Beste. Self portrait of female trekker on Lemosho route, Kilimanjaro

5 bits of advice from past Kilimanjaro climbers

Jun 19, 2024
Reading time: 5 minutes

Previous Kilimanjaro climbers become oracles to those still looking to take the leap. So we've pulled together five pieces of common advice from past trekkers and present them here for your education and inspiration!

We love receiving feedback from trekkers about all that they've learned from their journey up and down Africa's tallest mountain. Sometimes we hear something original or surprising, but often we hear stories that echo common refrains ...

1. Learn some Swahili beforehand

One of the best ways to break the ice and get to know your Kilimanjaro mountain crew is to learn a few Swahili phrases before coming to Tanzania. The crew loves it when you throw in a local word or sentence here and there, and you'll never ever be made to feel embarrassed about any errors or mispronunciations.

Kilimanjaro - Climbers and guide - Portrait - Alicia Garrett

Your mountain crew become like family on your climb

With the abundance of free language-learning apps like Duolingo available, it really is so easy to hear and learn a few words and phrases. Your efforts just indicate a real desire to learn about the crew and their culture during your time on the mountain together, and we can guarantee that your relationships with each other will reap the rewards.

You spend a week with your mountain crew while on a Kilimanjaro – by showing yourself willing through the use of a few Swahili phrases, you really grease the wheels of friendship.

2. Get altitude meds from your doctor

We always advise that anyone wanting to climb Kilimanjaro get a medical checkup first to ensure they're fit and healthy for the challenge. This is especially the case for anyone over 50 planning to climb Kilimanjaro. During this consult, ask your doctor about the advisability of taking the altitude med acetazolamide to help your body adjust to the increasing altitude.

You're climbing to 5,895 m (19,340 ft) above sea level on Kilimanjaro, so you have to think about altitude sickness and how to prevent it.

Climbers who come to Kilimanjaro having started on altitude meds generally fare better than those who try to wing it without. Unless you have a condition that precludes taking them, these meds really can help you to better acclimatise and so stand a better chance of a successful (and enjoyable!) climb and summit.

3. Befriend and listen to your crew

Your guides and porters are your support system on a Kilimanjaro climb. As we mentioned earlier, you should try to make friends with them and learn all you can about Tanzania. This will invariably make your time together more meaningful.

Kilimanjaro climb group in camp clothes and camp shoes / sneakers

Camp life is very intimate in its way

How often do you get to spend a solid week in the company of locals in a removed setting like Kilimanjaro that really invites proper connections and insights?

Linked to this, past Kilimanjaro climbers always encourage you to listen to your guides when they give you advice. They know what they're talking about and want to see you succeed! So when they tell you to take it "Pole, pole" for instance (which is Swahili for "Slowly, slowly"), don't scoff at what might, at first blush, seem a really slow pace. They know all that's still to come, and they're setting this pace for your sake.

 

 

4. Come with a positive attitude

Chris Sichalwe, our Follow Alice Tanzania director, believes positivity is crucial to your success. And he should know – he's reached the summit of Kilimanjaro well over 300 times and helped hundreds of others to do the same!

Those who come to Kilimanjaro unsure if they'll make it to the summit stand a far smaller chance of summiting than those who come believing they're going to make it. Endurance is not just about what's going on with the body, but also very much about what's going on in the mind.

Remember that you're stronger than you think you are. It become a clichéd saying, but that doesn't mean it isn't still true.

Kilimanjaro vegetation

The plants on Kilimanjaro are unusual and spectacular

Also, always remember that you are part of a Kilimanjaro climbing team. You're not alone.

So when you're feeling discouraged or low, mentally or physically or both, look to your fellow trekkers and especially your mountain crew and guides for help. Kilimanjaro guides have been doing this climb for years and are there to support you by offering invaluable advice and encouragement.

5. Write your motivation in mind

Finally, we've found that past Kilimanjaro climbers who had a clear reason for climbing Kilimanjaro were more likely to reach the summit.

People's reasons for climbing Kilimanjaro often differ greatly from one person to the next.

  • For some, the climb is the culmination of a journey towards becoming a fitter and healthier version of themselves.
  • For others, the trek is about removing themselves from routine responsibilities and online distractions to allow for some proper introspection and reflection.
  • For still others, it's about the allure of standing on the Roof of Africa and looking down to the plains far below.
  • Perhaps the climb appeals to you as the trekking and camping life is about taking you outside of your comfort zone and helping you to grow?
  • Or you're keen to join a group of adventurous folks and make new friends?
  • Or recover your zest for life?

As we said, the reasons for climbing Kilimanjaro are myriad, and often quite personal.

Sunrise view of a gorgeous glacier from the top of Kilimanjaro

The glaciers on Kilimanjaro are shrinking, so don't wait too long before planning your climb

What's your reason for wanting to climb Kilimanjaro? Consider writing it down on a piece of paper and then carrying that in your pocket throughout your climb when the time comes. There might be some moments when you need to study it to help remind you of why you're there, huffing, puffing, and maybe pushing through unpleasant altitude symptoms.

Remember that a goal isn't a goal until you write it down. And ideally you should tell others about it. Don't be scared to put your goal out there in the world!

Finally, if you enjoyed reading this post, you might also like 7 things Kilimanjaro taught me.

 

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