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© 2016 by On Track Expeditions Pty Ltd

Summiting Mt Kilimanjaro - Preparation is Everything!

Updated: Jan 9

We're really excited to welcome Megan Jepson as our first ever guest blogger. Megan is an experienced exercise physiologist and just last July summited Mt Kilimanjaro. So we invited her to share her great tips on training to reach the summit.

Mt Kilimanjaro at 5,895m is the highest free-standing mountain in the world and the 4th highest of the Seven Summits (the highest mountains on each of the 7 continents). To give some perspective our highest mountain in Australia at only 2,228m high, is yep, you guessed it, ranked 7th of the Seven Summits. We're pretty flat here in Aus!

Climbing Kili is becoming more and more popular every year, attracting over 35,000 avid trekkers annually, however not everyone is successful. There are many reasons for this, whether its poor preparation, altitude sickness, poor nutrition/hydration, injury or illness or even bad weather.

As an exercise physiologist I knew taking on Mt Kilimanjaro would be nothing to sneeze at. With so many varying elements just on the climb itself I knew our preparation had to be specific and structured to ensure we were giving ourselves the best shot possible.

Kili has everything, flat dirt tracks (ok so few and far between, but they do exist!); tough treacherous climbs, rocky cliff edge ‘monkey’ climbs, and on the way down from the summit even some skiing through dirt, (which is seriously some of the best fun you will ever have!).

Based on that description it doesn’t take an exercise physiologist to know that there are going to be some pretty tough days on your quads, calves and even your arms to help you balance on your trekking poles or from pulling yourself up on the rocks. Given all of this I am happy to report I wasn't sore at any point during the walk (aside from being sore all over from shivering for 8 hours straight on our final push up to the summit, but nothing can prepare you for that!).

So how did I prepare you ask? Well given I'm pretty active and often run long distance and do a fair bit of road cycling, I didn’t really do too much outside of my usual training schedule. A lot of my gym training includes running and cycling specific drills and strength exercise, which are all quad, glute and calf dominant exercises so I already had my bases covered in that perspective. If you don't currently do this kind of training I'd suggest you build it into your preparation.

Something I wasn’t really used to was carrying a day pack for 6-8 hours a day while walking at altitude. As we were doing a 3-week camping tour through Kenya and Uganda before taking on Kili we didn’t do any altitude training (which a lot of gyms now have access to) as part of our preparation, as the physiological adaptations to altitude training lasts 7 days. Instead we concentrated on building our cardiovascular fitness which naturally happened with my running and cycling training, and went on a couple of walks through the Dandenong’s with our day packs to wear in the hiking boots and get used to wearing a pack.

And consistency paid off! Our physical preparation helped prepare us mentally allowing us to reach the summit on our first attempt in July 2019. Of course not without the help of the awesome support crew we had behind us every step of the way!

If you aren’t already active, or unsure exactly what specific exercises are best for you and your goals of summiting Kili, make sure you talk to an exercise professional to help point you in the right direction and make your dreams a reality!

Megan works at Physioworks Cranbourne and she has a passion for seeing people reach their ultimate goal, whether that be fitting into a size 10 dress or summiting Kilimanjaro she believes “that a little bit of exercise can help everybody”. You can contact her at cranbourne@physioworksvic.com.au with any questions about preparing for your next trek.

On Track Expeditions has trips to Mt Kilimanjaro available through the year, if you like to find out why 35,000 trekers make the trip each year read our top 10 reasons to climb Kili.