This New Year's Eve 2011 I headed up to the highest point on the African continent, Mt Kilimanjaro. It was amazing, hard, surreal and beyond my imagination. Here are some quick things to keep in mind before attempting to reach "the roof of Africa."
- Preparation! Break those hiking boots in before getting on that long flight over the ocean. You want to enjoy your climb and that is next to impossible when your boots are rubbing your feet raw.
- Train! Kilimanjaro is the easiest of the seven summits to conquer, but that doesn't mean that it is easy. Hike, walk, swim, weight train, do anything to get your body prepared for some eight hour days at high altitude.
- Learn! Before going read about east Africa and amazing history of the people. You will have hours on the trail to look out on the wildness of Africa and plenty of time in camp to talk with porters who live there.
- Be Patient and Relax! I'm the typical American and want to hit the ground running whenever I arrive at a new destination. However, I made the great decision to start my climb slowly with two nights in Arusha before the climb. This gave me time to rest from the international flights and spend a day on safari at Arusha National Park.
- If the Price is too good to be true, then it is! Chances are that this is a one time shot up the mountain for you. So make sure to go with a reputable climbing outfit. Find out what they pay the porters. How many guides are going up the mountain with your group? Make sure the adhere to the national park guidelines. Ask about equipment available, tents and most importantly the toilets.
More than a thousand people reach the "roof of Africa" every year. They do it by preparing, planning, and being patient. The reward is a memory that very few people ever dream of having.
Bonus tip: Diamox is a altitude sickness preventative medicine. If you haven't been at altitude or have experience the effects of altitude, then I highly recommend you speak with your physician before climbing. Taking diamox and staying hydrated will exponentially increase your enjoyment while hiking up to over 19,000 feet.