Guide, Gear and Guts: Getting Ready for Mount Kilimanjaro

Beatriz Coningham

I suppose you need three essential things to propel you onto a strenuous mountaineering endeavor: a guide or when safe, sufficient written knowledge about the place to allow you to self-guide; the right gear, obviously, and the resolve to do it. Having spent the day walking around in new hiking boots meant for the Kili climb, these three “G” words came to mind. But here’s how this story began.

Sometimes things arrange themselves better that I ever could. Some work schedule changes ended up allowing me sufficient time to see Mount Kilimanjaro, something I have wanted to do since I first visited Tanzania and Kenya some two years ago. Like pieces of a puzzle all falling into their place, arrangements were smooth to make. Having done some research some time ago, I went back to African Scenic Safaris for their services. Highly professional, this company quickly provided detailed pre-climb information and a possible itinerary, with prices and gear list. They also facilitated a small group coming together of three people who wanted to climb at around the same time. After some preliminary discussion of routes and duration of the climb, we settled for the Machame Route and the 7-day itinerary (as opposed to 6), to allow for better altitude acclimatization. So I’ve got the guide, I am putting together the gear and working on the guts… We start on September 29th.

African Scenic Safaris provided some information that I found particularly helpful and I share it here so that others planning a similar trip can benefit from it as well. Most of what you can read below was provided by ASS with light edits from me.

Kilimanjaro Pre-Climb Information September/October 2013

Unlike other major towns in Tanzania, Moshi (from where we start) has kept its charm and has been relatively unaffected by the 55,000 visitors who came here last year to climb Kilimanjaro. The word Moshi means “Smoke” in Swahili, the national language of Tanzania.  This is because the clouds that are often covering the mountain resemble smoke.  Moshi has a permanent population of approximately 170,000 inhabitants, mostly from the Chagga tribe, who live in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro.  This number fluctuates daily, as people flock to town from the surrounding area to do business in the markets. It is worth taking a walk down the main street to get a sense of the town.  There are also quite a few shops and stalls where you can buy wood carvings, jewelry and other souvenirs to take home with you.  Be sure to bargain well.

Visas and Vaccinations:

Foreign nationals require a tourist visa to enter Tanzania.  For this you must have at least six months validity remaining on your passport.  This can be purchased easily at the airport on entry at a cost of $100USD cash for American citizens and $50USD for all others.  You can apply for this in your home country; however this is sometimes more expensive. Please seek advice from your medical center or doctor’s surgery regarding vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis.  You are required to show a Yellow Fever Certificate at the airport when entering Tanzania.  Please ensure that you have had this vaccination and remember to bring the certificate with you!

What to Expect Upon Arrival in Moshi:

If required African Scenic Safaris are able to organize airport transfers and pre/post climb accommodation on your behalf.  There are a range of options available to suit your budget.  Please inquire for further information. Once you arrive in Moshi your head Kilimanjaro guide will come to meet with you.  Here he will check over your equipment and help hire anything additional you might need.  In the following pages of this document you will find an equipment hire list with prices.  You can use this as a check-off list and decide what you bring from home vs what you hire here.  All equipment is of good quality however we advise bringing your own walking boots, thermals, socks etc.

Pre-climb Information Required by each Climber:

Within this document you will find a pre-climb form.  Please complete this and return to African Scenic Safaris, either by email or upon arrival.

What Does Your Kilimanjaro Price Include?

Your price includes park fees; camping fees; rescue fees; return transport between Moshi and the park entry gate; guide/s; cook; porters and all food and tents.

What Does Your Kilimanjaro Price NOT include?

Accommodation before and after the climb unless pre-arranged with us; tipping; hiring of any personal mountain equipment such as clothing or a sleeping bag and items of a personal nature.

Currency Exchange:

For most tourism activities in Tanzania USD are accepted.  Please note that only notes printed on or after 2003 are accepted.  Notes printed before this are not accepted anywhere in Tanzania (and most of Africa).  Tanzanian Shillings will be required in Moshi restaurants, markets & taxi services.  For this you can change your USD at any of the money exchange bureaus in town.  Please do not bring travelers cheques as these are difficult to exchange and will incur a 20-25% fee when exchanged.

