Health & Logistics
When you arrive in Tanzania, you want to be as healthy as possible. No one with a sore throat, cold, or breathing problems should go above 10,000 feet. As well as physical preparation, you also need to be in the right state of mind. Climbing a mountain the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro is no small feat and you need to remember that it's not a competition and you need to be aware of your capabilities and not push your body beyond them. Please read our page on physical preparation in order to know how to prepare your body in advance for this challenge.
We will pick you up from your hotel and take you to the start of whichever mountain trek route you have chosen. If you have come as a group, then please be aware that, in the case of trekkers reaching the exit gate before others, we will NOT provide separate transfers from and to the hotel without the whole group being accounted for unless pre-arranged
Briefings and Road Transfers
After you get to your hotel, you will have a comprehensive climb briefing where your head guide will tell you what to expect each day of the climb. If you have rented any equipment, you can collect that from us at that time or, if you find you need to rent any, then this will be your last opportunity to do so.
After breakfast, the following day, you will be transferred to the start gate of Mt. Kilimanjaro relevant to the route you have chosen to climb or Mt Meru.
Camping Conditions Overview
Any of the trekking routes up Kilimanjaro, except the Marangu route, is a fully fledged camping expedition. You'll be sleeping in tents, in campsites, and eating meals in a mess tent or in the open air depending on the weather. All the gear (from tents to cooking supplies to luggage) is carried by the porters. However, you are responsible for carrying your day pack containing the items you need access to during the day.
Camp is set up and struck every night and morning by the crew and all the cooking is done by the crew over a gas flame as no damaging wood fires are allowed. Although the crew is there for camp chores, assistance is always appreciated. Participation is a key ingredient in a successful trek.
Tips on High Altitude Trekking
As you climb the mountain, you'll be ascending to high elevations which presents additional physical risks and challenges. There are some ways you can minimise these risks and discomforts by...
Watching your pace. This is probably the single most important factor to a successful climb. Your body needs time to acclimate to the altitude and if all your energy is directed toward physical exertion, then your body's ability to acclimatise is compromised and you can't 'catch up' at the camp or while sleeping because your body will be directing its energies to maintaining vital functions. So follow the example of the tortoise in the 'tortoise and the hare race' and...
Taking it slowly. You'll probably find that the guides will remind you to slow down and it's wise to heed their advice and pace yourself. You may find it helpful to just breath through your nose for the first 2 days of the climb (and longer if you can). This will help your energy levels for the difficult part of the trek and reduce water loss from the body. Always breathe deeply and slowly, which will help oxygenate your vital organs and help you acclimatise better.
Take 'rest steps'. This is where you step, pause, step, pause, step, pause, etc. The rest step (or pause) is designed to keep your metabolic rate low in high-altitude conditions and to spend the minimum amount of time possible using your leg muscles to support the weight of your body. Your trekking poles will help you do this more effectively since you can lean on your stick when you pause.
Dont' sit down when you're on the final ascent. This desire to sit may be greater than you've ever known and it is okay to rest, and rest often, but lean on your trekking poles (which should be at sternum height for maximum comfort) rather than sit because it may be difficult to get back on your feet.
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
As you climb the mountain, you will need to play close attention to your body and react accordingly. Altitude effects people differently and some find it easier to handle than others. The onset of altitude sickness can come slowly or quickly and in various forms so monitor yourself closely and report changes in your condition to your guide(s).
Your ability to acclimatise will be dependent on the oxygenation of your vital organs - and most importantly the brain. Since oxygen levels decrease as we ascend, the only ways to adjust are to:
- Increase respiration or
- Change the blood chemistry so that it can accommodate more oxygen (by an increase of red blood cells).
Since most people do not have the time necessary to do an 11 or 12 day trek which would be necessary to let the body's blood chemistry adjust naturally, we recommend that you take acetazolamide (diamox) to help you acclimatise. Talk to your doctor about being prescribed this medicine for your climb. As long as you're not allergic to sulfa drugs, Diamox is well-studied and proven safe as a prophylaxis and as a treatment for AMS. We recommend taking 125mg to 250mg twice per day.
The symptoms of AMS to be aware of are:
- Mild: headache, disinclination to eat, nausea, fatigue, sleeplessness and sleep apnea, oedema (swelling) of hands and feet
- Moderate: more severe symptoms of the above, possible vomiting, headache that is not relieved by pain medication or rest
- Acute: cerebral oedema (a build up of fluid in the brain) or inability to breathe effectively and get sufficient oxygen. If you notice that you cannot take full, deep breaths, or if your lungs feel restricted, it can indicate pulmonary oedema - a build-up of fluid in the lungs. Symptoms include shortness of breath (even while at rest and especially while lying down), a cough, increased heart rate and, in serious cases, gurgling sounds from the chest and spitting up blood-tinged mucous. In the case of serious cases, these would constitute emergency evacuation.
