Climbing Kilimanjaro is not technically challenging and it does not require any specialist mountain equipment or training; however it does make sense to include some physical training in your preparations to get the most from your Kilimanjaro experience.
The advice usually given to people about the fitness level required for climbing Kilimanjaro is that anyone of average fitness is capable of reaching the summit. And providing you have the right clothing, a good pair of walking boots and have undertaken some hill walking in the week’s leading up to the trip then you should be fit enough to reach the summit.
Although this may be true we believe that the fitter you are, the less physically demanding you will find climbing Kilimanjaro and the more enjoyable you will find the experience.
We would recommend that you consult your GP before carrying out any training, especially if you do not exercise on a regular basis.
The best form of training for your Kilimanjaro trek is hill walking, or simulated climbing using a step machine. You should walk as often as possible in the clothing you will be wearing on Kilimanjaro to ensure that it fits well and is worn in. This is especially important for your walking boots as you would not want to get a blister. Walk with you rucksack on and weigh it down with 2-3 litres of water to get used to the weight and to ensure your rucksack doesn’t rub. If you can walk for around 4 hours on varied terrain with a rucksack, then you can climb Kilimanjaro!
In addition to walking you may wish to do some other forms of exercise; below is some suggested exercises to help you with your preparation for climbing Kilimanjaro, these are only suggestions and how much you can do will depend on your initial level of fitness, the equipment available to you and the amount of time you have to train. You should give yourself as much time as possible to training for Kilimanjaro, but around 12 weeks before should give you enough time to reach a good level of fitness.
1-2 times a week; distance will depend on your ability but if running twice a week then try to increase distance by 10% each week.
1-2 times a week; distance will depend on your ability but if swimming twice a week then try to increase distance by 10% each week.
1-2 times a week; distance will depend on your ability but if cycling twice a week then try to increase distance by 10% each week.
1 long walk a week (minimum) ensure you are wearing clothing that you will be taking to Kilimanjaro. Walk with rucksack and carry 2-3 litres of water to replicate mountain conditions.
1-2 times a week; concentrate mainly on your legs and core muscles as these will be used the most on your walk. With any resistance exercise try 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions on each apparatus with 30 seconds rest between each set.
- Leg raises
- Leg press
- Reverse crunches
Back & Shoulders
- Seated row
- Bench press
In addition to resistance training in the gym you could also incorporate some cardio training if time permits. Before starting the resistance training warm up by doing 5-10 minutes of gentle exercise e.g. Cycle, jog or row. Then carry out resistance training and then a further 10-20 minutes of cardio exercise to finish. It is also a good idea to stretch thoroughly when you have finished exercising, this will help with your recovery and general flexibility.
There is no way of knowing if you will suffer at high altitude unless you have trekked above 12,000 ft, or you have had some altitude training.
If you are not able to complete an acclimatisation trek before going to Kilimanjaro then you may wish to visit The Altitude Centre, where they can carry out an Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) susceptibility test, or pre-acclimatisation training.
The Altitude Centre AMS test will simulate any chosen altitude up to 22,000ft and monitor your blood oxygen saturation to see how your body copes. A course of treatments is also available which is designed to increase your blood oxygen saturation at given altitudes, which would reduce the likelihood of you developing AMS.
Please visit the Altitude Centre website for more information.
As we mentioned at the beginning this is only a guide and we would recommend consulting your Doctor before carrying out any training, Kilimanjaro Expeditions accepts no liability for any injury cased during training; the information above is only a guide and does not take into account individual levels of fitness.