Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a life-changing experience, and with the number of climbers at a record high (some 50,000 per year!), it seems more and more of us are taking the challenge to the ‘Roof of Africa’ and Kilimanjaro’s 5,895-metre peak.
Adventure Travel is one of the world’s fastest growing travel trends, and with celebrities such as Cheryl Cole and Jessica Biel climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity, women from across the globe (single and not) are adding Africa’s highest mountain to their Bucket List.
While not technically challenging, climbing Kilimanjaro is no easy task, and so preparation is key – but how do you prepare for the unknown? Well, fellow lady mountaineers, during my successful Kilimanjaro Climb in October 2012, I learnt a lot about this magnificent mountain, and as I am currently planning another Kili attempt in 2015, I thought I would share my ‘Girl’s guide to Climbing Kilimanjaro’ to help you get the most out of your journey…
Pack Wisely and Pack Light
While you may be tempted to pack your hairdryer, a fresh change of clothes for every day, and your cosmetics bag (I know I was!), I can promise you that these will be the last items on your mind during your climb. Comfortable warm clothing, good quality (broken in) hiking boots, plenty of underwear, and a waterproof poncho are the essential items.
You will only need two pairs of hiking trousers, and I strongly recommend you purchase those with Gore-Tex® protection. They are more expensive, but they are breathable and waterproof – perfect for your Kilimanjaro Climb.
For the upper body you will need 3-4 sweat-wicking t-shirts (mix of long and short sleeves), 2-3 thermal t-shirts for higher altitude, a good warm fleece jacket, an outer jacket (waterproof and windproof), and you might want a down jacket for summit night – I did not feel it necessary.
When it comes to underwear, leave your lacy knickers and under-wired bras behind, and take some comfortable cotton sports underwear – believe me, you will appreciate it on the mountain! Take enough to change twice per day (you will not shower for at least a week!). The same goes for socks, take 3-4 pair of hiking socks, and a fresh pair of cotton socks (to wear underneath) for every day of your climb.
For your head, you will need a sun hat or baseball cap, a thermal beanie, and a warm woollen hat for high altitude. You will also need sunglasses, a bandana (to cover your face in strong winds), a scarf, and thermal gloves.
Comfort is essential after a long day on the mountain, so pack a track suit or sweat suit and trainers for wear around camp, and full-length thermal long johns and long-sleeved top for sleeping in. You will need these from day one, and may find you crawl into your sleeping bag wearing both your thermals and your track suit by night three – its cold!
Lotions & Potions
There is no point carrying a load of shampoo and cosmetics up Mount Kilimanjaro. You will not be able to wash your hair, and you will receive just a small bowl of water each morning and evening to wash the ‘essentials’.
Instead, take plenty of baby wipes. They are lightweight, hypoallergenic, and they smell great, so you can clean yourself from head to toe each morning and evening, and dispose of them in the camp rubbish bin (that your porters will carry down the mountain).
Deodorant is a necessity (a roll-on is smaller, lighter and more environmentally friendly than a spray), as is sunscreen (at least factor 30) and moisturiser – the cold mountain air is very drying.
By day two, you should have nice rosy cheeks, and so you can forego the foundation and just apply a bit of mascara and lip-gloss if you feel the need to ‘glam up’ a bit. Alternatively, you could have your eyelashes tinted before you leave home, and have one less thing to worry about!
If you have longer hair, you might want to take some Dry Shampoo and a couple of hair bands to tie it up on windy days. You will be wearing hats throughout your Kilimanjaro climb, so styling products are not necessary.
Your mountain crew will provide a toilet tent, a port-a-loo, and toilet paper (which needs to be disposed of in a plastic bag). The toilet paper provided is very thin, so I recommend you take a roll…!
For me, the biggest challenge on Mount Kilimanjaro was sleeping at night. Altitude plays a part in this, but so do the cold nightly temperatures. Your mountain crew will provide tents and thin ground mattresses, but you need to bring your own sleeping bag and pillow.
Invest in the best you can afford, and for extra comfort, I would strongly recommend you take a blow-up mattress! Not sure how easy it will be to blow up at 5,000-metres above sea level, but I will definitely be taking one on my next Kilimanjaro climb – the ground is hard!
Take a Moment to Enjoy the Experience
Finally, try to take a moment each day to enjoy your Kilimanjaro Experience. 7-days on the mountain might seem like a long time, but it will be gone before you know it!