Kilimanjaro Preparation in the Hills of Wales

As you may know from my post earlier in the week, I’m in the process of preparing for a Kilimanjaro Trek. In addition to choosing my trekking company, picking a route, buying flights, getting imunisations and such like I’ve also started to prepare by getting out in the hills here in Wales for some ‘training’. I can’t really call it training though as it’s just a bit of fun walking in the hills – there’s no hardship involved, no pain and suffering and barely a sweat is raised.

Wales does however offer the perfect training ground for such a trip. It may be lacking in sheer elevation and I certainly can’t do any altitude acclimatisation, but it does have plenty of fairly significant hills and an endless supply of fairly remote areas to walk in. I’m almost spoilt for choice as to where to go. It also has quite a reputation for weather. It can throw almost anything at you at anytime of the year and once you are up in the hills things can get quite extreme. It’s the perfect testing ground for your kit.

Cadair Idris and The Arans

Walking up hills complete with all of the kit I’ll be using on Kilimanjaro is of course the best sort of training I can get. It’s as specific to the task at hand as it can be (with the exception of the effects of altitude). I’ll be walking all day on Kilimanjaro so getting used to some long days on my feet is what I’m after. If I can do a few consecutive days back to back then even better. Fitting in such long days around a hectic life isn’t always easy though, and the levels of ‘hectic’ always seem to ramp up at this time of year.

I did manage to get out for a couple of walks last week though. The first was up Cadair Idris on a fairly nice day. The next was in the Arans where there was quite a bit of snow. All was going well but I discovered in the Arans that the nice comfortable boots that I had weren’t actually waterproof. I therefore wanted to get out in my bigger boots that were waterproof but probably not as comfortable.

The Brecon Beacons and Plynlimon

Earlier this week I managed to have a walk in the Brecon Beacons. Wales had decided to treat me to some of the wettest weather it could muster so my wet weather gear go a good test too. There was non stop hammering rain the whole way around and not much in the way of visibility too. I’d never climbed Pen-y-Fan before so set off in the rain from the road to the Upper Neuadd Reservoir. I headed steeply up onto the ridge where I was shrouded in white mist and could see nothing other than the path ahead of me. I turned right at the top and followed the ridge all the way around to the summit of Corn Du and then on to the summit of Pen y Fan. At 886m it is the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons, and the highest in South Wales too. I couldn’t see anything from the top today though and didn’t hang around too long as it was still pouring with rain and pretty windy up here too.

From the summit I descended steeply and then climbed once again to the summit of Cribyn. From here I continued on along the path and then started descending to emerge out on the eastern side of the reservoir. It was just a short walk back to the car from here. I didn’t take any photos to share though as it was just too wet to get my phone out.

My feet had been dry and warm in my bigger boots, but although they don;t actually hurt my feet, they can’t be described as comfortable either. There was nothing for it I would have to find and buy the perfect pair of boots and break them in ready for Kilimanjaro. I did actually buy some later that night. A pair of relatively cheap Berghaus Hillwalkers which are a pretty traditional pair of fairly low cut leather walking boots with a Goretex liner. Not the lightest, not the most sturdy, not the sexiest and not quite perfect but they did feel fairly comfortable and had almost the right balance between weight, durability, flexibility and support.

The next job was to try them out in the real world. I therefore stopped off for a little walk up Plynlimon, once again in the rain. Plynlimon is the highest point in the Cambrian Mountains, and the highest point in Mid Wales. It’s quite a nice easy walk from Eisteffod Gurig though and no too demanding – the perfect place to try out some new boots. Once again I had my rucksack loaded up as I will on Kilimanjaro and my wet weather gear on to keep me dry. The boots were a little painful at first, squeezing my feet laterally and giving me cramps. I adjusted the lacing and loosened them off quite a bit and they did feel better. They kept my feet dry and warm, even when I stopped and sat down for a while in the wind at the summit.

I wasn’t completely convinced by them though and my toes were a little sore after to walk. I’m not sure if that was from these boots or my bigger boots the day before. I completely the route in a circular fashion and was left to ponder the suitability of my new boots.

They boots did feel better once I’d loosened them somewhat and they did perform well. As they are leather they might take a few walks to get them broken in properly as well, so there’s only one thing for it – I’m going to have to get out for a couple of long walks this weekend as well if I can. The weather certainly looks good for it. Hopefully with a little more tweaking the boots will prove to be just right.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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