Brittany on a training hike in Vermont.
Thomson staffer Brittany has helped tons of guests prepare to trek Mt. Kilimanjaro. Now, she’s following in their footsteps–literally, she’s climbing Kili soon on Thomson’s Western Approach!
We caught up with her for a Q&A about her preparation, training and inspiration for climbing Kili.
Why is climbing Kili important to you?
Kili is an incredible challenge. When I first started at Thomson I never thought I’d be able to do it—19,341 feet seemed doable in a plane, but wasn’t convinced I could make it up that high with my own two feet.
However, the more I read and heard from trekkers headed out to Tanzania, the more I wanted to complete the challenge for myself.
I’ve spoken to some of the most inspired and inspiring people, and I am so much looking forward to meeting my fellow trekkers as well as the Tanzanian porters and guides in person.
Which route did you choose, and why?
The Western Approach is ideal for folks like me—I’m not an Olympian, I work a desk job. It’s a challenge, but it can be done with the proper training! The nine-day route gives me lots of time to acclimatize, enjoy the hike and see some great views along the way.
The route passes through Kili’s five different climate zones, starting in the rainforest and summiting in the arctic zone. I’m excited that every day is going to be different.
Are you an avid hiker?
Hiking through the rainforests of Puerto Rico.
I have always loved to hike. I’ve hiked Pai Canyon in Thailand, Peru’s Machu Picchu Mountain, and El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico. That being said, I’ve never prioritized it so much as I have now while in training.
Views of the White Mountains of New Hampshire atop Franconia Ridge.
Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire was one of my favorite hikes so far. It was the perfect day. The views were incredible. It was a long hike that made my legs feel like noodles for days after I did it.
When did you start your Kilimanjaro training?
As soon as I knew I was going. Never too early to start—I figure the more prepared I am, the better.
For those of you prepping for Kili treks, I recommend Fit for Trips. They offer personalized training programs based on your travel itinerary, and it works really well for anyone, no matter your skill or experience. Thomson trekkers get 25% off their purchase too!
What does your training look like?
Training hike on Mount Morgan; Brittany tries to get on the trails as much as possible.
The most accessible option for me is the gym. I try to go four times a week, working out for about an hour and trying different things.
The Stairmaster has been a staple in my training, as well as the elliptical, bike and strength training (lots of squats!). I’m lucky that I live fairly close to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and I try to get up there every weekend I can to get out on the trails.
If I don’t have access to a mountain, I look for new ways to get out and get moving. For example, sometimes when I’m home on Cape Cod, I walk the Dune Shacks Trail, walk the breakwater or even look for a large stairwell or stadium. I’ll go up and down the stairs until I can’t walk anymore.
What challenges have you faced so far in your training?
BLISTERS. The most challenging hikes I’ve been on were not necessarily the ones that were the most physically demanding or the lengthiest. They were the ones where I didn’t take proper care of my feet prior to the hike! Moleskin is a must for me, as is wearing thick, quality socks.
Looking ahead to Kilimanjaro, I’m wearing my hiking boots nonstop to make sure they are well broken in for the trek. And I’m double and triple checking that I have everything on Thomson’s packing list, because I don’t want any surprises!
What keeps you inspired as you train?
Brittany takes in the breathtaking beauty of Mount Monadnock.
I love nature, and every hike I go on I see something new: a puddle full of tadpoles, ravens drifting over green and blue landscapes, a waterfall rushing down a rock ledge.
It’s so therapeutic. Kili has a lot of interesting flora and fauna, and the Thomson guides and porters do a good job of teaching guests about them during the trek.
Have you packed yet?
Yes! I have been almost fully packed for weeks now! I find doing it advance helps me feel more prepared and has also helped me provide some good advice to our guests who are also preparing for their trek.
Brittany recommends stuff sacks and packing cubes for optimal duffle bag organization.
Brittany recommends using your trek daypack as a carry-on bag packed with trek essentials in case of airline baggage delays.
Any advice for aspiring Kili trekkers?
Just keep going! You don’t have to be the fastest. Just be consistent and make progress.
And don’t be afraid to learn from people who have climbed Kilimanjaro before. Their stories show why it’s so important to work with a company that understands acclimatization, and also why it’s important to trek with smart, experienced guides who keep you motivated. There’s a reason Thomson guests have a 98% summit success rate. I like those odds!