Kilimanjaro Trekking Hacks/Tips

A few infobits that might be useful for those researching a trip to Kili. I didn’t want to rehash what others have written, but with no shortage of info online, you should be able to fill in gaps.

Operator – I’m a fan of supporting the local economy as much as is reasonable. Booking a tour with an operator from your home country is easy enough to do, but it’s also not necessary. Arriving in Moshi/Arusha, you’ll have no problem finding an outfitter that suits your needs, likely a lot less expensive than booking online. I was really happy with Popote and would highly recommend using them.

Meds – You don’t need a Yellow Fever vaccination, but see your doc to make sure you are up on Hep A, etc. You can purchase Diamox/anti-malarial meds in Moshi and don’t need a script. I took 125mg Diamox 2x/day except for the last day when I skipped a tablet at breakfast and took a 250mg with dinner in preparation for the summit. No need for Diamox when you descend, so about 6 tablets should suffice. At the summit I felt a little bit loopy, but no headache per se. I took the occasional ibuprofen or sore muscles/aches.

Water – Drink 5L per day, every day. I had a 2L CamelBak and 1L bottle that was always emptied by noon and I’d nurse another two liters the rest of the day. This is the single best way to prevent anything close to AMS. Think of Diamox as a supplement, but slurping H20 is critical. The Diamox really dials up the need to urinate and I averaged about three #1 breaks per hour. The only downside with this is at night, but more on that later. Added vitamin C/electrolyte tablets into water is a good move, especially as you gain altitude and don’t want to drink as much.

Plastic Water Bottle – a 1 or 2l pee bottle is a real pro move. You won’t want to get out of your tent in the cold, so go in the bottle and empty it in the camp toilet in the morning. Obviously this isn’t used for anything else.

Private Toilet – I think there is a $50 additional fee per person, and it’s 1000% worth it. Facilities at camps are crude (no surprise) and can be crowded, leading to a lack of proper cleaning. Let’s just say I’d keep extra toilet paper to stuff up my nostrils when I came anywhere near the facilities. Getting a private toilet means you can avoid that unpleasant experience!

Herbal Tea – I got sick of drinking various permutations of instant coffee, Milo, black tea and powdered milk so I asked porters for slices of anything citrus to put in hot water with honey. If I had a stash of Red Zinger, everything could have been much better, so bring a lot. Your guides and porters will also like you for it.

Soap –The omnipotent Dr Bronner’s soap was nice to wash face and hands, and when my porters found out about it, they went nuts for the ‘tingle-tingle’ and they’d come by every evening looking for some.

Summit Playlist – Made the final summit almost enjoyable, so an absolute must do. Depending how much effort you want to put into it, here’s a rough timeline of activity:

  • midnight – 4.30: Will this ever end? Lots of monotony in a slow, steady climb.
  • 4.30-5 am: around this time the sun begins to appear on the horizon and break through the clouds under you. When you get yo Stella Point, the penultimate peak, you start to get excited because there isn’t much more uphill and you can (almost!) see the summit.
  • 5-6 am: The last kilometer will take about an hour, putting you on track for sunrise at the summit. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for? Led Zeppelin worked for me

The Descent –In a word, it sucks. Nobody seems to talk about this in the way that nobody talks about the nasty ETL efforts that happen before data scientists get to actually play with data. The first few hours going down is gravel-ish and puts extreme compression on the quads and calves. Ouch, took me a week to get over that, so if you want to add some reps to your pre-trip workout that focuses on these areas, you might minimize the pain.

Ascent Food – On summit day we had a carbo-loaded dinner followed by a nap, wake at 11pm, pack ‘n go. I saved a stash of gummy bears for summit and they were exactly what I needed. Any kind of complex nutrient, like protein, is just a waste in my mind. Sugar is great because you metabolize it immediately. Obviously this isn’t sound advice if you are not climbing a mountain. Some kind of peanut buttery thing would have been nice to complement sugar with some fat and carbs. The other guy on my trip had heavy duty protein bars and buffalo strips. Apart from being more expensive to metabolize and harder to chew, it doesn’t give you the fuel you need.

Summit Tech – I had a few hand warmers—one in my pack, with my camera (wrapped in a blanket) and another in my jacket next to my phone. The colder these things get, the faster they shut down, despite showing a charge. At the summit my phone shut down despite 75% battery. Thank god I had my camera as backup!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s