Climbing Kilimanjaro: Through The Eyes A South African Woman

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The brave journey of Aanikah, a woman who dared to take on the highest peak in Africa in aid of raising funds for the Education and Welfare for underprivileged kids in Sub-Saharan Africa. Read about her determination, preparation and obstacles she faced along the way.

This opportunity was presented to me by a good friend who wanted to make his Mum's lifelong dream of climbing Kilimanjaro come true. They decided to join forces with charity organisation Muslim Hands to raise funds and awareness for education and welfare of children in Sub Saharan Africa. How could I refuse??

Booking and Package Selection

Working with a charity organisation had its perks not only were all our efforts contributing to a worthy cause but they handled all the accommodation and travel logistics. All we had to do was raise funds, approx $3 860 per person.

Our Travel package included flights, an 11 day stay in Moshi Tanzania including meals; 2 nights prior to the start of the climb would be spent in Moshi Town at 4 star Selig Hotel, followed by our 6 day climb on the mountain itself, followed by a further 3 nights in Moshi before departing back to South Africa.

Accommodation at the Selig was not extravagant but clean and lovely, the food delicious and staff helpful and friendly.  Comfortable accommodation is a necessity in my opinion leading up to the gruelling conditions of the mountain as well as to recover after returning from the climb.

Training & Preparation

Despite leading a mostly active lifestyle at that point- running, swimming and gymming most of my spare time away – I felt quite daunted at tackling the highest peak in Africa. Hiking had never been a real interest of mine, although I love the outdoors and knew it would be incredible.

Training & Preparation

Training & Preparation

As with any mountain, there are many trails leading to the top. The route we were attempting to tackle is called the Marangu route aka The Coca-Cola route. It would take us 5 days to climb up to the summit and 1 day to descend; through rainforest, alpine desert, and the extreme cold of the final night on the peak where temperatures can reach -20 degrees.

I joined an experienced hiker and four-time Kilimanjaro veteran, 'Uncle Hashim', on his training walks around Cape Town, starting 4 months prior to our departure. We would go out every Saturday or Sunday morning for a 5-6 hour walk along mostly moderately steep and undulating terrain.

As a runner, I’m always pushing to go faster, but I had to learn to slow it down for this challenge. I would advise practising the art of walking slowly; very very slowly.  Throughout our training program, our coaches would drum home that point time and again as it is vitally important to learn to conserve energy.

I also started gym training with a backpack – using the stepping machine etc, to strengthen my back and to simulate carrying a 5 kg backpack for the duration of the climb. Participating in endurance-building events is also highly recommended. The ability to push your body after it reaches exhaustion will definitely come in handy when climbing for many hours a day for six straight days.

Best Advice: Speak To Experienced Climbers

As the saying goes, we learn by doing and from experience. So I sought advice from those who have gone before me. In hindsight, this was the best thing I could have done as  I gained so much knowledge and tips by listening to experienced Kilimanjaro Climbers e and that I found very helpful on the journey.

The number one tip I would like to emphasise is to: LISTEN TO THE GUIDES. These guys climb and summit Kilimanjaro for a living. They know what they're talking about. When they tell you to slow down, listen. When they advise you to hydrate, listen. The guides who helped me and my team as a whole were the most kind and patient men I have ever met. Without a second thought, any one of them would lend a helping hand and without them, climbing that mountain would be have been an impossible task.

Gear Required For The Climb

Below is a kit list that is required when embarking on a journey to Kilimanjaro:


  • 3 x Toilet paper
  • 2 x Wet wipes
  • Soap
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Face cloth
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Powder
  • Antiperspirant
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip protection
  • Dry shampoo
  • Vaseline (petroleum jelly).
  • For women: pantyliners.


