How fit do I need to be to climb Kilimanjaro?

This is the most commonly asked question I’ve received in the last fourteen years of organising Adventure Alternative climbs of Kilimanjaro. And the answer – well it depends more on your approach to the climb as a whole, rather than just your fitness.

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A long standing client of Adventure Alternative has done numerous triathlons, marathons, duathlons, ultra marathons and any other thon that you can think of, yet he felt climbing Kilimanjaro was one of his toughest achievements to date! Saying that, another client, who again has been on many different trips with us, found it challenging, tough at times but very achievable and rewarding. And her training? Well she’s a working mum of two who escapes for a few hours at the weekend and once or twice during the week when she’d hit the hills with a light pack, go for a jog or jump in the pool for a few lengths. So it isn’t just physical fitness that gets you to the top.

My advice is to prepare as much as you can within the possibilities of your lifestyle and don’t let worry or stress enter that regime! You don’t need a hardcore training schedule and for most people some lifestyle changes such as escaping to the countryside, beach or hills at the weekend or even walking to work will be a great step in the right direction. You really don’t need to be a super fit, highly tuned athlete but you should work on stamina, general well being and be comfortable with living outdoors for prolonged periods of time.

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Rather than asking how fit do I need to be to climb Kilimanjaro it would be better to ask ‘How should I prepare for climbing Kili?’ That’s a better and more holistic approach to summiting the roof of Africa. You can’t train for altitude, well not on UK or Irish hills, but you can work on all other aspects of the climb. Read up and learn about the route, weather and living conditions on (for example) the Machame Route, then how you can best prepare in terms of health and altitude on Kilimanjaro, also look at kit and the right gear for the climb: Kilimanjaro kit list and of course consider your training for Kilimanjaro!

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Remember climbing Kilimanjaro is a holiday, an adventure and not a forced march! The secret of climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is to go slow, enjoy the scenery, drink well, eat well and sleep well – it’s better than any exercise or diet book! A regular, consistent and slow pace will ensure proper acclimatisation and in terms of training; well it should include regular hill walking with a small pack of around 10 kgs, or regular visits to the gym for the final two months before departure. Work on strengthening calf and thigh muscles and exercise your cardio-vascular stamina on a step machine or cross trainer. If you do all of the above you’ll be well prepared mentally and physically for a climb of Kilimanjaro.

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Africamp Update 2012

Adventure Alternative’s Africamp project in Tigithi is progressing nicely. The team’s primary goal is to help build Tigithi School’s second classroom. Many of the older children walk over 8km to reach the nearest secondary school. Soon there will be one on their doorstep! The classroom should be fully functioning by the start of the New Year but we have already had the local elders congratulate the group on their hard work.

The Africampers will be working and camping alongside the kids from Tigithi School. Work has thus far included collecting basalt from the nearby quarry, making concrete and then plastering the walls and floors.

The team is divided into 4 groups:

Duma – meaning ‘cheetah’ in Swahili

Pumba – ‘pig’

Simba – ‘lion’

Twiga – ‘giraffe’

Yesterday, the Simba group went off on an excursion to Mau-Mau cave where they swam in the waterfall, picked and ate passion fruit and caught glimpses of a troop of colibus monkeys – sounds idyllic! The day ended with festivities around the campfire.

Having a chat and getting to know each other after a hard day’s work!

Adventure Alternative runs a number of international development tours, including Africamp trips that help contribute towards sustainable development in Kenya. For more information on these trips and for an insight into the wonderful lands of Kenya, visit our website. The Moving Mountains website offers an insight into the different projects that have been run in collaboration with Adventure Alternative and different tour groups, including more information on Tigithi School and how our partnership with them has developed over the years.

For more photos from the trip (updated regularly), visit us on Facebook or Google+.