Pole Pole…Mt. Kilimanjaro

*Disclaimer: I did this through as an add-on to a trip I did with a volunteer organization called GIVE. I recommend checking them out and considering volunteering. It truly is the best way to travel.*

Do it. You may be reading this, because you are slightly considering the idea of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Not going to lie, it might be the hardest thing you have ever done and will ever do, but it is so rewarding. Do it.

Here are some things to consider:

1.Getting to Tanzania…Fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport. Then, stay in Arusha or Moshi.

2. Guides…I recommend booking your hike through a well-established agency like Green Paw Adventures (you can also book a safari with them before or after). This is a game changer- they will take care of meals, transportation to and from the mountain and your hotel, and they’re locals which makes the experience so much better.

3. Tips…bring at least US$150-$200 per person to tip your guides. And be ready to donate most of your gear to your guides. They need it way more than you do. Trust me.

4. Visa…you will need a visa before you go, which can be filled out and mailed into the Tanzanian embassy in your home country. Give ample time for you to send it and get it back. I mistakenly filled mine out wrong (I forgot the passport picture), so I had to do it twice.

5. Come a few days before and go on a Safari. There are a ton of great parks near Arusha. Stay a few days to one week after in Zanzibar! It has the most beautiful beaches and is a great reset after the long hike. (And most flights have a layover in Amsterdam which is another great city to spend a few days).

6. Get a good hiking buddy. I was fortunate enough to hike the mountain with my dad! I am so thankful he joined me- it made the experience so much more special.

Packing

For your feet…be sure to bring hiking boots and slip-ons. That way you do not have to take off your socks when it gets cold. Bring at least three pairs of socks that you can layer with.

Having a good backpack is super important. I used an Osprey Sirrus 36-L. The clips across your chest and hips prevent a lot of back pain.

Chapstick!!!! Your lips will never be the same if you don’t use it. I recommend the medicated kind such as Aquaphor with sunscreen. 

Four water bottles per person. If you want cold water, get a hydro flask. Also, the hydro flask is best to use on summit night as well, so that your water doesn’t freeze.

The altitude will do crazy things to your body. People either experience extreme constipation or extreme diarrhea. Bring medicine for both just in case- laxatives and immodium.

Bring toilet paper (lots of it). I would say a couple of rolls per person.

Water purification (tablets, droplets, whatever) is extremely necessary. I brought it, but didn’t use it and got very sick due to a parasite.

Bring a speaker and headphones. Always fun to have at the camp site- but you don’t need it on the climb. I would recommend not climbing with music and just taking in the sights around you and the people around you.

Rain jacket. Make sure it’s actually waterproof and breathable. This will be helpful as you ascend and descend through the rainforest on the first and last day.

Carabiners. You can use them to hang water bottles, dirty hiking boots, portable chargers, or anything else off of your backpack.

Microfiber towel…Mine folds up into this small pouch which doubled as a perfect sized pillow. This eliminates the need for an inflatable pillow or lugging around an actual pillow. It’s also more compact than using a balled-up sweatshirt.

Clothing…long johns, sweatpants, leggings, and snow pants, tank top, t-shirt, long sleeve, two jackets, and a snow coat. I rented hiking poles and the snow jacket from Green Paw, the company we hiked with.

Sleeping bag! I bought a down sleeping bag off Craigslist for a good deal- it was very compact and I never got cold. 

Baby wipes to shower with!

The Hike…

Day 1 – Gate to Mechame camp
5 hours. 1100 ft above sea level. Fairly easy hike through covered trees. Was supposed to be very warm, but I was freezing. I had already sent all of my warm clothes up with my porter, so I as freezing. It was rainy! Be ready for anything.

Day 2 – Mechame to Shera
6 hours. 5.2 km, 12500 ft above sea level. Moorlands. Once arriving at the camp site, eat and then do an acclimization hike where you ascend then come back. Dance party with porters and cooks. Get to know your porters! They are amazing!

Day 3 – Shera to Lava Tower to Baranco

Moorlands to desert and back to Moorlands. Met some Aussies from Perth in their early 20’s who work as baristas and bartenders most of the year. They raised money and biked across Tanzania to build a well.

Day 4-5 – Baranco to Karanka to Barafu to Mwenka

Walked 11 km today. Baranco wall felt like mountain climbing. Lunch at Karanka. Hiked to Barafu, had dinner, slept for 3 hours, woke up at 11 pm, snacked on popcorn and nuts, began our ascent up Kili to Shira’s Point then to the Peak. I immediately felt super nauseous and couldn’t even drink water, so then I got super dehydrated. I didn’t think I as going to make it, but the porters are amazing! “Pole pole!” Walking slowly is the key. I kept falling asleep while walking. The altitude really hit me hard, but I freaking made it! Took a 1-2 hour nap then quickly had to get ready for a 4 mile hike before the sun went down. Dropping altitude helped a lot with the sickness. I still couldn’t eat, because I was too sick.

Day 6 – Mwenka to gate to Rafiki House

The guides are paid very minimally so be sure to bring at least $200USD per person to give. And donate as much of your gear as you can.

Moral of the Story: DO IT

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