Why we serve the best food on Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru, Mount Kenya, Rwenzori, Ol Doinyo Lengai
Food on Mount Kilimanjaro

The food options available during your remarkable journey up the magnificent Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, Mount Meru, Rwenzori mountains or Ol Doinyo Lengai may not initially seem like a top priority for countless enthusiastic hikers, as there are innumerable other crucial aspects to consider such as state-of-the-art equipment, experienced guides, sturdy tents, and well-planned routes leading to the summit. Nevertheless, it is absolutely astonishing to realize just how paramount breakfast, lunch, and dinner can profoundly influence and ultimately determine the resounding success and triumph of your epic quest towards reaching the awe-inspiring summit.

Your Appetite Decreases at Altitude and You Tend to Eat Less

As you ascend to higher altitudes, it is a well-known phenomenon that your appetite tends to diminish. This phenomenon has been studied, as noted by the Journal of Applied Physiology, which observed that simulated ascents result in a change in the perspective towards eating, leading to a decreased appetite and food consumption. The higher you climb, the less inclination you will have to eat, which could pose challenges when engaging in calorie-burning activities like hiking. For instance, a person weighing 180 pounds with a 20-pound backpack can burn as many as 3,400 calories during an average day of hiking on Kilimanjaro. It is imperative to replenish the majority of these calories to maintain energy levels, as failing to do so might lead to fatigue, decreased stamina, and increased difficulty in reaching the summit. Additionally, the trail becomes progressively more demanding and physically taxing towards the end of the trek. To successfully conquer these challenging sections, it is essential to retain your strength and consume ample amounts of food.

The Less You Eat While Ascending, the More Severe Your Altitude Symptoms May Become

When it comes to climbing Kilimanjaro, it’s not just the physical challenge that prevents many climbers from reaching the top. The altitude has a significant impact on the body, leading to various symptoms such as low appetite, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, and headaches. While these effects, known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), are usually mild, they can worsen if proper eating habits are not maintained. A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that reduced energy intake at high altitudes is associated with the severity of AMS. Therefore, despite the lack of appetite, it is crucial to consume plenty of food while climbing Kilimanjaro. This is precisely why we offer exceptional meals for our guests.

Your food on Kilimanjaro

Upon arrival at your camp, the mess tent will be set up and tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and juice will be provided while your main meal is being prepared. All meals start off with homemade soup and bread to warm you up and provide valuable fluids. The atmosphere in the mess tent is quite cheery, and depending on the weather, we may have happy hour with popcorn, peanuts, and biscuits just before dinner. All evening meals are served with a variety of seasonal vegetables. Listed below is the selection of meals served at various camps throughout your climb. Rest assured, we bring up ample food for everyone and often have leftovers!

Climbing Kilimanjaro is very much like an “alpine trekking” trip in the lower ranges with added altitude and requires a decent amount of food to fuel the body. Over the years, with experience and feedback from our clients, we have developed specific food menus and eating practices that greatly improve your dining experience on the mountain and, more importantly, the vital energy levels required for your summit success.

You can read our client reviews here about the experiences and meals on the mountain.

Breakfast Options

Although most climbers may be too tired to care, breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day. There are several options for breakfast on the mountain including warm cereal, fresh fruit, energy bars, and sometimes even pancakes. The least popular of the options is oatmeal. Oatmeal is a classic carbohydrate-loaded breakfast food; often the traditional warm meal is on a backcountry menu. Unfortunately, climbers have reported the oatmeal to be not so tasty and often way overcooked to the point of being inedible. However, recommended by many previous climbers, cream of wheat seems to be a better hot cereal option. Coming in a variety of flavors, cream of wheat is often found to be a nice morning treat to start the day. Some people even add dried fruit or nuts to give it some extra flair. Another option to get some carbohydrates in the morning is pancakes. As odd as this may sound, the chef may surprise climbers with a breakfast of pancakes topped with syrup and jam. Although pancakes are not a quick meal to cook up in the morning and some climbers have commented on the waste of valuable time, this breakfast has been enjoyable for other climbers. Unfortunately, due to the lack of time to prepare pancakes, this meal is not a common one for the mountain.

Hot Cereal

Rice pudding – sometimes by accident or design, rice will be used instead of oats to make a rice pudding. This is usually flavoured with cinnamon and served instead of sugar, mixed with custard powder.

Oatmeal – this would be the most common cereal served. Quick oats are usually used because they cook faster. When you are staying in the huts, the oats are often cooked with the leftover water from the washing up. This uses less fuel, but the grey color and soapy taste may not be worth it for some.

