Me and 3 of my lifelong girlfriends, all in our 40s, decided we wanted to hike Kilimanjaro. We are from New Orleans (below sea level) and other than our annual snow skiing vacation or a summertime trip to do some hiking in the Rockies we don't have a lot of hiking experience or being in high altitudes. With that being said we are in fairly good shape, due to running, and we did what we could to train for this - mostly hiking high rises with our boots and backpacks. Looking back I'm not sure what we could have done to properly train for this. It's the altitude that is your biggest challenge and there was just no way for us to replicate that but even so we all successfully reached the summit. Once we decided we wanted to do this we did tons of research to choose the best company. We chose Climb Kili and are SOOOO happy we did. They by far exceeded all our expectations....from the the staff in the US - David and Tiffany - who were always available to answer our questions to the amazing staff in Tanzania - Caroline, our guides - James, Goode Luck (Mr. 100%) and Ruben, to our driver, Emmanuel and our safari guide - Emmanuel Macha - everyone was so kind, friendly and accommodating. It is so important to choose a good company because this will make or break your trip and we saw other tour companies on the mountain and talked to other climbers and Climb Kili seemed to always be one step better than everyone else. We did a 3 day safari on the front end, 7 day Machame route, and 3 days in Zanzibar on the back end. I really liked starting with the safari as it gave us a chance to get acclimated to the time change and meet other people who had already climbed Kilimanjaro. We did the combination of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater. It was wonderful. I would highly recommend requesting Emmanuel Macha as your safari guide. He went above and beyond getting us to areas to see animals and he was very knowledgeable and friendly. We enjoyed his company so much that we requested he have dinner with us every night while on the safari. We stayed at the Kilima Valley tented camp in the Serengeti and the Wildlife Lodge at the crater, both wonderful places. After the safari we spent the next 7 days hiking the Machame Route. We had a total of 22 support staff hiking with us. Our guides, as I mentioned earlier, were fantastic and we wouldn't have made the summit without them and the porters. These guys work so hard for so very little and it's so humbling to see what they do and how happy they are. These guys are a big part of whether you do or don't make it to the summit. They were so supportive and would sing us songs and make sure we were well fed and taken care of. We were brought coffee or tea to our tent every morning, followed by hot water for washing and then an amazing breakfast. We got really lucky with our chef - Douglas - our food was delicious. The first 5 days of the hike were awesome. You go through so many different terrains and hike for about 7 hours a day. It rained on us occasionally but overall we had pretty good weather. The weather changes from minute to minute so it's important that you carry layers and rain gear in your day pack. Day 5 is summit day and this was by far the hardest thing I've ever done. The lack of oxygen takes a toll on your body and affects it in so many different ways. We left at midnight and it took about 8 hours to get to the summit. It was exhausting and challenging and at that point I just wanted to get to the sign, take my picture and get down to a breathable altitude. We did make it and it was beautiful. We saw the moon set and the sunrise. It's an achievement for sure. We did it! I can't say enough about the guides and porters. Good Luck!