Climbing Kilimanjaro is graded strenuous and you should be in good physical fitness. You may need to have experience of multi-day trekking or walking trips prior to undertaking a Kilimanjaro climb.
Most days on climbing Mount Kilimanjaro involve 4 – 7 hours of walking at altitude and the summit day is very strenuous with most people walking for between 14 – 18 hours. Even for fit people, the effects of altitude can make the climb very tough.
The most challenging day of your Kilimanjaro Climb, regardless of which Kilimanjaro route you choose, will be the summit day. Because the time for acclimatization is limited most people will suffer from mild Acute Mountain Sickness. This may combine with a very long day of walking will make it one of the toughest days of your life.
The trails on Kilimanjaro are generally clear and well maintained, although they can be slippery lower down and, you will be walking over shale closer to the summit. The Barranco Wall on the Machame and Lemosho routes involves an easy scramble for 1.5 hours and the final climb to the summit is on loose scree and rock and can be snowy/ icy.
The climb is a hike so no specialist climbing skills are necessary. You must have done extensive hill-walking or aerobic exercise in the run-up to your Kilimanjaro Climb. If you do not currently enjoy a good level of fitness it may take many months of training to reach a suitable level of fitness to enjoy the walk.
It is important to start slowly and gradually increase your fitness. Try to exercise for between 30 and 45 minutes three times per week (walking, running, cycling or swimming) and go for long walks on the weekends which should include some hills.
Where to Start From Before Kilimanjaro Climbing
You must consult your doctor prior to embarking on a fitness program for Mount Kilimanjaro. What may make you not undertake your Mount Kilimanjaro climb?
- Has your doctor ever told you that you have a heart condition?
- Have you had any pains in your chest or heart?
- Do you frequently lose your balance, feel faint or have spells of severe dizziness?
- Has your doctor has ever said that your blood pressure is too high?
- Do you have a bone or joint problem that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity?
- Are you taking any prescription medications, such as those for heart problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes?
- Do you know of any other reason why you should not engage in physical activity?
- Are you pregnant?
How to Prepare for Your Mount Kilimanjaro Climb
Many people who are interested in hiking Mount Kilimanjaro are probably relatively fit. Training for at least two months before the climb, even if you’re in good shape, is recommended.
If you’re a little out of shape, start earlier. If you’re in great shape, keep training and focus on increasing duration (not intensity).
With training 6 months before the climb and you will hardly feel muscle soreness or joint achiness on the mountain. While summit night is physically and mentally draining and your endurance will be put to the test, your body has to be prepared.
We recommends training for a minimum of 12 weeks, with hiking being the basis of your training.
If you live by mountains, practice both uphill and downhill hiking a couple times a week when possible. If you live in places devoid of mountains and hills, use long walks on the beach or any other uneven ground as your closest substitute.
Don’t forget to incorporate some cardio into your training. Regularly engaging in aerobic exercises strengthens your cardiovascular system, which in turn will help your body efficiently process less oxygen.
You should aim to do at least a couple of long hikes or walks that span 6-7 hours long on back-to-back days as part of your preparation. Stair climbing, lots of walking, and other exercises for 30-45 minutes 3 times per week are all great ways to help you be in the shape you need to succeed.
Not only is hiking Kilimanjaro easier when you have trained for it, but studies have also shown that you are less likely to struggle with the elevation gain and therefore, less likely to have problems with Acute Mountain Sickness.
The altitude presents the biggest challenge for most climbers. High altitudes may diminish your appetite; disrupt your sleep, cause headaches, dizziness, and even nausea.
Altitude sickness doesn’t discriminate and even the fittest person may have to be rushed back down. However, effectively preparing your body for the difficulties on the mountain will maximize your likelihood of making it to the top and increase your overall enjoyment along the way.
Pre-climbing training will build your confidence and help you maintain a strong mental state when the hardships of Kilimanjaro arise.
Don’t Forget to Your Pack and Shoes
While you train do not forget to hike or walk with the backpack you plan on wearing on Kilimanjaro. Put everything you plan on bringing with you inside your pack to get used to the weight. Your backpack on the mountain shouldn’t weigh more than 15 pounds.
Your bag will definitely be lighter on summit night than it had been on the prior days. It will however feel significantly heavier at high altitude. You will need a backpack that distributes weight properly on your body with waist and chest straps. It should have a secure fit so it’s not moving around.
Also as you train, wear the shoes you will be using on the mountain during your training to break them in. Comfort is key to a great Mount Kilimanjaro climbing. If your shoes cause blisters or other issues, find a pair that fits better.
Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro is challenging, but very doable, even for the common person. By preparing your body you give yourself the best chance to conquer the rooftop of Africa.
Don’t be intimidated by its height or by other people’s tales of grit. It’s not as hard as you imagine. One step at a time is all you need to do at any given moment to keep making progress. Use the advice above to train effectively and adequately and your team will take you the rest of the way.