Valuables & Luggage:

It is recommended that you leave any valuables at your hotel in Moshi.  Passport numbers are required to enter the park however you do not need to actually show your passport.  Additional luggage that you do not need to take up the mountain can also be safely left at your hotel.  Your main bag on the mountain will be carried by a porter.  There is a weight limit in place in order to protect the porters and therefore your full bag must weigh no more than 18 kilos.  Please ensure that this is a soft holdall or rucksack as many of the porters carry the bags on their heads.

Food, Drink and Accommodation:

Every day there will be a hot breakfast (e.g. porridge, eggs, toast and tea or coffee) to start the day.  Lunch can be packed or hot, dependent upon where you are on the mountain and the length of the walk that day.  You will always be provided with a filling hot meal in the evening (e.g. soup followed by rice, potato or pasta and sauce, and usually fruit for dessert.)

There will be ample drinking water as the porters collect water each morning and evening from local water sources for drinking and cooking. All of the water is boiled and therefore iodine drops or tablets are optional whilst trekking. If you decide to use water from the stream or from hotels it would be best to purify it first.  You will need enough water bottles or hydration systems to be able to carry up to 4 liters of water.  A combination of bottles and a hydration system is preferable.

You will be camping on the mountain in two person tents, which will be supplied and erected by us.

Toilet and Washing Facilities:

Warm bowls of washing water will be provided morning and night whilst on the mountain.  Wet wipes, toilet roll and antibacterial gel are always useful for remaining hygienic during the day.  At the camps there are long drop toilets provided by the National Park.  A private toilet can be provided by African Scenic Safaris at an additional cost.

How fit do I need to be?

A good level of fitness is definitely required due to the high altitude, basic facilities, and rough terrain.  Don’t forget the impact of temperature extremes and high altitude and remember that you will be trekking for a number of days in succession.  Anyone who leads a fairly active and moderately healthy lifestyle should be okay, but the more you exercise before the climb, the more you will enjoy it.

Weather:

Mountain weather can be very changeable and you should therefore come prepared to deal with varying conditions.  Generally speaking, early mornings will warm-up as soon as the sun rises and the days will be warm and bright.  You will be trekking in very clear air and will need strong UV protection.  As soon as the sun sets however, the temperature drops radically and is often well below zero degrees.  Nights are usually clear and frosty so please remember this when considering your clothes for summit night and choosing your sleeping bag.  Normally January and February are the driest and clearest months to climb. However, June through to late October and December are also good, but you should expect a little more cloud around the rainforest zone. Whenever you climb, expect convection to send warm air from the hot plains below across the rainforest to precipitate at higher altitudes as rain, sleet, and snow. This happens on some, but not all, afternoons.

Safety and Insurance:

During your Kilimanjaro climb, safety is our number one priority.  Our guides are fantastic at watching your symptoms and can help you assess whether it is altitude sickness, or just tiredness or a headache that you are suffering from.  Should you have any pre-existing medical conditions it is extremely important that you discuss this with African Scenic Safaris at time of booking and again with your head guide upon arrival.  When on the mountain your head guide will keep track of all medication you are taking and how you are feeling hour by hour.  Should your guide decide that it is necessary for you to descend due to altitude related illness, it is essential that you listen to and follow their advice, as it will only ever be in the interests of your health and safety.  In this situation any additional expenses, such as unplanned hotel accommodation, will need to be paid by you but may be reclaimed on your travel insurance.  African Scenic Safaris will of course help to organize any accommodation required and support you with all further arrangements you may need to make.

As with any overseas travel it is recommended that you take out travel insurance.  Please check the fine print of your policy to make sure it covers your Kilimanjaro climb.  Your climb price includes an evacuation service should you need to return from the mountain; however if you wish additional insurance can be obtained with AMREF Flying Doctors at www.amref.org.

Responsible Tourism:

African Scenic Safaris is proud to say that we do our best to protect Kilimanjaro and the people working in it.  No rubbish is left on the mountain.  We follow the local guidelines on cultural and environmental protection issued by the National Park; we leave the wilderness camps clean and carry off glass and tin.

Guide Tipping Rules:

African Scenic Safaris has a strict rule that does not allow our crew to “ask” for a tip at any time as we feel that this should be a matter of choice for our clients.  In African culture it is not considered rude to ask for money, so sometimes the cultures conflict on this issue.  If you are approached by an African Scenic Safaris crew member for money or financial assistance; during your climb or even by email afterwards; please inform our office.

