Being fit is no guarantee for getting to the summit of Kilimanjaro. However, it will certainly help. Even then, it remains true that people in their 80s have successfully summited while extraordinarily fit athletes have failed to summit. The reason for our vagueness? Everyone, whether triathlete or couch potato, is affected differently by the altitude, the strict gatekeeper of Uhuru peak.
One thing is for sure: the fitter and stronger you are, the more you will enjoy the experience.
Cardio training and strong muscles will help you with the daily hiking on the mountain of between five and seven hours. If you can, get out and hike at home whenever possible in the weeks and months leading up to your Kilimanjaro climb. Fill up and strap on your day bag to get used to carrying extra weight, and be sure to wear in your hiking boots too. Hike steep inclines and downhills, do steps and strengthen leg muscles.
Lots of stretching to improve your flexibility before setting off will also help muscles from becoming too stiff when on the mountain. It’s also a good idea to stretch at the beginning and end of the day whilst on the mountain.
For all the work you might put in beforehand, the best advice for physical success is to take it slow when climbing the mountain, however fit you are or aren’t. “Pole pole”, slowly slowly, as we say in Tanzania, will be your mantra on Kili. Your body needs to adapt to the thin air and lack of oxygen at high altitude.
Almost everyone will experience at least some symptoms of altitude sickness at some point. Headaches, nausea and lack of appetite are all part of the game, but can be alleviated with rest, nutritious food and water. Obviously prior training at higher altitude will help in this regard, but it’s still no substitute for walking slowly and rhythmically whilst on the mountain.
Having said all of this, anyone who has successfully summited Kilimanjaro will tell you that mental strength is more important than physical strength and fitness. Keep up a positive attitude, don’t panic or get despondent, follow the instructions of your guides at all times. All of this is key. You can do it.
Note that the minimum age for joining a Kilimanjaro trek is ten years. If you are planning to climb Kilimanjaro with a junior climber younger than 18 years old, please let us know during the booking process.