The Kilimanjaro, beforehand…
Kilimanjaro summit, The Kilimanjaro; the highest mountain in Africa, roof of Africa, one of the ‘Seven Summits‘ and a spectacular 5895 meters high. A mountain that many outdoor freaks have high on their wish list. Not only the freaks, many climbers go up on a specific mission. Recovering from an illness, in rememberance of a loved one or for a good cause. We had none of these missions, other than that we reached the magical age of 50. And thus a plan was born. We joined a group of 4 Americans , booked a flight and the climb.
If you don’t like to read all this then just watch the video.
What had we signed up for? What was expected of us? How tough is it, how cold is it, can we do this? Insecurity all around. Butanyway, it was going to be fysically demanding so we started training. Lots of hiking, hiking and more hiking. In the Eifel, in the rain, in the snow and with good weather. We have had all circumstances and all the according clothing. Then more cardio training, swimming, 7 km per week and spinning. Then buying the right gear as far as we didn’t already have it, like a down jacket. My final complete gearlist you van find here Gearlist Kilimanjaro (9 downloads) and that was enough, not too much and not too little. Tip: take gaiters and poles with you for the descend, indispensable in the very loose sand. Wear layers with on top a down jacket and a windbreaker or rainjacket to stop the wind.
Something we would have to deal with anyway was the altitude. The oxigen percentage is halved at an altitude of 5500+ meters. Going up too fast could result in a disturbance of the oxigen in het bloed with altitude sickness as a result. Click on the link for more info. But, you don’t know if you are going to get it or not, how your body reacts is personal. Drinking a lot and ascending slowly. Walk high and sleep low. If you are in doubt, you can start a day before the climb with taking 2 times daily 250 mg Diamox. The disadvantage is that you might have to pee a lot and then you will have to drink even more. I took the tablets with me but decided against using them. My goal was reaching the top clean. To keep everybody fit and healthy, there was a medical check daily. They measured the oxigen level in your blood and you were asked to fill out matters like medication, appetite and bowel movement. The guides always carry oxigen in case of emergencies.
There are 7 different routes that lead tot he summit. Marangu, Umbe, Lemosho, Shira, Rongain and Northern circuit. From 5 day to 9 day climbs. The most popular are the Marangu ( 5 days Coca Cola route ) and the Machame ( 6 days Whisky route). Walking the Marangu you don’t have to sleep in a tent, you climb slowly but you have to take the same route back. This is supposed to be the easy route but the succes percentage is only about 42 %. The Machame route is more difficult and goes via the Lava tower and Baranco Wall and back via a different route. We walked the 8 day Lemosho Route, via Moir hut, Lava tower and Batanco Wall and of course a different route on the way down. The succes percentage on this route is more than 75%. Because you ascent relatively slowly and you spend 8 days on the mountain the chance of developing altitude sickness is smaller. Walk high, sleep low is the motto. On day 4 we climb to Lava tower at 4600+ but descend another 700 m to the camp site.
You cannot just climb the Kilimanjaro. You always need to go with a guide and this guide will want to make your trip as comfortable as possible. He will hire porters to carry all manner of things. Depending on the sort of trip you book the luxury can vary. Our porters carried next to our tents and back packs also a dining tent with tables and chairs, 2 chemical toilets with a tent and a kitchen tent with equipment. On average there are 3-4 porters per person and 1 guide per 2 climbers. If anyone gets ill or the group separates you will need a guide with each group.
Amongst the porters there were cooks, tent builders, toilet builders and a doctor. At the starting gate the bagage gets divided fairly, a porter is not allowed to carry more than 20 kg on top of their own luggage. If there are not enough porters, there are always men waiting to take a job. We feel a bit embarrassed but we need to see it as work opportunities. Our group was 29 porters and guides.