Kili Weather

Kilimanjaro Factfile

At 19,340 feet, Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the only one of the seven summits (highest mountain on each continent) that is accessible without mountaineering equipment and experience.

It's the highest freestanding mountain in the world and one of the largest volcanoes, dormant rather than extinct.

On the summit, the lungs can only absorb half the amount of oxygen compared to sea-level.

The summit at Uhuru Peak is more than 1,600 feet higher than Everest base camp.

Estimates vary, but around 20,000 people attempt to climb Kilimanjaro each year. Almost half fail to reach the summit.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Done and dusted

I've booked my flight. In three weeks time, I'll be spending my final night of preparation before starting the climb. Much as I dislike both Heathrow and British Airways, I've reluctantly decided they offer the best itinerary for my situation. I've also booked my rail tickets to London and a bed in a friend's flat to enable a 6am departure by tube that will give me the three-hour check-in time necessary for security clearance. I'm hoping my 10.20am flight will be early enough to miss the worst of the queues, but it's probably wishful thinking. My journey is now fully organised as far as Nairobi, as I've arranged for a friend to drive me the twenty-five miles to the nearest station where I can catch a train for London. I now have only to find a hotel where I can spend the night in Nairobi, and then book my shuttle from there to Marangu. And decide what to do with the three – four days in Tanzania after the climb, of course.

I've had to join the British Mountaineering Council to get myself insured – it was a cheaper option than Snowcard, the only other high altitude insurer I could find. At £80 for the two weeks, it's an expensive business, but does seem to cover every possible eventuality and any sport I might conceivably try, including riding and hot air ballooning (both of which are attractive, though I think ballooning would mean too much travelling for the time available).

Tomorrow, I'll book my Nairobi hotel and the shuttle bus ticket to Marangu. All this from the comfort of my own home. I just love the internet.

I had my last immunisation yesterday, when I paid out £45 to a Hereford doctor to inject me against yellow fever. Interestingly, the certified yellow form I was given is almost identical to the two childhood ones I still have in my 'box of important papers'. So, my time as a human pin-cushion has ended at last.

Yesterday, I also stocked up with snacks and treats for the climb. Food is essential fuel and apparently very important in the fight against AMS. I'm not really accustomed to snacking on the kind of processed sweet bars that will stand up to days of tropical heat and rough and ready transport, so it hasn't been easy to find some that aren't disgusting and sickly-sweet. I've finally decided on a pack of soft but solid, cake-like bars of Nutrigrain Raisin Bakes and Sainsbury's Organic Hazelnut Bars, as well as some Sesame Snaps and loose raisins. I really prefer savoury snacks, so I've also added a pack of lunchbox sized Peperami. Oh, and my secret vices are combined in one bar of coffee flavoured dark Swiss chocolate. If this all seems a bit excessive for six days on the mountain, I should point out I'm expecting to share some of my supplies with guides and porters. I've also been experimenting with fruit-flavoured electrolyte powders (mostly even more disgusting than the over-sweet snacks), and worst of all, the ultimate horror – energy gels. They are foul; horrible tasting and even worse consistency. Research has indicated they're both vital for success on summit-night, but I'm not convinced I'll be able to stomach them if I'm feeling nauseous. I'll pack both with the intention of using them, but suspect they'll end up as part of my final gifts to the guides.

Friday, 17 August 2007


My trip has been in jeopardy for the past two weeks. It's been a deeply depressing time, during which I've been unable to continue with my final travel arrangements in case I'm forced to cancel the whole thing because of the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Surrey. There's no way I could leave the farm if the country were to succumb to a repetition of the terrible epidemic of 2001. Apart from the unfairness of delegating responsibility for overseeing the stock to non-farming family members, the movement restrictions cause huge difficulties and extra work when we can't use grazing fields across the road. The work of carting fodder and feed would be comparable to mid-winter, a time of year I wouldn't consider leaving for my trip.

It's now been ten days since the last confirmed case, and I'm allowing myself to be cautiously optimistic enough to book another date for my Yellow Fever vaccination (I cancelled last week because of a heavy cold). If all goes according to plan, I'll be in Tanzania four weeks from tonight.

I've decided to stay overnight with a friend in London, then take the daytime British Airways flight from Heathrow to Nairobi; get a decent night's sleep in a hotel there before taking a shuttle bus to Marangu the following day. The return flight home will be overnight, but that's OK – I need as much rest and sleep as possible before the climb, but it's not so important for the return journey. I considered flying from Nairobi to Kilimajaro airport, but I'd like to travel through Kenya by road again; see how much it's changed since my teenage years. I've never been to Tanzania before, so that part of the journey will be completely new to me. Travelling by road also means no flight transfers, so less excuse for the airlines to lose my precious luggage. I've read too many horror stories of lost trekking kit to risk having to make the climb in borrowed gear. I have no faith in BA's ability to deliver my luggage at the end of the flight, but minimising the risk loads the dice in my favour.