On Kilimanjaro, breakfast is served in the guest tent and consists of a hot drink (usually tea or coffee) and a variety of hot cereal. Hot cereal is a great way to start the day. It is filling and easy to digest. This is important because your body has been working hard to acclimatize to the altitude and the easier time you give it to digest your food, the more energy you will save. Hot cereal on the mountain is always made with some kind of instant cereal such as oats, cream of wheat or a malt meal. This is stirred into a boiling pot of water and usually flavoured with honey or brown sugar and a touch of powdered milk. Following is a brief description of the different cereals you might encounter.

Fresh Fruits

Often there is not much time between breakfast and your start to the next campsite. The mountain staff generally “breaks” camp and encounters a few shortcuts to have everything set up for your arrival before you even depart from the previous campsite. During the 4-7 hours of hiking which follow, it’s often beneficial to snack on small portions of food. Items such as energy bars, cookies, crackers, peanut butter, and fruit are excellent choices. High-elevation hiking is not the time to worry about weight loss. In fact, most climbers will be burning thousands of more calories per day than normal. Your primary concern is to eat and drink often, with a special emphasis on hydration. Always start your day’s hike with a few bottles of drinking water.

Remember, you should also take time to enjoy your breakfast. The first meal of the day is generally the best. It’s better to start your hike a little later with a fully satisfied stomach than rushing out of camp with food in your pockets.

Mixed fresh fruit will often be offered following the hot cereal and before you begin your hike. Fresh fruit is an excellent source of hydration and very easily digested for quick energy. It’s important to eat and drink often at high elevations, even when you may not feel hungry. During the cool mornings and evenings, your body temperature regulation is often overlooked but very important to maintain.

At breakfast, the staff will provide you with hot water to make coffee, hot chocolate, tea, and an assortment of hot cereals such as oatmeal, cornmeal, and cream of wheat. On colder days, hot cereal hits the spot. For those preferring a cooler breakfast, packets of instant breakfast will also be available. This should provide you with the necessary energy needed to begin your day.

Energy Bars

The downside of energy bars is the potential for shelf life issues. Careful consideration should be taken when storing them, especially if you plan to bring some back home. These bars do melt in the sun, so depending on where you live and what time of year you plan to hike, you may want to store them in the fridge. This can be somewhat off-putting until you get used to grabbing a warm, mushy glob out of the wrapper; however, the taste will still be the same. Note that eating globs with dirty hands will make your hands even dirtier.

There are many types of bars marketed for many different purposes. Powerbars, Clif Bars, and Balance bars seem to be some of the most popular brands and can be found at almost any supermarket. Each brand of bar usually has about 10 different flavors to choose from, not to mention they all have different product lines, each specifically suited for different purposes such as meal replacement, energy source, muscle building, etc. It doesn’t really matter what kind you get; the most important thing is that you like them. Since you will be using them as a primary source of energy, regardless of the time of day, and eating a lot of them, it’s a good idea to get a variety of flavors so you don’t get sick of one kind.

Energy bars represent one of the most energy-dense foods for their weight that you can bring along to eat on Kilimanjaro. In other words, energy bars are light in weight, take up little space, are resistant to temperature fluctuations and crushing, and provide a ton of calories. They are easy to eat while taking a five-minute break without wasting time. The only problem is that they are expensive. Imagine the equivalent weight in food of what an average person eats in one day. That would be 3-4 energy bars, about $6 per day.

Lunch Choices

There is so much on the menu that hikers have great difficulty in choosing what to eat. When it comes to lunch especially, all the items are delicious and thoughtfully created to be easy to carry and serve. There are four items on the lunch menu but hikers only choose one. A simple packed lunch usually consists of a salad and a sandwich, both wrapped separately so as not to become soggy, with a piece of fruit and some biscuits. This is substantial enough to keep up the energy levels and tasty enough to be satisfying. An optional extra is a flavored drink. The lunch is usually eaten halfway through the day’s hike. If you are the type of person who typically eats lunch at work or school, you will enjoy the sandwich. There are many fillings to choose from so most people are able to find one that they like. Choices include a piece of chicken breast, a slice of meat, tuna, cheese, and salad. Breads are plain or whole meal roll, or sliced bread. The sandwiches are prepared on either the morning of the trek or the evening before, depending on the time of day the group will eat them. This is to ensure maximum freshness. The bread is given a light spread of margarine to further seal in the freshness.


Some trekkers prefer to keep on strides and eat trail mix or chocolate rather than stopping for a lunch break. You can let your guide know your preference the night before, and he can arrange a packed lunch to take with you.

All trekkers are also given some sort of fruit and an ‘energy item’ for dessert. These items are fairly consistent between groups, but there is a wide variety in the quality and quantity of fruit given, and the banana, orange, or apple is sometimes replaced with pawpaw or passion fruit.

