Questions You Should Ask Me
About Climbing Kilimanjaro
1. The summit sits at 19,341'. How do I train for high altitude?
You can't really train for altitude, although there are many folks out there who would love to sell you a "Jason" Halloween mask with promises of improving your ability to tolerate low oxygen levels. But really all you do (so I'm told) is increase the muscles in your diaphragm and scare the neighborhood children when you come running by in your serial murderer costume.
I'm not a doctor or a specialist, but everyone I've spoken with who is "in the know" has said, "don't waste your money." My American guide on Kilimanjaro put it best: "what your mama and daddy gave you by way of genes will determine whether you're going to have a problem with altitude." Notably, according to Jeff, even those who have summited K2 or Everest could come to Kilimanjaro and have altitude sickness. It's an equal opportunity destroyer.
The best thing you can do is get yourself in good physical shape, and go pole pole to acclimate. Follow your guide's instructions about pace, and your odds of reaching the summit will increase exponentially.
2. What are the best snacks to bring for my day pack?
This is important, because most people's instinct is to load up on Power Bars and the like. But some of the best advice I received was to bring Snickers. They taste good, and when you're struggling to eat because of exertion and altitude, you don't want to stick something in your mouth that tastes bad. I also brought another personal favorite: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. One mistake I made was leaving my jerky in my hotel room. You are most likely going to want to alternate between sweet and salty. But it really boils down to what YOU like. Bring something that will be easy and enjoyable for you to eat, as it will be important to keep your calorie levels up.
And of course, it is paramount that you drink at least three liters of water per day, preferably four or five. This is your best defense against altitude sickness.
3. If I'm a woman, how can I plan for bathroom issues?
Oh, I thought you'd never ask! I strongly urge you to consider investing in a Female Urinary Director. There are many brands, such as Shewee and Freshette, so find what works for you and PRACTICE! I personally prefer the Freshette.
Did I mention PRACTICE? And I don't mean just out in the woods. You want to be able to pee in your tent at night, in the dark, into a plastic bottle without spraying everywhere. This is easier said than done. I also strongly recommend that you bring doggie pee pads. I put one down whenever I needed to pee at night, and there was more than one occasion where I saved the bottom of my tent from urine saturation due to clumsy misdirection or not paying attention to how full the bottle was before I started... You will be drinking upwards of five liters of water per day, so just be aware that you WILL need to deal with the issue of peeing at night, and you probably aren't going to want to leave your tent.
4. How fast should I walk?
See answer to Question 1. You need to do what feels comfortable, but pay attention to your guide. He knows what paces work, and for some it may seem too slow. But there is a reason for the pole pole pace: to allow your body to acclimdate. Period. If you want to summit, take it slow. If you want to bolt up the mountain, you probably aren't going to see Uhuru, and you'll probably be going down on a stretcher.
5. Should I climb if I have a fear of heights? Is there anything I can do to overcome my fears?
I already mentioned that I wasn't a doctor, but I would say that if you have acrophobia, check with your doctor first to see if there are any serious problems with climbing a mountain where there is some scrambling and some uncomfortable drop-offs. I for one have pretty severe acrophobia and fear of falling, but it turned out that 98% of Kilimanjaro was just fine. There were just a few spots that made my spine tingle, but I made it without too much freaking out. If you take one of the routes scaling the Barranco Wall, you might find it to be a little challenging, but I can attest that it was not nearly as bad as I had made it out to be. Most of conquering Kilimanjaro is mental. It is best not to overthink these areas, as most of the time you will probably find that you worried yourself sick for nothing. Also, remember that your guides will be there to ensure your safety, and they will help you master the "monkey business" if you follow their instructions.
6. What is the best route?
That's a matter of opinion, but most like Machame. That's the one I did. It was great but very challenging. If you don't want to deal with Barranco (something I recommend you don't stress about), then take Rongai or Marangu. Check our Routes page for detailed descriptions of all the routes.
If you do have a fear of heights and have some difficulty with steep areas, it is best to avoid the Umbwe to Western Breach.
7. Aside from physical training, is there anything you recommend to mentally prepare?
Absolutely. This is the Dirty Freedom Adventures difference. Included in your package is two hours of what we call "mental preparation" for the climb--you know, that 90% of what gets you to the summit? We can tailor your experience to whatever works for you. Examples can include meditation, prayer, affirmations, and mindfulness. Our goal is to free you of fear and mental baggage as much as humanly possible so you can be free and clear to fully experience your climb. Remember: this experience will transform you. We want you to be ready for that transformation so you get the most out of your trip.
If you want professional assistance from someone trained in mindfulness and meditation (etc.), we can provide recommendations.
8. Do I need any technical climbing skills to climb Kilimanjaro?
No. While there is some scrambling on the Barranco Wall and in a few other places (depending on your route), the rest is basically just hiking up a mountain. The most important thing you can do to prepare is to train vigorously (and prepare mentally as noted above). In Larick's experience, the people who have had the most trouble are those who come undertrained. We can help you find a trainer and/or regimen to assist.
9. What surprised you most about your climb?
Well, it had to be my state of mind at the summit. Of all the emotions I could possibly experience, I would not have though anger would be one of them. But that is the emotion I had there--anger. I thought, "why am I here? This is not fit for human being or animal! I want my Mom! Get me outta here!" This is an example of how the Kilimanjaro experience is different for everyone.
10. If you could give me only one piece of advice to succeed, what would it be?
This one comes directly from Larick: TRAINING! As noted above, those who are not properly trained for Kilimanjaro decrease their chances of summiting, not to mention that the climb itself will simply be more difficult. This doesn't mean you have to run marathons or kill yourself; you simply need to use common sense and follow a good plan. You also receive two hours of "mental preparation" as noted in item 7 above. In the Honey Badger's humble opinion, the mental preparation and state of mind are more important than the physical in some ways (though PLEASE don't skimp on the physical training. You will make it needlessly harder for yourself).
11.DO I NEED TO TIP MY STAFF, AND IF SO, HOW MUCH?
Yes, please! See our Tipping Guidelines for direction.