I’m going to fill you in on everything I wish I knew about climbing Kilimanjaro with Earth’s Edge before I went. Of course I’d read the blogs and watched the videos and checked off the packing lists, but some stuff I had to find out for myself and I want to share that with you. If you want to see exactly what this trip looked like, check out my Instagram highlights here. If you’re thinking of booking, don’t forget to use my discount code for €100 off (Ambnadia100 until 26/03/22). You’ll find out all the official information here.
So let’s get into it…
How long does the trip take?
The entire Kilimanjaro trip with Earth’s Edge takes 12 days, you’ll be on the mountain for 7 of those with travel days and night at the lodge in Arusha either side. The Machame route you’ll walk takes five days to get to Kosovo Camp and then at midnight you’ll head out for summit which is in total around six hours up and six hours back down to your camp for last night (broken up with a rest and lunch back at Kosovo camp) but all depends on speed of the group.
How much and what type of training do you need to do?
I was asked a lot if you need to be super fit to climb Kilimanjaro. In my opinion your mental strength is equally as important as physical, I knew my legs could support me, and that at sea level I had enough cardio fitness, but you’ll be surprised how much of it is in your head.
Saying that, obviously the fitter you are the more enjoyable the trek will be, so get out walking as soon as possible. Strength and mobility stuff in the gym is great, but as far as I’m concerned the best thing you can do is get out on the hills and do long consecutive days wearing a heavy backpack as often as you can.
Trying out an altitude chamber is another good idea to see how your heart rate recovers but nothing will prepare you for that cold thin air (well not with the height of our mountains in Ireland anyway!)
What should I bring?
Earth’s Edge have a complete packing list here, but here are a few things I’d add
A speaker to listen to music while walking
A game or deck of cards
The best SPF lip balm money can buy (and Zovirax if you suffer from cold sores)
A really good hand cream
Penneys/Primark ‘velvet plush’ leggings for camp/sleeping
P20 SPF in factor 30 or 50, I wore the face one every day whether the sun was out or not and was one of the only people in the group who didn’t get burned
Grippy waterproof gloves
The best down oversize mittens you can afford/rent (Rab are great)
Extra snacks for the porters and guide (individually wrapped)
A balaclava or snood that is breathable
A bag you can leave at the hotel with stuff you don’t need to bring on the mountain
Crocs are great for slipping on quickly around camp and are light to travel in
Thermarests and pillow were provided
Is this trip suitable for solo travellers?
Yes! There was one pair of friends on our trip but no one else knew each other before we started training. I would strongly recommend setting up a WhatsApp group before travelling so you can ask questions and share links and tips and maybe even get out hiking together pre-trip.
Is there any climbing involved/how do you get back down?
There’s a section called the Barranco Wall that I was pretty apprehensive about but it ended up being one of my favourite parts of the entire week. It takes about two hours and is quite steep but there are big rocks to step up and loads of support from the local guides so it’s totally manageable. You come down a different route so you don’t need to worry about anything as steep as this on the descent, however the loose lava ash on the way down from the summit was probably the least enjoyable part for me.
What about going to the toilet?
Periods, poo and everything in between …Earth’s Edge have covered it all in blog posts on their site, have a read here. One thing I’ll say is, it’s less of an issue than you think and everyone will get very comfortable talking about it very quickly!
What’s the food like?
You’ll get hot breakfast (porridge, eggs, toast etc) and dinner (carb heavy rice/pasta/potatoes with meat and veg) every day, there’s plenty at meal times so you don’t be hungry then. There are a couple of lunch boxes and one cooked lunch but mostly you’ll rely on your own snacks during the day. I brought a lot of protein bars, nuts, biscuits etc – whatever you like that’ll keep you going. I also brought my own protein powder and nut butter to add to porridge but there’s other stuff like jam provided. Dried fruit might be a nice addition!
…and drinking water?
Plenty of treated drinking water is provided at camp for you to fill up for the day. I used a 3lr bladder and a 1.5lr Nalgene which can also be filled with hot water to keep cosy at night or to drink when the temperates drop below freezing.
What were the best and worst parts of the trip?
Best was easily the group of people and all the local staff, the guides and porters. It’s such a magical bonding experience to share together!
Another really simple highlight was the hot tea and coffee delivered to your tent every morning with a smile. I miss that.
For me the worst was packing up my bag to leave each morning, packing the sleeping bag away etc – I just hate packing! And washing my hands with really cold water. So really minor complaints, everything else you just take in your stride.
What boots did you wear?
I wore the Regatta Lady Bainsford boots from my own The Nadia Edit because they’re tried and tested and I knew they’d be warm, waterproof and comfortable and wouldn’t let me down. Two of the others in the group wore the same boots and said they were perfect. If you’re ordering try the code NADIA15 for an extra 15% off and stick to your normal size.
Did you wear leggings or hiking trousers?
Our group wore a mix of both, but I wore leggings every day with waterproof trousers on top for summit night. Actually I wore cycling shorts for the first two days when it was warmer, but some wore leggings or hiking pants so whatever you’re most comfortable in. For the colder days I wore fleece lined winter leggings and layered over merino base layer at night/for summit.
Should I bring a camera?
Personally I was happy with just my phone, a camera is just another thing you need to look after/keep charged etc and often my hands were too cold or I was wearing gloves or holding poles that even taking my phone out was a faff. Unless you’re really into photography I wouldn’t bother. Some of my favourite memories like seeing the snaking line of head torches on summit night, or the sun rising above the clouds at the top are just that…a memory.
Would you do it again?
I wouldn’t do the exact same trip again no, because I’ve done it – but I will definitely be looking at doing another expedition with Earth’s Edge. Who wants to come to Everest Base Camp?