By NAVAYA OLE NDASKOI
Navaya ole Ndaskoi: What kind of training and exercise do you need to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
Alexander Lemunge: As a client you need training by hiking at list three times a week carrying some weight in a backpack preferably 15 ponds, about 7 kilograms. If someone has an opportunity to do a real hike on the mountains, that is the best way to train yourself. I led people who did treadmill, climbing stairs because that is all they could do. Mental preparation, however, is the most important thing. You must be determined. It is mind over body. It is very hard to train for the altitude, unless you pay some money to get into a pressurized room.
Who should climb Kilimanjaro for six and eight days, and why?
Highly experienced people on high altitude who has no or little problems of high altitude can climb in six days. Less experienced climbers can climb for about eight days. You simply climb during the day time if you choose the eight days package. However, six days allows climbing with enough minimum time to acclimatize. In effect more time on the mountain broadens chances of summiting. I recommend climbing for eight days.
What do you remember most on the numerous times you led groups on Kilimanjaro?
I remember leading a trip of a mother and her three daughters. They fell sick in different times at different altitudes. The mother was very scared. With our moral support and medicines we provided they all made to the summit. That was emotionally moving. I remember seeing them breaking into tears in jubilations. That was amazing. I was very happy and this day will remain in my mind for the rest of my life. Another day I was coming down Mweka trail. A client-cum-friend gave me a lunar bar chocolate. I ate half of it. Incidentally I read what the ingredients are. Wow, the bars reads, ‘this bar is for women.’ You can imagine what has been going on in mind. For some minutes I was wondering what could happen for the next few hours!
How does a trip leader relate to a client?
A trip leader is a layer between the client and the company. He represents the company and oversees the quality of services being offered to the client as indicated in the itinerary. He is in charge of everything in the trip that makes a client feel at home.
What is the difference between a trip leader and guide?
A trip leader is more trained on high altitude physiology and outdoor management. They have intensive training on first aid. The trip leader has more feeling about taking care of a client, monitoring of the trip. He or she cannot accomplish these without a guide.
What are the equipments required to attempt climbing Kilimanjaro?
Proper equipment is extremely important to the success, enjoyment, comfort and safety of your trip. On Kilimanjaro your body must be kept very warm all times. For a comfortable climb you need comfortable hiking boots well worn. You need to dress in layers, a minimum of three that fits on top of one another. Bear in mind that NO cotton is allowed because when it gets wet it does not keep you warm. On top of that a Gore-Tex jacket and pants are necessary and a warm compressible jacket for cold protection on higher altitude is needed. The head must be well protected, for this you need a shade hat for the sun, a warm hat and a balaclava for cold. Sunglasses are very important too; bring a few pairs including glaciers sunglasses. Remember that you are near the Equator and sunlight is very strong on high altitude. For sleeping, bring a full size sleeping pad and a sleeping bag which is at least 15 degrees below Fahrenheit.
Does the company provide any equipment?
The quality of tents is very important when shopping for a company to climb Kilimanjaro with. High quality tents will protect you from storms, snow, rains and keep you warm and safe on Kilimanjaro. Tents need to be four-seasons tents built specifically for high altitudes and wind resistance. Mountain Hardwear Trango 4 Tent is a typical example. Also the company provides water treatment methods. I prefer the Swiss Army Katadyn water pump because it is an environmental friendly method of cleaning water and it is easy to clean huge quantity of water. This makes clean and safe water available for drinking, cooking and body wash. In the meantime, we use sterilizer to clean fruits and vegetables to prevent any bacterial contamination. I always welcome clients to visit the kitchen tent so that they can see for themselves how food is prepared in the most hygienic way.
It is said that food change from low to high altitude. What is your take on this?
Your body cannot digest protein on high altitude. The meals must contain mainly carbohydrates such as pasta or rice. Meat, fish and the like will not be served on high altitudes. On the contrary, in low altitudes full meal with proteins will be served to give you enough energy for the climb. On both high and low altitudes meals must contains vegetables and fruits for proper diet. It is strongly advised that you drink three to five liters of water every day, good hydration help acclimatization on the mountain.
What is mountain sickness?
This disease has two appearances. The most common severe form of altitude illness, the most often causing death is high altitude pulmonary oedema. It is a problem of lungs that typically shows up on the second night after reaching a specific altitude. The pressure in the lungs arteries rise, and fluid seeps out of the pulmonary capillaries and begins to fill the alveolar sacs. The patient begins to drown. The second is called high altitude cerebral oedema, a brain problem with a high potential for death. This is when the intracranial is filled with pressure or fluids suppressing the brain. Both are fatal. Emergency kit which includes oxygen, high altitude hypobaric chamber and some pills are used as first aid. The treatment is descent, descent, descent.
Kilimanjaro is the highest walkable mountain on Earth. What does this means?
We do not use ropes, carabiners, and other technical climbing gear when climbing Kilimanjaro. It is just a hike. Above all Kilimanjaro has a generous weather compared with most other mountains from around the world. Most climbers reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, clothing and proper determination.
What measures do you take in case of an accident?
We immediately give first aid to stop life threatening and at the same time we call rescue team. Kilimanjaro National Park has its well functioning rescue teams which work shoulder to shoulder with a respective company whose client gets an accident. The rescue team can drive up to 12,000 feet above the sea level. Beyond that altitude they use different types of litter to carry the patient down the mountain depending on the severity of the problem. The patient is then taken by an ambulance to KCMC hospital in Moshi town on the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. Sometimes the patient is sometime flown to Nairobi Hospital in Kenya by helicopter. Flying Doctors Services and Knight Support have the best rescue ambulance helicopters that work efficiently.
Kilimanjaro is literally a stone-thrown away from the Equator. This highest free-standing mountain in the world is snow caped. Is this not amazing Alexander?
This is fascinating. Kilimanjaro is the only place to see snow close to the Equator. In fact the world climate is summarized on Kilimanjaro. The ascent of the slopes is a virtual climatic World tour from the tropical to the Arctic. Even before you cross the national park boundary, the cultivated foothills give way to lush montane forest, inhabited by elephant, leopard, buffalo the endangered abbot’s duiker and other small antelope and primates. Higher still lies the moorland zone, where a cover of giant heather is studded with other worldly giant lobelias. Above 4,000 m, a surreal alpine desert supports little life other than a few hardy mosses and lichen. Then, finally the last vestigial vegetation gives way to a winter wonderland of ice and snow and the magnificent beauty of the roof of the continent. By the time you reach the summit, you are already in the range of -25 degrees centigrade. Snow capped roof of Africa will literally carry you far way emotionally.