How do you climb Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world? The deceptively simple response is one step at a time. Step one for me was when my childhood friend Brittany, who currently lives in Colorado, asked if I wanted to climb with her. At first I laughed…me spending a week in a tent, climbing a mountain? Fat chance. But after getting off the phone with her I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. After all it would be the trip of a lifetime with one of my best friends.
Step two, I began looking for adventure travel books about Tanzania, more specifically about how to climb Kilimanjaro. I found an awesome one by Henry Stedman at Indigo, Kilimanjaro, The Trekking Guide to Africa’s Highest Mountain. Not only does Stedman discuss the history of the mountain, how to find a booking company, accommodations for before and after the climb, and details of the different routes up the mountain, but he also addresses cultural background and sightseeing in Kilimanjaro’s surrounding areas. If you’re thinking about a trip to Kili, I would highly recommend it! You have my word it’s not a dry or boring read. Here’s a fun fact courtesy of Stedman: “Kuwore rung’we ilya kurende koko!” means “There is a leopard biting my leg!” in Chagga, the dialect spoken in Marangu a town located in the Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania. Fingers crossed we won’t need to know that particular phrase, but it did make me chuckle when I read it.
Step three, I called Brittany and told her I’d decided to climb Kilimanjaro with her. We agreed the best time to go is August 2014, because we’ll both be available, have saved up enough money, and it’s one of the optimal times to climb since August is part of the dry season. Steps one through three occurred sometime in November of 2012, and since then there hadn’t been much to report.
Last week, however, I attended a travel talk at the Adventure Travel Company (ATC) in Toronto – check out their travel blog for more information about the trips and experiences they offer. I finally had the chance to hear from someone who had personally climbed Kilimanjaro (we’ll call this step four). The first thing Lisa Pottier, an adventure travel specialist at ATC, told her listeners was, “If somebody told you it’s easy to climb Kilimanjaro, they were wrong. It’s very hard.” She went on to say that she did not want to discourage us, she just wanted to present information about the trip honestly. While each step becomes harder as you get further up the mountain, Lisa promised us the summit is well worth the hard work it takes to get there. She went on to speak about four different routes up Kili that ATC serves: the Rongai, the Machame, the Marangu, and the Lemosho. She impressed upon us the importance of researching to find out which route would suite our individual needs best. The prices at ATC for the six different routes range from around $1,650 to $2,550 with trips scheduled for 7 to 10 days depending on the route. This information is comparable to the travel companies Henry Stedman references in his book. These prices do not include airfare or expenses apart from the climb, itself. As you can tell, a trip to climb Kilimanjaro is a big investment of time, money and will power.
Once Lisa finished her slideshow with some beautiful pictures of her own trek, she called on Steven Moniz, a conditioning coach and founder of Monvida Sports, to tell us what it takes to climb Kili from a physical fitness perspective. His primary advice was to start training at least three months before the climb using lots of lower body workouts (including squats, lunges, etc.) and hill training. Steven also emphasized the importance of stretching leading up to the climb, as well as on the way up the mountain. This advice was good news for me personally, because it means I can combine training for the 2014 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with my Kilimanjaro training. Multi-tasking can be so satisfying!
The next month or so will involve some serious research, and a final decision about which route Brittany and I will be tackling and with which company. I still have 5,895 meters of steps ahead of me (not to mention all the prep work), but I’m excited about every last one of them!