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This week has been an account of my time climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, and while the first two days were recorded in excruciating details for you, the last 5 days were unfortunately not – sadly I guess I was too exhausted as the climbs became more difficult to keep a diary.  So this is an overview of the best and the rest!

The moral of the story is that any-one can climb Mt Kilimanjaro.  At 5,895 metres (or 19,341 feet) above sea level, while it’s the highest mountain in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing mountain in the world, the great thing about the climb is that it is non technical.  It is suitable for any fit and able bodied person, and you can choose to climb with tour groups of varying fitness levels.

The climb is suitable for any fit and able bodied person, and you can choose to climb with tour groups of varying fitness levels.

It’s more of a walk than a climb really – you’re moving at a snail’s pace which allows you to preserve energy, appreciate your surroundings and become acclimatized to the high altitudes.  The guides emphasize walking “pole pole”, which translates from swahili into “slowly, slowly”. However while anyone can do the climb, you shouldn’t underestimate it.

The climb is hard.  It requires a lot of stamina and a lot of hard work; however I firmly believe that it wasn’t fitness which got me to the top!  Even though it’s a definite bonus to be physically fit before the climb – it was willpower which saw me reach the summit.  Willpower and pride – for a start there was a 9 year old child who was climbing and doing better than the majority of adults (you have to be over 10 yrs of age to climb – unless you lie!), and secondly, I had been told by a large number of people at home that there was no realistic way I could reach the summit, even though it was a commendable goal.  If there’s one thing you can say to me which will ensure I achieve something it’s that I wont.

Willpower and endurance are the two most important qualities you must possess to be successful in reaching the summit.  You need to be able to keep putting one foot in front of the other even though you might be extremely deprived of oxygen and energy.  You need to be able to convince yourself that you CAN do this even as others around you might be failing.  You need to believe in yourself, and you’ll be halfway there!  If you can do that – persevere in both physically and emotionally demanding conditions – I guarantee you will reach the top, and some of the most spectacular views you have seen in your life will be waiting for you.  As they say, the hardest journeys are the most worthwhile!

Some of the most spectacular views you have ever seen in your life are waiting for you!

Summitting Kilimanjaro was the hardest thing I have done in my life, and it’s my most proudest moment.  The climb was the most physically and emotionally challenging venture I have ever undertaken.  While I wanted to jump off the mountain and just die during the more difficult parts of the climb, it was the most worthwhile experience I have had in my life, and by far my greatest accomplishment.

Only 4 out of the 7 of us in our group got to the top of the mountain. One had to turn back at 4,000 metres, another reaches base camp however didn’t attempt the summit, and the last got to 5,600 metres before having to turn back because she couldn’t breathe.

I bawled my eyes out when I got to the final plateau.  I collapsed into a heap and cried my heart out.  Not because I was physically wrecked – which I was – and not because I was an emotional wreck – which I was – but because I had achieved something so amazing, and persevered through hell to get there.  Also it was nice to know I had proved everyone, and even myself, wrong.  My tears were those which came with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment which I will never forget.  It’s amazing to know that you’ve achieved something which so many people are intimidated to even try, and amazing to know that you really worked hard to finally be at the top.  And you really are at the top!  Nothing and no-one can ever take that feeling away from you.

Made it to the top!

Here is the email I sent home a few days after finishing the climb.

Hi all

Just gotten back from climbing Killimanjaro and I’m absolutely shattered!  I’m alive and I made it to the top of the summit – watching the sunset at 5895 metres above sea level above the clouds was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen – but I tell you what, climbing to the top was the hardest thing Ive ever done.  While the first 3 days of the climb were quite long, they were quite easy and included some pretty full on scaling of cliff faces and rock climbing which was cool, but the final day, the summit attempt was absolute hell!  It was the most physically and emotionally taxing challenge I’ve ever had to face – we set off for the summit at midnight and climbed straight up for 7 hours straight. 

There was no track – it was sand and pebbles the whole way to the summit so steep that at certain points it was actually hard to stay standing up right.  Only 4 out of the 7 of us in my group made it to the very top and I actually cried when I got there because I was so proud that Id actually done it and so physically and emotionally exhausted – with altitude sickness and physcial exhaustion there were quite a number of times where I didnt think I was actually going to make it – it was the biggest test and lesson in will power, motivation and determination ever and there were a lot of little mini pep talks in my head to myself…just had to put one foot in front of the other.  

