The snowy peak of Mt Kilimanjaro has been attracting adventurous travellers for centuries. It’s something about seeing a snow-topped mountain so close to the equator that makes it a challenge that you just can’t say no to.
After spending a year living at the base of the big mountain and being taunted by the tantalisingly close peak I decided I had to give it a go. To this day it remains one of the most challenging and memorable experiences I have had, and one that I cannot recommend highly enough to any adventurous travellers.
The variety of landscapes that you pass through as you make the climb is really stunning; from lush forests with cheeky Colobus monkeys, beautiful open moorlands, craggy peaks, prehistoric-looking vegetation and snowy glaciers…it’s hard to find something to beat this!
If you’re thinking of climbing the mountain here are my top tips:
- Choose a quieter route – Some of the more popular routes can get quite busy during peak seasons which can make the climb less enjoyable. I would recommend the Lemosho and Rongai routes which are both picturesque and much quieter than some of the others.
- Don’t rush it – Take as many days as you can for the climb as each day on the mountain will help you to acclimatise to the altitude. Also, whilst on the mountain follow the guides’ instructions to go “pole pole”, which means slowly in Swahili. Racing to the top will do you no favours!
- Be prepared – Make sure you have good outdoor kit and take time to try it out before you make the climb…blisters from new walking boots will make for a very unhappy walker! Also, take the time to do some practice walks before you leave so that you are prepared for the physical aspect of the climb.
- Keep warm – This is an obvious one! Take plenty of layers of clothes it will be very cold as you get closer to the summit. Also, think about some of your kit that needs to be kept warm. On summit night keep your camera (or at least the battery) and your water bottle close to your body and under your clothes. Otherwise they will freeze and you will have no photos to document the moment you reach the summit…or more importantly any water to drink!
- Eat – Keep eating. There are few times in life when you can really eat as much as you want to but this is definitely one of them! At altitude you can sometimes lose your appetite, but it’s important to eat even when you don’t feel hungry. Taking a few favourite energy bars or sweets from home will help on days when you don’t feel like eating anything else.
- Climb safely – The summit of Kilimanjaro is at 5,895 metres and climbing to such a high altitude should not be underestimated. If you feel unwell then it’s important that you tell your guide and follow their instructions. They know the mountain well and are fully aware of the risks of altitude sickness, and they will do all that they can to make sure that you have a safe and enjoyable climb.
- Celebrate! – At the end of the trip why not head off on a safari or to the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar to reward yourself for completing the climb. You’ve earned it!