Posted by: Jenhams Clinic | Date: 14th February 2016
So proud of our Jenhams Dr Joe Donovan for reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro . Here he shares some handy hints and tips for all you budding climbers!
'This January I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro! As the expedition doctor I supported a group who were climbing as both a fantastic challenge, and to raise money for charity.
The summit of Kilimanjaro is situated at 5895m above sea level and is the highest point in Africa. Reaching the top of Kilimanjaro is a popular activity, and many adventurers travel to Tanzania to climb the mountain each year.
Preparation is hugely important prior to such a trip, and appropriate kit is essential. During my climb the temperature varied from 300C in the jungle region at the bottom of the mountain, to -150C at the summit. Altitude related health effects are common.
Five top tips for preparation and packing
1) Plan your trip early. Look at a comprehensive kit list through your trip provider. Alternatively many websites offer Kilimanjaro kit list suggestions. Getting everything together will take time!
2) Despite the fact Kilimanjaro is close to the equator, it gets pretty cold at high altitude. It is better to pack too many warm clothes than not enough!
3) Book a travel consultation to plan and discuss personal health and safety, including necessary vaccines, anti-malarials, and altitude medications such as Diamox (acetazolamide).
4) Practice packing your bag in advance. Does everything fit? How easily can you access those things you need to grab quickly (such as waterproofs)?
As you ascend the climate will get progressively colder. Think about how you will add your layers. What will happen to the contents of your bag when it rains in the jungle? Waterproof bags are a vital kit item, and should hold your sleeping bag, thermals and electronics.
5) Aim to have 4-5 litres of water carrying capacity. How will you cope if your hydration bladder freezes on 'summit night?' (this happens!) I personally wore my hydration bladder (which is built into its own small backpack) underneath my large down coat to keep it insulated on 'summit night' - it did not freeze!
Five things I was thankful for
Most of your gear is essential, and selects itself. However, if I had to pick 5 particularly useful things used during my climb they would be:
1) Walking boots. Good quality, well worn in and waterproof. When it rains remember to protect the boot where the foot enters (with gaiters or waterproof trousers), otherwise water will soak in and you will wonder why you bought 'waterproof' boots! Keep your feet dry to ward off those blisters.
2) A pillow. Keep it small and easy to pack away. Difficulty in sleeping is a feature at altitude. Why make it harder by trying to sleep with your head on a jumper!?
3) A merino wool 'icebreaker' base layer. I wore this on all except the hottest 2 days. I am even wearing it whilst I write this article! It is so comfortably and warm and I do not know how I ever got by without it! Staying warm is a key part of preventing altitude sickness.
4) A walking pole (or two). Many trekkers may question the need for walking poles. When you descend, and those knees are aching, you'll be glad you brought them.
5) A wide brimmed hat. It is easy to get sunburned at altitude. Sun cream is important, but the addition of a hat is simply essential.
Things you may not know
At some camps it is possible to get phone signal, even 3G, to update your family and friends.
Local guides and porters are essential and knowledgeable (and acclimatised) making the climb much easier for them than for you!
Some forgotten items of kit can be bought or rented at the base of the mountain before you climb.
Help protect against altitude sickness by staying hydrated, fed, warm, rested, and alcohol-free. Acclimatisation medications such as Diamox (acetazolamide) should be discussed with your travel clinic or doctor. Whilst a good prophylaxis against altitude sickness, they are not suitable for everyone.
A sensible ascent with appropriate time for acclimatisation is the best way to avoid altitude sickness'
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