  • Hiking boots (preferably mid weight is ideal with water protection)
  • Sneakers  (or other comfy shoes to walk around the campsites)
  • 3 x dri fit t-shirts
  • 2 x long sleeve tops
  • 3 x hiking pants (thin sock layer)
  • 2 x thermal long johns (thermal
  • 2 x thermal spencers  
  • 3 x pairs of sock liners
  • 3 x pairs of hiking socks (goose down works well for summit night)
  • Long sleeve fleece top
  • Rain poncho
  • Waterproof jacket
  • 3 x sports bras
  • 4 x underpants or panties
  • 3 x buffs
  • Cap/sun hat
  • Liner gloves
  • Ski gloves
  • Beanie
  • Balaklava

 Technical gear:

  • 2 x trekking poles
  • Sleeping bag (-5 to -10 temp at least preferred)
  • Sleeping bag liner  (adds an additional 5 degrees of warmth)
  • Gaiters
  • 70-litre duffel or carry bag (porter bag)
  • 25 – 35-litre backpack (I used a 25-litre bag which was perfect for me but the majority of the people on my team used 35-litre bags)
  • 3×1 litre water bottles and/or 1 water bladder (I used a 1-litre water bladder but on summit night the water pipe may freeze and be unusable)
  • Water purification drops
  • LED headlight and additional batteries (on summit night, hold the batteries close to your body as they may freeze)
  • A Power bank (for your camera or cell phone)


  • Altitude tablets
  • Nausea tablets (Valoid did not help me as it left me feeling dangerously drowsy)
  • Headache tablets
  • Rehydrate/electrolyte powder,
  • Immodium or Anti-diarrhea pills,
  • Nasal spray
  • Malaria tablets (mostly for the pre and post mountain days)
  • Mosquito repellant

The Journey Begins

Mandara Hut – The first campsite at the end of Day 1 at 2720 above sea level

The Journey Begins

Mandara Hut campsite :By Global Expedition Club


Horombo Hut – Day 2 and 3 at 3720m above sea level+

Mandali hut

Horombo Hut


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Acclimatizing is an important part of preparing for the summit. Give your body time to become accustomed to the oxygen levels and take heed of anything you may be feeling at this altitude. Pictured above was a resting spot we chose on a short acclimatizing hike on 'rest day' (day 3) at about 4000 meters above sea level. The group had a light snack here and ventured back to our campsite roughly 300 meters lower where we spent the night, before setting off to the final campsite.

Sleeping above the clouds is something else. It's a time to reflect on the majesty of the mountain overshadowing everything else in sight, and of the privilege, you have for being there in that moment. It's also a time to resist running to the bathroom when the need presses… You'll find yourself winded before you get to the door!


Kibo – The highest peak on Mount Kilimanjaro.



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The sights at any given moment were breathtaking. Literally. I had no breath.


Kibo Hut – The final campsite before attempting to summit on Day 4/Day 5

Kibo hut

Kibo Hut Campsite.

Lessons Learnt

The one thing I learnt on this journey was to embrace the unexpected. No matter how strong you think you are, you simply cannot prepare for every outcome. Kilimanjaro was the single most gruelling and simply incredible experience of my life. An experience I now look back on with a rye smile.

I fell ill on the eve of my first night on the mountain! You read that right! And suffering through a Gastrointestinal infection could not have come at a worse time. I was broken and weak. But when the team threatened to call an ambulance to usher me off the mountain later on Day 2, I simply could not yield and insisted on trying.

With the care and support of my team, I managed to push through to 'Summit night' on the eve of Day 5 and really gave it my best shot until all the energy was sapped from me. ''Time to go home to my family I thought… that's a lie. That's what my guide told me 😉 And so I was only privy to a measly 5000 meters!.

And that was that. An ambulance ride to the bottom gate with a few injured warriors alongside me ended our adventure. But I am left with memories of beauty, incredible kindness, physical and emotional challenge, all of which came jam-packed on one mountain…Kilimanjaro…you beautiful beast you

About The Authour

South African born Aanikah Hendricks resides in Sunny Cape Town and is a proud mother of a 4-year-old lil lady. By day She is a Special Needs Educator and Behaviour Therapist specialising in Autism and learning challenges in children. In her free-time, she enjoys dabbling in many physical and outdoor activities such as running, functional fitness training, boxing and the occasional triathlon.


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