High on the mountain, the porters whip up a remarkable lunch to get you through the afternoon’s hike. Perched on the ground, or on overturned Tanzanian lunch pails, most trekkers devour several of the portable, delicious choices. Sandwiches come in many varieties, all of them loaded with trimmings between two slices of Western-style bread. Tuna fish, chicken, egg, and ham are the most common, but there’s usually a choice of at least two different types.


Salads are served cold with dressings and vegetables such as cucumber, onions, olives, coriander, and peanuts. It refreshes your body and gives you energy to proceed further. Also, the ingredients we use can be carried from one camp to the other as they do not get spoiled and they are not bulky to carry. All weight of ingredients is used wisely. It can be Greek salad with feta cheese and olives or salads with mayonnaise and different dressings. Some of the salads with lime and lemon dressing add refreshments to your trek. They add up to your ideal balanced diet requirements. High-calorie, cholesterol-rich, and fatty acid foods are avoided in order to prevent some of the life-threatening diseases like heart disease, etc. Ideas for salads are taken from the tourists with their preferences. So there is no complaint with what we serve, and it is the best.


Cook the rolled-out dough on the skillet until the top side becomes opaque, then flip the pancake over. When light brown spots begin to appear on the bottom side of the dough, flip it once more. At this time, slight pressure placed on the edges of the chapati with a metal spatula will cause the bread to blow up like a balloon. Remove the chapati before it becomes too crisp, as it is normally intended to be soft and flexible—a difficult meal to eat in wrap form if too firm.

In the meantime, divide the dough into small balls about the size of a small lime. Heat a skillet or frying pan. On a flat surface with the aid of a little white flour, roll a ball of dough into a pancake about 4–6 inches in diameter.

Mix the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the cooking oil or butter. Gradually add the warm water, mixing with a fork or clean hand as you go. Knead the dough to form a smooth ball. Place the dough back in the mixing bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Chapatis (Makes 5–6 chapatis) 1 cup flour ½ tsp salt 1 Tbsp. cooking oil or butter About 1/3 cup warm water

On Mt. Kilimanjaro, you’ll enjoy the wraps as a lunch-time treat. A selection of fillings, including vegetarian options, gets rolled up in a chapati (like a soft tortilla). It’s an easy-to-eat meal that we find quite refreshing during a long day on the trail. Chapatis are a north Indian bread. The recipe has spread further to the east (Tanzania) and south (South Africa) than the west. My sons always ask us to make them for dinner even when we are at home. It tends to be a quick easy meal. Here’s the very simple recipe:


Power bars are easy and filling, so they are great when you’re tired of chewing. I recommend Clif Bars, if only because I like the way they taste. A lot of people like Power Bars, but they tend to turn into either mush or concrete at all the wrong times.

Nuts are packed with protein and good fats, and they do not go bad quickly at high temperatures. These are also light and available in many places before the climb. Theoretically, trail mix sounds good, but in reality, it is often comprised of M&M’s, which will not last long in your pack or in your hands before melting. If you make your own mix and choose your ingredients wisely, it can be a good snack.

Dried mango is one of the best things to eat. It is light, tasty, and you can buy it in most markets in Tanzania before the climb, so you won’t add to your altitude-induced cost of living expenses. Unfortunately, there is no Trader Joe’s on Kilimanjaro, and their dehydrated and freeze-dried offerings are well-suited for trekking cuisine.

Dinner Selections

The final dinner selection is split between those continuing with another climb and those returning to the hotel to prepare for their flight home. Runners and those short on time/service staff may get rice and veg again. Milestone clients will venture away from this meal as they have had enough rice as their staple diet in Africa over the many years we have been operating. Believe it or not, some have even had rice for breakfast!

Rice and Vegetables. This choice provides a good alternative to the heavier pasta and meat/fish meals. The rice is served with some sort of tasty sauce consisting of cheese, white, tomato, or creamy mushroom, then complemented with a mix of steamed vegetables. This dish is an excellent filling, healthy, and easily digestible meal perfect for the day before a long trek.

Pasta is usually popular with many trekkers as it provides good fuel for the following day’s trek. However, it can be quite stodgy and heavy in the stomach, making it hard to digest. Consider having rice dishes for the 3rd dinner and then going back to the pasta for the last meal as it is your final chance to carb-load before the summit attempt. Pasta Dishes. These may include lasagne, cannelloni, spaghetti bolognese, and tuna or veg pasta bake.

