Before Climbing, I was really skeptical of going to Tanzania. I didn’t know anything else about the country except for Mount Kilimanjaro. Turns out there’s a whole bunch of interesting things happening here if you take the time and interest to explore.
It just so happens that this was at the peak of the most favorable season to climb the mountain. The weather conditions were absolutely perfect, sunny with clear skies, except for a few times in my few weeks of staying there, when it drizzled causing a delay until it was dry enough to start the climb. I didn’t know anyone else who was there to climb but realized what they meant when the said you should pair up with someone or have a group that is going to climb with you. I was soon paired up with a crazy sounding enthusiastic climber who was there for the third time
Getting Ready For The Climb
What I experienced with the cold didn’t hold me back too much. I even surprised myself. I am one of those people that know how to shut off the cold and still wear minimal clothing, but I knew I just couldn’t rely on that if I was to survive the climb. It was a mixture of some breathing techniques and training methods that I developed months before I even bought the plane ticket that helped. I was doing a combination of ice-cold showers that took quite a while to get used to, the discipline stayed with me to this day. I don’t know how I did it, must be a case of the crazies somewhere in my psyche.
The breathing exercises were done when I finished the bath and descended facing upwards in the underneath the water to control my breathing. I knew my age could play a bad hand, so I optimized my training not so much on being as fit as those guys on magazine covers, but just enough to withstand the pressure this puts on your body. I had to focus my efforts more on climbing Kilimanjaro and surviving the altitude. In addition to aerobic, anaerobic training, and a good healthy diet I even incorporated some breathe out pushups, nothing crazy, just about 50 per set of 3 reps daily.
For altitude training, what helped more than the breathing out techniques was a Chinese breathing technique trained in Qi Qong. Most people give up from not knowing how to do this. It lets you breathe through your body. You know you are doing it right when you feel a warm sensation in your eyes, and you feel like you are breathing through your eyes and your entire body. I learned this after many hours of practice trying to breathe in water. You have to get the balance right, this will go a mile with warding off altitude sickness. In the 30 hours I finished climbing, I had to stop a few times when I felt like my breathing was getting too thin. This was fixed shortly by just resting when I experienced this.
I wasn’t looking for dramatic results like most people who go around saying, “I climbed the mountain in my shorts without a shirt on”, I just did it for my bucket list. Firstly, I was dressed warm enough for two people, secondly I was just an average guy who likes seeing through to the very end, I just wanted to see If I could have fun trying to climb this monster. And also have a great story to tell the grandkids. The extreme that was bizarre to me was due to the advice I got from a neurotic who has always been preparing for this every since I met him. He has all these scientific ideas on what to do to avoid freezing to death, some were a bit weird and out of whack. I just stuck with the simplest ones.
Mountain climbing is not just about climbing high heights but also the splendid view of nature is very important. Mount Kilimanjaro is among the highest mountains in Africa with an eye catching view. It’s not one of Shakespeare’s tales when we talk about the beauty of Kilimanjaro. It offers a diversity in ecosystem. I think you should definitely try climbing Kilimanjaro yourself to get the experience.
Multiple Trekking routes
Maragu, Rongai, Machame, Umbwe, Shira, Lemosho and North Circuit Route are the routes available to maneuver through to the wooden box at the summit. These routes have their pros and cons where the preferences varies with the summiteers climbing Kilimanjaro. Maragu route is easy to trek but trekkers face acclimatization due to its less time taken to reach the summit compared to other routes. Its 73.5 km to and from the summit. Camping is not also possible in Maragu route.
Machame route takes around 6-7 days to trek the 60.76 km distance. It offers a lot in terms of scenic beauty but it’s steep. Rongai route has a wide encounter with wildlife and it’s the most promising route to use. You can take 5-7 days to maneuver the 74.4 km distance. It’s good for rainy seasons since it’s on the leeward side of the mountain.
Umbwe route has a contrast between its distance and trek duration. It’s 48.31 Km but its trek duration is long 6-8 days due to the rough terrain. Shira route joins machame route later in its course. The advantage about it is that its beginning is passable using a four-wheeler. It is 54.6 km taking 6-7 days to trek. Lemosho route joins machame route from the west and it’s 66.86 km which takes 6-9 days. Northern circuit route is 69.5 km taking 7-9 days to trek. Its trek difficulty is moderate.
July, August, September and at some point January make the most favorable season to climb the mountain. This is when the rains set off and the air is dry. However it’s cold especially at night. The visibility at these months is good.
Dangers and remedies
High altitudes may bring along issues like cardiovascular related problems and other health issues. Acute mountain illness is also common. Its advisable to engage in hiking activities so as to train the body to withstand the high altitudes. Fitness training and interval training also help to keep the body fit to avoid things like muscle-pulls.
One Last Note
You should be physically fit to undertake the trekking and hiking. Therefore aerobic workouts and endurance training are good before climbing the mountain. This will help a lot in undertaking the terrain. Acquire the right gear, and go have the time of your life.