Reason 1: Kilimanjaro is a proper mountain, innit
Reason 2: The higher you go, the thinner the air gets
Reason 3: You really, really don’t want altitude sickness
Being in good health should be one of your priorities for attempting a high-altitude trek such as the ascent of Kilimanjaro. Think about it. You don’t want to start this adventure of a lifetime feeling a bit rough, only to feel progressively worse as you climb higher and your body begins to respond to reduced oxygen.
Altitude sickness affects everyone differently, but common symptoms include headache or dizziness, shortness of breath and muscle tiredness. Best case, you should be able to manage these symptoms with everyday painkillers and they should settle down as your body grows more accustomed to the altitude. But if you begin to feel even rougher, start throwing up or hallucinating or experience any other kind of severe symptom it’s time to call it quits and head back down the mountain. If you try to carry on with the trek you could be toast. The point is; put in a bit of training and preparation beforehand, look after yourself properly on the climb, and you can spare yourself – and everyone else who’s trekking with you – a whole lot of heartache.
Reason 4: You need to be mentally prepared too
Even if you’ve got yourself physically fit, increased your lung and heart capacity, laid off the booze and the late nights for a few months and acclimatised to high altitude, you’ll need to be mentally prepared for the challenge too. The ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro isn’t a technical climb – so you can ditch the ropes, harnesses and helmets – but you will need stamina, determination and positivity; don’t underestimate how big an impact your state of mind will have on your success at reaching the summit.
There are several techniques that can be used to prepare your mind for a high-altitude trek. Firstly, do everything you can to establish the safety of what you’re doing. Trekking with a professional outfit whose priority is the safety of their guests (like, for instance, err… Kandoo Adventures) means you’re less likely to end up a gibbering nervous wreck if things get a little tricky. As you’re climbing, don’t let your mind wander or fret about what might happen; live in the moment and focus on enjoying where you are and what you’re doing right now. If you feel that you’re tiring, set yourself mini-goals that are easy to achieve; you can make it that next ridge 500 metres away, and when you do you can reward yourself with a five-minute stop to admire the view. Again, you can start practicing all of these little mind-training techniques – and maybe bung in a bit of basic meditation too – long before you set foot in Tanzania.