The term Africa conjures up images of the safari, the wildebeest, the beaches, the lions etc. But what most people forget is that Africa is also home to the highest free standing mountain in the world, Mt. Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro is not part of a mountain range like Everest and other famous mountains. It is part of the Seven Summits. The Seven Summits are the highest peaks in each continent which all mountaineers wish to conquer.
You do not need to be an avid mountaineer to conquer Kilimanjaro, all you need to be is fit and ready for an arduous hike. You do not need any special mountaineering skills to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Having said that it is important to know that you will climb 19,341 feet, which is very high altitude. Altitude sickness can occur, as you go higher oxygen levels will decrease and you need be prepared for that. There are many routes to reach the summit. On some routes you can reach the top in 5 days whereas other can take a lot longer, the longest being nine days. If you are a beginner it is better to go on the longer route as your body will get acclimatised to the conditions and you will be able to reach the summit without any problems.
A point to be noted is that you will need to camp at campsites which the tour operator would have identified. Porters will be assigned by the tour operator to carry your kit, but there is a weight limit. If you read our article, “Things to carry while trekking Kilimanjaro” you will know what all you need to carry. You need to carry your water and your daypack on your own. You should practice taking out things from your kit and bag in darkness, because you may need to do it in an emergency. You will not be able to shower but some tour operators provide hot water for a sponge bath. You should carry tissues and wet wipes with you in your day pack.
You cannot climb Mt. Kilimanjaro solo or even with a qualified group, you can do it only with registered tour operators, so you need to research and find a good tour operator prior to your climb. Do not try to save pennies and opt for a cheap tour operator, remember that you are climbing to high altitudes and you should opt for a tour operator with experienced guides. Experienced guides will train you on emergency evacuation procedures; will know what to do when a person gets sick at high altitude etc.
As mentioned earlier, you need to be fit to take on Mt. Kilimanjaro. You should also be mentally fit apart from being physically fit. When you are at higher altitudes you may experience restlessness and sleep deprivation or even total lack of sleep, in such a scenario, a mentally fit person will be able to focus on the goal and reach the summit, rather than giving up. Also remember most tour operators need a doctor’s certification that you are fit, before you embark on your journey to the summit.