It literally was the biggest bitch of a climb (mind my language – there’s seriously no other way to describe it!), and while it was definately worth it and I’m so incredibly proud of myself for being able to make it to the top if I ever get to the point where I decide I want to do it again I hope some-one admits me into a psych ward because to want to attempt that again you’d have to be seriously mentally ill!!  I’ll write up proper blogs because at the moment I’m very tired and exhausted still!  Just thought Id quickly shoot you an email to say I’m alive though and had a blast – made it to the top, and tomorrow I take off on a safari through the Serengeti National Park!  Also the internet connection is really bad again so will upload photos as soon as I can 🙂

Lol I guess feel free to pass on to every-one that I’m alive!…although knock on wood because apparently the safari starting tomorrow our tents are going to be literally in the middle of the national park with no boundaries between us and the hyenas and lions etc…there’ll be no late night toilet ventures from the tents for me!!

Love Megz xx

Preparing for Kilimanjaro

Like 35,000 odd others who make the climb each year, I trained quite extensively before hand, but honestly I doubt it made a difference.  On reflection of the experience I would recommend swimming if you want to train for the climb, as the biggest obstacle which prevents people from reaching the top is the lack of oxygen once you hit certain heights.  Ironically, being used a lack of oxygen in their lungs; the smokers in our tour were the ones who had the least amount of problems with conquering the mountain!

Cost

To climb Mt Kilimanjaro you must be accompanied by a licensed guide.  All inclusive trips range from between $1,200 and $5,500 US, however you are then expected to pay tips to the guides, tours, cooks and porters who accompany you on the climb.  I recommend booking directly through Zara Tours, who are a locally based Tanzania Adventure Company.  I booked my climb through an Australian company who outsourced the climb to Zara Tours anyway, which meant I paid more than I should have, with a percentage going to the Australian third party company.

    50 Comments

  1. Sounds like an incredible adventure, Megan! Not sure it’s one we’ll try to do ourselves, especially since Mary has mild asthma. But Tanzania is definitely at the top of our must-see list, so hopefully we’ll get to see Kilimanjaro someday soon. Congrats on the new site!
    Bret @ Green Global Travel recently posted…Top 5 Thailand National ParksMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Bret! It really was an amazing adventure – even if you don’t attempt the climb you can always take a trip to the base of the mountain to admire it up close…and Tanzania is an amazing country!
      Megan Claire recently posted…Traveling While in DebtMy Profile

    • It is good travel article for climbing. Kilimanjaro climbing training considered is acclimatization and hiking gears

  2. AMAZING! So incredible! I did a hike when I was in Nepal and after seven months of travel it was still one of my highlights, and all I want to do is climb mountain tops (where I don’t need any serious equipment). Also, thanks for the tip to book through Zara Tours! That’s happened to me before too, it’s amazing how much cheaper it is when you book through a local agency. I assume you really liked Zara?

    Thanks for sharing!
    Megan Tasker recently posted…Cost of the Trans-Mongolian TrainMy Profile

    • Thanks Megan! I absolutely cannot wait to get to Nepal! We really want to do Everest Base Camp, and then of course hiking throughout the rest of the country as well!

      Zara were really great and I would definitely recommend them. I think they’re one of the only tour companies you can actually go with so you’re a bit limited for choice, but they were fantastic. Crazy how much cheaper cutting out all the “middle man” fees can be!
      Megan Claire recently posted…The Topsy Turvy Topic of TippingMy Profile

  3. Great post! I love the line “the hardest journeys are the most worthwhile!”. Indeed they are! I just got back from Mt. Everest on the Tibet side myself which was way up there in elevation. We didn’t climb in so I was a little disappointed at that but the view was quite stunning. Can’t wait to make it to Kilimanjaro, thanks for sharing!
    Ron | Active Planet Travels recently posted…On Top of the World at Tibet’s Mt. Everest Base CampMy Profile

    • Thanks Ron! Wow, Everest is next on my list – I expect that would have been so amazing! I can imagine the views were indeed stunning!

      Let me know if you need any tips or help planning for Kilimanjaro 🙂
      Megan Claire recently posted…Travel Blogs to Read in 2014My Profile

  4. Wow! What an amazing experience. I can only imagine the feeling of reaching the summit after such a climb. I have never done anything like this, but it is definitely on my list of things to do.
    Wes recently posted…Will Ecuador Be A 2014 Travel Hot Spot?My Profile

    • I highly encourage you to do it! It’s definitely one of those once in a lifetime experiences – I wouldn’t attempt it again lol but definitely have to do it once in your lifetime! 😀
      Megan Claire recently posted…Travel Blogs to Read in 2014My Profile

    • You should take an excursion and just head up to the base 🙂 Although on a cloudy day you can be at the base of the mountain and not even see it, it’s crazy! We almost thought he whole thing was a hoax lol because we just couldn’t see what they kept calling one of the world tallest mountains!!

