THE TREK TO THE TOP

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE -

5895m the high­est point, to wait for dawn. Watch­ing the light grad­u­ally fill in the land­scape is fas­ci­nat­ing and more re­mark­able than ex­pected. Kibo crater, the largest of three on Kil­i­man­jaro, is an icy moon­scape of snow and rock con­tours that draws the eye this way and that. Its sheer scale and va­ri­ety sur­prises.

To the other side there’s an ice wall glacier that de­fies the rest of the land­scape with its geometric out­line. Glaciers have been re­treat­ing here for more than a cen­tury, but they are spec­tac­u­lar still. In the dis­tance one of the other peaks, Mawenzi, looks like a witch’s cas­tle as the sunrise colours the sky be­hind its jagged out­line. Hav­ing made it to the top, I’m in no hurry to de­scend. It’s sim­ply too beau­ti­ful. This is a sight to be rel­ished.

But at this al­ti­tude, ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion isn’t pos­si­ble. Climbers who have ar­rived af­ter us are leav­ing and our guides are get­ting rest­less. De­scent turns out to be harder GET FIT: You’ll cover a lot of ground over five to 10 days, de­pend­ing on the route you pick, and ob­vi­ously much of it will be up­hill. You’ll have a much bet­ter chance if you’re fit, es­pe­cially as the oxy­gen thins above 2800m. Train for en­durance by hik­ing, cy­cling or run­ning. Bet­ter still, go to a gym that can repli­cate al­ti­tude so that your body learns to adapt. Al­ti­tude, at Brook­vale on Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches, has a cli­mate-con­trolled room that repli­cates con­di­tions at 3700m, where oxy­gen is at two-thirds nor­mal lev­els. More: al­ti­tudeaus­tralia.com.au.

SEEK MED­I­CAL AD­VICE: Get a check-up be­fore you go and stock up on suit­able medicines, such as nau­sea and di­ar­rhea pre­ven­tion tablets, and be­gin a course of an­ti­malar­i­als. Spe­cialised travel med­i­cal cen­tres can ad­vise on vac­cines, with ev­i­dence of yel­low fever pro­tec­tion nec­es­sary to en­ter Tan­za­nia. They can also sup­ply Di­amox, a drug that works to counter the ef­fects of al­ti­tude by re­duc­ing the fluid build-up around the brain. Most peo­ple will ex­pe­ri­ence some ef­fects of al­ti­tude, but at its worst it can be de­bil­i­tat­ing or even fa­tal, and re­quires im­me­di­ate de­scent. Ac­quaint your­self with its symp­toms. There’s an ex­cel­lent app called Travel Health that in­cludes a sec­tion on al­ti­tude sick­ness. More: travel-doc­tor.com.au; trav­el­ling­well.com.au.

BE IN­SURED: If you’re us­ing a climb op­er­a­tor that does not re­quire proof of travel in­sur­ance then you’ve prob­a­bly picked the wrong one. If you need to de­scend, you’ll be in no po­si­tion to ne­go­ti­ate.

FIND A TOP OP­ER­A­TOR: Pick a com­pany with a proven record that responds quickly to emails and re­mem­ber the cheap­est is un­likely to be the best. Some, such as African Walk­ing Com­pany, can be booked only through third­party ad­ven­ture spe­cial­ists such as World Ex­pe­di­tions. Start your search with Kil­i­man­jaro — The Trekking Guide to Africa’s High­est Moun­tain by Henry St­ed­man. More: climb­moun­tk­il­i­man­jaro.com.

PACK SUIT­ABLE GEAR: A worn-in pair of hik­ing boots is just the start as you’ll need cloth­ing to cope with a range of con­di­tions from sunny mid-20Cs to sub-zero wind-chill at the sum­mit. Be pre­pared for drench­ing mist, tor­ren­tial rain, sleet and snow. There’s no sub­sti­tute for proper ther­mals, in­su­lated jack­ets and wa­ter­proofs. Op­er­a­tors sup­ply tents, but you’ll also need equip­ment such as walk­ing poles, a head-torch and a sleep­ing bag. Some equip­ment can be hired prior to the climb.

PHILIP KING

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