Dinner selections are quite varied. To begin with, the best choice if you are feeling a bit nauseous from the altitude is soup. Rehydration is paramount, so choose clear soups with veggies, etc., to get goodness as well. Soups. This meal is normally served as a starter to fill the gap before the main course. Choices include chicken, veg, noodle, pumpkin, mushroom, or tomato.


The key to this recipe is to let the onions caramelize for about 45 minutes until they are golden brown. Then add the wine, stock, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil, then add the laurel and thyme and let it simmer for another 45 minutes. Serve the soup into bowls and place the bread on top and then add the cheese. Grill in the oven at about 200 degrees centigrade until the cheese gets a light brown color.

Recipe #1 500 cc of white wine 1 cube of beef stock 2 spoonfuls of sugar 3 large onions sliced 1 liter of water Laurel, thyme 6 slices of French bread toasted 150 grams of grated cheese

Our immediate response is that it’s unlikely that anyone would carry fresh cream up to 15,000 feet, but the recipes are quite good. The Dutch onion soup is one of our favorite traditional soups. Although some would consider it a side dish, we many times have it as a main course. The preparation is quick and easy.

Pasta Dishes

Another good pasta meal is egg noodles. Although it may not strictly be pasta, Andrew found it easy to cook and a good substitute for pasta as it is also very quick and filling.

There is also pasta in a ready-meal form, such as Wayfarer’s packets and tins of ‘Pasta and Sauce’. They already have all the ingredients in and are easy to heat up, but they can be too expensive and take up unnecessary space. This is the same with ravioli and spaghetti, which are easy to cook and are filling, but are either too expensive or they take up too much space.

During Andrew Wieloch’s climb, he found that one of the best pasta meals was an experiment using a packet of macaroni, a tin of sweetcorn, and a tin of tuna, all mixed together and heated up. It tastes better than it sounds and not only is it very quick and easy, but also it is extremely filling and not too expensive.

Pasta is a superb and very popular meal for the mountain. It is easy to cook and comes in a wide selection of varieties, from macaroni to lasagne. The easier the pasta is to cook, the better it is for the mountain. Therefore, it is best to avoid long cooking pasta – otherwise, people might be waiting around for a long time. Simple sauces work better too, nothing too elaborate, and especially not creamy sauce. Creamy sauces are difficult to cook and there is more chance of it burning to the bottom of the pot.

Rice and Vegetables

Overconsumption would lead to a term known as “full rice syndrome” and after any instance encountering this term, the guides would declare the necessity of taking a long break post-meal.

One occasion where this went to the extreme was at Mweka Camp, which may come as a surprise to most people. The situation being, the rice dish on that occasion was vegetable risotto, which although it contained more cheese than a traditional Italian risotto, tasted quite satisfactory. However, it was awarded with a salad, half of which was a traditional lettuce, tomato, red onion salad with balsamic dressing and the other half being grated carrots in mayonnaise. Despite that being considered an adequate meal, it was later found that the group and guides still had their misgivings on why there was 2x the food.

On a few occasions, the event of having rice as a main dish was subject to poor portion control where there would be double the amount of rice owing to the failure to communicate the guide’s portion requirements that had been previously indicated to the cook. This would mean that the cook would also prepare the accompanying dish to go with the rice as a separate dish.

As with all the main meals, the main course starts with a product that could be served as a meal in itself. The rice dish could vary from vegetable, chicken, fish, pork, tz and curry, and with the exception of the curry, could contain any range of extra vegetables, topped with hard cheese. The style of the dish would vary from place to place, depending on the preference of the group and guides. This dish would always be a guaranteed filler.

Meat and Fish

Fish is a rarity on Kilimanjaro, and we do not recommend it due to the fact that it is almost always brought up the mountain already smoked or dried and then requires further cooking. This is said to be very hard to do when fish is not the most suitable product to be brought up the mountain, and we have had many climbers disappointed with the quality and taste of fish meals compared to other food and previous experiences in Tanzania. If clients are still insistent on having fish with their dinner one evening, we recommend tinned fish: tuna, mackerel, or sardines as they are a good source of protein and require no actual preparation or cooking, which can make life a little easier on the mountain. An example of a meal with tinned fish is tuna and sweetcorn pasta salad, which can be prepared in advance, stored in a cooler, and then served for lunch at a picnic along the trail.

Meat is a great source of protein and is served fresh, canned or dried. Fresh meat is only available on the first day, so the clients who want meat with their meals need to be aware of it to avoid disappointment. Canned and dried meats include chicken, beef, mutton, and sausages, and these ingredients are generally used to prepare stews or curries. An example of a meal with meat is Hunters chicken stew and curried chicken with rice, examples of these dried and canned meats being used. Fresh chicken is known to be a favorite among the majority of climbers, and an all-time classic dinner in the mess tent is a whole roast chicken and stuffing served with roast vegetables. Despite being hard work to carry, it is always thoroughly enjoyed by everyone, and this is an example of a guaranteed try meal where fresh meat is involved.

