7 Things They Don’t Tell You About Climbing Kilimanjaro
Things they dont tell you about Kilimanjaro

As you embark on the incredible journey to ascend the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, you cannot help but feel an overwhelming sense of duty and accountability resting upon your shoulders. The commitment you have shown throughout the elaborate process of researching this extraordinary adventure is truly commendable. Countless hours have been devoted diligently to exploring a multitude of informative Kilimanjaro websites, delving into the depths of individual blogs, and actively participating in enlightening travel forums. With each passing moment, you immersed yourself in a sea of knowledge, absorbing every ounce of essential information that could possibly prepare you for this awe-inspiring trek. And now, my dear, with all this wisdom and profound understanding resonating within you, a newfound confidence surges through your veins, propelling you forward on this awe-inspiring odyssey.

Understanding these often-overlooked aspects can help you prepare more effectively for climbing Kilimanjaro, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable adventure.

Certain things are often left unspoken when discussing the experience of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

1. You’ll Have Crazy Dreams

Sleeping on Kilimanjaro can be challenging due to a few reasons. First, the sleeping arrangements involving a sleeping bag, foam pad, and tent are not as comfortable as the mattress at home. Additionally, the thinner oxygen at high altitudes can make breathing more difficult, leading to periodic breathing patterns, where deep and shallow breaths alternate or there may be a pause in breathing. These patterns further decrease the already limited oxygen available at high altitudes, affecting the quality of sleep. Deep stages of sleep and REM sleep are diminished, while light sleep is increased. This change may result in more vivid dreams possibly due to waking up during REM sleep or the reduced oxygen levels influencing dream content to be peculiar and nonsensical.

2. You’ll Fart a Lot

The consequences of being in an environment with low oxygen levels and the symptoms of altitude sickness are commonly understood. However, a lesser known side effect is the potential increase in flatulence that can occur at high elevations. This phenomenon is called high-altitude flatus expulsion (HAFE). It may sound humorous, but it is a real gastrointestinal issue where larger amounts of gas are passed through the rectum spontaneously at high altitudes. The change in pressure between the gases in the body and the atmosphere causes the body to naturally release the gas in order to balance the pressure.

3. You’ll Hike Really, Really Slow

“Pole, pole” translates to “slowly, slowly” in Swahili. This phrase is commonly emphasized by our staff as important advice for a reason. Altitude sickness is primarily triggered by ascending too quickly to high altitudes. To reduce the risk, it is crucial to climb gradually. Our guides maintain a slow pace during treks to control the rate of ascent since the distances covered each day are relatively short. Acclimatization benefits from a gradual increase in elevation, which makes logical sense. However, in reality, this can be quite challenging. Mentally, it is tough because you may feel capable of walking faster. The urge to move ahead and reach camp sooner can be strong. Interestingly, altitude sickness often affects young, fit males because their bodies struggle to adjust to the rapid ascent. It is important to practice patience and stick to the guide’s pace. Our approach has been successfully implemented with numerous clients, yielding positive outcomes.

4. You’ll Feel Full Nearly All the Time

The Tranquil Kilimanjaro team ensures you are provided with an abundance of food during your journey. At high altitudes, your body burns more calories due to increased metabolism and strenuous climbing activities, leading to a significant need for energy. Despite this, it can be challenging to maintain a consistent eating routine at high altitudes. Studies reveal that elevated environments cause the production of a hormone called leptin, which reduces appetite. Additionally, the air pressure at altitude can cause bloating, making you feel full even when your stomach is empty. Our experienced mountain cooks serve three hearty meals daily in a comfortable mess tent with tables, chairs, and ambient lighting. The generous portions and regular meal schedule, combined with the effects of leptin and bloating, might leave you feeling satisfied most of the time. Your guides will closely monitor your food intake to ensure you are receiving sufficient calories to fuel your energy levels, even when you may not feel like eating.

5. Everything Gets Difficult at Altitude

Ascending to higher altitudes not only increases the physical challenge of hiking, but it also presents difficulties in various everyday tasks. In environments with low oxygen levels, cognitive functions such as planning, focus, and decision-making can be compromised. Advanced acute mountain sickness often manifests with a decline in mental capabilities. Even without medical issues, simple actions like tying your shoes, opening your backpack, or locating your headlamp can become daunting at high altitude, especially during the demanding nighttime summit push. During breaks on the climb to the summit, climbers are advised to hydrate and refuel by consuming water and snacks. This seemingly basic task can prove to be quite challenging. The process involves removing your backpack, finding snacks and water, unwrapping the snacks, unscrewing the water bottle, and then reversing the steps. Guides are attentive and offer assistance to those struggling. They may even provide hot tea and snacks along the way to simplify the process for tired climbers. To navigate through a potentially dulled mental state at high altitude, it is important to establish a routine and adhere to it. Familiarize yourself with your gear and equipment to avoid confusion when operating them. Practice using the features of your daypack and ensure that items are stored consistently to avoid fumbling in critical moments. Through repetition, these actions become more automatic and less dependent on conscious thought.

6. You’ll Be Covered in Dust

When reviewing our equipment list, you will notice the suggestion to bring some form of headwear, such as a balaclava or Buff, for additional face coverage if desired. While an initial assumption may be that these items are primarily for shielding the face from harsh, cold winds, this is indeed true. Particularly on summit night, you may find this to be quite useful. However, an important secondary reason to bring along a balaclava or Buff is to guard against the abundance of dust in the environment. In dry terrains, dust particles tend to float into the air with each step that is taken. On a daily basis, you and your fellow trekkers will likely embark on thousands of steps. Walking in single file with teams of porters passing by means exposure to dust clouds for hours at a time. Inhaling dust can lead to issues with breathing, allergies, and other health concerns. Therefore, it’s highly recommended for climbers to have a balaclava, neck gaiter, or bandana on hand to cover their nose and mouth when necessary. It’s also important to remember to clear your nostrils periodically for comfort. Even though getting filthy is inevitable by the end of the expedition, it is still advised to maintain proper hygiene while on the trek. You can cleanse your face and neck at campsite water stations using a bucket of warm water and liquid soap, or alternatively, bring along wet wipes for quick freshening up sessions.

7. You’ll Question Why You Came Here

Embarking on a hike is a rollercoaster of emotions. Initially, feelings of excitement and apprehension take hold, leading to a mix of joy and relief by the end. However, moments of misery and even regret are likely to surface during the journey. Fatigue, pain, cold, or illness may prompt the recurring question, “Why did I choose to be here?” The comfort of home, a cozy couch, or a warm bed may seem more appealing in those trying times. Yet, where is the thrill in that? True adventures and lasting memories are not born from such comfort. The decision to tackle Kilimanjaro was driven by a desire for something extraordinary. Many have attested that climbing Kilimanjaro proved to be the toughest challenge they ever faced, yet it was also the most rewarding. Over time, the hardships fade away, leaving behind fond recollections. Some individuals who once swore off a repeat attempt end up returning for a second, and even a third, summit. The lesson learned? Never say never.


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