Climbing Kilimanjaro is fantastically exciting, but it can also seem like a daunting challenge. There’s a lot to think about which means it’s easy to forget or overlook the little things. There was plenty of advice that I was very grateful to receive, or wish I had received, before I set out on my adventure. Here are my top tips for climbing Kilimanjaro.
1. Work on your squats
With a mostly unpleasant toilet situation (think hole in the floor that is never EVER cleared out), you’ll need to get used to squatting. And trust me, you do not want your legs to give way when you’re hovering over one of those holes of doom.
It’s a great workout but takes a bit of getting used to!
2. Bring toilet paper
You need toilet paper. Obviously – but easy to forget.
3. For the ladies – be period prepared
Even if you take birth control the power of altitude can still overrule. Thankfully I was lucky enough for this not to happen to me. However, many women have warned me that spontaneous periods are an unfortunate symptom of altitude.
4. Bring lots of wet wipes
First and foremost, wet wipes are going to be your sole equivalent of a shower for the entirety of the expedition. But they are also extremely essential for those moments where you will inevitably need to use the provided toilets. When the need arises, ensure you have a wet wipe firmly secured over your nose and mouth.
I’m not really sure how to put the horror of the mountain toilets into words. But in short, they smell really bad. Nothing will eliminate the smell (unless you’re super good at holding your breath), but jamming a wet wipe under your nose is at least a minimal requirement if you want to retain your lunch or dinner.
5. Don’t look down
This is another toilet reference. Just don’t look down. Ever.
6. Make sure you eat, even when you don’t want to
A common symptom of altitude sickness is to not want to eat. Thankfully I didn’t get this until summit night but it’s dangerous if you don’t eat enough. You won’t have enough energy and it will make the expedition exhausting.
Eat as much as you can even if you don’t feel hungry. You’re going to need all the energy you can get.
7. Drinks lots of water
It’s absolutely essential that you stay hydrated throughout the climb. It sounds simple but I really struggled with this one. As you have to use water purification tablets, the water takes a lot like pool water. It’s not particularly pleasant which doesn’t exactly incentivise you to keep drinking.
Add to that the less-than-luxurious toilet scenario and it’s easy to see why you could avoid drinking. But it is so important – drink lots, stay hydrated.
8. Pack really good thermals
As a woman who managed to get frostbite on a skiing holiday in April (yup, really), I do seem to be particularly susceptible to the cold. However, even the most warm-blooded of people will feel the cold at -20C with the added addition of strong bitter winds.
Make sure you pack super good thermals, especially socks and gloves. Bring all the layers you can squeeze in. And I really mean that – you’re looking at a minimum of 4-5 layers both top and bottom if you want to stay warm.
9. Bring more than one camera memory card
Now this is a touchy subject for me. Before I left for Africa I spent my hard earned cash on a GoPro. I filmed my entire climb – lots of beautiful footage that I wanted to cherish for years to come. And then I lost my GoPro. It fell off my rucksack on the descent, never to be seen again. I did try to find it – I hiked 1,000 vertical metres back up the mountain searching for it. Stupid, I know, and I never found it.
I wish more than anything that I’d used two memory cards to shoot with, instead of putting everything on one. Then I would have at least had some footage. So I strongly recommend bringing more than one memory card – whether it’s for a security backup, or in case you run out of space on one card.
10. Keep your cameras warm
Another camera related point. The freezing cold air of the higher reaches of Kilimanjaro will kill the battery of your camera or phone. So if you want to be able to snap some pictures when you get to the top, be sure to keep your devices warm. Either pack them deep within your backpack, or pop a hand warmer next to them.
I hope my tips for climbing Kilimanjaro will be helpful to someone. Do let me know if you’re planning on attempting the climb yourself! For more information, have a read of my own experience of climbing Kilimanjaro.