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Climbing Kilimanjaro

Arriving in Kilimanjaro International Airport and seeing the behemoth geomorphologic structure that is Mount Kilimanjaro rise into the African heavens like one giant pimple on the Tanzanian landscape, it is hard to imagine not wanting to set foot on its highest peak. Leaving, without having done so, would in a way feel ‘wrong’! Or if not wrong, at least a missed opportunity!

The fact that you are reading this information suggests that you are not one for missing opportunities; especially challenging ones like trekking Mount Kilimanjaro. The good news is that you are not alone. Thousands of trekkers flock to Kilimanjaro every year with the sole aspiration to stand on the Roof of Africa.

A number of factors have led to Kilimanjaro’s popularity; not least that it is the highest mountain on the African continent and one of the Seven Summits that requires no technical climbing skills. However, it’s seemingly benign reputation for being a ‘very long hike’ leads many trekkers to underestimate it’s difficulty and have to leave disappointed and ‘summit less’ from the slopes of Kibo. In fact, statistics from Kilimanjaro National Park show that less than 60% of trekkers actually reach Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro. Why such a low success rate?

Well, the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level; an altitude that is aptly categorised in climbing parlance as extreme. As you might have guessed the body does not cope well at very high altitude, let alone extreme altitude, unless it has had lots of time to acclimatize. And herein lays the answer to the question above.

Kilimanjaro’s camp profile makes for what is generally considered a very rapid ascent to extreme altitude. Over the years, new routes and camps have helped lengthen and flatten the ascent profile, and provided additional opportunities to acclimatize, but as high altitude climbing goes, Kilimanjaro is definitely one of the highest ascents that can be completed in such a short period of time.

However, high altitude and low success rates shouldn’t deter you. Like many mountains, Kilimanjaro provides various ascent options that make it accessible for all types of trekkers – old and young, fit and unfit, abled and even disabled! The key to getting to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro successfully as well as getting down safely is preparation in its fullest sense. Or as Benjamin Franklin once said: ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.’ Preparation means understanding the benefits and challenges of the various Kilimanjaro routes and choosing the most appropriate one given your circumstances. It means making sure you have the right equipment for the job and a full knowledge of the risks associated with high altitude, and the strategies you can employ to help prevent the onset of acute mountain sickness.

It also means preparing the body physically so that your cardiovascular system is at its peak for the trek. And perhaps most importantly it means preparing your mind to be able to overcome physical exhaustion and push for the summit.

Kilimanjaro Centre for Trekking and Eco-tourism – (KCTE) have tried to cover all of this preparative information as well as other relevant information on Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro and the extensive network of routes that lead to the Roof of Africa. KCET set out all the information you need to know before you depart for Mount Kilimanjaro, Including information on visas, vaccinations and medications, fitness and nutrition preparation, equipment you will need, as well as a full checklist, detail with acclimatization and acute mountain sickness, including the severe forms of high altitude illness, known a Pulmonary and Cerebral Edema. We also provide important information about our guides and porters that will form your core support team, and the tipping standards that are customary on Kilimanjaro. Finally we mentioned interesting facts about Mount Kilimanjaro as well as contact and booking information.

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