Preparation

Climbing the Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

The Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa. The climb of the mountain should not be underestimated. The highest point of the crater of Kibo (Uhuru Peak at 5950 metres) is well above the upper tops of the European Alps and the oxygen pressure is very low.

For the summit to be reached, your body must sufficiently acclimatize itself. It is important to be physically prepared for the Expedition Kilimanjaro. Another important part of the preparation is having the proper equipment before you depart to Tanzania. See the packing list below for details.  
 

Physical preparation

It is very important that your body is properly prepared for the physical challenge of the Kilimanjaro. The better prepared you are, the better you plan to conquer the highest point of Africa. Good preparation will make a significant contribution to your own confidence and your mental strength. 
 
How will you get fit?
The type of condition is more important than the degree of fitness. Kilimanjaro is a stroll, so the best preparation you can have is to walk, preferably under simulated conditions. Although to some extent it helps to go running/jogging, your muscles are still not preparing for seven days of quiet but heavy walking. I suggest that you will regularly walk long distances. Ignore the elevator and take the stairs.   

Go walk, for example, in addition to regular fitness to let your muscles develop more. And try to opt for regular walks with altitude, so you can practice walking up and down at different incline levels.

Take a daypack and certainly carry 3 litres of water with you. This way you also simulate the fact that you are climbing the mountain.

If the weather does not allow you to takewalks, you can also simulate the walk on the incline level of a gym's treadmill.

If you can walk 80 kilometres (50 miles) in one week, you have done the Machame Route. Train your body for extra resistance for your muscles, because on the mountain the inclination varries.

In a period of eight weeks, using the gym and the many hikes, you can become fit enough for the Kilimanjaro. Stop all sports activities in the week before the actual climb so your body can come to a resting point and will be completely prepared for the real work.

Medical check-up
Before starting a physical training program, it's always wise to get the approval of a doctor (especially if you are over 45 years old). Chances are that you will make him happy with your plans.
 
Build up more resistance.
A physical training program of eight weeks consists of regular exercises that help you build more resistance, both with free weights or with the equipment at the local gym. Such exercises can be tailored to your age, current fitness and strength. Ask your instructors at the gym how you should work on your resistance before climbing the Kilimanjaro.
 



Mental preparation

Everybody is able to reach the summit of the Kilimanjaro. Remember, many have done so before you. Think about this when you prepare yourself for the expedition. Always think positively and you WILL enjoy the climb!

Talk about your upcoming adventure with others, so you actually make a mental commitment to get to the top. Do it for a special person. Carry a photo with you that you can look at a night during the climb.
 

Packing list

Don't forget that you will be on a mountain for 7 days and 6 nights. Take enough clothing and especially warm socks. Because of potential rainfall, as well as numerous streams on the route, it is very desirable to have dry clothes in your daypack. Wrap them in plastic, so they certainly will remain dry.
 
Proper clothing includes thermal underwear (don't wear cotton directly to the skin because it absorbs your sweat and therefore can reduce your body temperature), gloves (preferably mittens), a cap and rainwear. Wear clothing where the outer mantle is windproof, but it can still breath. Avoid tight clothing. A balaclava (ski mask) is a must, because it will shield your face against the cold, wind, sun and snow. Other clothing such as shorts, jerseys and T-shirts are highly recommended, especially while walking on the lower slopes as daily temperatures are still high.

It might sound a bit strange, but walking with walking poles is by many people known as a very pleasant experience during the climb. Indeed, it's power walking. With two poles you can better set off when climbing and lean on them downhill.These walking poles are for rent at the hotel. 

Besides these usual supplies for a trip I recommend that you take the following items with you:

