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MOUNTAIN KILIMANJARO VIEW











CONQUERING KILI


Join G Adventures traveller and soon-to-be newlywed Sarah Manion as she ascends to the fabled “roof of Africa.”

It rules over the sky – Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, distinguished by its three distinctive volcanic cones. First conquered in 1889 by Hans Meyer and Ludwig Purtscheller, it has called adventurers to its base ever since. And that’s just where G Adventures traveller and soon-to-be-newlywed Sarah Manion found herself last spring, standing on the precipice of a grand adventure. This is her story of ascending to the fabled “roof of Africa.”

Kilimajaro calls adventurers to its base.

Kilimajaro calls adventurers to its base.

What we were about to do didn’t sink in until we were on the plane from Amsterdam to Arusha. I looked out the window over the clouds and repeated the name in my head: Kilimanjaro.
We’d never even come close to doing anything like this. I’d been through Europe; my fiancé, JP, had ridden bikes through central America; and together, we’d been to Southeast Asia and a handful of beaches. But this was on a different level. We’d yet to say it out loud, but it wasn’t hard to see the correlation between this daunting adventure to the roof of Africa and the fact we were getting married in about six weeks.
Holy blatant metaphor.

We’d never even come close to doing anything like this.

We’d never even come close to doing anything like this.

We met our group and Kenny, our Chief Experience Officer (CEO), in the quaint town of Moshi. What had just begun to seem real on the plane was now a physical tightening in my stomach, brought on by our first glimpse of the mountain; so high and wide, it was its own landscape – its own planet.
We’d opted to trek the Marangu Route – at five days, the shortest of the options available. Our journey took us across fields and other areas Kenny called “moorlands.” We hiked over rocky passes and even through a rainforest, almost always uphill.
Truth be told, I hadn’t expected to encounter a rainforest on Kilimanjaro, but it was probably the most pleasant introduction to the mountain and its environment possible. A light rain had started to fall a few minutes before we entered the canopy, and for the next five hours, our group walked and talked and got to know each other, sheltered under a gorgeous leafy green roof as the storm rolled past overhead.
On our route, Kilimanjaro sort of pounces upon you. Past the rainforest, we hiked around a bend and suddenly boom: there she was, lit up by sunbeams peeking through the clouds. That first glimpse is burned into my mind like a mental postcard. You look at it, off in the distance, and the first thing you think is, "I’m going to climb that.” The second thing you think is, “Holy moly. How am I even going to get there?”
The first night was magical, but it had nothing to do with the mountain. We set up our camp in the dark (the crew provided headlamps) and then disappeared. A few minutes later, they came back bearing our night’s meal – delicious, warm, and satisfying after a long day on foot. And plentiful; the food just kept coming, leaving us wondering how on earth they managed to carry it all up here.

Morning coffee on Kilimanjaro.

Morning coffee on Kilimanjaro.

On a trek like this, your experience is only as good as the people who help you get there. In our case, we were blessed with a team of charming, knowledgeable CEOs and porters who saw it as their duty to get us to the top in the best spirits possible. They set a pace for us that was relaxed and comfortable, ensuring that the group stayed together and nobody fell behind. This had as much to do with safety as it did with building camaraderie; the slow pace helped us acclimate to our surroundings and pass the time with conversation and jokes. What’s the point of doing something like this if you’re not having a good time?

Kilimanjaro support team greets the dawn.

Kilimanjaro support team greets the dawn.

The challenge for me wasn’t in the terrain or the altitude, but in the unknown of what lay ahead. Nothing was consistent. The sun shone for a while, and then it got cloudy. Then it rained. Then it was foggy. The temperature. The terrain. Hungry some moments and anxious others. After a while, though, you get used to it and accept it as part of the experience. If climbing one of the world’s Seven Summits were easy, it wouldn’t be an accomplishment, right?
JP and I almost always walked together, but I learned that when you’re doing something as challenging as this, there are times when you’re just alone with your thoughts. Kenny was so caring, visiting each of us in the group periodically to gauge how we were feeling and encouraging us to continue. Our porters were inspiring too, carrying everything the group needed in a way that seemed almost effortless.

The trek felt deeply personal and I thought if it resembled marriage in any way, we were off to quite a start.

This trek felt deeply personal and I thought if it resembled marriage in any way, we were off to quite a start.

How do you describe the moment when you’re watching the sunrise from the highest point on a continent? You just can’t. You can look at pictures and read books, but nothing – nothing – can prepare you for what it’s really like to stand there and gaze down at how far you’ve come.

Mt Kilimanjaro is waiting for you.

Mt Kilimanjaro is waiting for you.

5 TRUTHS AND A LIE ABOUT CLIMBING KILIMANJARO


We asked marathon runner, fitness junkie, and recent Kili summiteer Charlie Watson for her tips for reaching the Roof of Africa.