Vegetarian and Vegan Options

There is a common misconception that vegetarian or vegan hikers cannot reach the summit of Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, Mount Meru, Rwenzori mountains, or Ol Doinyo Lengai because of dietary restrictions. This statement is simply untrue. While it is true that more selective eaters may not find a large variety of food options compared to their carnivorous comrades, there are plenty of victuals to sustain vegetarians and vegans. Your meals will consist of vegetables, fruits, breads, and a variety of stews and soups. At breakfast, vegetarian options are usually pancakes, porridge, breads, and a variety of fruits. On the first day of your hike, your guide will ask you what your vegetarian preference is, and as mentioned before, it is possible to change your meal. A typical vegetarian dinner would be soup and bread, followed by some vegetables and mixed bean casserole. This is of course rounded off with fruit. On the final ascent to the summit, you will be woken with a hot drink and a small snack, and will be given breakfast upon descending to a lower altitude. Saying this, there are no meal options guaranteed to bring a vegan to the summit. But the popularity and requests of veganism is growing, and more hikers are able to summit on a vegan diet these days. Hikers feeling unsure about whether there will be enough food to sustain them are able to buy an extra food package for assurance.

Hydration Tips

You should aim to drink at least 3-4 litres of fluid every day on the mountain. The best type of fluid is water, but including Oral Rehydration Salts is beneficial, especially if suffering from diarrhea and dehydration. Try to avoid drinks with caffeine as caffeine is a diuretic and promotes dehydration. Also, avoid alcohol as your reaction to alcohol is amplified at high altitude. A sign of dehydration is dark yellow urine and the feeling of being thirsty. If any of you experience these symptoms, you should stop and increase your fluid intake immediately. Always carry a water bottle (or 2) with you and drink regularly. Taking frequent, small sips is more effective than drinking large amounts infrequently.

Hydration is crucial in maintaining a high level of performance and is naturally a very important factor in determining the success of your climb. You should drink plenty of water on the mountain. Contrary to popular opinion, it is the intake of fluids, not food, which is the most important factor in avoiding altitude sickness. At high altitude, your body tends to lose water and you breathe 10-20% more than at sea level due to decreased oxygen, which results in moisture loss.

Special Dietary Needs

Sugar can be a useful energy food at high altitude, and sweet snacks can be an effective way to maintain energy levels. Sugar that is mixed with other foods (such as jam) will not be as effective as the same weight of sugar consumed with water. Jam, honey, and candy are all good calorie sources.

Fish, chicken, and meat are difficult to find and are usually lower in quality than what is found in Western countries. It may be possible to bring canned meats, vacuum-packed fish or chicken, or freeze-dried dinners from home. These are all good sources of high protein and can still be nutritious at high altitude. However, be wary of increased dehydration due to high-protein diets. High-protein diets require more water for processing, and this can aggravate altitude-related sickness and increase the risk of High Altitude Cerebral Edema and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema.

Anyone with special dietary needs should consult a doctor or nutritionist who is experienced in caring for high-altitude travelers. This is even necessary for someone who has followed a special diet in the past. High altitude presents a unique set of circumstances, and it should not be assumed that what might be an appropriate diet at home will also be adequate at high altitude. Additional food, porters, or specialized food may need to be included in a climber’s budget. Due to rapid evaporation and slow cooking time, food will weigh much less than it did at sea level, and it may be necessary to increase portion sizes beyond what was expected. A nutritionist can help calculate nutrient requirements and recommend appropriate portion sizes for specific foods.

High-altitude climbers with special dietary needs should consult with their physician and a nutritionist who have experience with high-altitude conditions. People with special dietary needs should inform their guide company in advance so that appropriate foods can be prepared, extra porters hired when necessary, and porters can be given proper instructions. The following information is general advice for special dietary needs at high altitude and may not be applicable for every individual or high-altitude situation.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is no small feat and can have extremely varied effects on one’s body. Weight loss is almost inevitable, and it is well known that eating less (or not at all) contributes to slower acclimatization at higher altitudes. Decreased consumption of food (at a time when more sustenance is necessary) can lead to decreased energy and weakened immunity, making one more susceptible to altitude-related sickness. However, the effects on an individual basis will depend on the altitude attained, length of stay, rate of ascent, level of physical exertion, and individual susceptibility. These effects have not been fully researched, but the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project has initiated an ongoing study on the physiological impact of high-altitude climbing on porters.

