Mount Kilimanjaro – Planning the climb

Have you dreamed of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa?

How do you plan the climb? What gear, vaccinations, travel arrangements and planning do you need before you go?

Mount Kilimanjaro is considered the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, rising 19,341 ft  (5,895m) from base to summit and is one of the world’s most accessible high summits. i.e. you can “climb” to the summit, Uhuru Point, without being a technical “mountain climber”.

Our great mate Colin is heading off in a few days to do the climb. He has been kind enough to share all of his planning information, fitness program, trip plans, vaccination regime, gear and water purification ideas.

Maasai village with Mount Kilimanjaro backdrop

Maasai village with Mount Kilimanjaro backdrop


The Trip:

We are walking with Team Kilimanjaro a British company that offers many different types of trips up Mount Kilimanjaro. The route we are taking is the 8 day New Lemosho – Advantage trip which goes around the North side of the mountain. This is not a usual route and we are hoping that there will not be many people going this way.

The company provides a guide, porters, tents, sleeping mats and they cook the food. Ed, Colin is pretty humble here, they get looked after ok – from the website:

High level of support with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and meat. Mess tents will be used and three course hot lunches will be served most days. This strategy is designed to maximise nutrition by encouraging rest and appetite in an environment where this usually suffers. Tried and tested this method has proved extremely successful

Heading up Kibo

Heading up Kibo

The Cost:

  • The Climb costs $2618 US
  • The Accommodation in Arusha costs $294 US for three nights. It is more expensive than Team  Kilimanjaro’s accommodation but the bloke I am going with is in his 50’s and so wanted an upgrade – guess that’s what comes with age (careful Colin, he will get you)
  • Johannesburg to Nairobe was $774 Australian

(NB: this excludes the flight from your home country to Johannesburg)

Visa:

  • Kenya – $95 AU
  • Tanzania – $95 AU

Mt Kilimanjaro elephants

Itinerary:

We leave on the 9th Feb, fly to Perth, then to Johannesburg, then to Nairobi where we stay the night. The next day we take the Riverside bus to Arusha in Tanzania so we have to cross the border from Kenya to Tanzania. To aid in this we got our visa’s for single entry into Tanzania and multiple entry into Kenya as we take the bus back.

DayLocationDistanceAltitude
-3Melbourne to Nairobi night in Nairobi
-2Nairobi by bus to Arusha – Night in Arusha
-1Night in Arusha
1Lemosho Start Point to Mti Mkubwa (Forest Camp)3.9km2400–2800m
2Mti Mkubwa to Shira 1.  Afternoon acclimatisation excursion7.4km2800–3540m
3Shira 1 to Moir Hut9.5km3540–4200m
4Moir Hut to Pofu Camp8.4km4200–4100m
5Pofu Camp to 3rd Caves.5.9km4100–4000m
63rd Caves to School Hut4.6km4000-4800m
7School Hut to Summit. Descend to Mweka Hut16.4km4800-5840 – 3040m
8Mweka Hut to Mweka Gate TO ARUSHA Night in Arusha8.5km3040–1650m
+1Arusha to Nairobe to Jberg to Melbourne  

Physical preparation
Ed: Colin is one of the fittest blokes we know, he can (and has) walked the pants off us on many hikes. He takes his fitness seriously and much of the stuff he does is his “normal” exercise…

  • 40 minutes on a treadmill for 3 – 4 times per week
  • Walking to and from work every day about 5km
  • A Few day hikes, the last one was 49km (30.5 miles) – not recommend to do in a day (ed: he was trashed)
  • Usual sit ups, pull ups and press-ups
  • Skipping

Medical Preparation – vaccines, medications and health ideas
Ed: Colin is an experienced doctor and senior anaesthetist here in Australia. This list is quite comprehensive and written a bit in “doctor speak”. It is his personal list that he is sharing as a guide. He strongly recommends (insists) you contact your own Doctor for advice as he will NOT take any responsibility. (fair enough we reckon)

