Packing for Kilimanjaro: Pack Wisely and Prepare for Everything!

When it comes to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, there are generally 2 types of people. Those who have planned, prepared, researched, and packed extensively for their expedition to the roof of Africa’s highest mountain – and those who have not!

Climb Kilimanjaro Lunar Eclipse

Mount Kilimanjaro is not technically challenging, and you do not need to pack as if you are going to spend 3 months on Everest, but it is no walk in the park either, and if you have too much gear, or not enough, your climb will not be as rewarding or as successful as it should be.

All good Kilimanjaro Climbing companies will provide you with a packing list when you book your expedition.  This should tell you what you need in terms of high altitude, wet weather, and hiking gear, and also list everyday essentials such as toiletries, spare batteries for your headlamp, a power bank to charge your phone and camera batteries, and anything else that will make your climb more comfortable.

Many companies will even go so far as to recommend specific types of sleeping bags, rucksacks and hiking poles, but many forget to tell you about packing all of this gear for your journey to Tanzania, and this is where it can all go wrong.

If you are flying to Kilimanjaro from the US or the UK, you will have to make at least one stopover on-route.  This means that your luggage is going to be transferred from one plane to another, and unfortunately, during this transition some bags do get lost… seriously lost!

It is therefore essential that you pack as many of your essentials as possible in your hand luggage.  We always travel to Kilimanjaro in our hiking boots (not sexy, but they’re not getting lost when they are on your feet!), we pack one pair of hiking trousers, a couple of t-shirts, underwear, hats, gloves, headlamp, electronics in our hand luggage, and we take our high altitude jacket with us too.

That way if our luggage does get lost, we have at least some of the essentials to start our expedition.  Most international climbing companies partner with local Kilimanjaro companies, and so there is always the possibility to rent any gear that is missing.  Sleeping bags, hiking poles, gaiters, jackets, backpacks, and even sunglasses are available to rent, so you don’t have to be stranded with nothing more than your jeans or trainers.

Taking the right stuff with you is important, but you should also prepare for the unthinkable… so max out your hand luggage – and if necessary, wear as many layers as possible on your flight to Kilimanjaro!

 

A Tribute to Kilimanjaro’s Porters: The Real Heroes of the Mountain

If you have climbed Africa’s highest mountain, you will know first-hand just how amazing Kilimanjaro’s Porters are, but sadly, Tanzania’s unsung heroes are often treated poorly by unscrupulous climbing companies, who do not provide them with adequate clothing, sufficient food or a fair wage.

Fortunately, there are organizations out there such as KPAP (Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project) and IMEC (International Mountain Explorers Connection), who are trying to help by implementing a Partnership for Responsible Travel Program that all Kilimanjaro Climbing companies are encouraged to join.

The program is designed to ensure that all porters are treated correctly, and that they receive fair wages of at least $10 per porter per day (many companies offering cheap Kilimanjaro climbs pay them less than $3 per day), proper clothing and equipment, proper shelter and sleeping bags, at least 2 meals per day, and maximum loads of 20kg.

While everyone has a budget, choosing a cheap Kilimanjaro outfitter will not benefit the local community, and you could find your porters climbing in minus degrees with nothing more than shorts and sandals.  So look out for KPAP and IMEC registered tour operators, and give these magnificent people the respect and wage they truly deserve…

IMG_0123 IMG_0021 KPAP Approved Kilimanjaro Climbing Companies IMG_0054 IMG_0147 IMG_0185 IMG_0193 IMG_0195 IMG_0196 IMG_0262 IMG_0263 IMG_0284 IMG_0324 IMG_0332 IMG_0151

 

 

 

 

Climbing Kilimanjaro: The Truth about Summit Night

As we prepare to tackle Mount Kilimanjaro once again, I decided it was time to read through the blog posts I had written back in 2012 after climbing the 7-Day Machame Route, to remind myself what it was actually like on summit night.

No-one ever talks about summit night, quite simply because it is one of those things that you would rather not remember!  It’s tough, really tough, even for those who are not suffering with altitude sickness, but there is only one way to Uhuru Peak, and that is up, up, up….

After reading my previous posts, I’m slowly but surely starting to remember how demanding summit night really was, and while I firmly believe in the philosophy that “forewarned is forearmed”, I have to admit, I’m a tad nervous about tackling Africa’s highest mountain once again!

Climb Kilimanjaro Full Moon and Total Lunar Eclipse

Here’s the truth about summit night:

While not all routes on Kilimanjaro are the same, many climbers start their summit attempt from Barafu Camp at around midnight.  After dinner in the mess tent, you retire to your tent for a few hours’ sleep, and your guide wakes you up at around 11.30pm for sweet tea and biscuits, or if you can stomach it, breakfast. You then refill your water bottles and head off into the midnight sky.

The terrain is completely different at this level, and rather than walking on rocks or gravel, you find yourself walking through loose scree – which is not dissimilar to walking through deep sand. Your feet sink and so every step requires effort, and as there is not much air to go around, you want to conserve as much energy as possible.