Meal Planning and Preparation

The final meal on the mountain has very special significance. This will be a big celebration meal with singing and dancing with all the crew, and the clients may even join in with some English songs. This meal is the thanks and recognition from the company to all hardworking crew for their excellence throughout the trip.

An average meal at home usually has three different types of food, for example, meat, vegetable, and starch. This is easily replicated on the climb. On most nights, a delicious soup is served as an entree, and there is always a main course of three types of food. For example, the local chicken in coconut sauce and forest mushrooms, a vegetarian selection of ginger and spinach quiche, and githeri (fried corn and beans), and a side of rice, bread, or pasta. Typical vegetable side dishes are cooked or mixed salad and long-cooked mixed vegetables. These are heavy carbohydrate meals designed to replenish our tired bodies with the energy they need for the following day.

Tents are supplied with a dining tent that contains a table and chairs, and this is where the meals are served. The party will have privacy for all the meals, and the meals are prepared by the Tanzanian chefs who are also climbing the mountain with us. All of these chefs are from the local community and are very experienced in their craft and additionally have been trained by the company owner Charles and the head guide Hamisi. In order to ensure delicious meals are always on the menu, the chefs will select a new menu for larger groups. This means that there will not be repetitions of a menu until the 9th climb-day and afterwards, there still will be no menu repetition between breakfast and dinner.

In relation to where the food will come from and what it will be, it is not necessary to bring food up the mountain. All the products to make our delicious meals can be obtained in the local markets, meaning everything is fresh, readily available, and supports the local community. The only food that is suggested to bring from abroad is energy snacks, for example, chocolates, nuts, PowerBars, and drink mixes that are difficult or expensive to obtain.

Portion Control

To reduce weight, a careful look at portion control and overall quantity of food needs to be examined. In the long term, high altitude mountaineering is not a weight-bearing sport, as it is on the lower slopes. So energy expended vs. energy consumed needs to be evaluated in terms of overall food intake. Bear in mind, the body can store only a limited amount of glycogen, so an intake of nearly 6000 calories per day would be of little benefit. High altitude suppresses the hunger mechanism, and climbers often force food down, resulting in gastrointestinal problems. We plan our menus to include dry, high-energy carbohydrate foods with low bulk and weight. These are supplemented with small quantities of more tasty and nutritious, but heavier foods. A typical day’s menu may include 4 muesli and milk, 6 oatmeal pancakes, 8 oz salami, rice and sauce and beverage mixes. Permit a total of 1 lb/person per day. The general rule of thumb is that the higher the altitude, the less the food and this holds especially true on summit day where only prepackaged energy gels and chomps are planned for the day. In the end, the selection of a menu and quantity of food depends upon personal tastes, previous experiences, and adjustment to various foods at high altitudes.

High Altitude Considerations

Whilst sometimes it is easy to imagine high altitude ailments similar to those experienced by illness, the majority of the time symptoms are a natural response to the body adapting to less oxygen. Fortunately, in most cases these symptoms are mild and short-lived. They are dependent on the altitude attained, rate of ascent, and duration of exposure. Most climbers will experience some form of mild AMS, which is very common when ascending too quickly to high altitudes. The golden rules of preventing AMS are: to ascend slowly, take regular rest days for further acclimatization and to keep well hydrated. Walking at a gentle pace that allows gradual acclimatization is the best way to avoid AMS and other altitude-related problems. Taking supplementary oxygen is another effective way to prevent or help with altitude sickness. Eating a high-calorie diet while at altitude is an easy way to improve physical performance. A mixture of carbohydrate and fat-rich food is regarded as the best as it is easier to digest. 70% of high altitude casualties are, in fact, due to physical exhaustion. So consuming snacks during breaks in activity can be very beneficial. Whilst loss of appetite is a common symptom at altitude, it is important to eat and drink as much as possible. Soups and porridge are healthy options and can provide some variety to standard meals. On a long expedition, it is not uncommon for food fatigue to set in, so being creative with meals is definitely an advantage. It is important to avoid heavy fatty meals and excessive amounts of protein. High altitude and hypobaric (reduced pressure) reduce the absorption of fluids and nutrients. Consequently, it is essential to increase fluid and salt intake to prevent dehydration and its effects, which may be more harmful than those of mild altitude sickness. Drink at least 4 liters of fluid per day. This should include a mix of water, a rehydration solution, and hot drinks. As for avoiding snow and ice as a source of drinking water, be aware that at around 5000m most bacteria are killed but melting snow may still contain impurities. This water should be boiled for at least 10 minutes. Due to increased basal metabolic rate, the amount of energy used up at rest is higher at altitude. To reduce the loss of body fat and protein, intake of high altitude food should be 300-400 kcal more than a standard diet. Lastly, moderate drinking and abstinence from alcohol and tobacco are also recommended measures to prevent AMS. This is due to the fact that these substances impair the body’s respiratory drive.

