1. Travel Light:
I know, they always say this but somehow we never listen, please travel light. I know the porters will carry your luggage, so no stress on your end but, be humane and only carry what you need. There is no need to carry many extra pairs of pants in case you wake up and feel like blue is better than pink. No need to carry an extra pair of boots so that they will match the top you will wear. No need to carry several sun hats, to blend in with the environment. Only carry bare necessities also on the carry on bag, you will thank me later.
2. Cut your nails:
I know you must be wondering, is this the best advise I can give? Trust me, it may sound mundane but is very important, I learnt the hard way. I hit my big toe foot on a stone as we descended from Kibo hut and had to suffer the after effects for over three months. I had on my hiking boots and my socks but still my nail bed got injured, it swelled, it bled, it was painful and eventually the nail came off.This hampered my descent and it is good that it happened after I had already conquered the summit. For three months, I spoke to my toe, urging it to grow and assuring it that I would never hike without cutting my nails, both hands and feet
3. Have fun
Enjoy the whole experience, the highs, the lows, the joys, the stories and the silent moments. Make friends with as many people as you can as your tales will be different, your backgrounds different but your goal will be the same, to successfully summit the mountain. Kindly ensure you identify your pace, listen to your guide and move slowly, it is not a competition, it is an adventure and experience that is dominantly a personal experience. I was elated when we saw so much snow, looking at the glaciers and more so when we conquered the summit.
4.Do not give up
Hiking any mountain is a difficult task, hiking Mt.Kilimanjaro is a daunting task. I was demoralized when my body would get exhausted and down trodden when everyone else seemed to be going faster than me as I arrived three hours later than most hikers to the summit. Do not give up, hiking is more of a solo project than a group project. Decide what works for you, if it is walking slow, do so. If it is stopping severally to rest, do so. If it is psyching yourself up all the way, do so. Remember, you came to conquer the mountain alone, so find and use all the ammunition you need even if it means disassociating yourself from your emotions. Get to the top by all healthy means possible.
5. Get Medication:
Kindly ensure you have all the medication previously prescribed by your doctor. I opted to have Diamox, an altitude sickness medication to counter any case of altitude sickness, something I experienced first hand when I hiked mount Kenya as shared http://wangechigitahi.co.ke/conquering-mt-kenya/. My head felt like there was a wrestling match going on, I felt nauseous but couldn’t throw up, my muscles felt like they had been running non-stop for a marathon, exhaustion, disillusionment among others. I was not willing to risk not getting to the summit because of the above and thus took altitude sickness medication. Sure enough, I didn’t experience any of the symptoms, though I saw many people who had not taken any, suffer. Ensure you also have your yellow fever certificate, you are requested to present it as you enter the National Park before ascent.
6. Ask for Help
ASKING FOR HELP IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS BUT A SIGN OF STRENGTH. Listen to your body, be motherly with it and seek help if need be. While descending to Horombo after the summit, I had my toe escapade as shared above, my toe went on a violent riot, my muscles ached, my feet were limb, my face was swollen due to altitude change that I had to accept, I was bust. At Horombo, I accepted my fate and informed my team that I would need assistance to get to the gate as my body had gone on a go slow. I thus took a ride in the security/medical vehicle available to all hikers, for the descent from Horombo to the gate the next morning. This facility is free so please if your body asks for it, just accept like I did.
7. Dress appropriately
Kindly ensure you have adequate clothing to hike and this in no way means many clothes. The weather changes without warning from hot to cold and vice-versa. It is thus important to dress and layer appropriately. Have thermal wear that is best worn near the body and helps in regulating the temperature accordingly. The heavier outfits like jackets are worn atop and make sure you have the right hiking shoes, adequate socks, waterproof clothes, balaclava and gloves. I will share a more indepth article on this later.
8. Hire/buy snow poles:
These snow poles were more like my family than anything else. When I was exhausted, I leaned on them, when I was walking through the darkness, I leaned on them, when I couldn’t keep my body upright, I leaned on them. I assure you, they played a great part in my success.
Kindly, I highly recommend that you exercise adequately before embarking on this trip. I however, did not have much time to get a keep fit plan together between the time I decided to hike and the actual hike. I thus decided to depend on my great strong, athletic, fit genes, mental strength and lots of prayer to keep me going. I advise, please work out weeks if not months before, to condition your body on how taxing the whole experience will be. I really made my body suffer as we hiked and my recuperation thereafter was a punishment by my body. I could hardly walk straight for a long time thereafter, my swollen face remained with me a bit longer and the body exhaustion went on for too long.
10. Be open minded
Things will not always go the way you wish, things may force you to do different. I had never heard about the atrocity that is the last hike/ascent from Kibo hut to Uhuru peak and then back to Horombo hut, taking over 16hours hiking. Honestly, my mind and body were not prepared for the strenuous long night/day, the kilometers to be covered, the sleep deficiency and overall body bashing I received from nature. I however had to adapt so as to summit successfully. As I planned my hike, all trekking companies apart from the one I used required a group to hike, yet I was alone. I am happy I did not despair but pushed on until I found a willing company.
11.Choose a good tour guide/company
There are many options of trekking companies, thus take your time to research which includes reading reviews. I hiked via assistance from the Lobelia Trekking Tours that is located in Tanzania and I highly recommend them to all and sundry.
12. Tip the porters
The fee you pay for the hike is not inclusive of guides, porters and catering team tips. However, after you have been with them daily for several days, seen their undivided devotion to you and your needs, when you note how they carry the heavy luggage that is inclusive of yours and the food, when you see them struggle to walk as slow as you on your near standstill pace to ensure you are comfortable, I say, it is only proper and humane to tip them adequately, the fee is up to you.
More on the actual experience of getting to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro
Conquering Mt.Kilimanjaro: http://wangechigitahi.co.ke/conquering-mount-kilimanjaro/
Tanzania 101: http://wangechigitahi.co.ke/tanzania-101/