When you announce to friends and family that you’re tackling the incredible Kilimanjaro hike in Tanzania, suddenly it seems that everyone becomes an expert, passing out tips and well-meaning advice — whether they’ve actually tackled the climb themselves or not. As always, some of this advice is useful, much of it is not.
The best advice I was given, and am passing on, is to respect the mighty mountain. But with so many opinions flying around, it’s hard to know which ones to take to heart. I’m here to dispel a few myths with some of the truths (and one lie) about the climb to the top of Africa’s largest mountain.

Altitude affects everyone in different ways

Altitude has a horrid way of sneaking up on you when you are least prepared for it and might affect people in your group that you’d least expect it to. Even the most fit amongst you might not escape its effects, which include headaches, sickness, dizziness, and delirium. All these were noted in our group. However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t make it. Be sensible, respect the altitude, and take note of how you’re feeling. Talk to your GP about medications, and take some ginger and coca natural supplements to help with the effects.

Be aware of the effects of altitude sickness.

Be aware of the effects of altitude sickness.

You’ll eat amazingly

I brought a plethora of snacks with me and ate them all, as well as the twice-daily three-course meals. You burn a lot of calories each day — although you’ll quickly replenish them. Friends have talked about losing weight whilst climbing Kilimanjaro — not so with G Adventures! With fresh soup, pancakes, pineapple fritters, muffins, hot chocolate, and popcorn, the chef quickly became our favourite person. The amazing man who brought our morning coffee or tea in bed came in at a close second.

Expect to eat your heart out!

Expect to eat your heart out!

Midnight toilet breaks are awful

Truth. It is really cold and very dark in camp, and with the amount of water you have to drink during the day to stay hydrated (3–5 litres), nocturia is inevitable. Although the long-drop toilets aren’t too bad, opting in for a portable bathroom made all the difference for our midnight “comfort” breaks. Watch this video and you’ll see just how fond we were of our portaloo. The trick to the toilet break? Have your head torch, coat, and shoes easily accessible next to your sleeping bag, and make sure to scope out the camp before you go to bed. Many of the tents look the same and you do not want to accidentally snuggle up in the wrong one.

Make sure you know which tent's yours before sun sets. It'll be much trickier to find in the dark.

Make sure you know which tent's yours before sun sets. It'll be much trickier to find in the dark.

It’s all about the layers…

On summit night, I wore eight tops and four pairs of bottoms, and I was still a little chilly. Layers are your best friend on Kilimanjaro. They will help you stay comfortable during the temperature shifts throughout the day, as well as warm and toasty at night. I also recommend a metal water bottle to use as a hot water bottle at night. Keep your more technical layers (thermals, merino, and silk) closer to your body to maximize on their sweat wicking and warming potential, with thicker, heavier layers on the outside.

Be prepared for all kinds of weather on the trek by dressing in layers.

Be prepared for all kinds of weather on the trek by dressing in layers.

You will walk incredibly slowly

Pole! Pole! Slow and steady. This will save you on the way up, so listen to your leaders when they tell you to go slow. Our group actually walked so slowly that we ended up taking longer to get to each campsite than average, however we all made it to the top! Unfortunately, the daily predicted walking time wasn’t updated to account for our slow pace, which caused some disheartening moments. However, we had to remember that forward is a pace. You walk at a slow pace to help your body adjust to the altitude. Avoid over-exertion at all costs. The lowest summit success rate is actually in males aged 20–30 because they push too hard, and due to good fitness they don’t anticipate the amount of oxygen they’re using to stay at that pace. This is a case of slow and steady wins the race.

It's one foot in front of the other at a snail's pace.

It's one foot in front of the other at a snail's pace.

It’s only worth it if you make it to the top

Correct, you guessed it. This one is a lie.
Of course, getting to the Roof of Africa, and reaching that famous sign at 5,895 m (19,342 ft), is incredible, however, the journey is about so much more than whether you reach the summit or not. Every day is an achievement here, so savour the moments and the daily accomplishments.

More than about actually making the summit, trekking Kili is about the friends you meet along the way.

More than about actually making the summit, trekking Kili is about the friends you meet along the way.

You’ll make great friends along the way; not only with your fellow hikers, but you’ll also create amazing bonds with your guides and porters (I cried when my porter David walked for an hour and a half extra just to help me with my day pack). Aside from the connections with your group, spending 6+ days hiking through the Tanzanian tundra gives you a lot of time to learn about yourself. And you get to switch off from the outside world — no social media, no work emails, and no stresses, except from trekking from one camp to the next.
Enjoy the journey, it is a life-changing experience.

