Two Weeks Until Kilimanjaro: Panic Time

Believe it or not, in about two weeks I will be heading halfway across the world with WHOA Travel to climb Kilimanjaro, the tallest freestanding mountain on earth!  If you’re feeling really confused, read about my decision to climb Kilimanjaro here.

whoa kili machame route
Photo from WHOA Travel

When I signed up for this trip last year I did not feel ready to hike 38 miles over 8 days with a total elevation gain of (gasp!) 13,435 feet.  I didn’t even know what it felt like to hike for multiple days straight, or to climb a mountain at night, or to stand at a summit in a snowstorm with wind almost blowing me off a mountain.  The idea of doing those things scared me.  So for the last 9 months I’ve been practicing for all the things that I think Kilimanjaro might throw at me.  But even my backpacking trips, long and challenging day hikes, and moments of hiking in the dark, wind, and cold still doesn’t totally make me feel ready.  In fact, I’m more nervous than ever now that I know I’m leaving really soon!

My first night summit was last fall and I’m so glad I did it!

I thought I’d be blogging more about my specific Kili prep over the last few months, but this isn’t like training for a running race.  I don’t feel like I’ve been sticking to any kind of “training plan” (is there one for something like this?), just doing multiple hikes a week.  I’ve been trying to make an effort to do more difficult hikes while also realizing that if I make hiking about training instead of about having fun I’ll stop enjoying it.  So when I ask people to do a short but steep after work hike, or plan a long and difficult weekend hike with amazing views, I’m mostly doing it because it’s what I love doing.  But every time I struggle on the trails I know that it’s building me up for the hardest summit of my life which does help me feel a bit more prepared.

Practicing hiking for multiple days on my thru-hike of Resurrection Pass

It also feels like there are a million things I need to do before going to Tanzania.  I had to get a new passport, see a travel doctor for vaccines and medications, and my Amazon shopping cart is constantly being filled with all the random little things that I’ll need for Kili, the post-hike safari, or my solo beach trip to Zanzibar after all the hard work is finished.  I’m trying to remember my favorite things to wear on frigid winter summits while also packing lightweight summer options that won’t leave this heat-fearing Alaskan sweating to death in Moshi before and after the hike.  I’m definitely doing a post on what I end up packing and another one on what gear I actually used/didn’t need at all to help out future hikers who are feeling as overwhelmed as I am right now!

Here’s to hoping that I don’t get typhoid, malaria, or altitude sickness

As I sit here preparing to make another Amazon purchase while dealing with a stomach ache from my Typhoid oral vaccine pills, the last thing I feel is excitement over this trip.  I’m in that annoying stage of trip planning where all you feel is overwhelming fear that you are forgetting something and that you are not ready for this.  How am I seriously going to fly halfway across the world alone to climb a giant mountain with a group of girls I don’t know?  I’m sure I’ll feel a million times better two weeks from now when all of my packing is done and there’s nothing else to worry about.  But I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to finally starting this adventure.  I’ve been dreaming about this moment for a really long time, and I can’t wait to stand on the top of Uhuru Peak in just a few weeks!

Do you have any tips for me on international travel, packing for all 4 seasons in one trip, or handing multi-day hikes at high altitude?  Please leave any advice in the comments!

26 thoughts on “Two Weeks Until Kilimanjaro: Panic Time

  1. What an amazing journey ahead! I am excited and anxious for you at the same time. Maybe you won’t feel ready until you actually begin climbing. Can’t wait to read about your adventure!

    1. That’s probably true. I think I won’t feel ready until we’re actually on the mountain!

    1. This is so true. I think once I get started I’ll be fine, but all this buildup is making it more stressful I guess!

  2. It sounds like an awesome adventure and I’m sure no matter what the mountain throws at you, you’ll enjoy the experience. Have a fabulous time! I can’t wait to see the photos! 🙂

    1. Thanks! I hopefully will just be so excited to be there that I don’t let the bad stuff bring me down!

  3. I can’t wait to read about your adventure! Remember to breathe when things get stressful and take it one thing at a time! (I’ve never traveled internationally or done a multiday hike at elevation so that’s all the advice I’ve got lol) You’re going to do great! You are prepared for this!

