Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is, as they say in mountaineering circles, “a non-technical walkup.” This means you don’t need ropes, and you don’t have to traverse cliff faces.
While Mt. Kilimanjaro is not a technical climb, summiting Africa’s highest mountain is a huge mental and physical challenge. It’s not easy in any sense and should be recognized as a serious undertaking; getting to 19,341 feet above sea level is simply not easy. And you don’t want to just climb mt Kilimanjaro; you want to enjoy the experience.
Therefore, it is important to develop a comprehensive training program – 6 to 8 months in advance – to help increase you odds of making it to the summit.
The general rule for training for a Kilimanjaro climb is that the more you exercise and prepare, the more you will enjoy the climb. The Lemosho and Western Breach climb – especially after Arrow Glacier Camp – is a strenuous, highly demanding scramble, and requires a proficient level of general fitness. The altitude makes it even more difficult.
If you do not exercise on a regular basis, you need to begin now. Try to incorporate jogging, overnight hikes, walks, swimming, or biking into your weekly routine. The more cardio development you build into your exercise routine, the better.
If possible, hiking at higher altitudes to see how your body reacts to altitude is extremely beneficial. The more time and experience at higher elevation, the better accustomed you will be to navigate the pitfalls that can come with altitude sickness. You won’t really know how you react to high elevation until you get there, so don’t wait until you’re actually climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to find out!
Unfortunately, since many people live where there are no major hills or mountains, the next-best choice is repetitive hiking. One or two hikes on the weekend are fine, but try hiking every day. Add weight to your pack to make it more difficult, keep a training log, and try to find small hills to climb. When time permits, try to hike seven to nine miles per day, and try to do this multiple days in a row.
Perhaps most importantly, the body will not adapt well if you don’t start training until a month or two before your trip. For example, it takes about four months of solid training to finish a marathon, and the vast majority who do not properly train never make it to the finish line. The same can be said for mountaineering.
So the best way to think about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is that it’s not a one-week adventure. It is, rather, at least a six-month adventure, culminating in a one-week mountain climb. The memories will last a lifetime, so you want to prepare the right way and make those positive memories.