5 TRUTHS AND A LIE ABOUT CLIMBING KILIMANJARO


We asked marathon runner, fitness junkie, and recent Kili summiteer Charlie Watson for her tips for reaching the Roof of Africa.

When you announce to friends and family that you’re tackling the incredible Kilimanjaro hike in Tanzania, suddenly it seems that everyone becomes an expert, passing out tips and well-meaning advice — whether they’ve actually tackled the climb themselves or not. As always, some of this advice is useful, much of it is not.
The best advice I was given, and am passing on, is to respect the mighty mountain. But with so many opinions flying around, it’s hard to know which ones to take to heart. I’m here to dispel a few myths with some of the truths (and one lie) about the climb to the top of Africa’s largest mountain.

Altitude affects everyone in different ways

Altitude has a horrid way of sneaking up on you when you are least prepared for it and might affect people in your group that you’d least expect it to. Even the most fit amongst you might not escape its effects, which include headaches, sickness, dizziness, and delirium. All these were noted in our group. However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t make it. Be sensible, respect the altitude, and take note of how you’re feeling. Talk to your GP about medications, and take some ginger and coca natural supplements to help with the effects.

Be aware of the effects of altitude sickness.

Be aware of the effects of altitude sickness.

You’ll eat amazingly

I brought a plethora of snacks with me and ate them all, as well as the twice-daily three-course meals. You burn a lot of calories each day — although you’ll quickly replenish them. Friends have talked about losing weight whilst climbing Kilimanjaro — not so with G Adventures! With fresh soup, pancakes, pineapple fritters, muffins, hot chocolate, and popcorn, the chef quickly became our favourite person. The amazing man who brought our morning coffee or tea in bed came in at a close second.

Expect to eat your heart out!

Expect to eat your heart out!

Midnight toilet breaks are awful

Truth. It is really cold and very dark in camp, and with the amount of water you have to drink during the day to stay hydrated (3–5 litres), nocturia is inevitable. Although the long-drop toilets aren’t too bad, opting in for a portable bathroom made all the difference for our midnight “comfort” breaks. Watch this video and you’ll see just how fond we were of our portaloo. The trick to the toilet break? Have your head torch, coat, and shoes easily accessible next to your sleeping bag, and make sure to scope out the camp before you go to bed. Many of the tents look the same and you do not want to accidentally snuggle up in the wrong one.

Make sure you know which tent's yours before sun sets. It'll be much trickier to find in the dark.

Make sure you know which tent's yours before sun sets. It'll be much trickier to find in the dark.

It’s all about the layers…

On summit night, I wore eight tops and four pairs of bottoms, and I was still a little chilly. Layers are your best friend on Kilimanjaro. They will help you stay comfortable during the temperature shifts throughout the day, as well as warm and toasty at night. I also recommend a metal water bottle to use as a hot water bottle at night. Keep your more technical layers (thermals, merino, and silk) closer to your body to maximize on their sweat wicking and warming potential, with thicker, heavier layers on the outside.

Be prepared for all kinds of weather on the trek by dressing in layers.

Be prepared for all kinds of weather on the trek by dressing in layers.

You will walk incredibly slowly

Pole! Pole! Slow and steady. This will save you on the way up, so listen to your leaders when they tell you to go slow. Our group actually walked so slowly that we ended up taking longer to get to each campsite than average, however we all made it to the top! Unfortunately, the daily predicted walking time wasn’t updated to account for our slow pace, which caused some disheartening moments. However, we had to remember that forward is a pace. You walk at a slow pace to help your body adjust to the altitude. Avoid over-exertion at all costs. The lowest summit success rate is actually in males aged 20–30 because they push too hard, and due to good fitness they don’t anticipate the amount of oxygen they’re using to stay at that pace. This is a case of slow and steady wins the race.

It's one foot in front of the other at a snail's pace.

It's one foot in front of the other at a snail's pace.

It’s only worth it if you make it to the top

Correct, you guessed it. This one is a lie.
Of course, getting to the Roof of Africa, and reaching that famous sign at 5,895 m (19,342 ft), is incredible, however, the journey is about so much more than whether you reach the summit or not. Every day is an achievement here, so savour the moments and the daily accomplishments.

More than about actually making the summit, trekking Kili is about the friends you meet along the way.

More than about actually making the summit, trekking Kili is about the friends you meet along the way.

You’ll make great friends along the way; not only with your fellow hikers, but you’ll also create amazing bonds with your guides and porters (I cried when my porter David walked for an hour and a half extra just to help me with my day pack). Aside from the connections with your group, spending 6+ days hiking through the Tanzanian tundra gives you a lot of time to learn about yourself. And you get to switch off from the outside world — no social media, no work emails, and no stresses, except from trekking from one camp to the next.
Enjoy the journey, it is a life-changing experience.