Hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro: Do’s and Don’ts

Marion Fernandez
 

The Roof of Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the most popular climbing destinations in the world. In fact, people travel from every corner of the Earth to take a stab at reaching the summit. It is often assumed that Mt. Kilimanjaro is a mountain you have to climb in order to do so, but really, the mountain is more of a long strenuous hike rather than an actually scaling a mountain with ropes and other equipment. If you are thinking about heading there to climb it, there are some things you should know before you go.

Things to do

Going for hikes and training your body for this hike will keep you fit and able to tackle the mountain

  • Make sure you are healthy before you go. You should confirm with your doctor that there are no underlying medical conditions that could be exacerbated during an intense climb. You should also be somewhat physically fit in order to make the ascent.
  • Be prepared to not reach the top. If you wind up not reaching the summit of the mountain, you should not be too hard on yourself. Only 41 percent of hikers actually make it to the Uhuru summit because most people suffer from the change in altitude. If you are one of those people, it is ok and you can always try again.
  • You should practice hiking before you commit to going to Kilimanjaro and make sure it is something that you want to do. If you are set on going, go on practice hikes for several hours in order to build up some hiking skills and so you have some idea of what you are in for ahead of time.
  • Bringing all of the necessary gear is essential for any mountain hike, and Kilimanjaro is no exception. In addition to having the right type of clothing with you, you should also be sure to bring the right type of hiking boots that are a good fit for your feet. Gloves and a hat are also a must. If you can bring trekking poles with you, you may have an easier time coming back down the mountain.

Things not to do

Don’t think that Africa is always sunny. You are climbing up a mountain, and you should be dressed accordingly

  • It’s foolish to assume that because you are physically fit that you will have no trouble hiking up the mountain. It is easy to push yourself too hard and too quickly at the beginning and not have enough strength to actually reach the summit. It does not matter how fit you are if you are wiping yourself out before the real challenge. What stops most of the hikers from reaching the top is not the difficulty of the hike, but instead the reduced level of oxygen at the higher elevations. It is too easy to get altitude sickness. Altitude sickness does not care how in shape you are and happens to most of the hikers who go up the mountain.
  • Do not assume that Africa is going to be a hot place. Hiking Kilimanjaro actually goes through several climate shifts, requiring the need for different varieties of clothing. To work around this, it is best to wear lots of layers and bring a jacket. You can always remove layers if you get hot, but there is no help for you if you are too cold.
  • Don’t plan on hiking the mountain during the rainy months. While it is technically possible to hike Kilimanjaro all year-round, the rainiest months of the year are March, April, and November where you may find yourself wet and miserable in the cold rain. Winter months will see snowfall as well, so if you are thinking of doing a winter climb, you will need to be absolutely sure that you have packed everything that you need to stay warm.

It is easy to push yourself too hard and too quickly at the beginning and not have enough strength to actually reach the summit.

Altitude is a very real illness and it can strike you if you are not prepared or are doing too much, too soon. Be mentally prepared that you may be one of the 59% who don’t reach the summit, so you don’t go overboard in trying to reach it, thus endangering yourself.

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