Climbing Kilimanjaro – What you need to know
Climbing Kilimanjaro and all you need to know about it. I still remember the day I decided to climb Kilimanjaro. It was back in a seedy bar with my mate Brett over a beer or two. Or maybe it was 10. Anyway, that was where my dream of climbing the highest mountain in Africa was born. Once the hangover has subsided and the reality of what we decided to do had sunk it was time to commit. And by commitment it was going to be through a financial one in the terms of a deposit.
That was probably the hardest part of the climb. My poor wallet got burned that but a necessary part of the process. It definitely gave us the inspiration to commit. Now that we were adequately inspired to climb Kilimanjaro we realized there was a lot of work to be done. First project was getting the correct clothing and equipment required for the climb. The first thing we learnt was that although Kilimanjaro lies close to the equator, it does get pretty cold up there. Temperatures between -10 and – 20 Degrees Celsius are not uncommon close to the summit.
So off we went to purchase what we needed. Clothing purchased-Tick. What about training for the climb? Oh yes. Maybe a good idea given it is a 7 day trek and does involve 7 hours of hiking every day. So fatigue will definitely compound the higher we climb. I think a lot of people have this perception that Kilimanjaro is just an easy trek to the top. In hindsight, the opposite is true. There are the effects of altitude, fitness, nutrition and the mountain environment to contend with. So being prepared is most definitely encouraged.
Our training regime involved countless hours of hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa with heavy back packs. ‘Rather bleed on the training field that the battle field’ was our motto. So that’s what we did. We bled. But by pushing ourselves in the mountains, sleeping in tents and getting used to the terrain and simplicity of climbing a mountain definitely gave us the mental confidence we would need to conquer the slopes of the mighty Kilimanjaro. We had decided to climb the highest and most popular mountain in Africa in August.
August is apparently the best time to climb Kilimanjaro according to the many reviews we found on the internet. 15 years later and over 20 climbs later, we have found out that the best time to climb is basically anytime. Yes you might get some rain and snow in certain seasons, but it all boils down to perspective I guess. A climber who lives in Europe for example may not go in May when the chances of snow are high because they live 90% of their time in bad weather conditions. Southern hemisphere dwellers don’t see much snow. So the sound of boots crunching in the ice and snow fights are sometimes the highlight of the tour-besides the triumph and exhilaration experienced on the summit of Uhuru that is.
The route we decided on doing on our first Kilimanjaro climb
After much research we decided to tackle the mountain from the Machame route summiting via the Western Breach. We also decided that the 7 day options were way better than the 6 day option in terms of acclimatization. In terms of actual trekking conditions and level of effort, it was pretty easy up to Lava Tower at 4600m. Most trekkers walk down to the camp of Barranco.
We were heading straight up the notorious Breach. The general feeling among mountaineers on this route is to leave at about 3 in the morning hoping to top out close to the Furtwangler glacier by 10H00. The reason for this is to miss the heat of the sun that fires down on the breach resulting in dislodged rocks and ice that could become potentially dangerous. After taking a stroll to the crater and exploring the ancient glaciers, we hunkered down for the longest night of our lives. The extreme altitude made it impossible to sleep.
Every minute seemed like an hour. But eventually the hour of our summit attempt arrived. We emerged from our frozen tents at 04H00 and made the slog up to Uhuru in just an hour. We were the only people on the summit and watching the African sun rise in the East was one of the most incredible moments of my life. It was also to become the turning point in my life as a few tears later I was going to be making climbing Kilimanjaro and mountaineering around the world my chosen career.
So my thoughts on whether or not you should take on this majestic mountain? Definitely-It will change your perspective on yourself and life forever.
Climbing Kilimanjaro with South Africa Adventures!
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