Snacks for Energy Boost

2. Cashew Nuts Cashew nuts are seeds that adhere to the bottom of the cashew apple, the fruit of the cashew tree, which is native to the coastal areas of Brazil. Cashew nuts are lower in fat than most nuts, while most of their fat is unsaturated fat, which is heart-healthy fat. They are high in magnesium, zinc, iron, and phosphorus. Cashew nuts are great for snacking, providing a lot of energy, something that is much needed on the mountain. We recommend unsalted cashew nuts as too much salt can flavor the nuts too much, and at higher altitudes, it is better to limit fat and salt intake. For that reason, we do not recommend other nuts for snacking purposes.

1. “Mandazi” This is a triangular-shaped snack, a doughnut of sorts that is not too sweet, like a doughnut. It is similar to the beignet without the powdered sugar. It is made from flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, milk, eggs, and margarine. This food is generally served for breakfast in East Africa. People love mandazi because it is a light, easy-to-eat food that is great with tea or coffee. It is perfect for a portable snack. This is a great item and highly recommended by our staff and trekkers.

Traditional Tanzanian Cuisine

The traditional method of Tanzanian cooking is over an open fire in a three-legged metal pot. Wood, charcoal, or sometimes dried corn cobs are used as fuel. This method is slow and infuses a delicious smoky flavour into the food. Modern urban families may cook with kerosene or gas, and there is a significant portion of the urban population which prepares food in small food stalls or sells plastic-wrapped food in small dukas (shops). In cosmopolitan areas such as Dar es Salaam or Arusha, it is possible to find a variety of international cuisine. Middle-class and expatriate communities of many different nationalities also exist in urban Tanzania, and there are many excellent Swahili seafood, Indian, and Chinese restaurants. Fast food is also increasing in popularity with many global franchises like KFC and Nandos.

The diet especially amongst the Chagga on Kilimanjaro includes bananas which are used in various forms. Ndizi (green bananas) are peeled, boiled, and mashed, and eaten as a starchy side dish with sauce, meat, or vegetables. Matoke (also green bananas) are peeled, boiled in their skin, mashed, and eaten as a starchy accompaniment to a sauce with meat or vegetables. Wali wa Nazi (rice cooked in coconut milk) and the round starchy staple food that is Ugali are also eaten as a starch. The diet is very reliant on carbohydrates for energy and because they are cheap. Tons of ugali can be found at local parties. Sukuma wiki (which means to push the week, suggesting it is a good way to make ends meet) is a type of Swahili spinach and is also a common vegetable. On the mountain, repeat clients and vegetarians tend to be surprised at the diverse and tasty food that the cooks produce for their mountain trek.

Traditional Tanzanian food is neither spicy nor bland. Pilau rice, which is rice cooked in a spicy tomato sauce and cinnamon, is of Indian origin and is a traditional Tanzanian food. Another example of Indian food which has become a Tanzanian tradition is ‘chips mayai’. This is a simple meal of fried (or sometimes scrambled) eggs with french fries eaten either on its own or in a sandwich and is very popular on the streets especially with the younger generation. Meat in the form of chicken, goat, beef, and fish are also popular sources of protein in the diet. Vegetables such as spinach, beans, cassava, and plantains are also traditional foods.

Dining Etiquette on the Mountain

Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, boasts a variety of ecological zones, from the lush rainforest that surrounds its base to its Arctic summit. Being situated in East Africa, the three main meals are influenced by Western and at times African cuisine. Trekkers need to consume high levels of carbohydrates, moderate protein, and low levels of fats. Meals are abundant and food is plentiful throughout the trek. All food is carried up the mountain by the porters. This includes a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, brought to ensure climbers receive adequate vitamins and fiber. The staple food on the mountain is Ugali, a maize-based dish, which accompanies every evening meal. Other examples of food include pancakes, rice, pasta, fresh chicken or beef, and a variety of vegetables. As well as meals, you will be given snacks, consisting of popcorn, peanuts, biscuits, and sometimes chocolate. Breakfast will often consist of porridge, eggs, toast, and sausages, and during lunchtime, you will most likely be given sandwiches, soup, tea, and coffee. It is therefore crucial that trekkers do not attempt to carry large amounts of food with them. Trekkers must be prepared to share these ideas with their guide and come to an agreement on the type of food that will be included in their meals. As well as meals, trekkers are pitched up in alpine tents, which contain comfortable sleeping mattresses. Qualified cooks spare no effort to pack tasty and nutritious meals, making eating a highlight of each day.