      Have an amazing trip to Tanzania! Safe travels 🙂
      Megan Claire recently posted…Travel Blogs to Read in 2014My Profile

  5. Great post, Megan! Yes, I agree that climbing Kili is more of a mental test than a physical challenge – although it’s quite demanding on the body. There are some 200+ tour operators to climb Kili with, ranging from very low cost to very expensive. The key is to choose the right company that suits your style.
    Mzuri @ Amani Afrika recently posted…Best Kilimanjaro Tour Operator vs. Right Kilimanjaro Climb CompanyMy Profile

    • I completely agree with you – choosing the right company is key to success, as is choosing a suitable climb. Your post on Best Kili Tour Operator vs the Right operator is a great resource. I went with a mid range tour and it was perfect for me 🙂
      Megan Claire recently posted…How To Spend A Perfect Weekend In PerthMy Profile

  6. Wow! Its an wonderful occurrence. How much pleasure it was after reaching the destination after facing many complexity. I have reserve my calendar to visit that glorious destination to upcoming summer vacation.

    • Hope you have a great time on Mt Kilimanjaro. Thanks Cameron for stopping by!

  7. Hey.

    I had the same emotional moment when I arrived at Macchu Picchu. I was so weak, and terribly sick from altitude sickness that the guides wanted to carry me down on the second day of the Inca Trail, but it was a lifelong dream to do it, and when I finally made it I cried like a baby. One of the greatest moments of my life.

    Kilimanjaro is on the list, though the altitude may kill me 🙁
    Steven recently posted…Why Most Fiction Writers Are Poor, Starving ArtistsMy Profile

    • Hi Steven

      Thanks for sharing about your experience on the Inca Trail. Completely empathize with you on the altitude sickness. I literally took two steps at midnight on the beginning of the summit climb and started dry wreaching! Honestly I didn’t know if I would make it the whole way.

      I’m so glad to hear that you made it despite being sick from the altitude. Congrats on such a huge achievement!

      Feel free to reach out if you do decide you want to attempt Kili. Always happy to offer tips and advice 🙂

  8. Its very exciting to climb Kilimanjaro, such a special lifetime experience

    • Yes it is! I’m so glad you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy the same experience 🙂

  9. Thank you so much for a comprehensive and honest review of the climb! I depart in 5 weeks and am training hard now. It’s refreshing to hear the most difficult part is willpower and determination. I’m worried and excited for the experience; can’t wait to to a post of my own when it’s all over – at the top or not :).

    Thank you again!

    • PS – thanks for the tip on Zara! I’m already booked through them so it’s great to hear you had a good experience with them.

    • How exciting for you! So glad you enjoyed the post – you’ll have a great time, and the climb is definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

      It’ll be difficult, and there will be ups and downs, but the overall experience is a great one. Biggest tip I could give is to try swimming – helps your lungs readjust to the lack of oxygen 🙂

      Best of luck!! Wishing you a brilliant adventure – let me know how your trip goes! xx

    • Climbing training to trek Kilimanjaro should be simple and or none. Easier exercise is enough to climb Kilimanjaro.

  10. Mt. Whitney in central California is similar; non-technical and more of a long hike as opposed to a climb. It’s the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states. We’re gonna summit it up and back in 1-2 days on our way to Alaska. Are you in the states now?
    AJ recently posted…A desire for change, requires changeMy Profile

    • Wow fantastic – thanks for the tip; I had heard of Mt Whitney before in name but didn’t realize it was the biggest in the lower 48 states.

      We are in the States at the moment, and actually planning on doing a trip up the 101 next year to explore more of California, so this could be perfect. Also want to attempt Mount Rainier if we get the chance.

      Jealous that you’re heading to Alaska! That’s on the bucket list! Have a wonderful trip, and all the best with the climb! Let us know how it goes 🙂

      Meg

    • We’re hoping for May next year – probably won’t have an actual date for a while – depends on a few different things falling into place like Visas, jobs and Immigration – will def make an announcement when we do have a date though 🙂 I love doing shoutouts to get tips from locals along the way!

      Will stay in touch 🙂

    • Thanks Mariette! Sounds like you’re speaking from experience, so congrats on completing the climb as well!

