What does it take to climb a mountain?
Curiosity, a burning desire, a challenge (personal or external), a social conscience…
A good starting point is a middle of the range mountain such as Kilimanjaro. It ticks many boxes, located in mysterious some might say dangerous Africa. It offers a challenge with an altitude of 5895metres. Often climbing can be combined with raising funds for those less fortunate in Africa or elsewhere (many charities run sponsored climbs).
It looks easy but has to be taken seriously. Temperatures range from high 30’s at the base to minus 30’s at the peak. The trek and in some places, climb of sorts, can be arduous, not for the faint of heart or lung. People die on this mountain from altitude sickness and heart and lung disease.
The scenery is varied and spectacular and whilst performing the pole, pole (pronounced poley, poley and translates as slow, slow) walk is easy to appreciate and photograph.
The guides are a valuable source of information, and there is no doubt you get what you pay for. Cheap trips can be organised but in my experience those who take this option regret it.
Preparation for the trip includes appropriate clothing – much of which can be hired from the guiding companies. These include hiking boots, sleeping bags, duffel bag, day pack, and water proof bags, walking poles, gloves, scarves, beanies, headlamp, water bottles, camera, spare batteries, shoe laces, toilet paper and optional solar charger plus e-reader. In addition to vaccinations and medication to cover gastro intestinal, respiratory and skin illness. Don’t forget some dressings for blisters and creams for rashes!
The food and water provided is of high quality but don’t be scared to use water purification tablets or ultraviolet sterilisers, to be certain of the quality of the water you drink.
Fitness helps with the walk but acclimatization is the key to altitude. Slower paths ascending the mountain have the higher success rates.
The ascent at night tests the adage that “it is the attitude not the altitude” which will get you to the top and once there, for sunrise, the exhilaration is palpable.
We wish you safe and enjoyable climbing!
Dr Ronald Sweet – TMA Surrey Hills, Melbourne