staffer matt hiking in patagonia

Hi! My name’s Matt, and I’m a travel consultant at Thomson Safaris. At Thomson, we believe staffers should know our itineraries inside and out; that’s why we regularly deploy consultants like me to Tanzania.

It’s the job perk of a lifetime, and I’m counting down the days for my October Kilimanjaro summit via Thomson’s Western Approach!

Here’s how I’m preparing to scale Africa’s highest peak.


Weekend: Vigorous Hikes

matt hiking in new england

Hiking local trails is my favorite way to train for Kilimanjaro. To mimic my Kili trek, I carry everything I’ll have on the mountain: my pack, four liters of water and all my hiking gear. And that’s it! Thomson’s Herculean porters carry everything else: tents, sleeping bags, food, even private toilet tents–leaving guests light on their feet.

On Kili, I’ll hike an average of 5 miles per day, over seven days, at a 30% grade. The mountain is the most accessible of the Seven Summits because no technical mountaineering skill is required; it’s all walking with a little scrambling up the Barranco Wall.

This is all to say, Kili is totally doable with a little discipline and the encouragement of your dedicated Thomson trip manager. As your trip approaches, I strongly recommend identifying some nearby hikes, lacing up those boots and hitting the trail!


Weekday: Carving Out Cardio Time

running in boston

Cardio is king on Kilimanjaro. That’s why I started training well ahead of my trek (roughly four months ahead) and made running and walking the foundations of my regimen.

I usually run or walk after my workday, though on occasion I’ll lace up in the morning, too. What matters is that I’m consistent on a week-to-week basis. As a colleague once said, “Strength and endurance are critical for summiting Kili, but extreme strength and extreme endurance are not.”

Training is not about hitting my goal time every session; it’s about improvement. I regularly ask myself: What was my fitness level three weeks ago? What is my fitness level now? Am I stronger? If the answer is yes, chances are I’m on the right track.


Weekend: Climbing the Stairway to Uhuru

harvard stadium stairs

If I don’t have time to get to a hiking trail, I’ll hit the steps at a nearby football stadium. I’ll load up with all my Kili gear, just like I would on a training hike. Even stair-stepping at a gym works well–in fact, the Stairmaster was a staple of my colleague Brittany’s training!

For trekkers who don’t have access to stadiums or hiking trails, or who just want help with their training, I strongly recommend Fit For Trips. They craft personalized training programs based on the goals of your travel itinerary. Thomson trekkers get 25% off their program, too!


Weekday: Scheduling an Appointment with a Travel Doctor

Thomson’s Western Approach has extra acclimatization time built into the itinerary, significantly helping to mitigate altitude symptoms. Moreover, Thomson’s guides are all Wilderness First Responders who will constantly check in to ensure I’m managing the effects safely and responsibly.

Even though I know I’ll be in good hands, I made sure to schedule an appointment with a travel doctor ahead of my trip in case there were any precautions I should take specific to my medical history.


Weekend: Duffel Bag Tetris

Last weekend, I got out my duffel and started packing, just to see how things fit. I knew I had most of the items on Thomson’s packing list, and what I didn’t have–such as gaiters and mummy-style sleeping bags–were available for rent in Tanzania. Renting gear will not only save me a chunk of change on equipment, but it’ll also save space in my luggage.

I still might buy a few new things, like the Nanopuff jacket that my colleague Joshua recommends, just to update my wardrobe.

And I’m going to heed Thomson’s packing advice and make sure I have extra clothes in my carryon, just in case my luggage takes an unexpected detour!


Weekday: Sit Back and Wait for Safari

viewing lions on safari with thomson

After my trek, I’ll be heading into the wilderness on Thomson’s Highlights Safari, sitting back in a Land Rover and letting the wildebeest do the walking. It’ll be the perfect break after a long trek, and I can safely say my itinerary hits all the best wildlife destinations:

  • The exclusive Eastern Serengeti, dubbed “Giraffic Park” by one enthusiastic visitor
  • Serengeti National Park, where the Great Migrations thunders across the savanna
  • Ngorongoro Crater, a massive caldera teeming with elephants, hippos, rhino and more

That’s not to mention the fine dining and starlit skies I’ll experience at Thomson’s Nyumba camps! Safari is basically the best road trip ever–if you’re only planning one trip to East Africa in your life, I strongly recommend adding a safari post-trek.


All the Time: Believe in Myself

sign at summit of mount kilimanjaro

Standing on the Roof of Africa, gazing over a sea of clouds and the Tanzanian plains beyond…this image is what motivates me. This is what powers me through those days when I’d rather sit on the couch than train.

Another motivating factor is the knowledge that the Western Approach is one of the most scenic trails on Kilimanjaro. It’s a good reminder that the journey is just as valuable as the destination!

As my adventure nears, I’m filled with excitement and determination. I’ve chosen the best trekking strategies, training and preparation. My odds of summit success are 98%–what are yours?