Things to Know Before Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

By ~ Lindo Travel

Things to Know Before Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

How hard is it?
An ascent to the summit of Kilimanjaro is an incredible experience, but although the climb is not technical and requires no special mountaineering knowledge, it is certainly not to be taken lightly. At over 19,340 feet (5895 metres) it is Africa's highest mountain and it is no 'walk in the park. Altitude sickness can prevent even the fit and well-prepared climber from getting to the summit. Having said that, the lack of any requirement for technical mountaineering experience means that anyone has at least the possibility of reaching the summit. Climbers aged over 80 have conquered Kilimanjaro in the past!

Personal Fitness
The fitter you are, the better chance you have of reaching the summit and the more comfortable the climb will be for you. Our success-rate is very high (98%), but you should spend the weeks and months before your climb in improving your strength and stamina, as both of these are important on the mountain. If you are considering climbing Africa's highest mountain, it probably means that you are already active, perhaps playing sport or incorporating physical activity into your everyday life. If you are not an active person, you need to prepare yourself in advance - and very seriously - for your Kilimanjaro climb. A fit body, flexible joints, toned muscles and healthy lungs are what you should aim for. If you're not used to long-distance walking, then a few long walks can really help your preparation: if you can walk for two or more consecutive days, then that will help you realize that this is very different to a couple of hours' gentle weekend stroll.

It also helps to get you used to your equipment (boots, socks, daypack etc) that you are bringing with you. Whether you are already fit or not, we would recommend starting to prepare yourself 3 or 4 months in advance, concentrating on: be encountered, you follow the advice given below

Building lung efficiency through jogging, running or cycling

Building strength, especially in your leg muscles and

Reducing body fat and generally toning yourself

Health and inoculations
Although no inoculations are compulsory for a visit to Tanzania, the following jabs are recommended: hepatitis 'A', typhoid, tetanus, polio, rabies and meningitis. It is the responsibility of each traveler to ensure that any inoculations they wish to have are up-to-date and we advise people to look at their inoculation records and take the necessary action a few months in advance. Your doctor or travel clinic should be consulted. Note that, for anyone arriving from a yellow-fever area, possession of the appropriate vaccination certificate is compulsory.

Stomach problems
Changing countries often means changing diet and this in itself can be the cause of diarrhea and vomiting. Such symptoms often cause visitors to believe that they have contracted food poisoning, but this is not necessarily the case: the stomach is just getting used to being confronted with different and unfamiliar foods. Within your first aid kit (see below), it is certainly worth bringing your favored treatment against diarrhea to help speed recovery. If you do encounter stomach problems, then keeping hydrated is a big part of the recovery process. Drink water, and lots of it.

Sunburn and eye-care
Carrying a hat (and wearing it!) and using a high-factor suntan lotion to protect against harmful rays are both essential on your Kilimanjaro climb. Don't be fooled by photos of the snow-clad mountain peak, as you will cross a number of diverse terrains and experience a range of climatic conditions on your ascent and descent. You need to be prepared for varying temperatures, remembering that you can get a sunburn even when the temperature is relatively modest. Sometimes forgotten by visitors is the requirement to protect the back of the neck: bear this in mind when choosing your type of hat. Backs of hands, ears, noses, and lips are other neglected areas, so use that suntan lotion wisely. A good pair of decent-quality, protective sunglasses is another essential. The glare on the mountain can be powerful and though snow blindness is unlikely on Kilimanjaro, vision can be temporarily affected by the sun if sunglasses are not worn.

Breathing: it's something which we do all the time, but we should never take it for granted, especially when we are at altitude. Slow, deep breathing is very important when climbing and it is advisable to get into a rhythm right from the start of your Kilimanjaro climb. Taking in enough oxygen is essential to power us up the mountain. At the higher altitudes, the speed of breathing has to be increased. Your mountain-guide will advise on this. Correct breathing avoids the build-up of lactic acid and the inevitable cramping that follows. Lack of oxygen can lead to hypoxia, a loss of certain functions and even hypothermia.

Correct, deep breathing needs concentration.
It is important to push the stomach out and breathe through the mouth, felling the lungs. (De ate the stomach again when exhaling). Concentrate, too, on raising the diaphragm while inhaling - this too is part of a correct breathing technique. Maintaining your correct breathing - without interruption - is very important, too: holding your breath (perhaps when you are scrambling over rocks and feeling a bit anxious) is not a good idea. On the night ascent to the summit, it is advisable to cover your mouth and nose with a light bandana. This will avoid breathing in the cold air which can be damaging.

First aid kit
All of our mountain guides are trained in first-aid and hold appropriate certificates, but we would strongly advise all of our visitors to take a first-aid kit with them. As well as any prescription and anti-malarial drugs that you are already taking, you should pack the following:

Blister plasters. Absolutely essential.

Ordinary plasters and antiseptic cream, for any little cuts and nicks

A couple of bandages, in case of ankle strains etc.

