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The Top of Africa

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a big dream of mine and this December it will come true. I have read that many hikers return at Gilmans Point which is at 5,708 metres (18,727 feet) since this point is considered the beginning of the craters top and therefore part of the peak. However, the highest point is Uhuru Peak at 5,895 metres (19,341 feet) and I’m sure that when I have reached Gilmans Point, I will also aim for the very top at Uhuru Peak. I’m honestly wondering what makes people to return only a few metres / feet before the very top? Are there simply too exhausted or do they consider their mission accomplished once they have reached Gilmans Point?

I have not undertaken any specific preparation for this hike. During the past months I regularly went to the gym anyhow so that I consider myself to be in a good physical fitness. Actually I’m more concerned about the altitude sickness which hit me once very badly in Peru around 4,000 metres. Therefore, I’m very sure that I will not climb up further once I will experience any severe signs of altitude sickness such as vomiting or a rapid pulse. I’m still not sure which signs of altitude sickness are still okay so that they can be ignored. Maybe light headache or so. The best medicine preventing altitude sickness is to climb up slowly and drink lots of water (6-7 litres a day). To allow the body to acclimatize it is recommended not to climb more than 300 metres a day once arrived at a high altitude above 3,000 metres. However, the Kilimanjaro hikes last only five days meaning that approx. 1,000 metres need to be covered every day. Therefore, a number of people die each year, probably because they ignored the signs of altitude sickness and went up further.

Regarding the equipment you need for the mountain there is not much to be considered. In general I try to limit my luggage to want is really necessary: good hiking shoes, wind-proof jacket, rain poncho covering the whole body as well as the backpack, warm cloth for the night (long underwear, fleece), winter sleeping bag, warm cloth for the summit (cap, gloves), head torch for walking at night time, small backpack, water bottles, sunscreen, altimeter (Suunto Core) and a camera.

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