Previous experience at altitude?
was born and lived my life at sea level.
spent 43 days on an overland truck eating my way from west-east aftica as preparation.
did the climb with no altitude experience and didn't use the diamox tablets i took.
Note one thing that i didn't understand about climbing kili but wish i had known...
the first 3 days is pure bush/trail walking; just at a really slow pace. easy as, wear your fav joggers. the only hard part is the final night's launch to the summit - for that all you need to be able to do is tell yourself to take one step after another (for 5 hrs :^)).
I did have altitude sickness at about 13,700 ft on day 3 -- throwing up and heaving. Rested overnight and acclimatized, so I pushed on.
I think the knowledge of how altitude sickness affects me and knowing what signs to look for made me more confident overall on the climb. It's really a personal choice as far as the previous high altitude training goes.
- sleeping above 10,000 ft (3,000 meters) the first night
- not reaching a higher altitude than I sleep, even if just a few hundred feet
- pushing my heart rate into the anaerobic zone
- eating too many fats/proteins before getting to camp when I am going to an altitude that I haven't been to yet
- gaining more than a thousand vertical feet per hour at altitudes I haven't been at yet
Of course, everyone differs on how their bodies react. But to make up for lack of not knowing how your body will react, the best way to ensure success is to add extra days to your itinerary. This should give you the best chance of acclimating regardless.
We had never been to altitude other than two business trips to Mexico City years before. Because of our inexperience I decided to take 9 days to get to Crater Camp then summit on the 10th morning. Even with extra days we didn't sleep at Crater Camp but beyond a headache on
occation and not being hungry up high, we did just fine.
A rule of thumb is 6 days up 60% chance to make it. 7 days 70%, etc.
One third of the attempts, about 10,000 people per year, don't get to the top. Each person is different, of course, but an extra day or two on the trail will help your confidence if you are worried about getting sick.
50% of mountain climbing is mental. The total distance you will hike is 50 miles. Know before you go to Africa that you can hike that distance (do it with 3 or 4 hours hikes with some back to back) as you break in your boots (We took two months to prepare and did all the hikes in Wisconsin...no altitude here). If you are spooked by the altitude, add some days to your trip. (I took the 9 day option because I had no altitude experience, I was 53 and had no intention of going all the way to Africa and fail). Also, it's beautiful and there was no reason to be in a hurry, it was a father/son trip.
This is the article I wrote about our trip. It gets into more detail about our preparation and choices of route, etc.
It is an awesome experience...have fun!
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