  • ear plugs or silencers (almost necessary at night)
  • small backpack for day trips (which you will wear) with rain cover
  • large backpack (up to 15 kilograms, the porters prefer duffel bags)
  • camelbak (water bag) with a minimum of 2 litres for content /li>
  • extra thermos bottle for 2 liter (against freezing)
  • extra shoe laces
  • pocket knife
  • sunscreen
  • lip balm
  • head light (with reserve batteries) or flashlight
  • energy food (nuts, raisins, muesli bars, dextroses)
  • cover for your luggage (against moisture or dust)
  • ointment to treat bruises, muscles (tiger balm or belliflorgel)
  • betadine cream and patches or gauzes for emergencies
  • paracetamol
  • swatch / sport tape (hand wide)
  • compeed or second skin, to treat blisters
  • wet wipes or wetties
  • antibacterial/disinfecting hand gel
  • light and watertight mountain shoes (type B) with light profile bottom
  • wide walking pants and short pants
  • two sweaters or fleece jackets
  • thin, light wind jacket and/or rainwear (poncho, suit or cape)/li>
  • T-shirts / blouses (including thin ones with long sleeves to protect against sun burning of arms / neck, preferably polyester
  • headgear against the sun (tropical head or cap) and sun glasses against snow blindness
  • mittens (better than gloves) and wool cap, balaclava or windstopper (neckband)
  • warm sleeping bag (note the comfort zone of the sleeping bag: it can freeze at night on the Kilimanjaro), possible with an extra internal linen bag
  • clothing and footwear for after walking (taking in account both radiant sun as some cooler weather)
  • reserve batteries for your camera and world adapters and/or converters (charging at the hotel)
  • quick dry towel(s)
  • DEET mosquito repellent (min. 40%)
  • binoculars
  • traveling clock with alarm
  • copy of your passport (for registrations during the expedition)
  • a writing or reading book (there isn't much to do at a camp at night)

A few more tips:

  • Wear your heavy mountain shoes on board during the flight to Tanzania. It saves a lot of luggage weight.
  • Pull on your layers of clothing before your departure, so you can test how easy they cover each other.
  • A synthetic blend with cotton or polyester clothing insulates even when it's wet. When cotton is wet (through sweating) it does not insulate your body at all.

Acute Mountain Sickness

Everybody who is not accustomed will at a given time suffer from altitude sickness. It could even be fatal if it's not treated immediately or when the symptoms are ignored. Certainly 70% of all people who climb the Kilimanjaro will suffer from mountain sickness to a certain extent.

Altitude sickness is caused because the body is not adapting fast enough to the reduced level of oxygen in the air at an increased height. There are many different symptoms of altitude sickness, but the most common are: headache, lightheadedness, nausea, decreased appetite, a stinging feeling in the toes and fingers and a slight swelling of ankles and fingers. These mild forms are not serious and will disappear again normally within 48 hours.

The guides are trained to see your level of welfare. If you do not feel well during the Kilimanjaro climb, or you find out that one of the other climbers is unwell, please always inform the guide(s). Sometimes the 'victims' might only need some mental support and motivational talk, but medical assistance might be required too. The best treatment for severe altitude sickness is the order to descent.

Vaccines

Whoever travels to Africa should always visit the local travel clinic for the necessary vaccines. Make the appointments on time, because you cannot always be helped immediately and some vaccines need some preparation time in your body.

The vaccinations you can expect are:
  • Hepatitis A (for all travellers)
  • Typhus (for all travellers)
  • Yellow fever (for all travellers, certificate  required)
  • Polio (a single vaccine for every adult who received the vaccine in his/her youth but has not received it yet as an adult!) for all travellers
  • Hepatitis B (for travellers who are in close contact with the local communicity and who will be working for voluntary organisations)

And always find out if you are immune for Tetanus-diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox.

Malaria is present in Tanzania (!) and you should use the recommended medications. Consult your doctor. Currently, there are various preventative drugs available that are effective against certain Choroquine-resistant malaria mosquitoes that are currently active in Tanzania.
 

Visa requirements

Please note: if you travel to Tanzania you NEED to have a valid passport and a visa for this country. 

You can get a visa at arrival in Dar Es Salaam, Kilimanjaro International Airport and at the Kenyan/Tanzania border. This visa will cost you 50 US$ (pay cash). American citizens pay $100. You can also arrange a visa in your own country. Please contact the local embassy or consulate of Tanzania.

If you fly at Nairobi, Kenya, and take the shuttle bus to Tanzania, you need a transit-visa for Kenya too. You can buy this transit-visa at the border of Kenya and Tanzania or at the airport in Nairobi for 50 US$ (cash). 


Money

It depends on your own spending habits when determining how much money you should take with you during your stay in Tanzania. Around 20 US$ per day is enough for many people to buy souvenirs, drinks and tip.

In Tanzania they tend not to accept American Dollar bills from before 2001. Make sure you have the new bills.

With a credit card you can pay at the hotel in Moshi and get money from the ATMs in Moshi.

Tanzanian shillings are necessary if you wish to spend money on the streets and in local shops.