We remain pro-active to avoid this situation, by monitoring and treating mild and moderate AMS as they occur.
If any one or combination of these symptoms occur, including fatigue, you should inform your guide and consider descending immediately. The guide is in control and his assessments and plans must be adhered to at all times. Your safety and health is of utmost importance. If you have problems and need to descend, you will be escorted or evacuated to the nearest campsite or hut, and if necessary to the park gate. For those who experience illness or injury anywhere on the mountain, we carry bottled oxygen, a complete first-aid and medicine kit, a stretcher, a hyperbaric chamber (check you climb details), and mobile communications, in order to assist.
Food, Water and Hygienic Precautions
In order to minimise gastrointestinal problems while trekking, we will purify all your drinking water using the PUR packet. We recommend drinking and brushing your teeth only using purified water at hotels and restaurants and follow any guidelines given by your doctor, traveller's clinic, or other medical authority.
Dehydration is one of the more subtle and dangerous afflictions of being at high altitude and, once your dehydrated, it is already too late to 'catch up'. It's especially important on the first few days of the climb to keep hydrated as your body adjusts to the altitude and other changes. You should consider drinking at least 4-5 litres of water per day, breathing through your nose as much as possible (to avoid panting) and removing layers of clothing to avoid sweating. You'll need to sip fluids frequently and monitor your urine to make sure it is fairly copious and mostly clear in colour.
The crew have been trained to use the PUR packets and will purify all your drinking water on the trek. Water will be collected from the streams and pools, after which they will be decanted into special buckets used solely for the purification process. Once the water has been treated, the purified water will be filtered and poured into other special buckets solely used for serving our climbers their purified water. You will take the water you need for your daily water consumption from this bucket. You may need to take precautions so that your water does not freeze throughout the trek.
Meals and Snacks
It is important to keep your caloric intake up on the climb to give you the energy you need to keep going. However, after about 12,000ft, you may have to force yourself to eat because at higher altitudes, your appetite tends to diminish due to decreased oxygen and the body's overall resistance to undertake the task of digestion. You can expect to be served lots of fruit, complex carbohydrates, and meat. Vegetarians should bring along a supply of protein rich foods to supplement the fruit, vegetables, and starches that are served. We will do our best to accommodate you if you are vegetarian or have food allergies. We encourage everyone to bring along supplemental snacks such as energy bars, chocolate & nuts, decaffeinated coffee and herbal tea bags.
Sleeping at high altitudes can be difficult for some people and one of biggest disturbances will be nature's calling. With all the water consumption, you'll most likely need to get up at least once, but more likely two or three times during the night. Some past trekkers have suggested purchasing or devising a personal urinal system that can be used in your tent which will make it easier for you to stay warm and get back to sleep more quickly. It is best to hydrate yourself at the beginning of each trekking day and the early afternoon so that you are not 'catching up' when you reach camp, increasing your urine output as you go to bed, which is not ideal. Diamox will also help you sleep.
Good personal hygiene protects you from sickness and infection, not to mention keeping you more popular with your trekking mates! You will be provided with a basin filled with warm water for washing each day but, whether you are washing yourself or your clothes, please keep soap use to a minimum to minimise damage to fresh water supplies. We recommend washing at least 200 ft away from all fresh water supplies. Alternatively, you could use baby wipes, which are light-weight and can be packed out with the other trash, or liquid disinfectant.
We recommend a quick wash of your hands before every meal to lower the risks of infection. We also recommend keeping your feet clean to reduce the risk of blisters and bacterial and fungal growth (which occurs quickly inside warm, moist boots). Make sure your feet (and socks) are clean each morning before you put your boots on and each night before you go to bed. If you prefer sleeping in socks, pack a clean pair just for sleeping.
You'll only have time to wash small items that can dry quickly (the cold temperatures mean that your clothes are unlikely to dry). If you must wash, you should stay away from water sources and use as little soap as possible.
There are portable flush toilets that sit on stands for stability and are placed inside a covered tent at campsites or you can use the established latrines erected by the National Park. When you are on the trail and this is not possible, dig a small hole (about 6 inches deep) with a small trowel (on the equipment list) as far away from all water sources as possible (at least 100 ft away). Be sure to cover up the hole completely and pack it down tightly and place used toilet paper in sealed baggies for disposal later at the camp.
We desire to see the landscape of the mountain unspoilt by human presence and, therefore, we ask you to be responsible to ensure that no trash is left in the campsites and on the trails. Bring a variety of bags (small to large) that will aid you in this process. Our staff will collect your trash each day and take it to the base for proper disposal.