January 9, 2011

Towards the summit of Kilimanjaro

Chapter 1 – Preparation for the ascent of Kilimanjaro

Thomas Kieller

For the 125 km of dirt roads and mountainous paths that I will cover in 11 days, I knew I had to prepare myself appropriately.

Kilimanjaro like any mountain has to be approached with respect. The immensity of this volcano brings naturally a sensation of admiration and consideration.

I have been warned that when you reach 4,000 meters of altitude, it becomes a serious challenge. The more you climb up, the more the impact of altitude becomes significant because of the increasing rarefaction of oxygen. Well, Mount Kilimanjaro rises to 5,895 meters. Quite enough to annoy the health of the unprepared climber or the one who is reckless regarding altitude sickness. The consequences are real such as respiratory distress, pulmonary oedema (fluid accumulation in the lungs) and cerebral oedema (excess accumulation of liquid in the intra or extracellular spaces of the brain). In these three cases, the situation can degenerate drastically and may lead to death.

The best way to become accustomed to high altitude and to the physical work required is to climb regularly and in a gradual manner. I was initiated to this activity when I was visiting Innsbruck in 1999. The scenery of this Austrian town is breathtaking with numerous sharp peaks. There, I climbed the Brandjoch. Since this visit in the Tyrolean capital, I hiked other mountains.

I climbed Mount Fuji in Japan, many mountains in Switzerland including the Matterhorn near the city of Zermatt and Mount Snowdon in Wales with a sustained effort on the ridge of Crib Groch. As always the landscapes were incredible!

Besides these treks, one must also train regularly. With a specialist in human kinetics and in nutrition who was doing my follow-up, I prepared myself to the effort required for the ascent by doing some exercises in a fitness and health club. Then, I measured my form with numerous tests on a stationary bike and on a treadmill. With the help of a doctor who was keen to my adventure, I also measured my state of health with a battery of medical tests. This way, he gave me the green light for Tanzania.

I knew that all this preparation will make the adventure easier and quite more pleasant. I felt ready for the ascent of Kilimanjaro. At last, Africa was in sight!