Mt Kilimanjaro rescue

Mt Kilimanjaro rescue -

  • Yellow fever is a must as you may have difficulty getting into the country without it. It’s a live vaccine so it may make you a little sick after about 10days. Gave me a little photopobia, neck stiffness and headache for one day. Need to ensure that you get it several weeks before you go
  • Meningoccus is a problem in eastern Africa so got vaccinated against strains A,C,W-135,Y – all one injection
  • Booster for tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio – all one injection
  • Typhoid, Hep A and Hep B were up to date so didn’t need these
  • Did not go for Rabies due to the side effects of the vaccine and the low chance of being bitten. If I do get bitten I have 72hrs to get the immunogobluin which should give me plenty of time. The likelihood of being bitten is virtually nil at altitude above 3000m and the first day we will be at about 2,800 meters
  • Will take Doxycycline for malaria prophylaxis
  • Will have Acetazolamide that I may take to help with the altitude
  • Dexamethasone for the worse (HAPE, HACE) – ed, you DON’T want these…..
  • Norfloxcin for diarrhoea eg campylobacter
  • Another AB for Giardia
  • Loperamide for diarrhoea
  • Paracetamol and codeine for headaches
  • Celebrex as a non steroidal anti-inflammatory
  • Usual bandages, steri-strips, crepe, blister stuff, needles, scalpel blades

Ed, as you might have guessed, we leave Colin in charge of the First Aid kit when we hike together!

In the snow

Looks like fun


Choice of footwear

  • Not too sure yet, I have my usual Raichle boots
  • I have Chamelion II walking shoes with a ¾ shank
  • Will probably take both and use the boots for the summit day
  • Will also take some micro spikes for the summit day for better stability in the snow. I expect the hypoxia will make me unsteady on my feet.


Gear / clothing / equipment

  • No different clothing than normal (ed: we usually hike with Colin in Tasmania) except more cold weather gear – so I will have a Fleece and a Down jacket, three layers for my legs – I get really cold. Gloves and mittens for my hands
  • Will take a thermometer and a small pulse oximeter to measure our oxygen levels on top (ed: We think this is more out of curiosity than necessity…)
  • Do not need to worry about ground mat, tents, food as that is all supplied by the company we are going with. Apparently we have one lead guide, two porters and one cook
Cloud below Horombo

Cloud below Horombo

Main concerns / issues

  • Altitude, altitude, altitude. No idea how well I will cope. It will depend upon whether 7 days on the trail will acclimatise us enough – also do not know how I will cope with the lack of oxygen – some people have oxygen saturation of only 63% on top (5821m) – normally it is about 98% so this is very low.
  • One person I know who has done the climb described as the worst experience she has every had as the hypoxia was utterly awful – but she was glad she had done it
  • As I do not like to walk slowly at the best of times – trying to slow myself down to reduce my chance of high altitude sickness may be a problem. We will only be carrying about 5 – 7 kg each which should reduce our exertions and reduce chance for altitude sickness problems.
  • Water – often people going to this altitude tend not to drink enough water and I am one that does not like to stop to drink water. I will have to force myself to drink regularly
  • Other problems are that you often do not feel like eating and as I only eat to live I will have to force myself in this department as well
  • Many complain of difficulty sleeping and of snoring at altitude. Even in those who do not normally snore so that may be interesting

Drinking Water

  • Not sure about the drinking water situation, will probably take a Lifesaver Filter system as it has a 15nm filter to remove all organisms.( smallest virus is the polio virus at 20nm) plus a charcoal inner to remove heavy metals and toxins.
  • You can put raw sewage in it – give it a few pumps and out comes drinkable water. ( but sodium in the water will be high due to the urine)
    • Advantage is that it is:
      • Lightweight
      • does not require chemicals
      • fast
      • good for 4,000 litres  BUT the charcoal filter is only good for 250L before it needs changing. it should be ample for the trip if I assume 5L per day for 8 days. (ed, we will do a separate post on this unit in the future once Colin has tested it)

A huge thank you to Colin for taking the time to share this  valuable information. If you have made it to here, you will understand how much research has gone into planning this trip.  Colin will celebrate a significant birthday on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro on the 19th February.  We really wish we could have joined him as we have on many trips in the past. He is a top bloke.

Comments

  1. says

    Looks to be an exciting trip. I’ve read a few blogs about hikes up KJ and it seems achievable for mere mortals. I suffer from migraines at times due to a jaw condition. I would hate to get one of those on a hike like that!

  2. Frank says

    Hi Graeme,
    I’m with you, from what Colin says, getting a headache just from the high altitude is a huge possibility. Adding that to a migraine would not be fun. He heads off tomorrow,would have loved to join him (prob more to see Africa than climb)!
    Will definitely try and squeeze a trip report out of him.

  3. Kellie says

    Hi,

    I have just started to research the KJ climbs, I am planning it for January 2012. I dont know which route to take…? And advice for and agaist particular routes?

    thank you in advance

    Kel

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