For the first 3-4 hours summit night is bearable. Everyone is excited about the prospect of reaching Uhuru Peak and the atmosphere feels almost electric, but once you reach about 4am, the mood seems to change.

By now, you are at 5,600 metres above sea-level, the temperatures drop significantly, and oxygen seems scarce.  Every step is a painful reminder of how far you have come, and with no summit in sight, you soon realise that you have a long way to go.

At this stage during our expedition, no one spoke, we didn’t stop for water breaks, and progress was slow, but just when we started to doubt ourselves, the sun lit up the horizon with the most spectacular shades of red, orange and pink. This burst of energy was all we needed to reach the welcoming sign of Stella Point – and our goal was finally in sight.

From Stella Point to Uhuru Peak, the terrain is relatively flat, but you still have over a Kilometre to go, and at high altitude, it feels like you are attempting an Ultra Marathon!  However, by now, you have already ‘officially’ climbed Kilimanjaro – and the elation takes over everything else.

When standing before the sign that reads, “Congratulations, you are now at Uhuru Peak 5,895m above sea-level Africa’s highest point”, you forget everything of the past 6-7 hours, and revel in your awesomeness – you did it, you really did it!

 

 

 

The Best Sleeping Bag for Your Kilimanjaro Trek

Trying to get a good night’s sleep on Mount Kilimanjaro is no easy task, especially if you are trekking the Machame Route, the Lemosho Route, or one of the other camping routes that do not overnight in Mountain Huts, but there are a few things you can do to make your nights more comfortable, and it all starts with a good sleeping bag.

I personally wouldn’t want to stay in the shared huts on Kilimanjaro, quite simply because I do not think that they should be there. They were built for tourism, for those who want an easy route to Uhuru Peak, but they do not belong on Africa’s highest mountain and you will not have an authentic climbing experience if you stay there.

That said, overnighting in tents is nether glamorous or comfortable, but it is the way Kilimanjaro was meant to be climbed – with tents, sleeping bags, camp stoves, and starry skies, and as long as you plan your trip carefully, you will be able to sleep sweetly.

For our first Kilimanjaro Expedition, we purchased Me°ru’ Colorado Micro Sleeping Bags suitable for temperatures ranging from +4 degrees to -18 degrees.  They look good, they’re made from high quality fabrics, they are most definitely warm enough for Kilimanjaro, and initially, they are very comfortable, but we both found the ‘mummy’ shape too restrictive for a good night’s sleep, and so we have decided to upsize for our next Total Lunar Eclipse Expedition in September.

Sleeping BagThis year we will be spending our nights on Mount Kilimanjaro wrapped in Outwell® Campion Lux Double Sleeping Bags, which are suitable for use in temperatures ranging from +23 to -16 degrees.  While each sleeping bag is designed for two, we have ordered one each, and there is plenty of space to move around and get comfortable.

We will be combining our new Kilimanjaro sleeping bags with inflatable mattresses (should be fun blowing those up at 5,000mts above sea-level!), and our trusty fleece pillows and thermal sleeping suits that served us so well on our last trip.  Only time will tell if we’ll sleep better this time around, but we will be on Kilimanjaro – and that is worth a sleepless night – or two!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kilimanjaro Training Plan: 8 Weeks to go until the Total Lunar Eclipse Tour

With just over 8 weeks to go until we head to Tanzania on our Kilimanjaro Total Lunar Eclipse Tour, it is time to step up the training plan and prepare for our weeklong adventure on Africa’s highest mountain.

While it is not technically challenging, climbing Kilimanjaro is mentally and physically demanding, and so preparation is key if you are serious about reaching the peak.  Many hikers arrive in Arusha with little or no training, and to save money, go for the shorter 5-day and 6-day routes, but you only have to look at the statistics to see that this equals failure.

In general, Kilimanjaro climbs of 6 days and less have a success rate of less than 50%…. something to consider when budgeting for your climb.

This time, we will be climbing the extended Machame Route, giving us plenty of time to acclimatize and adapt to our surroundings. In order to prepare for our ascent, we have relocated to our house in the Austrian Alps (lucky – I know!), and will spend the next 8 weeks hiking, running, and mentally preparing for our next big adventure.

September Kilimanjaro Group Climb

Here’s a brief example of what our Kilimanjaro Training Plan looks like (we’re not doctors or personal trainers – this is just what works for us!!):

  • Monday: 2 Hours hiking – ascending and descending to strengthen all leg muscles
  • Tuesday: 40 Minutes Cycling and 20 Minutes Strength Training (squats, lunges)
  • Wednesday: 2 Hours hiking on challenging terrain
  • Thursday: 30 Minutes Running and 30 Minutes Strength Training
  • Friday: 1 Hour Brisk Walk
  • Saturday: Long Distance Hike +/- 4 hours
  • Sunday: Day off!

Like most people, we have to work for a living, so we get up extra early and try to fit our Kilimanjaro training in before we start our day.  If you cannot commit so much time during your working week, even 30 minutes a day will make a huge difference – especially if you push yourself at the weekend!

