Getting fit for climbing Kilimanjaro
KILI TREKKING – Challenging! Enjoyment! Life affirming!
Mt Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s most climbable high altitude mountains. For many, climbing Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is seriously high and may be one of the most challenging holiday adventures you ever pay for.
Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, is about mental and physical preparedness. Being physically prepared for the trek should begin as early as possible. As your fitness level increases your mental confidence will also increase. The combination will make a world of difference to your enjoyment of the climb and your sense of achievement.
It is said that anyone with a relatively good degree of fitness has a good chance of reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. However, with a little more effort to prepare, not only can you achieve the challenge of reaching the summit successfully, but you are also more likely to enjoy the whole experience.
Visit your doctor
Before starting your preparation, it is always wise to seek the approval of your medical practitioner. Explain your plan to climb Kili and what you intend to do to increase your fitness levels. You may also want to discuss the affects of altitude and what measures you can take to avoid or reduce. Please let us know if you have any long standing medical conditions when you book.
There is an ongoing debate around taking medication, acetazolamide (Diamox), to help with altitude acclimatization. Please talk to your medical practitioner about the benefits, risks and side effects before making your decision.
Kilimanjaro is a hike, so the best preparation you can do is to hike, even if it is under gym conditions. Running will help your stamina but does not fully prepare your muscles for a strenuous 5 to 6 day hike.
Go for walks. Do it with friends. Do it with your climbing team and use the camaraderie to increase your anticipation and enjoyment
It is advisable to go for frequent walks which should include some uphill and down hill sections. Take your daypack with you and carry at least three litres of water or three kilograms in your daypack. This will simulate the conditions you will encounter.
Join a gymnasium
Ask your gym instructor to work out a fitness program that consists of progressive resistance exercises. An experienced instructor will be able to tailor a safe exercise regime based on your age, condition and strength. Work with a schedule that progresses to higher resistance or weights as you develop your fitness.
You should always warm up your muscles before any exercising routine. This means stretching your body to warm up. Stretching will strengthen and progressively challenge the tendons, ligaments, joints and muscles. Stretching is important and the best way to prepare for an injury-free workout.
If weather conditions prevent you from getting out of doors to walk, then go to the gym and get on the treadmill. Good gym equipment can simulate uphill and downhill walking.
Avoiding knee problems
Climbers sometimes suffer knee injuries because of poor fitness levels and poor hiking technique. Going down is harder on the knees than going up. Tiredness can make climbers step down on to a straight leg which jolts the knee joint. To protect the knees, climbers need to be more aware of their technique and try always to step down onto a slightly bent knee. The muscles and tendons of the thigh can then absorb the repeated impact. It is hard to do this for a long time if you are unfit. Walking poles can be very helpful.
Even doing 100 step-ups on to a low chair or high step will strengthen all-important thigh muscles.
Rest before you climb
Stop your exercise regime at least 4 days before you are due to start your climb in order to rest your body in preparation for the climb.
Altitude sickness is an acid-alkali imbalance in the blood and body fluids which affects climbers indiscriminately. Whatever the level of fitness, it may not reduce your chances of getting some degree of altitude sickness because almost everyone does - mild headache, nausea, tiredness, loss of appetite.
Previously successful high altitude trekking may be an advantage to anyone attempting to climb Kilimanjaro, but is no guarantee. The toughest part of the climb is the final 6 to 8 hours it takes to reach the summit. This is due to the altitude.
Adding an extra day above 3000 meters on Kilimanjaro will help the body to adjust to altitude. If your pocket is not deep enough, arrive a day early and enjoy a pre-climb hike in the Kilimanjaro foothills (up to 1,800 meters). This will help you to rest after your flight and get your body and mind prepared.
During the climb
Guides are trained to assess your level of well-being. If you feel unwell at any time during the Kilimanjaro climb, or become aware of one of your companions feeling unwell or behaving out of character, please inform your guide. You/they may just need support and encouragement, but medical assistance and/or emergency evacuation may be needed. The best treatment for altitude sickness is to descend. Your guide is trained by KINAPA to make this decision.
For your safety
You should definitely not be climbing at altitude against your doctor’s advice. You should not climb at altitude if you have sickle cell disease, recurrent pneumothorax (burst lung), pregnant (above 3,500m), a respiratory problem, sore throat, cold, cough, increased temperature or a nose bleed. People who have had laser surgery for short sight may experience vision changes (over 4,500m)
For your well being during the climb, you need to drink plenty of water (3 to 4 litres each day), eat regular energizing meals (which our mountain chef will provide) and energy snacks.
As part of your climb payment to the national park there is a charge for rescue. It is KINAPA's responsibility to stretcher injured or sick climbers to meet the ambulance/rescue car.
The nearest Accident & Emergency facility is based in Moshi.
K&S guides are all KINAPA trained with considerable route experience.
The guides are very adept at recognizing altitude sickness, which is the main problem climber’s experience (examples of symptom onset are shortness of breath, light-headed, nausea, insomnia, reduced mental clarity and exhaustion). The only sure way of combating altitude sickness is to descend below 3000 meters as quickly as possible. This is accomplished with assistance from your crew or, if necessary, by the mountain rescue team. Climbers generally recover very quickly once they descend.
24 hour base support
Communication to base and to park wardens is via mobile phones and HF radios.
Guides carry a basic first aid kit.
A daily briefing will give you information on mountain conditions and the days plan.
You must obtain personal travel insurance and make sure you are covered for the activity and for repatriation
Being a wilderness destination, medical infrastructure in major centres is remote from many locations visited. Therefore cover for medical evacuation by a Tanzania based scheme is recommended in case of a medical emergency. This is especially relevant to those climbing Kilimanjaro. Government provision of emergency medical response does not exist in Tanzania and so is carried out by specialist private local medical operators. While international medical insurance is essential, it should be combined with a scheme provided by a local medical evacuation operator in order to prevent delay in mobilizing effective local emergency response. We provide cover for 14 days, 30 days and for the over 70's. More details on request.
We wish you a successful and enjoyable Mt Kilimanjaro climb
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page updated 15/09/2012
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