Food Safety and Storage

Packed lunches at times deteriorated in quality; the chief reason being that guides and porters would not join the climbing team until they had finished their duties in the forests, and therefore their intervals between meals were often extended to as long as 10 hours. The food taken by the crews was generally of the best quality when it was first prepared. It would then face a freezing night and a full day in the sun before it was consumed. In the higher regions, the quality of the food prepared in the morning would already be significantly decreased by the time the crew had a chance to eat it. recounted a particularly unfortunate incident where they had taken a risk to slaughter a large portion of their meat supply into small pieces and cook it all at once in an attempt to solve the problem of consuming frozen meat. Just as the meat was being heated, however, there was a sudden breakdown of weather and they were forced to abandon the food to prepare shelter. This was followed by persistent heavy snow and the crew became too hungry to wait out the weather, consuming their unpalatable frozen ration and leaving no meat supply for future meals.

The methods of food preservation used by the mountain crews were variable, and for the majority of the climb our meals remained fresh. Meat, or fish at the beginning of the trek, was used on the day of thawing and at times one or two days after this. It was then substituted with tinned meats; these would remain the staple dietary ingredient until our descent from the mountain. Vegetables were originally purchased in relatively large quantities and the method of preservation was to keep them under the sun during the day and covering them with blankets at night. The theory was that this method would slow the freezing process that food undergoes at night, reducing the amount of ice that normally forms on its surface when stored at room temperature. However, once we ascended past the mid-point of the climb, we entered the alpine zone where temperatures froze our food during the day. So, it was quickly realized that vegetables would not keep beyond this point in the climb and food supplies were replaced by canned foods.

Celebratory Meals

With the crew squeezed onto a few pieces of foam sleeping pad and huddled together to stay warm after dark, Brad first coined the phrase ‘foam party’ on a climb where he was inquiring about the night’s dinner plans. This of course led to an underneath the stars celebration of a successful climb with the entire crew eating nyama choma and chips, and of course a cold Kilimanjaro beer on a foam bed. Success never tasted so sweet.

No successful climb would be complete without a dinner of nyama choma and chips. Nyama choma, meaning barbecued meat, is easy. The crew digs a big pit, fills it with charcoal, makes a wire rack supported by large rocks, puts a sheep or goat cut into meat chunks on the rack and cooks it. Chips, or fried potatoes, were a staple item at the beginning of the trip but too difficult to carry for a long duration. So when carry weight becomes less of an issue, usually at the last camp on the mountain, someone is sent to buy potatoes and off they go into the porters’ dirty frying pot. Combining these two items is usual only for a special occasion, usually the climb’s only summit bid.

Mchuzi, a curried meat sauce served over rice, will usually be prepared on the night before the crew leaves the mountain for their final time. This is the favorite dinner meal for most of our climb. The quality of the mchuzi will depend on how successful the cook has been at hiding cans of pilchard fish so the clients do not see them.

Kuku was Kienyeji, a thin scrawny looking chicken, can be unappetizing when purchased in a village and carried for several days tied to a climber’s backpack, but this is soon forgotten when it is served up looking like a rotisserie chicken with its feet and head still attached. The entire team will have a bite of Kuku, another rare treat and exceptional morale booster for the crew.

Dinner on the mountain, especially at high altitudes, is often rushed. A climber needs to eat and get to bed as early as possible to stay warm. The main course for these celebratory dinners is often meat, and always a lot of it. Vegetables are used sparingly in the first few days on the mountain and then disappear from the menu except for the first night of each week when the porters snag the leftover food from the clients and eat like kings.

Eating on the Mountain

It is a common occurrence around the world for a layperson to wonder what it’s like to climb a mountain. People who have never done it are often curious as to what drives them to the summit and what life is like when one is on the mountainside. This study of the eating habits of trekkers on Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru, Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania, Mount Kenya and the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda sheds light on the life of one who is on the mountainside. The project investigates what people eat while on the mountain and what changes, if any, are made to the diets of the individuals who climb Mount Kilimanjaro. According to IMS, approximately 75% of trekkers use packages supplied by porters and cooks for their meals. He suggests that 25% of individuals on a tighter budget may choose to just be led up the mountain by guides and rent local trekking workers to aid with transporting luggage, thus choosing to supply their own meals. Based on a stratified sample, such factors would be taking a sample from each group in an experiment. The strata are the different groups. IMS’s comment is consistent with my results, and his official documentation of the percentage of people within each stratum can make for some very accurate results.


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