Let me take you with me on my Kilimanjaro climb adventure! Kilimanjaro, known as the roof of Africa, is one of the world’s most recognizable peaks. It is the tallest mountain on the African continent, the highest free-standing mountain in the world and one of the Seven Summits.
It was never a dream for me to climb the mountain, but since my boyfriend is into mountaineering and Kilimanjaro is not a technical climb I decided to give it a try.
Kilimanjaro can be climbed by almost anybody. However do not be fooled into thinking that it will be a walk in the park. You need to be physically and mentally prepared to climb the mountain, and you certainly need willpower. For me the climb to 5,895 metres (19,341 ft) is the most challenging thing I have ever done. But I couldn’t recommend it more!
Planning a trip to Kilimanjaro will takes months of preparation. Being fit for this hike is very important. I started four months before the climb with training. I did indoor cycling workouts, running and walked as I much as I could with wearing my climbing walking boots and the day pack.
I also had to buy a list of items such as: Tanzanian Visa, backpack (big and small), merino wool base layers, mountain climbing sunglasses, gloves, jacket, hats, trousers, walking poles, sleeping bag, walking boots, walking socks, suncream. I also did my research about altitude sickness, to know what the symptoms are and what to do.
There are several climbing routes to the summit – Marangu, Machame, Lemosho, Shira, Rongai, Umbwe and Northern Circuit. To find the best route consideration should be taken for the altitude acclimatization, scenery’s, foot traffic and difficulty. We chose the Shira route, which is one of the longer and less touristic Kilimanjaro climb routes. The duration of the Shira route is 8 days, so there is enough time to acclimatize.
On the mountain
It is important to go slow, I walked slower than I normally would so that my body could acclimatize. At altitude the air is thinner and there is less oxygen. Everything on Kilimanjaro happens in slow motion. It is not a race to climb the mountain.
Keep drinking and eating! I had to remember myself to drink at least three liters water a day to prevent altitude sickness. It is very easy to dehydrate without noticing. I also lost my appetite at altitude, and on altitude you burn a lot calories. So I had to remember myself to eat high carbohydrate foods, even if I didn’t wanted to.
To enjoy my climb I kept my day pack light. Every extra weight needs extra energy and oxygen to carry. So I only took what I really needed, such as my camelbag with water, snacks, camera and batteries. I also made a playlist on my Ipod full of motivating music.
Summit night was hard. I suffer from cough and wasn’t sure if I could make it to the summit. We left Barafu Camp (4600m) at 00.00 am. I walked slowly but steadily on through the night. At this altitude with 50% less oxygen I only could walk very very slow. Every step upwards at that altitude left me gasping for air.
We reached the summit at 7:00 am. Standing on the roof of Africa, 5,895 metres (19,341 ft)! An amazing moment I will never forget.
It was freezing cold, -20 degrees without wind. We took some pictures by the sign and then we headed back. I was tired and wanted to sleep but had to keep moving. Descending is hard, it is hard for you knees and you must stay focused. After three hours we were back at Barafu Camp where we could sleep for 2 hours before we headed down to our final camp at 3000 meters. Another 4 hours walking!
After a night sleep we walked to Moshi, 915 meters, were we received our Summit Certificate!
Climbing Kilimanjaro wasn’t easy for me, but it were the most memorable, inspiring and challenging 8 days of my life!