Guest Writer: Aimee Addington - Summiting Kilimanjaro Series - Blog 3
All good things must come to an end, they say. This is my 3rd and final blog about Kilimanjaro and I hope you’ve had at least a moment where you’ve thought to yourself, “man, I should totally do that!” Perhaps you’ve thought about it for more than just a moment and are actually considering investigating further... But where to even start?
Who should I book through?
From what I understand, although there are loads of companies to choose from, they are usually just the middle-men between you and the Tanzanian tour operators who oversee all the logistics for your climb. The most important factor that should guide your decision-making in terms of who to book through is how well they look after and remunerate the local staff (guides, porters, etc). In my research, I came across a number of warnings not to simply choose the cheapest option without looking into the company more, as sadly, there have been reports of exploitation.
A couple of Aimee's guides
Tipping and toilet fails
Make sure you budget for tipping your guides and porters after the climb. The company you book through should give you guidelines on how much cash to take for this, but you’ll want to give more than that when you see the lengths that they go to for you every day… And when you’ve been rescued by your guide following an unexpected, urgent bowel movement at 3:30 am on summit day while balanced precariously behind a rock with your pants around your ankles and no wipes because you forgot them in your pack. True story. The crew really do become like family.
To hire or not to hire?
In terms of gear, the company you book through will provide you with the details of everything you need, and believe me, it is a very long list that can add up to quite a hefty sum. The good news, though, is that a lot of the gear can be hired in Tanzania for a reasonable amount which ends up cutting costs considerably. This is especially helpful when it comes to items you are unlikely to use again. It can be a bit risky though as they may not have stock of everything you need or your size. Making friends with avid hikers (ideally of a similar build to you) and borrowing their stuff is even better and (if you have friends like mine) it won’t cost you more than a “thank you” cake.
Seriously NB gear
There are, however, one or two things that you absolutely must not hire or borrow:
- Hiking boots: You must have “worn in” your boots very well before climbing Kilimanjaro. The comfort of your boots is probably the most important factor with regard to gear.
- Thermals: You want a clean slate when it comes to the history of these skin-tight insulators. (Borrowing is an option if you are confident in the hygiene standards of the lender).
If you intend to become/remain an avid hiker, then this is a great opportunity to enhance your collection of hiking equipment. The things I would highly recommend investing in are:
- A decent day-pack (around 30-35L) with lots of little, easy-access compartments and a waterproof cover
- A few pairs of hiking socks and liner socks (wearing 2 layers of socks does wonders in helping prevent blisters)
- A bladder/camel-pack (2-3L minimum)
- Hiking poles
- A decent first aid kit - Surviveware’s Small First Aid Kit is a winner
- Wet Wipes - Surviveware’s Biodegradable Wet Wipes are 3 x the normal size and great for a head to toe wash
- A small sewing kit
- A moisture-wicking fleece top (great for hiking on cooler days; warm but breathable).
- A down jacket
- A headlamp (always take spare batteries with you and, in cold climates, keep the batteries wrapped up warmly in clothes/your sleeping bag to preserve their lifespan)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Did you sleep in dorms?
A: There are certain routes that have huts/dorms but I chose the tented option and would definitely recommend it.
Q: How did you clean?
A: You are given a small basin of warm water every morning and evening, but to be honest I only used it to splash my face. I took plenty of wet wipes and was amazed at how clean and fresh they kept me feeling. (Editors note: Surviveware’s wipes are hypoallergenic so you can clean from top to bottom, literally, without any worries)
Q: What were the toilets like?
A: I read some horror stories about the condition of the public toilet facilities at the camps, so our group decided to hire a portable toilet (which also means paying for an extra porter) and split the cost between the four of us. It was worth every cent.
Q: What was the highlight for you?
A: Honestly, everything. There isn’t one particular moment, it’s more the entire experience. There was one evening though – I think it was day 3 – where thick clouds had completely hidden the peak of the mountain for hours. Suddenly the sun broke through the clouds and they started unveiling the peak almost like a curtain opening. The spectacle revealed remains one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. (Pictured below)
Image by Aimee Addington
Q: Would you do it again?
A: I’m not the type of person to spend money doing something I’ve already done before… I want to experience new things and go to places I haven’t yet been. But climbing Kilimanjaro is something I would do over and over again if I was able to. It really is that special!
Q: Did you meet anyone special? Any romance?
A: I may have exaggerated how well the wet wipes worked.
Feature image by: Anna Claire Schellenberg