Kilimanjaro Climbing Tips
Posted by Dave
When I started climbing, I tried to learn as much as I could from experienced climbers. Thanks to their advice, my trips have been safe and enjoyable. While I’m still just a ‘weekend warrior’ testing the limits of my abilities, I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two over the years. So if you’re considering a big mountain like Kilimanjaro, here are some suggestions that might help:
Training (Focus on intervals but be careful not to over-train)
- When you train for the climb, focus most of your energy on cardiovascular training and do as much interval training as you can without over training. I usually do two days/week of hard interval training on a Stairmaster and then fill in the other days with lower intensity aerobic and weight training. Try and go for at least one 5-7+ mile hike/month between now and your trip (which I assume is about six months from today). Make sure your pack has about 20-25 pounds in it so you get used to the weight.
- Scale back your training a few weeks before you leave so you don’t injure yourself. Any lost endurance will be regained in the early days of the climb. Your goal is to peak on summit day.
On the Mountain (These are very simple tips but they are also extremely important factors in having an enjoyable and successful trip)
- Set a slow pace (It’s a marathon, not a sprint and your goal should be to be in your best shape on summit day. Every climb I have been on, there are people who push too hard early and they wind up paying the price later.)
- Stay hydrated (keep your pee clear by drinking all the time)
- Eat as much as you can (this is no time to diet. You need as much energy as you can get)
- Stay healthy (bring enough hand sanitizer to last the entire trip and use it liberally. The last thing you need at 19,000 feet is a cold.)
- Maintain your body temperature (don’t ever let yourself get too hot or too cold – this means pulling off layers during your hike before you start sweating like a pig and it also means putting on a warmer layer when you stop for a break even before you feel cold)
- Don’t get sunburned (apply sunscreen liberally and often)
- Stay on top of headaches (have some ibuprofen handy to pop if you feel a headache coming on)
Useful Tips/Gear Suggestions
- If you’re not sure whether you want to climb other big mountains, consider renting some of the pricier gear (i.e. sleeping bag and down jacket, which would could easily cost you $400+ each new).
- Bring your most important gear on the plane with you. You don’t want to have your trip ruined before it begins due to lost luggage. Normally, I wear my hiking boots, my hiking pants (the kind that zip off into shorts), my synthetic t-shirt and a long-sleeved fleece shirt on the plane. In my carry-ons, I pack as much gear as I can in my backpack and bring it on the plane with me. I also have a smaller bag with reading materials in which I also bring my camera, sunglasses, money, itinerary, I-pod shuffle, medications, etc….
- Buy the boots and break them in before the trip. I am a big fan of the Asolo GTX
- Bring Wet Wipes (great way to clean up at the end of the day)
- Crocks are super lightweight and great for walking around in camp
- Be serious about water purification. I am a big fan of the chlorine dioxide tablets as they tend to kill everything (although you need to give them 3 hours to work). If, however, you drink up the boiled water in the mess tent at breakfast and dinner and then fill up and treat all three bottles before you go to sleep you should be set for the next day. To help with the taste, I bring a baggie filled with grape flavored Cytomax and put a scoop into each bottle AFTER the chlorine tablets have done their thing.
- Designate one of your nalgene bottles as a pee bottle (put a piece of duct tape on it so you don’t get it mixed up with your regular water bottles), and use it at night so you don’t have to leave your tent
- Wrap about 10 feet of duct tape around your trekking pole for easy tearing off. It will come in handy when you need to cover “hot spots” on your feet before they become blisters.
- If you buy gaiters, the ¾ length version should suffice. Also, consider keeping your gaiters on (even when you are in shorts) as it prevents blisters by keeping sand from working its way into your boots.
- Buy some heavy-duty garbage bags to wrap your gear in. This will keep you high and dry if the rain hits.
- Bring extra cash to pay porters for other things such as filtering water for you. I did this a few times and it was a nice convenience.
- Insurance. For every trip I buy insurance through Multinational Underwriters (MNUI.COM) with the sports rider included. The cost is about $60 and gives good peace of mind in the event of health problems and/or evacuation.
Hope this helps!