Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro - training

Preparation for Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro requires extensive preparation and physical and mental toughness. Being well prepared will ensure you are among the 60% who make it to the summit!

There are two main areas of preparation:

  1. physical preparation (the subject of this article)
  2. gear selection

I am often asked how fit do I need to be to climb Kilimanjaro and I always reply “the fitter you are the more you will enjoy it”.

Whether you are training for Kilimanjaro, Kokoda or trekking in the Himalayas, being ‘trek fit’ means strength and endurance. When climbing Kilimanjaro the walking pace is very slow to help you acclimatise to the altitude. “Pole, Pole” (“slowly, slowly” in Swahili) is a phrase you will hear many times. Walking slowly means you will be on your feet for 6 to 10 hours every day and up to 16 hours on summit day. The air becomes increasingly thin as you ascend and most trekkers experience symptoms of altitude sickness. Physical and mental toughness keeps you going at this point and gets to the top for that spectacular view!

If you have not exercised regularly for many years you will need up to a year to prepare. If you train regularly (two or three times per week) your training period need only be three to five months if you are prepared to work hard. I find six months is ample time for most people.

I recommend you train at least 3 times a week and aim to work at a level that will raise your heart rate. Group training or boot camps give you rapid results, are fun and keep you motivated. If you are in the Brisbane area contact our friend Chase at Base Camp Adventure Fitness for specific multi-day trek training.

The most effective training you can do for Kilimanjaro is to trek over hilly terrain with a pack. Start out with a short distance and a light pack, say one to two hours with a five to eight kg pack, increasing to six to eight hours with a weight equivilent to what you will be carrying on the mountain. Plan an occaisonal overnight hike to really test yourself and your gear.

There is plenty of great on-line advice around so read as much of it as you can. Here are 5 Simple Tips I couldn’t agree more with.

Ultimately, the best motivation to get your preparation started is to book your trip then set yourself a rigorous training schedule and stick to it. Perseverence, toughness and sacrifice now will pay off on the mountain, guaranteed!

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  1. 1

    Great advice.  At age 66 I trekked the Larapinta Track end to end in June, my 1st ever multi day trek.  I pulled up at the end of each day with no muscle soreness or blisters.

    My training regime consisted of various shorter distances jogging and fast walking, weight training and pilates at a gym. and team sport.

    One or two days a week I walked longer distances (up to 40ks)  This regime commenced 3 or 4 months prior to the trek.

    Perhaps a similar regime carried out for a longer period should be ok.

    Am in the process of booking your Kilamanjaro/safari trip

    Cheers Loraine

    Loraine Cosgriff on
  2. 2

    I’m looking at climbing Kili in early Dec (11th) with a local company Top Climbers Expeditions. We were considering the 7days/6 nights Machame route. Is that time,in your opinion, sufficient to acclimatise?
    I’ve climbed Annapurnna Circuit (3yrs ago) so know about the need to go slow. I’m a bit out of shape at present but will be joining u shortly for some walks!
    Appreciate your advice.

    Candice on

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