So how to prepare for the Kili challenge
Trekking Kili is serious business! There are a number of things a person should consider when preparing for the trek. Having run marathons, I know that identifying a target, with a date is the best way of focusing preparations. So don't just talk about wanting to go to Tanzania 'one day', do your research (Walks Worldwide recommend and offer the Rongai and Shira routes which spend the maximum amount of time on the mountain to acclimatise and thus have highest summit success), and get signed up!
What makes the trek difficult? The challenging ascents (non technical), the thin air at high altitude, the freezing cold temperatures on Kilimanjaro, oh, and the fact that Uhuru peak is 5895metres above sea level. These challenges can all be managed and the key ingredient to success is determination.
On the trek itself you take it very steady, it's not a race. I was all too aware that 'fit' young men had the lowest success rate on the mountain, often due to lack of preparation and walking too fast. In order to deal with the altitude, you need to walk slowly, drink plenty of water, eat well and acclimatise as much as possible. To deal with the conditions, I would suggest the following items to be most essential; sturdy walking boots (ideally with a vibram sole), warm undergarments, thick gloves and socks (likely more than one pair for the summit), plenty of warm layers and a suitable jacket (waterproof/ski/down).
'Kili'- Imagine the Mountain
What does it look like? How am I going to feel? What is life going to be like on the trek? It becomes more achievable, when you get into the trek...
|and you achieve this!|
As you enter the latter stages of the ascent, the altitude symptoms of fatigue, light headaches and loss of appetite, are likely to hit different people at different points. It is important to manage these (walk slowly, keep well hydrated and allow plenty of time for acclimatisation), but also to see yourself overcoming them. The two natural solutions are rest and time to acclimatise, both of which are built into your itinerary.
By the time you are approaching the summit attempt, your body will have made many adaptations to the challenging conditions, and you can start to think about reaching the summit. The final night is a long trek through the cold, which people get through simply by continuing to put one foot in front of the other! As you pass Gillman's point, a monumental feat, and indisputably worthy goal in itself, you still have a couple hours to go. For me, I was exhausted and found that here more than ever, I appreciated the company of my guides and group members. We will get there together!
The Glory of the Experience
I'd achieved it! Now I'd summited Uhuru Peak, I was looking forward to a long list of things: sleep, warmth, a good meal, rest, a proper shower, but I have to say, as the sun came up over the summit, I felt like I had a new body. On the way down we strode down what had been really tough climbs and basked in the increased oxygen. We felt good and celebrated the experience that we would never forget!