American Author Zig Ziglar once said, “It’s your ATTITUDE not your APTITUDE that determines your ALTITUDE” and nothing could be more true when it comes to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro! Stay positive, stay strong, and just when you think you can’t do it anymore, you will see the welcoming sign of Uhuru Peak glowing under the early morning sun – Victory!

 

 

Food on Kilimanjaro: Setting Apart the Budget Travel Operators from the Best!

There are many things to consider when choosing a Kilimanjaro Climbing Company, and while everyone has a budget, there is one thing you shouldn’t scrimp on, and that is good food.

Nutrition is essential to the success of your Kilimanjaro Climb, and if you do not eat and drink enough during your expedition, you will not see Uhuru Peak – period!  So choose wisely, and never forget to check the daily menus when comparing climbing companies.

Here’s what you should expect every day during your Kilimanjaro Expedition:

Breakfast

  • Drinks: Tea, Coffee, Hot Chocolate, Milk, Water, Fruit Juice
  • Food: Porridge, Fresh Fruit, Bread, Omelette, Sausages, Bacon, Cheese, Avocado (when in season), Toast

Snack Pack (taken with you to munch between breakfast and lunch)

  • Biscuits, Sandwich, Piece of Fruit, Muffin, Bag of Nuts, Cheese Triangles

Lunch:

  • Drinks: Fruit Juice, Tea, Coffee, Hot Chocolate, Milk, Water
  • Food: Fresh Soup, Pasta, Chicken with Vegetables, Fresh Fruit

Dinner:

  • Drinks: Fruit Juice, Tea, Coffee, Hot Chocolate, Milk, Water
  • Food: Freshly Made Soup, Vegetable Fried Rice, Beef with Ginger, Vegetable Side Dish, Banana Fritters with Honey

Our chefs even go as far as to bake a ‘congratulations’ cake on the mountain, take a look for yourself…

Best Kilimanjaro Climbing Companies IMG_0270 IMG_0057 IMG_0068 IMG_0130 IMG_0132 IMG_0069 IMG_0221 IMG_0085 IMG_0460

What is the Best Month of the Year to Climb Kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro National Park is open 365 days per year, and so it is possible climb Africa’s highest mountain on any day you choose, especially if you book a private tour, but some months are considered better than others, and if you want to avoid the rains, the clouds and the crowds, it is worth doing some research before you book your trip.

Climb Kilimanjaro Lunar EclipseLike most countries close to the equator, Tanzania does not have a summer and winter like we do in the Northern Hemisphere, but rather wet and dry seasons.  Climbing Kilimanjaro in the wet season has its advantages: there is less traffic on the mountain, some tour operator’s offer discounted prices, and without the crowds, you get to witness the true beauty of this impressive mountain.  But hiking 6 – 7 hours a day in the rain is not fun, and studies show that we are more likely to give up when the weather is wet and cold – so is it really worth it?

As you would expect, most people book their Kilimanjaro climb to coincide with the dry season, and by summiting during the warmer, drier months, your chances of reaching Uhuru Peak are much higher – but you should be prepared to share the mountain with several thousand other climbers.

If you are planning a Kilimanjaro Expedition, here is a rough guide of what you can expect each month of the year:

January: One of the most popular months of the year to climb Kilimanjaro, you can expect warm temperatures, low to medium rain fall, clear skies, and crowds of people!  It’s busy!

February: Another great month, the weather in February on Kilimanjaro is much the same as January, although it starts to cool slightly during the end of the month.  Again, crowds are high during this period.

March: If you are looking for good weather and less crowds, March is a good option.  It can start to get a bit cloudy during the end of the month, so try to go within the first 2 weeks.

April: The start of the rainy season, April can be very wet and very cloudy. There are not many climbers on the mountain at this time of the year.

May: Another wet month, May see’s lots of rain and visibility is reduced due to the sheer volume of cloud cover.  While it’s still possible to climb Kilimanjaro now, we wouldn’t really recommend it unless you are a hardcore mountaineer!

June: By now, things are starting to look up, and although it is very cold, June is considered a good month to climb Kilimanjaro.  You should expect medium rainfall and some cloudy days, but there isn’t much traffic around.

July: It is still very cold in July, but there are plenty of blue skies around, and it can be a great time of the year to summit.

August: The start of the Kilimanjaro Climbing Season, August is a great month with low rainfall, clear skies, and slightly warmer temperatures.

September: My favourite time of the year to climb Kili, September brings warm sunny days, bright blue skies and frosty cold nights.  It’s quite a busy month, so avoid the Marangu (Coca Cola) route and opt for the Rongai or Lemosho instead.  In September this year you can climb Kilimanjaro during the Total Lunar Eclipse!

October: Another good month, October is slightly warmer than September, and you can expect little or no rain.

November: An ‘in between’ month, November is one of the quietest times of year on Kilimanjaro.  It can be quite wet and cloudy, although not as cold as June and July.

December: Many people climb Kilimanjaro over Christmas and New Year, and so December see’s good levels of traffic.  Weather-wise, it’s so-so, you will probably get a mix of sunshine and showers throughout your expedition.