusting, right?) but with limited access to water and to get clean this might happen. On the same note, expect dirt, and I mean a lot… And if you blow your nose, don’t be surprised if your tissue ends up black… A lot of my teammates also had some serious coughs due to inhaling so much dirt and sand.

Sleep

Sleeping in a tent on the rocky, uneven floor in freezing temperatures (sleep cuddling your technology as your batteries can freeze and they stop working!) means you get very limited amounts of sleep. Especially if you tent is near anyone who snores!

Despite all this, it is still an amazing opportunity and if you get a chance to go then, by all means, do it! It does feel amazing when you make it to the top and everyone wants to see you succeed and will help you however they can.

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