How to train for Kilimanjaro ?

Kilimanjaro, one of the seven highest peaks in the world, is the roof of Africa. Its highest peak, Uhuru Peak, is 5,895 m above sea level.

Kilimanjaro is located in north-east Tanzania, on the border with Kenya.

What is the best time to climb Kilimanjaro?

The ascent of Kilimanjaro can be done all year round. Nevertheless, some periods are favourable and others less so.

The country enjoys an equatorial climate with a very pleasant temperature all year round.

There are two rainy periods in Tanzania:

  • March to June
  • October to December

In general, you will be advised to avoid climbing Kilimanjaro during these rainy periods.

However, be aware that this depends on how much time you have. With climate change, it is possible to fall on a week without rain during the rainy season or on the other hand, to fall on a week of rain during the « best periods ».

Personally, I did the ascent of Kilimanjaro the first week of June, although it was the end of the rainy season, we had great weather.

Is Kilimanjaro hard to climb ?

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

This is a question that is asked very often. You can find a lot of information to answer this question on the internet.

The ascent of Kilimanjaro does not require any particular mountaineering experience. Indeed, the little snow that remains on the summit does not require the use of professional technical equipment

Climbing Kilimanjaro can be done by anyone with a minimum of physical conditions. 

The Kilimanjaro ascent is simply a 4 to 9 day hike at a high altitude. There is therefore no real technical difficulty to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro.

To climb Kilimanjaro, you must be at least 10 years old. When I made the ascent, I was surprised to meet an 80-year-old American woman who was trekking with her daughter.

The statistics suggest an average success rate of 50%. This rate fluctuates, depending on the route chosen to reach the summit.

Can we climb Kilimanjaro without training?

The ascent of Kilimanjaro does not require any particular mountaineering knowledge. 

However, can we really consider attacking the highest summit of Africa, which is nearly 6,000 m away, without any training?

Honestly, I don’t think it seems very serious.

However, do you necessarily need to undergo drastic training to maximize your chances of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro?

The ascent of Kilimanjaro does not require technical expertise, so this is a multi-day hike at a high altitude.

This summit is accessible to everyone, however, it is still necessary to have a minimum level of physical fitness.

A sporty person should arrive at the summit of Kilimanjaro without any worries.

A very athletic person should not need more training than their usual training.

To give you an idea, running training several times a week should be enough for a sports person.

Be aware that there is a very important parameter to take into account when you start climbing the kilimanjaro. This parameter is the altitude.

Whether you are a sportsman or not, altitude resistance is unique to each person. There is no other way to see its effect on your body than to confront yourself directly with an altitude test. 

What physical preparation are required to climb Kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar

In order to maximize your chances of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro, it is important to have a minimum level of physical fitness. Indeed, as the ascent takes place over several days, it is necessary to be able to resist the effort for several days. 

It is therefore necessary to train over time, long distances and repeated efforts. 

An athlete will have no problem resisting these efforts. On the other hand, a person who does not practice any sporting activity will necessarily have to get started because a minimum amount of physical training is required to reach the top.

How to train for the Kilimanjaro ascent?

Statistics show that only 50% of those attempting to climb Kilimanjaro reach its summit.

Of course, when you embark on such an adventure, you are extremely keen to reach the top. 

To do this, it is necessary to prepare as well as possible for the ascent. 

After having lived this extraordinary experience, I advise you:

  • To have regular physical activity a few months before leaving for Kilimanjaro: for example, running, or any other sporting activity. You need a regular activity that will allow you to resist stress over time.
  • Training in conditions similar to trekking: knowing how to go trekking in the mountains to acclimatize your body to the altitude. Of course, you will not find hiking in France at an altitude of around 4,000 or 5,000 m easily accessible. But still, a few mountain outings before your departure will do your body the greatest good. 

What should we be prepared for to climb Kilimanjaro?

Depending on the options you have chosen when booking the trek, there are some special features to keep in mind when preparing for this trek:

  • Hygiene: there is no shower so you will have to settle for small basins of hot water to wash your faces in particular. A little advice, you can bring intimate wipes, this can be very useful to make a little bit of toilet.
  • Meals: it all depends on the options chosen, but you will be entitled to a cook who will prepare good meals for you. You will be entitled to « European » dishes for lunch and dinner (soup, salad, meat, rice, pasta, chips etc.). Also, tea and popcorn will be distributed throughout the trek.
  • Cold: during the first days, during the day, the temperatures are pleasant. Personally I spent most of the trek with only a breathable long sleeve t-shirt. At sunset, temperatures drop significantly and you have to cover yourself with small blankets. The night can be very cold. I used my water bottles as a hot water bottle to warm myself up in the down. The final ascent is the most complicated period to pass. We have to get up at 11pm, when everything is frozen around us and then we start the ascent. At first, I didn’t wear my biggest jacket because the physical effort allowed me to warm up. However, the slightest break of 5 minutes made me feel cold. There came the moment when I had to put on my big down jacket with several layers at the top and bottom. When we reach the top, it is so cold that the clothes, bags, hats freeze. It can be between -10 and -20 degrees at the top. Get ready for this temperature!
  • Fatigue: days can be long and tiring during the trek. Be aware that as a general rule you will walk between 4 and 6 hours a day. This will give you time to rest once you arrive at the camp because the walk takes place in the morning with an arrival in the early/mid-afternoon at the next camp. The important thing is to save your strength for the final ascent where you will walk only 7 hours to reach the summit. I recommend that you carefully follow the guides’ advice not to walk too fast, even if you feel fit. You will often be told to go « pole, pole », which means « gently, gently ».
  • Motivation: « Whenever you want, you can », this well-known proverb sums up the ascent of Kilimanjaro. Finally, there are indeed other factors that may be beyond our control that distort this proverb, namely mountain sickness. However, your motivation is your determination will bring you to Kilimanjaro, especially during the final ascent, when you will be tired with more difficult breathing during the slightest effort. Motivation and determination are the key to success.
  • Mountain sickness: altitude is probably the most dangerous parameter not to be underestimated when attacking the roof of Africa. Indeed, each human being has his own reaction to altitude, regardless of whether he is a great sportsman or not. It is therefore necessary to be very careful about the slightest symptoms that can develop throughout the ascent. Mountain sickness is a reality that is very present in Kilimanjaro. Poor acclimatization can lead to serious headaches, nausea, vomiting, etc. It is very important to take this seriously and talk to your guide as soon as possible when you feel less well. Physical training allows you to have fewer unpleasant symptoms during the ascent, but the best way to fight mountain sickness is to progress slowly and drink plenty of water. Drinking water is extremely important, don’t forget that. « Walk high and sleep low » this phrase is well known in the mountain world. It is a rule that must be followed.  The more time you spend acclimatizing, the better your chances of success will be. 

The ascent of Kilimanjaro can be done by anyone in good physical condition, but other criteria may also be taken into account. 

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