Climbing Kilimanjaro: Reaching the Rooftop of Africa, Part 3
By the next morning Paul was also not feeling well. We had definitely
eaten/drunken something funny. We managed to pick at some of our
breakfast, although this was more for Godfrey’s sake than our own.
After breakfast, Godfrey told us to go on ahead with Paul (our cook)
and said he would catch up to us. We started out at quite a speed, but Godfrey was clearly surprised his two pole pole tortoises were looking more like hares! The
thought of a cold sealed bottle of water was my carrot. If I started
slowing down, Paul was my stick because he’d start complaining that
we’d never get there.
We came to the gate at about 1:00 pm, signed the gate book, got out
certificates, used a proper clean toilet for the first time in seven days,
and had our first ice cold bottled water! I had forgotten how good
water could taste! We walked downhill for about another 15 minutes
(felt a little cruel as we had reached the park gate), to a row of drinks cafes (wooden kiosks) on either side of the
road. Our team was waiting for us at one of these cafes.
We celebrated. Our porters,
cook and guide were amazing and inspirational. No way could we have made it without them! We tipped everyone, distributed bits of kit we would no longer
need, including a small portable radio that Paul (our cook) had become
rather attached to. We said our goodbyes; porters jumped on
their bus to travel home. As with the journey there, Godfrey and Paul came back in the bus with us, nice because
it meant we had a chance to say more personal goodbyes.
That evening, after a long hot shower, Paul and I sat in the hotel bar
with a glass of wine and reminisced! We had actually done it – we had
climbed Kilimanjaro and stood at the rooftop of Africa!
Yes, there had been some really tough parts, it had been hard work and
it had required more than a little determination. But it was
absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt worth it! In fact, we are planning our next trip – to Aconcagua in South America
(another of the coveted Seven Summits).
If you’re considering climbing Kilimanjaro, the best advice I
can give you is to book it and take on the challenge! Also, thinking
back to the accounts/reviews we read before we left, it’s important to
remember that individuals will have different experiences,
even if they’re climbing as part of the same group. Some things one person finds hard/stretching/scary; another may not. So, whilst reading accounts/reviews are an
important part of being prepared, take them with
a pinch of salt because it is unlikely that your experiences will be
the same and also, in hindsight, most people have a habit of
exaggerating "war stories"!
Below is a kit list we took with us. Also there’s information of
useful medication. If you want to see the photos that
accompany this article, check out Love & Cherish.
There’s no "one place" for a complete list of recommended brands. It’s important to do
your homework and figure out what works for you.
– High wicking under-layers (x2 trousers & tops): We had one cheap
pair each and one more expensive pair made from Merino wool
(really great for extra warmth).
– Buffalo Special 6 Shirt: Made from Pertex 6 and Pile lining. It’s not waterproof but it’s SUPER high wicking
(i.e., moves moisture away from your skin very quickly), so dries out fast. It’s meant to be worn next to the skin on
top of a high wicking under-layer (otherwise it won’t work properly).
– Buffalo Belay Jacket: It can get REALLY cold on Kili. Having this to
put over the Buffalo shirt was essential on the final ascent. Again
it’s made of the same Pertex plus pile lining.
– Paramo Trousers: Well insulated and warm, made of very high
wicking material to move moisture away from your skin – a
fantastic bit of kit.
– Extremities Winter Hacking Gloves
– Buffalo mitts: On the final ascent, because it is VERY cold, you will need gloves plus a pair of mitts over the top.
– Craghopper lightweight trousers: this was the only bit of kit that I
was disappointed with. They got soaked on the first day and took ages
to dry out – couldn’t wear them again. Would suggest finding an
– Thick wool socks (x 2 pairs): Don’t scrimp on socks or you will get
blisters and you don’t need to wear a thinner pair underneath. Neither
Paul nor I had a single blister throughout the trek. We had
Smartwool socks that have antibacterial ingredient which helps
reduce the stinking.
– Day Sack: Porters carry most of your kit, but you need a decent day
sack for water, lunch, extra clothing, camera etc. We used Deuter Futura
and loved it. It has a water resistant cover you can pull over for it rains, sits slightly away from your back, which stops
you getting a sweaty back.
– Waterproof liners: These are a MUST for both your day sack and the
ruckstack the porters are carrying for you, otherwise all your kit
will get soaked (particularly on the first day).
– Sleeping bag: We didn’t want to fork out a lot for really high spec
sleeping bags (which you need at high altitudes), so we used ones
provided by the tour company. They also gave us sleeping mats.
– Sleeping bag fleece line: We bought cheap ones for a bit of extra warm.
– Gaiters: We used gaiters provided by the tour company. Not a necessity.
– Boots: Gortex (or equivalent boots) – your boots will at some point get wet.
– Trainers: Pair of lightweight trainers are useful to put on when you get to your camp sites.
– Camel pack: THIS IS ESSENTIAL. When you are walking at high altitude,
you need to keep hydrated to help your body acclimatise to
the altitude and for the more server symptoms of altitude
sickness. You cannot do this if you have a water bottle that you can
only get to when you stop for a rest. We had two insulated camel packs
because of the cold temperatures at the summit. The tubes froze before we reached the summit, I’m
not sure there is anything available that wouldn’t have.
– Baby wipes: Not strictly kit, but essential – remember there is no running water on Kili!
– Iodine / other water purification system: Once again this is vital. The water you drink (after your bottled water runs out) is
from the streams and rivers. It is not safe with purifying first. Even if you purify the water, you will still come into
contact with bacteria (see medication suggestions).
– Sunscreen & Sunglassess: Yes, you guessed it – another must! Don’t forget to wear lots of sunscreen (especially on your hands
and face). It feels very cool, but you can get burnt VERY easily. I got
blisters on my cheeks because I didn’t put enough sunscreen, not an experience I would wish on anyone!
– Walking poles: Again we hired these from the tour company. Paul used
his poles more than me especially on the way up, but I did find them
quite useful on the way down.
– Head torch and spare batteries.
The most serious consideration is altitude
sickness. Everyone who climbs Kili will experience some of its symptoms (unless you live at high altitude or
are simply superhuman). In some cases, if left untreated, altitude
sickness can be fatal.
There is no rule as to who will be most affected by altitude sickness –
you can be young, healthy and super fit and still experience symptoms more acutely than someone who is older and less fit. Minor
symptoms include breathlessness, diarrhea, nausea and headaches.
Keeping well hydrated is the most important because it helps your body
adjust to altitude more easily. Also there are a number of medications
that you can take. The most common is Diamox, which
helps your body to acclimatise to altitude (without masking any symptoms
like some other drugs). You can get this drug prescribed from your
doctor – just remember to test it a few weeks before you go because
some people can be allergic to it. There are other steroid-based drugs
available. These are extremely dangerous because with severe altitude
sickness, you must descend as quickly as possible. These drugs will
just mask the symptoms. Needless to say, your doctor will be very
reluctant to prescribe these to you.
The other common aliment for climbers of Kili is dysentery. No matter
how thoroughly you filter or "iodinate" your water, there is still a
strong chance there’ll be some nasty bacteria that manages to survive.
Probably because this is such a common affliction, all pharmacies in
the surrounding areas sell antibiotics to combat it (and you don’t need
a prescription). One example is Norzole (containing Norfloxacin and
Other useful medicines to take include paracetamol, rehydration powder sachets and anti-diarrhea medication.
If you want to see the photos that
accompany this article, check out Love & Cherish.