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Author Topic: Kilimanjaro article with good tips and nice thoughts  (Read 4275 times)


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I found a nice tripreport of a Kilimanjaro climb that shows that you need mental strenght mostly to get to the summit.
I like the way this Dr writes about it and have bolded some of the important stuff people should know (and if they have read this site thoroughly, they will already know it  8))

Article can be found here:

The snows of Kilimanjaro

Dr. Lorna Adams rises to the challenge of climbing Africa's tallest peak

By Lorna Adams

The mountain rises from the floor of Africa, and goes up and up and up to the snow-capped glacial summit. It is visible in all its glory from the bus that takes a traveller to one of the biggest events of her life.

If ever there was a challenge for we mortals who live regular day-to-day lives, it is Kilimanjaro. Most of us cannot consider feats such as getting to the top of Everest or winning the Iron Woman Triathlon, but Kilimanjaro is a challenge available to those wanting to do something very out of the ordinary, but entirely within reach.

But not without an overwhelming effort.

Should you ever consider such an undertaking? It is an interesting intellectual experience to analyse why we attempt such challenges. The physical effort of climbing to almost 20,000 feet is not to be denied, the hardship not slight and the risks significant. I believe the answer lies in a desire to have experiences that challenge us supremely, both physically and emotionally.

While planning my trip, I was told that 50% of the work of climbing the mountain would be in my mind. There is no doubt this was an underestimate for me. For any physical experience that tests you to your utmost limit, there must be a "gut" desire to overcome the physical hardship, just for the sake of the challenge.

It must be accepted that there is no logical reason to be on the mountain. Otherwise, why are you there, cold, wet, exhausted, nauseous and looking forward to more of the same day after day?

During the most steep and difficult part of the climb, I found that I put myself on autopilot and simply concentrated on getting one foot in front of the other. The challenge was broken down to its most basic component. Could I get this foot to go in front of that foot? There was absolutely no other thing that I was concerned with but the effort of moving one foot forward six inches. My life became so focused down to such a small event that when we stopped for any reason, it took time to appreciate again just where I was and what I was doing. The memory of such an overwhelming experience of "living in the present" prompts significant reflection of day-to-day life upon a traveller's return.

Should you be interested in climbing this mountain, there is an abundance of information on the Internet, with advice on everything you could ever want to know. I even found suggestions on the best toilet paper to take! Spend time on your search and try to talk to someone who has been to the top. The advice you gather will be invaluable.

I chose a company on the Internet and was fortunate to have chosen wisely. Do not, under any circumstances, choose the cheapest company. You will get what you pay for. Poor guides that put your life at risk, bad food, overworked porters and tents that leak will make an already difficult time horrific. When I do the mountain again, I will take longer and enjoy it more. In my opinion, the absolute minimum amount of time is one week. Allowing more time to acclimatize would make a world of difference in the enjoyment quotient.

This does increase the cost, but most people will only do this once, so why not significantly increase the likelihood of making it to the very top by spending a little extra time and money? There are numerous routes up the mountain, and the choice comes down to personal preference and cost. Some are significantly more strenuous, and therefore less populated. At times some routes can be very busy. The choice is yours.

One of the most important things about getting ready to go is to be sure you have all the gear needed to take you from tropical Africa to -20 C or -30 C in a roaring, blinding blizzard. A definite advantage of being Canadian is that I knew exactly how to dress for that kind of weather. The English fellows that we climbed with really did not have a clue what 20 C below with a significant wind chill felt like. They lent me batteries for my headlamp when it died, and I lent them my extra snow mitts to replace the little gloves they had brought.

The guides and porters on the mountain make a minimal amount of money for the awesomely difficult job they do. These men and boys go up this mountain as often as every other week, and our group was unfailingly helpful and knowledgeable. I took two suitcases full of used winter clothing with me to Africa, and handed it out to appreciative porters at the end of the climb, along with their tip. They are numbingly poor, and some climb the mountain in barely adequate clothing and footwear. Anything you have lying around in your closets will be appreciated.

You will be expected to carry your own daypack on the mountain, and the porters will carry everything else that is needed. Even carrying a daypack becomes utterly overwhelming at times, and it is necessary to be extremely diligent in not adding anything that is not crucial to your pack. My one regret was that my 35 mm camera was too heavy for me to carry along with the four litres of water I needed to drink and the gear needed as it got colder and colder as we went up. A lightweight point-and-shoot or digital would have been preferable for the walking, and for the summit. My panorama disposable took some of the best shots. The camera needs to be carried inside your coat to prevent it freezing during the climb. I'll know better next time.

The last day of the climb is actually done overnight, zigzagging up a cliff, so that you reach the top of Africa as the sun is coming up. This portion of the climb is excruciatingly difficult. The words horrific, terrible, awful and overwhelmingly painful come to mind. But then you step up over the edge and realize you can look around and see 360 degrees in a circle around you, and not just the cliff face that you have been climbing for eight hours. The sun is coming up, the air is crisp and clear, and you have made it to the top of the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. You start to think that maybe it wasn't so bad after all!

The summit is enjoyed for an agonizingly short period of time, for it is very, very cold and oxygen levels at that altitude do not make for a restful stay. Pictures are taken, tears are shed, guides and companions are hugged, and with one last look at the massive glaciers that adorn the summit, you turn to the downhill trail. There is a lot of downhill walking to do until you will sleep again that night. This uses a whole set of muscles that have had it relatively easy up to this point. It takes me 18 hours of almost continuous walking to go from the pre-summit camp to the post-summit camp, but I travel slowly because a previous knee injury dislikes the downhill journey much more than the uphill. The post-summit sleep is a true joy.

There is little to say to expand upon the exhilaration of this climb. The glaciers will be gone in 20 years. The mountain will still be there, but the snow-capped peak in the middle of Africa will be a distant memory. I will return before that.

Lorna Adams is a physician in Newmarket, Ont.
"He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary." -- Friedrich Nietzsche
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