Tipping Recommendations:

All of our guides, cooks and porters receive a salary; however they do work mainly on the income they receive from tips. Our tipping guidelines are in line with the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project and are recommended guidelines only.  Below are standard tipping recommendations to be split between everyone in the group.  We prefer you to distribute to crew members individually (good to bring some small currency notes) or you can hand tips to your head guide and he can distribute them on your behalf.  This should be done at the end of your climb.

Head guide:                USD$20 per day

Assistant guide/s:        USD$15 per day

Cook:                          USD$15 per day

Porters:                        USD$10 per day

African Scenic Safari can advise how many people will be in your group and therefore how many crew members.  In order to help you calculate a rough total tipping amount, we work on ratios of at least one guide or assistant guide per two clients and approximately three porters per client.  Please remember that porters carry food, gas, tents etc in addition to your personal luggage.  Private climbs are available or we can group you together with other people.

Kilimanjaro equipment hire list:

This list is a list of items available for hire in Moshi upon your arrival.  The prices are per climb and not per day.  You may choose to bring some or all of these items from home.  In either case please use this list as a checklist for packing.

Waterproof Jacket (NOT water resistant)                                           $10

Waterproof Pants                                                                                 $10

Warm Jacket (skiing or down jacket)                                                   $15

Light Pants (wear over thermals but under waterproof pants)             $7

Warm Pants (for evenings & summit night)                                         $10

Thick walking Socks (at least 4 pairs)                                                  $2

Mountain Boots (waterproof with ankle protection)                              $25

Gaiters (to wear over shoes & keep them dry)                                    $10

Poncho (optional)                                                                                  $10

Gloves (thin liner and thick waterproof/windproof gloves)                    $7

Thermals (tops/bottoms)                                                                      $7

Water Bottle/Hydration System                                                            $7

Sunglasses                                                                                           $7

Balaclava                                                                                               $7

Walking Poles                                                                                       $10

Rucksack (main bag for porters to carry – must be soft)                    $25

Waterproof cover to go over rucksack                                                 $10

Sleeping Mattress                                                                                 $10

Sleeping Bag (comfort rating approximately -15ºc)                             $20

Head Torch                                                                                           $10

Thick Fleece                                                                                         $7

Day Backpack (approximately 30 litres)                                                $25

Kilimanjaro Personal packing list:

This list is items you will require in addition to the equipment hire list above.  Please ensure you include these on your checklist for packing.

Avoid using cotton as once it gets wet it will not dry on the mountain and it does not wick sweat.  Choose polypro, merino wool, silk or fleece fabrics.

Walking clothes for daily wear (layers of short and long sleeved t-shirts, thin fleece, hiking trousers and shorts – it will be hot at times and very cold at the top)

Thick fleece

Waterproof cover to go over rucksack

Balaclava

Sunscreen

Sunglasses

Hat (warm hat and sun hat)

Bandana or Buff

Lip Balm (with sun protection)

Energy bars and/or energy gel (Plan for 2 per day minimum)

Biscuits and snacks

Bandages and Band-Aids for blisters

Personal basic first aid Kit

Hand wipes and antibacterial gel

Toilet Roll

Plastic bags or dry bags to stop clothes and sleeping bag getting wet

Small towel

Camera

Camera extra battery (no facilities for charging batteries on the mountain)

Spare head torch batteries

Small wash kit (toothbrush and paste, soap and flannel)

Running shoes for the evenings (optional)

Sleeping bag

Thick sleeping mat

Head torch and batteries

Medication:

  • Diamox (altitude sickness tablets)
  • Headache tablets
  • Diarrhoea tablets
  • Personal Medication

 If you have climbed Kilimanjaro and have different suggestions for guide and gear, route or any other aspect of this trip, please send them my way. I would love to offer more recommendations to the reader. If you are interested in volcano climbing, you may want to check my post on a visit to Mount Pinatubo, Philippines.

 

 

 

Beatriz Coningham

Beatriz Coningham

Why write about travel? Travel and exploration have always fascinated me. I marvel at history’s navigators and explorers who expanded the frontiers of the world and of human existence.

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