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What it's REALLY like to climb Kilimanjaro (for ordinary mortals)

In September, 2015, four women ranging in age from 27 to 67 successfully gained the summit of Kilimanjaro by the Rongai Route. I, neither the youngest nor the oldest, was one of them. Since then, many people - especially women - have asked me what it was really like, how tough it was, did I ever consider turning back or think I might not make it, and most frequently, how much I trained.

Fortunately, Kili is a favorite topic of mine, and encouraging others - especially women - to do it, is a passion. To paraphrase Nike: Just Climb It. This is why...

Kili is great value. Yes it's in Tanzania, Africa, but what a fantastic destination to 'have' to go to, and, unless you live at a trail head of the Tour Mt. Blanc or the Camino de Santiago, travel and associated costs are involved with any iconic international trek. Climb package prices vary - see here for ours - but with all that is included, Kili climbs offer good value.

Kili doesn't require marathon intensity training. Yes, summit day is a long, hard slog that requires great physical and mental fortitude; no airbrushing that. It is tough. But for people who train to comfortably hike around 8 miles on five consecutive days, and who don't encounter problems with high altitude, the trek is mostly delightful, especially as your heavy gear is carried by a porter, and your tents and meals are readied by the crew.

A Kili climb can be a life-changer. This change comes in many forms. For those who have never attempted a physical challenge such as this, climbing Kili bolsters confidence and teaches that hard work leads to great results. For those whose daily lives are busy and complex, being away from distractions such as devices and the demands of family and work for a week, surrounded by the elements and jaw dropping views, allows the mind and soul to problem solve. Clarity is gained.

Kili is the gateway to other African adventures. After our climb we did a short safari which rounded out the trip and ticked a bucket list item off as well. Another post-climb option is to head to exotic Zanzibar to relax on the beach and swim in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

Purposeful Travel supports our climbers as they prepare with sound advice and valuable tips, a realistic training plan, a tried and tested packing list, and pep talks on demand. In Tanzania, our Kili climb outfitters are reliable, responsible and follow ethical practices. As with all of our trips, local people benefit.

If you're wondering about doing Kili, my advice is to follow the training plan and then go for it. You have everything to gain, including a photo of yourself - unrecognizable by anyone else - from the summit.


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