Olympic Skiers Give Kilimanjaro A Go

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Backpacker Magazaine’s Peak Fitness Blog has a cool story today about downhill skiers Julia Mancuso from the U.S. and Chemmy Alcott of the U.K. recently attempting to climb Kilimanjaro to raise money for a school in Tanzania.

Both women blogged about their experience and how incredibly challenging it was for them, despite the fact that they spend considerable amounts of time at altitude and are at home in the mountain. In fact, Chemmy wasn’t able to top out saying that she began to have splitting headaches three-quarters of the way up the mountain. Typically, climbers would take a Diamox pill to help lessen the symptoms of altitude, but Alcott was so concerned about testing for a banned substance that she elected not to take the pill.

Mancuso did reach the summit, but called it “torture”. She also notes in her blog about how she expected to have a fun little camping trip up the mountain, and completely underestimated the challenge of the climb. Something that came back to bite her a bit, but fortunately before she left for Africa, she enlisted the aid of a good friend who helped prepare her a bit more.

Speaking from my own experience, I can tell you that Kilimanjaro is not a mountain to trifle with. While I never suffered the blinding headaches that these girls did, and in fact never felt the traditional effects of altitude at all, the fact that I was unable to get a wink of sleep on the mountain shows you how altitude can have a different impact on all of us. And Julia is right. No one ever mentions how challenging the climb is. They tell you that if you are in “reasonable shape” you can get up Kilimanjaro. Well, I’m here to tell you that that isn’t necessarily true. It’s a tough climb, and it will test you. Some routes are more challenging than others, but either way you go up, it can be a tough trek.

That said, it’s also one of the best adventures you could ever undertake. Tanzania is a wonderful country, the mountain is beautiful, and the views are quite breathtaking at times. Visiting Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, can really change your life for the better. Definitely a great time.

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