Everyone and anyone who embarks on a Kilimanjaro climb will come away at the end of the experience with some important lessons learnt.
Some of these lessons might reinforce preconceived ideas you had before your climb; other lessons will shatter those preconceived ideas. Either way, these lessons are a memorable part of the experience for all of our climbers.
Here’s a small selection of some of the lessons imparted by the mountain that our climbers mention again and again, with the benefit of hindsight:
Slow and steady wins the race
There’s a Swahili mantra that you’ll hear on the mountains countless times during your Kili climb, from your guides, the porters and just about anyone else you encounter: “Pole pole”, which means “slowly slowly”.
These two simple words are the most important of all when climbing Kilimanjaro, and you’ll do very well to treat them like an all-powerful God.
In fact, as you get higher and higher you’ll have little choice – the altitude will start to weigh down on you like a heavy blanket, and even just putting one foot in front of the other can be a tough ask as you near the summit, let alone trying to rush the last stretch.
If you try to rush at any stage for that matter, you’re likely to suffer for your haste. There’s no such thing as “too slow” on Kilimanjaro.
You can achieve a lot through sheer willpower
If we are honest with ourselves, many of us climbers who have successfully summitted Kilimanjaro thought about giving up or turning back at some point or other. Some of us may well have thought we’d never make it, even if we carried on trying.
And while some unfortunately don’t make it to the summit for various reasons, almost all will be surprised how far their willpower alone can get them.
If you manage to complete the gruelling summit climb and make it all the way to the top, you’ll certainly have no doubts as to just how far your willpower can get you – by this final stage, anything else (strength, fitness etc) is very much secondary.
The porters are the real heroes
It’s very unlikely that most of us would ever get anywhere near reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro without the porters.
These remarkable Tanzanians will carry your bags, tents and bedding; they’ll pack up your camp after you set off in the mornings, then hurtle past you along the route to make sure your camp is set up again before you arrive at the next campsite.
They’ll also get you water to drink and wash with, and provide continuous cheer and moral support throughout your climb.
And they’ll take it all in their stride as if it’s just another day in the office.
You definitely won’t feel like that celebratory drink at the summit that you’d planned
A lot of Kilimanjaro climbers have a romantic vision of toasting their success on reaching the Roof of Africa with a sip of whiskey or even popping open a bottle of champagne as the sun rises over the plains far below.
But the reality is, an alcoholic drink is almost certainly going to be the last thing you feel like. Your energy will be absolutely sapped, the altitude will make breathing a struggle, and there’s a very good chance you will have vomited during the summit climb.
All of this means you’re probably going to be much more eager to get back down from the summit again as quickly as possible, rather than hang around and have a drink.
And as some guests have discovered, the champagne will probably have frozen anyway.
Sometimes, nothing beats a bowl of porridge
Climbing mountains is hungry work, and all of the hearty meals you’ll be served by our talented chefs on Kilimanjaro will go down like a treat and give you the invaluable fuel you need to conquer this mountain.
But for many, the absolute highlight of the day is the piping hot maize porridge that you’ll get first thing every morning.
While many of you may have unpleasant memories of lumpy porridge from your school days, the Kilimanjaro version will do away with those for good as it instantly injects warmth, energy and satisfaction into your cold, tired and hungry body.