    1. Thank you! Yes, I will definitely try to breathe and stay positive (which is easier said than done, but it’s something I’m really trying to do better at!).

  4. You are going to do freaking amazing!!!! I think not knowing the girls will become a mute point pretty quickly. For international travel I’d say, just get a bunch of adapters for your plugs and a translation app on your phone! Good luck can’t wait to hear about it

    1. Oh my god this advice is gold! I didn’t think about either of those! I’m trying to learn a bit of Swahili before I go but it turns out I’m not great at learning another language so that app sounds perfect.

  5. It’s been 17 years since I climbed Kili. It sounds like you’ve prepared far more than I did at the time. Don’t be afraid to go slow – there’s no competition you have to win. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – on my summit day, I had to lean on one of our guides for a lot of the climb because I was tired and cold. Don’t be afraid to turn back if you feel like it’s just too tough and if you’re not having fun – it should be fun, even if it’s tough. Life is too short to not have fun. All that said, I’m anticipating reading about your great success, your fun summit, and all of the adventures you’ll encounter. Happy Trails!

    1. Thank you for this advice! I love that I need to go pole pole to make it up there because I’m already a slow hiker.

  6. I climbed Kili and I was way less prepared in terms of mountain hiking than you were, so you can totally do this.

    Seriously, none of the hiking days leading up to the summit will be strenuous. You’ve done far harder hikes. The guides will force you to go pole-pole (slow-slow) and the number of miles will be fairly short. I never felt out of breath even at altitude and with the climbing because we went so damn slow and they forced us to take so many unneeded breaks. Our guide needed his cigarette break (not joking). Summiting will be hard. Don’t let them make you wear more clothes than you need. They forced me to wear too much and I overheated and got heat exhaustion on the way up (and again, on the way down).

    It’ll be an amazing experience.

    If you forget anything, Moshi will have it and you can buy it there.

    I’ll be in Anchorage on the 19th. How bad are the mosquitos?

    1. This is exactly the advice I was hoping for. This is solid! I love that you weren’t even out of breath, that makes me feel so much more confident! I’m most worried for summit night honestly but I think I can do it. I will have to fight them about layering because I’m going to probably feel more comfortable in the cold than anyone else there so thank you for that advice. Everyone talks about how cold summit night is so this makes me feel like I won’t find it too cold! Thanks for helping me feel better!

      Yay for your trip to Alaska! The mosquitos can be bad in the forest (basically anywhere where there’s no wind) and in muddy/wet areas but if you’re heading to the top of a mountain you’ll be good once you get into a windy area. Coastal areas are windy too. I carry bug spray but end up rarely using it and I definitely have a few bites at all times haha. Not to scare you but if you’re buying mosquito spray I’d also recommend you get bear spray (it’s like extra strength pepper spray) in case you run into a bear. We’re having yet another rough year for bear attacks. Where are you going again? Do you need any hike or food recommendations?

      1. Food recommendations please! I’m traveling with my parents who are in good health but frail, so hiking is out. I would love rec for things that are special to AK.

        We’ll be in Anchorage, Seward, Denali, and Juneau.

  7. Also, I forgot to mention, take Diamox 24 hours before you need it (when you’re at altitude). If you start to feel the symptoms of altitude sickness and then take Diamox, it’s too late. At that point, the Diamox will prevent you from feeling worse, but whatever symptoms you have, you’ll continue to have.

    If you take it about 24 hours beforehand, you’ll avoid the symptoms of altitude sickness. The side effects of Diamox vary from person to person, but I had to urinate all the time and got a little tingliness in my hands and feet (like the feeling you get when blood is going back to your hands and feet after they fell asleep). The side effects of Diamox were way preferable to the altitude sickness.

    1. Thanks! I can’t wait to write about it later! I’m planning on keeping a journal during the hike so I don’t forget anything.

  8. My daughter wants to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in a few years so I’m vicariously learning through you and can’t wait to read more! The best thing I’ve found for going up in altitude is to drink a ton of water and I mean a ton. As far as packing for all seasons in one trip- layers are definitely the way to go!

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