10 Things Kilimanjaro Taught Me


Climbing Kilimanjaro teaches you a lot of things about

A) Climbing a mountain and
B) Yourself.

I’m sat here this evening thinking about all of the aspects I’d not considered, and things I’ve taken away with me from the experience.

So many aspects of the climb can also apply to every day life, whether you’re climbing a mountain or not!

1. It’s not a race

Did you ever hear Aesop’s Fable about the tortoise and the hare?

So, you know that slow and steady wins the race!

Whilst Kilimanjaro is not a race, the same applies.

​PolePole (slowly) is a word you will hear multiple times a day throughout your climb, and with good reason. You will think you can walk faster, you probably can, but it is a long hike and endurance is key.  Don’t compare your pace with others, and don’t feel bad for walking slowly. In actual fact, the slower you walk, the easier it is for your body to acclimatise to altitude. Trust the pace your guides are setting for you.

​They know what they’re doing, they do this week in week out.

2. Your guides are omniscient ​

As I said above, they know what they are doing. They take groups up the mountain multiple times a month and so any arrogance in thinking you know better than them is entirely misplaced. They undertake a lot of training to reach this point in their career and if there’s something they don’t know about the mountain, or altitude sickness, I would be surprised.

If they tell you to walk polepole, then do it.

If they tell you that you’re too unwell to continue, then listen to them.

​There are horror stories about people who hid their symptoms, or didn’t tell their guides that they felt unwell, and they ended up severely ill, and in some cases died from it. (Yes, it does happen)

As our guide said, “the mountain will always be there, it’s a mountain. You as a human will not be.”

You may be disappointed that you’ve not reached the summit, but it’s not worth risking serious injury, illness or even death.

3. You will need a lot of toilet breaks…

The average human body is 50-65% water, and staying hydrated is key. Not least because the first couple of days are hot hot hot, but also because drinking water will help in getting rid of any altitude headaches and your body will thank you for it!

You need to drink around 4-5 litres a day up the mountain, and Diamox (used for altitude sickness)  is a diuretic, so you’ll need to find a good rock, ladies!

​There are toilets at each camp though!  

4. Breathe

Inhale… exhale…

In through your nose, out through your mouth etc…
You’re tired, your legs are burning from climbing, your back is aching.


5. You can do it…

There will be times you think you can’t continue, there will be times that you’re physically or mentally broken. For me this was at around 0400 on summit night. It was dark, my knee was painful, My hands were freezing cold and I had no idea how much further it was to the summit. All I could see was my guides feet with my headtorch and string of lights zig-zagging their way up the slopes.

Your feet will always keep going, your legs will always keep going. Your muscles probably ache and you’re struggling to take a full breath because of the altitude, but you can do it.

Leave your comfort zone.

​Just keep going.

6. You will be exhausted

You’ve done it, you’ve reached the summit. Well done…

Now you have to descend. Adrenaline may have helped you reach the top, but the walk back down is the tiring part.

​When you get down off the mountain and you’re back in your hotel, you will sleep like a baby.

7. Tip your Guides and Porters!

They have carried your bags, they’ve motivated you to keep going, they’ve prepared your meals every day, set up your tent and they’ve helped you achieve your dream.

The salaries they get aren’t huge, and so tipping (which is the done thing) is very much appreciated. I tipped $400 which was all I could afford, but I know some tipped a lot less. For me, personally, I was happy to give what I could, because I know that they rely on these. If you can afford to fly to Tanzania and pay to climb a mountain, you can afford to tip the people who got you there.

Without them, you’d not have reached the summit.

​Remember that.

8. Perspective

Climbing Kilimanjaro was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was exhausted, at points I didn’t think I’d make it to the summit, but I did. Whilst walking you get a lot of time to think, and reaching the summit will make you realise that a lot of things you worry about daily are actually really quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

9. Appreciate how beautiful the mountain is

At points, I was so focused on putting one foot in front of the other and trying not to stack it, that I forgot to look around. When I realised that was what I was doing, I made sure that I took in everything I could, and realised how stunning Kilimanjaro truly is.

​A lot of the climb is so barren. Endless alpine desert and lava rocks, but it was just beautiful.

10. Celebrate your achievement

I’ll stop harping on about Kilimanjaro one day…

Probably when I’m sat in my retirement home drinking gin.

I was so proud to reach the summit, so thankful to my guides and porters for getting me there, and learnt a lot about myself in the process. Things I thought were difficult in my everyday life are really not, at all. The perspective gained from the climb has changed me outlook on my career path, my life, my interests and I now have a new, very expensive hobby.

Until next time, Kilimanjaro, kwaheri!

0 thoughts on “10 Things Kilimanjaro Taught Me”

  1. Wow, that ice wall (glacier?) is stunning! Thanks for this post and for the appreciation you show for the people who actually make this dream happen for others, day in, day out – let’s hear it for guides and porters the world over.

    1. It is a glacier, unfortunately we were told that in less than 100 years it’s likely that none of them will remain on the summit due to global warming, which is a shame as they are just incredible to see!

      I think it was important to, as you said they make the dream happen day in day out! Incredibly strong individuals both mentally and physically!

  2. Wow – just wow – what an achievement! You’ve every right to keep telling your story.

    Climbing in heat is not my favourite things – I prefer it to be really cold and toasty in my gear, that said I’ve done anything abroad yet like this. I’m just going off the UK’s summers.

    Great tips, and I think they can apply to a lot of the hikes / climbs around Wales. I’ve seen so many cocky people think they know better than the mountain or the guides. Common sense is a luxury for many (although it shouldn’t be)!

    I love what your guide said about the mountains always being here, but as a human we won’t – so true.


  3. It’s so true, and people being arrogant is what leads to injuries/deaths in the mountains. I need to get out hiking more in Wales when my knee is healed up!

  4. You’ve got every right to keep talking about it! I still go on about Ben Nevis and that was 2 years ago (see, I just can’t help myself!). Great achievement and it really comes across how much you’ve learnt and what an impact it has had. Hope you’re chilling now and taking it easy for a while!

    1. I really need to get back to Ben Nevis. Beauuuutiful part of the world <3

      It definitely had a huge impact and I feel much better for having done it after this year! 🙂

  5. Amazing feat! Hopefully I’ll be able to do something like this, I love the tips. Sometimes you really do forget to breathe while you are doing something as difficult as that.

  6. Fabulous post and so inspiring! I am amazed at how much water you have to drink when climbing….I think I’d need to stop ever 10 minutes for a wee!

  7. Wow! What a great adventure! I love the advice “the mountain will always be there, it’s a mountain. You as a human will not be.” So true, and that’s why it’s so important to listen to your guide and follow all the other great tips you outlined – like breathe! Take it slow and steady! And oh gosh enjoy those gorgeous views! 🙂

  8. Great post. Kili is still on my list as my 1997 trip was cancelled due to long term illness. Some great tips here, thanks for sharing your amazing experience

  9. Wow what a truly amazing, and humbling, achievement! I doubt I’ll ever complete such a challenge, so I am in awe of people who do it, and even more so of guides and porters who do it day in day out!
    Really appreciate your common sense and gratitude towards your guides and porters.
    Well done! x

  10. I felt all of these when I did Everest Base Camp too! Great article, so relatable. Numbers 6 and 8 in particular! 🙂

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