Supports for knees and/or ankles, if you have weaknesses in these joints

Paracetamol/Ibuprofen. You should have these (or other painkillers).

Imodium for any stomach problems.

Rehydrating powders, which are valuable in the event of diarrhea.

A good-quality lip salve/chap-stick.

A small tub of Vaseline to alleviate chafing.

Throat lozenges to combat the dry air conditions.

Anti-fungal cream for the feet R Carrying any liquids or ointments in separate plastic bags is advisable, to prevent against leaks.

Taking on sufficient water is always a necessity, but becomes even more important in the climactic conditions experienced on Mount Kilimanjaro. Whether you're on the high, dry part of the mountain or in the heat and humidity of the lower slopes, regular and high fluid intake is essential for both your health and safety. We recommend a daily fluid intake of 4 to 5 liters, most of which should be water. Fruit juices are also recommended but note that consumption of excessive coffee on Kilimanjaro is not a good idea. 'Drink before you get thirsty' is a good motto to observe. You should be carrying bottles/containers sufficient to hold at least three liters and water purifier tablets. Note that using (and removing) layers of clothing means that you can easily control your body temperature and thus the amount you sweat, another important way of fluid retention.
Purified water
On the lower slopes, water is available from streams and can be used safely. Our guides will ensure that you have enough water in your bottles or camel-pack. If you wish to have your water purified, you should bring your own tablets and ask your guide, who will be happy to purify the water for you. On the Marangu Route, water and sodas can be purchased, though this is more expensive than the same products purchased elsewhere in Tanzania.

Altitude sickness
Also less commonly known as Acute Mountain Sickness ('AMS'), this is commonly misunderstood as being a 'lack of oxygen' experienced at altitude. In fact, AMS is caused by a lack of air pressure at altitude, which means that each breath you take results in an intake of less air - and, of course, oxygen - which is essential to the function of all the body's organs. Whether or not you understand the causes of AMS or not, the important thing is to recognize the symptoms and realize that AMS can be dangerous and potentially fatal. Happily, although most Kilimanjaro climbers experience a level of discomfort caused by the effects of altitude, for many this will be fairly mild and can be addressed through rest and if necessary, descent. AMS is not a disease or illness, simply the result of the body not adapting quickly enough to the changing conditions produced by the increase in altitude. Given a bit of time, the body can usually adapt and the ascent of the mountain can continue.

AMS in its least severe form will show itself as a headache, often a very bad headache but one which can be treated in many cases with a normal headache remedy (so, include these in your first aid kit). If the headache does not diminish, or if the sufferer also experiences vomiting and complete breathlessness during periods of inactivity, this can mean that the AMS has 'progressed' to something more severe, demanding that the sufferer rests until complete recovery has taken place. (Unfortunately, it is not possible to alter the schedule once you are on the mountain, so if you feel you might want an extra day to acclimatize, then you will have to ask for this at the time you organize your trip. Additionally, should it be necessary for one of our guests to descend due to AMS, then they will be responsible for any costs of the transfer back to the hotel and extra hotel nights. We cannot refund anything for nights missed on the mountain.)

Further symptoms can mean that AMS in its most severe form is being experienced and that an immediate descent is required. Symptoms to look out for are a decrease in mental ability, difficulties with staying awake, balance, coordination or speech. Greatly increased heartbeat, blueness in the face, persistent coughing or noises in the lungs can also indicate severe AMS. The possibility of suffering from AMS can always be reduced by taking longer over your trek and thus giving the body more time to adapt to the increase in altitude and consequent decrease in air pressure/air intake. You can also help reduce the chances of AMS by walking slowly, keeping hydrated and eating properly during your climb. The golden rule with AMS is to immediately keep your mountain guide fully informed of any symptoms experienced, and their development.

Travel Insurance
All travelers taking trips with us must have valid travel insurance, without exception, and no-one will be permitted to join any of our trips until we have had sight of your insurance certificate and taken note of the details. Please ensure that all members of your party are covered by insurance and that it includes medical cover and adequate cover for emergency rescue and repatriation. We would also recommend that your policy covers trip cancellation, personal liability, curtailment and loss of luggage/personal effects. If your travel insurance has been arranged in conjunction with your credit card provider, we will require proof of purchase of the cover. Please contact your bank/credit card provider for details of the participating insurer, together with the level of cover provided and the emergency (24-hour) contact telephone number.

Flying Doctor insurance
Lindo Travel Tanzania can arrange 'Flying Doctor Insurance' should you require it. Flying Doctor insurance covers the provision of light aircraft with qualified doctors, able to evacuate patients from remote locations to hospital. However, this is not a substitute for your travel insurance and is only available in conjunction with that insurance. If you wish to take out this additional insurance, please let us know. Lindo Travel will need a copy of your passport, plus full details of your travel insurance company, including your policy number and their 24-hour contact telephone number. Bookings for 'Flying Doctor Insurance' should be made at the time of booking your trip.

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