Despite being the highest peak in Africa, towering 5,895m above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the more accessible of the planet’s big mountains.
That being said, attempting to climb the Tanzanian behemoth without the right preparation is somewhat foolish, and downright dangerous.
While thousands complete the climb to the summit, plenty more don’t, with some even needing rescuing from the mountainside – a costly and unwelcome situation.
Taking your time to prepare for the task at hand greatly increases your chance of reaching the roof of Africa and making the most out of this majestic mountain.
While hiking travel insurance is designed to help in situations of injury and loss when hiking (and provides additional levels and elements of cover you might not otherwise enjoy with other types of travel insurance), you do need to be self-aware.
We’ve picked out five things to think about if you’ve got your mind set on that circa 6000m trek.
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Don’t get complacent – you need to train
Consider yourself very fit? No matter how accessible Kilimanjaro is and how active you might be in your day to day life, there’s no excuse for not putting in that extra effort to get into prime physical condition.
Improving your general athletic fitness will come in handy as you climb higher. As the oxygen thins out at altitude, getting as much O2 around your body is obviously going to make things easier.
Also remember, that coming down is more than just a walk in the park. Training those legs to cope with both the ascent and the descent is important ahead of any mountain adventure, and if you’re tackling Kilimanjaro that’s even more vital.
The best option for that big hike? More hiking, of course. Set yourself some smaller challenges in the months ahead of your trip to give you the best chance of reaching the peak.
Give yourself plenty of time to acclimatise – don’t rush
There are seven official routes up KIlimanjaro, ranging from a climbing time of between five and nine days.
While some may have the mindset to get up quickly to avoid a week-long (or longer) climb, this can greatly reduce your chances of making the top.
One source suggests that those opting for a five-day climb, have around a 50% chance of reaching the ascent.
The disappointment of not reaching the top is one thing, but trying to climb too quickly poses greater risks than a failed expedition.
Altitude sickness is not something any climber wants. And charging up the mountain like there’s no tomorrow might not give your body the chance to prepare itself for the conditions towards the top.
If you’re taken ill on the mountainside, it could potentially be a helicopter rescue that marks the end of your climb, rather than celebrations on the summit. While your travel insurance might cover the lofty sums, it’s not the way any trip should end.
Make sure you’ve got the right kit
Before you’ve even left for Africa, it pays to ensure you’ve got all the right kit to give you the best chance to complete your expedition.
There are plenty of Kilimanjaro packing lists available online, so having a look at a few and picking one to follow is always a wise move.
As well as decent clothing, health provisions, and the right sleeping accessories it’s worth considering specifics.
A decent pair of walking boots or shoes is needed, so buying a new pair isn’t the worst idea, just make sure you’ve broken them in well before making those first steps up the mountain – just think of the blisters!
Don’t underestimate the potential for illness, not just from the altitude, but from mosquitos and the malaria risk, as well the worries around drinking unsafe water. Insect repellent and water purification tablets are a must.
Consider the changing weather
You’re going to Africa – it’s going to be hot, right? Well it might be when you start your ascent, or when you’re enjoying a pre or post-climb safari or beach break – but it won’t always be that way.
Even in the summer months, once you pass an altitude of 3000m, the nights will feel pretty cold, so too will daytime temperatures.
Having provisions to protect you against the UV rays of the sun and the low temperatures in the upper reaches of the mountain is important.
An all-season sleeping bag will be useful at night time, but don’t underestimate the importance of layering your clothes throughout the climb.
Staying warm and dry throughout your trek gives you the best chance of a successful ascent.
Most of all, enjoy it
We may have made the climb of Kilimanjaro sound like some sort of ideal – but remember it’s an amazing experience to appreciate.
Take your time, not only to stay safe, but also to take in the scenery and the view that Africa’s higher mountain affords.
Gaze out over snow-capped craters, experience the wonder of watching a sunset from above the clouds, and enjoy the sight of looking back at the progress you’ve made from the jungle floor.
Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro is an amazing achievement, but just be sure to ensure you make the most of your time doing it.