Kilimanjaro: What you need to know

A guide to Kilimanjaro, from someone who has survived Africa’s highest peak and the world’s highest free standing mountain.

September 2016 was the month i left Dublin’s fair city for my latest challenge. As i am sure you will notice, it’s become a regular affair to take on huge pursuits and its something i have become so addicted too. I can now proudly say ive taken on both Kilimanjaro and Machu Picchu, in the name of charity and conquered both. My climbing ambitions are in no way satisfied and i already find myself looking towards both Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount Elbrus in Russia. I can’t help but flirt with the idea that someday i will conquer all Seven Summits, but until that day comes.

Everybody talks about the glory and struggles associated with these types of trips, but very few talk about the actual reality of getting to the top. There are a lot of factors left out from the emotional journey, friendships, long flights and camping. Preparation is king and the jungle will leave you mesmerized and enchanted.

THE NATURE WILL LEAVE YOU SPEECHLESS

It’s true, very few people mention the landscape and the sheer beauty that will surround you from the moment you step off the plane at Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania. You will feel totally at one with nature and overjoyed to be away from the hectic city life. A wild forest filled with tropical plants and Colobus monkeys. The landscape changes quite dramatically the further you explore into the skies. For the moments you are not totally submersed in your own head it will seem like you are on the moon. The most special of all will be the moment you lay eyes on the sunset on summit night, a memory that will never leave my thoughts.

THE SMILES WILL BE ENDLESS

When i think back to my time on Kilimanjaro i can’t help but smile from cheek to cheek, those special moments and endless conversations that took us from camp to camp. You will struggle like never before, but somehow manage to giggle from the bottom of the mountain to the very top. Nights at the campsite after a long day of hiking, sipping hot chocolates and eating popcorn. Sitting in your tent while the heaviest rain pours from the sky, but you are just so happy to get your boots off your feet.

The biggest highlight and smile will come when you reach Uhuru Peak.


Packing is everything

Packing is simply EVERYTHING and your trip will be utterly ruined if you get it wrong. One missing item could turn out to be a make or break moment in your expedition. That’s not to say that your fellow hikers won’t give you a dig out, if you find yourself missing a plaster. Take the advice from somebody who has done it, be prepared and dont depend on anyone. It’s better to be over prepared than find yourself missing an essential piece of equipment. The sleeping bag, the shoes and the rain gear will be the key items in your arsenal.

If you are looking for a more detailed list read on here International Hiking Gear List

 

Not everyone makes it to Uhuru Peak

The reality is that making it to Uhuru Peak is a luxury and one that not everybody gets to experience. Is very common for people to make it close and pull out at any stage of the pursuit. Acute Mountain Sickness, exhaustion, dizziness are but a few reasons. There is absolutely no shame in not making it to the top and i personally seen the fittest individuals turn back for base camp. A lot of factors will determine your luck on that very special summit day.

 

Indescribable moments

Taking on Africa’s highest peak will be filled with incredible and indescribable moments, that you will only experience if you sign up for the challenge. I had several of these magical moments and it wasn’t just making it to the top. The photographs will never be able to capture or express how i felt during my time in Tanzania. The celebrations at the highest point, the moment you get your certificate of accomplishment and the sad moments when you board your very last flight home.

People make this adventure

Without the support of your group and the ongoing encouragement this adventure would be simply NOTHING. I have met some of the most wonderful people during my time on the mountains and they have been the cherry of every single expedition i have taken on. You will meet the most colourful people of all age groups, with so many interesting stories and perspectives to tell. I am so grateful for the people i was surrounded by on the hills of Kilimanjaro. I’ve never seen such warmth and support from people who had only known each other for only ten days. The people you hardly know at the airport will become your cheerleaders during the last push.

 

There will be time for fun

It’s not all hardship and pain on the hills of Kilimanjaro, there is plenty of time for fun and relaxation. You have to do the hard work first meaning you appreciate the good times even more. From your first safari experience around Tanzania, watching Elephants and monkeys. The celebration dinner when you get back to your hotel and not to forget almost every second of the trip.

If you are interested in taking on a physical challenge why not do it for charity

https://www.cancer.ie/get-involved/fundraise/challenge-yourself/trek#sthash.k15nJjcb.dpbs

Why not read my published article about my experience with The Independent here http://www.independent.ie/life/travel/world/kelly-donegans-kilimanjaro-5895m-black-toenails-and-a-lifetime-memory-35269193.html
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