  11. We start our climb on the 4th of March 2015. I will keep you all posted.

    • So glad to hear – definitely keep us updates, can’t wait to see photos! Best of luck with the climb, and happy trails!

  12. My then seventeen-year-old, and I, did a nine-day trip up the Western Breach in 2004.
    That allowed us to camp on the crater one hour below the summit. We missed the slog up from Barafu Camp climbing all night.
    We had to pass a dead climber (Heart attack and subsequent fall) on the way up the Breach and we couldn’t sleep at 18,800 ft., but it was indeed a spectacular experience with emotions galore.
    I believe the Western Breach route is closed now.
    We decended in two days. Back in the hotel in Moshi, we were the only guests that made the summit.
    The longer your trip, the better chance you have of making it. 40,000 try, 16,000 make it each year.

    • Wow thankyou for sharing your experience Ed – I’m so sorry to hear that there was a tragedy on the mountain on the week you went up.

      Clever to have skipped the long slog up from Barafu Camp – climbing all night was the hardest part of the climb for me. There were a few times along the way on that final night where I genuinely didn’t think my feet could move me anymore.

      We also descended in two days – couldn’t believe that it took 7 to get up but only 2 to sprint back down!! Absolutely agree that the longer your trip the more chance you have of making it. Just need to take to the mountain slowly and pace yourself and that’s your best chance of success.

      Congrats on being part of the 40% who do make it!

    • Meg,
      Coming across that fellow did not ruin out trip. We talked through it that night on the crater.
      Burafu Camp is 15,000. You did 4,340 ft in one day.
      Our route took us to Lava Tower 15,000, then Arrow Glacier 17,000, then Crater 18,800. At AG we climbed above camp to climb high/sleep low.
      Too bad most people have to climb from Barafu. Well done.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  13. It sounds like you ha an incredible experience climbing Kili!

    I climbed it 2 years a go with a local company too, called Kilimanjaro 3 Peaks Adventures.

    Zara is a good company too, but if anyone is looking for an smaller one, try looking here: http://www.kili3peaksadventures.com

    • Thanks for the tip Marsha! Congrats on making the climb too 🙂

  14. Planning for a 2017 trip so I’m reading a lot of blogs about Kili at the moment!

    I enjoyed how candid you were about the difficulty of the climb. Hiking in the woods is usually pleasant but so much of Kilimanjaro is exposed and bare, so this is something to consider. I’m still very excited to go. Also, interesting comment about the smokers!

    • Hi Steve … so excited for you that you’ll be climbing next year … it’s definitely difficult, so you should be prepared for that, but it’s one of the most memorable experiences you’ll ever have.

      Feel free to reach out if you’re after any additional tips in the lead up to your climb. Always happy to help – meganjerrard@gmail.com

      Happy travels 🙂

  15. Hi,

    I’m planning a trip to Africa for 2018 and climbing Kili is at the top of my list!
    Which trek/duration did you do?

    • Hi Tara, you’ll love Tanzania, how exciting! If you have the time and money, I would firstly recommend doing a safari combined with your kilimanjaro tour.

      I did the Machame Route over 7 days and it was a really good period of time to take the mountain slowly and acclimatize. Feel free to reach out if you have any further Q’s 🙂
      Meg Jerrard recently posted…Best Places to See the Northern Lights in NorwayMy Profile

    • I was thinking of doing that trail. I was also looking into the lemosho trail which is also 7 days long.
      My friend and I are planning to make our way from Tanzania and ending in South Africa and head to Madagascar.
      We found a company called dragoman that does long trips through all of Africa including safaris, camping, canoe excursions and stuff like that but it’ll include Zanzibar and a Tanzanian safari! I’m stoked. I want 2018 to come right now haha.
      What company did you climb Kili with? There are so many out there, and I’m wondering if you have any suggestions 🙂

    • Sounds like an epic trip – would love to do Madagascar at some stage, let me know how your trip goes!

      I climbed Kilimanjaro with G Adventures who were great, though they booked us onto a tour with Zara Tours, so I should have just booked through Zara Tours directly. Zara is a wonderful company, and almost all of the third party booking companies will put you on their tours anyway. 🙂
      Meg Jerrard recently posted…How to Plan a Cherry Blossoms Trip to JapanMy Profile

  16. For the last 5 years I have told myself that I will celebrate turning 30 by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Well, yesterday I turned 29. That means, 364 days until I get my butt up that mountain! I have started the research stage and remembered reading somewhere on your blog that you hiked Kili! So glad I found these posts again – super helpful and inspiring as I set my sights on doing this!

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