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Climbing Kilimanjaro

Travel Forums Africa and The Middle East Climbing Kilimanjaro

1. Posted by WeeJoe (Respected Member 336 posts) 9y

Anyone done it?

I'm going to Tanzania in September and i'd love to do it. Any advice or stories would be brilliant.

Cheers folks,

Joe.

2. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 9y

I've done 3/4 of it.

Attempted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro using the Rongai route. I was doing a six day climb (5 up, 2 down with the summit day being both an up and down day). Unfortunately, on the start of the fourth day it was obvious that I was not well – it looked like I was developing pulmonary edema. I had a gurgling sound when I was breathing, was coughing constantly, was dizzy, had lost my appetite and was very, very tired. The head guide of my group decided it was best that I be taken off the mountain.

Due to my bad condition, they wanted to take me down my stretcher. However, because the mountain rescue team only works on the Marangu route, I would have to walk from Mawenzi Tarn camp to the saddle. Even with the help of two guides, it took me almost 6 hours to make it from Mawenzi Tarn to the Marangu route. The mountain rescue team, who loaded me on a stretcher and took me all the way to the gate, soon met us. There an ambulance met up with us, and I was taken to Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Clinic in Moshi. Got checked out, a shot and a prescription for Dex and released.

I was completely back to normal strength within two days, with no lingering effects.

The rest of the group I was with all made it to Gillman’s point, and 8 of the 10 made it to Uhuru Peak.

Overall, my guides were excellent, both in assessing the situation and helping me down the mountain. The mountain rescue team was excellent in getting me off the mountain, even if the stretcher was not very comfortable. The $20 paid in park fees for the mountain rescue crew was well worth it to me!

The climb was booked through Africa Travel Resource (www.africatravelresource.com), locally using The African Walking Company as the local guides. The climb was more expensive than others I saw, but I do feel that the quality of guides was above that of some of the other groups I saw climbing the mountain.

The food was decent and filling, though the higher we got the less variety that we got in our diet.

The hotel accommodations at the Kibo Hotel in Marangu before and after I have no complaints about. I have often read that the Kibo Hotel is a “faded glory,” but the beds were comfortable, the showers had hot water, the rooms were clean and the beer in the bar was cold.

The Rongai route itself was not a difficult hike. There was only one section, close to the lava chute cave, where we had to use our hands to scramble up some rocks. Otherwise, the climb was mainly a slow, slow walk. The path is not as well developed as the Marangu route, but I think it adds to the appeal to have a more rugged (though entirely walkable) path. Rongai does not provide cabins at all, thus tents are the only way to go. Washroom facilities are ugly – many of the group ended up using a shovel instead of going into the squat toilets at the campsites.

The worst part of the trip was the 3 hour car ride from Marangu to the trail head of the Rongai route. The road is rough and dusty. Our car dropped a shock on the way to the trail head.

I booked with a company called Africa Travel Resource based out of the UK, which used a local company called "The African Walking Company" as guides. The price in early 2005 was $US 1300, but prices have risen since then due mostly to rises in the national park fees (plus, I am sure, additional costs associated with the rising price of oil).

You'll hear different things on training. I may not be the best to ask, as I didn't get all the way up, but generally if you can do multiple day hikes, you should be fine on the climb.

Greg

3. Posted by luvmorocco (Inactive 5 posts) 9y

I think the info that GregW provided are very helpful. I dream of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro too..

4. Posted by WeeJoe (Respected Member 336 posts) 9y

Jeez Greg, thanks for posting that. You'll forgive me for feeling none too encouraged, but its good to get perspective. I don't underestimate the level of the challenge at all, it will be immense. I suppose its an odd question, but had you not experienced the severe symptoms you suffered, could you have completed the climb in your own opinion?

I guess with the symptoms you suffered or those of AMS, it is impossible to know until you try, and as long as you have good people on hand, you will generally be quite safe.

Still, sorry to hear that your climb ended unhappily for you. Would you say it was sheer bad luck, or are there any lessons to be learned aside from the obvious ones of going with a reputable group and covering eventualities in case something goes wrong on the climb?

5. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 9y

Had I not suffered from AMS, I am sure that I would have been able to get to Gillman's Point. Everyone else in the group I was with made it at least that far. I am not sure if I would have continued on to the top - it's really a matter of attitude by that point (assuming you aren't sick). The task is, in the end, more mental than physical. From what I heard, the last day is a tough slog, to be sure, and it just becomes a case of once you reach Gillman's Point, is it really important for you to continue on and reach the official, actual summit.

For those that don't know, Gillman's Point is still 210 m below the highest point, but is on the crater rim (Kilimanjaro is a very inactive volcano), and thus it is considered reaching the top of Kilimanjaro. You get a certificate (it's green) for reaching Gillman's, and can say you've been to the top. There is another certificate (Gold) for reacing Uhuru peak - the highest point on the top of the mountain.

Would you say it was sheer bad luck, or are there any lessons to be learned aside from the obvious ones of going with a reputable group and covering eventualities in case something goes wrong on the climb?

For you, probably not. I should have learnt something from a previous experience I had in Bolivia with altitude sickness that perhaps I'm not meant to climb tall mountains (plus the fact that my father told me afterwards that they once had to give him oxygen on a plane flying over the Rocky Mountains back before they pressurized them. Apparently all the other passengers were upset, because with the oxygen tanks in the cabin, they couldn't smoke. Ah, the good old days of air travel).

So, that being said - if you've ever been up high before and haven't suffered, and your family history wouldn't suggest it, then it's just pure luck at that point. AMS is a bit of a myster who it affects - healthy people may get it, while fat smokers don't.

as long as you have good people on hand, you will generally be quite safe.

Not to scare you too much - because it is something that you should try if you want to - but even with good people on hand, you can still die. Recently a Canadian on a charity trek that included a former deputy Prime Minister of Canada (so you know those dudes had to be kitted out to the extreme) died: How trekkers risk reaching a fatal high on Africa's biggest peak.

Anyways, enough of the scare tactics. As it says in the article - More than 30,000 people climbed Kilimanjaro in 2005, up from 20,000 five years ago, and trekking agencies say there are around 10 to 15 fatalities each year., so the odds are pretty good in your favour of not dying.

Greg

6. Posted by WeeJoe (Respected Member 336 posts) 9y

Thanks Greg. Certainly don't plan to die. If i experience any signs of AMS i will descend, if the persist, i'll quit the mountain. I know the dangers.

Hope i have the all important luck on my side, and the right balance of ambition and level-headedness.

I'll never know until i try.

Cheers pal.