Take the time to read about 10 most common mistakes one can make which could decrease your chances of taking a selfie at Uhuru Peak:
- Underestimating the difficulty of a Kilimanjaro hike
Despite the fact that Kilimanjaro is not a technical climb, it is still highest freestanding mountain in the world, and can become a challenge to both beginners and veteran hikers. To reach the summit you need to have stamina, since only about 66% of climbers actually reach the top, because the high altitude sickness usually take its toll and force many to double back.
At 5,895m, Uhuru Peak is a arctic wasteland with severe cold and often strong winds, making the actual summit approach through the steep trails even harder. Every year there are fatalities among the climbers trying to conquer the Kilimanjaro.
In all our best intention to keep you safe on your climb, you should not underestimate how the combined conditions of Kilimanjaro altitude and weather could affect your body.
How to avoid this mistake: Prepare yourself. You will increase the chances of summiting Kilimanjaro if you bring or rent the proper clothes, necessary gear and most importantly, get yourself fit and ready to climb a mountain.
- Finding the cheapest Kilimanjaro guides possible
As in life, you get what you pay for on Kilimanjaro. Unlike booking a cruise where economy tickets only limits you from accessing all the facilities, using a budget trekking company can sometime mean risking your life.
To maintain the low costs, budget companies recruit untrained guides, with questionable level of communication in English, who lack altitude emergency training , and frequently use leaky tents and worn out equipment. In extreme cases they do not even pay their porters or do not feed them properly.
How to avoid this mistake: Use every means to learn about your host before making a booking your Kilimanjaro climb, make proper inquiry if the cost is worth the price to make sure you understand the risks you’re taking. Only book the climb with companies that have positive reviews on websites like Tripadvisor or similar.
- Using the shortest route
One more trick used by budget companies is taking the shortest route to climb Kilimanjaro. That basically means they will pay less for the staff, spend less on food and daily park fees, and overall lower the cost.
Some may say that cutting cost is a good business decision, taking the shortest route does not give your body enough time for acclimatization to the higher altitude.
By ascending Kilimanjaro too fast you may develop Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), also known as altitude sickness, which symptoms include headaches, difficult breathing, nausea and fatigue.
How to avoid this mistake: It will cost more to take one of the routes with at least one day reserved for acclimatization, but that will help you enormously to reach the summit. So take your time, and do not rush for the lower rates, this is not a trip to the shopping mall.
- Assuming all park guides receive the same training
The fact is that Kilimanjaro National Park authorities require that all hikers should be accompanied by a registered and licensed guide. As much as that seems assuring, it might not be “peachy” as it sounds. The problem is that the park has no defined training standards for Kilimanjaro guides, and some licenses might be given to guides that are not fit for the job.
Many guides have no idea how to handle high altitude emergencies, and if they act overconfident, they might endanger your life.
How to avoid this mistake: Always book your Kilimanjaro climb with a company that is a direct organizer of the climb and never subcontracts them. Before booking, ask of your outfitter to give you assurance that their guides posses proper high altitude training, what type of medical equipment they plan to bring along and to confirm that they know how to use all of the gear.
Before your climb you should be able to ask your guide all sorts of questions, to assess their abilities. Your guide should be knowledgeable and assuring, fully committed to help you safely climb and reach the Uhuru Peak.
- Skipping snacks and water breaks
One thing you should never take for granted is snacking and drinking the water. Keeping yourself nourished and hydrated on hourly basis is equally important as sleeping. Because, if you don’t, you will not have enough energy for the steep climbs in front of you. You will also lack important calories that should keep you warm. Of course, there is ever lurking AMS, which can be caused by lack of either of the two.
How to avoid this mistake: Never skip scheduled snack breaks and always keep snacks at hand to energize you while climbing. Your water bottle should also be full and in reach at all times.
To have a fair chance for reaching the top, average climber needs a rich diet, enriched with healthy carbs and proteins. Think of food as your fuel, of which you will need a full tank to reach the Summit.
- Hiking Kilimanjaro in new boots
In preparations for the climb many of you would probably rush for a shopping, and purchase among other things new hiking boots. As much as that sounds like a awesome idea, it is open invitation for blisters, if they have not been worn at all.
Make sure they mold and adjust to the shape of your foot as much as possible. Also keep in mind that you will be wearing thermo socks, which will add to the space used inside your shoes.
How to avoid this mistake: Practice hiking in your new boots while you are training for your climb. You should go for at least 4 long distance hikes (each of them at least 5 hours long) in your new boots, before packing them. Your hiking boots should fit well, support your ankles, and have deep lugs for added traction and grip on the trail.
- Delaying treatment for a hotspot
When you start getting a felling like your heel is on fire, it usually means that a new blister is forming. Many of you would make a common mistake and decide to push on, instead of stopping your hike to treat the spot.
Not treating a blister before it is fully formed could mean your climb has ended. Besides getting difficult to walk, there is always a chance it can get infected if it’s not handled properly.
How to avoid this mistake: Attend the hotspot as soon as you feel it. Hike in your boots enough to shape them to your foot, and you should not get many blisters on your climb.
- Relying on sleeping pills
It is true that sleep at high altitudes can sometimes be difficult to achieve, but reaching out for medication may not be the smartest choice. There are climbers that fall asleep fast on the mountain, due to full daily physical exertion, while others can’t get comfortable or experience insomnia, which can be a symptom of AMS.
Hikers looking to catch a full night sleep often take sleeping pills, hoping to wake up refreshed for the next day. The problem is that most sleeping pills suppress your respiratory drive, and that is something you definitely do not want when you’re already in thin air.
How to avoid this mistake: There are several natural remedies for good night’s sleep on the mountain, that will work just as well for calming your mind and relaxing your body. If you think you’ll have a hard time sleeping, you may want to bring along herbal teas, essential oils, earplugs or a sleeping mask.
- Not getting your body temperature right
While hiking Kilimanjaro, you will find yourself traveling through five different climate zones in less than two weeks. Starting out in the humid and warm rainforest, you will elevate all the way to the arctic zone peak.
Along with dramatic weather changes, your body temperature will vary throughout the day couple of times. Regardless to the route you choose, the risk of hypothermia or heat exhaustion will be present if you do not keep your body at the right temperature.
How to avoid this mistake: Layered clothing will help in keeping your body temperature constant throughout your climb. Every piece of clothes should be easy to put on or remove quickly while you’re walking. Cold-weather clothes should also be at hand in case of quick drop of temperature you may encounter.
- Ignoring a headache
You might ignore that annoying headache by telling yourself that you are just a bit dehydrated and need to drink more water, or maybe thinking your head hurts from exposure to sun or lack of sleep, etc. But that small ache can quickly develop into a crippling headache.
You may risk a lot by ignoring a headache on Kilimanjaro, because the headaches are usually the start of AMS. And if that doesn’t sound bad enough, they can also lead to developing High Altitude Cerebral Edema, which is often fatal.
How to avoid this mistake: You are the master of your own body. Guides will be checking with you during the climb and monitor your health, but if you don’t tell them how you really feel, they may not be looking for signs, and things may become much more serious.