Like anything else in life, some people set a goal and go full force. Others not so much. While some will participate in extensive training regimens to prepare for their climb, others will barely concern themselves with such matters.
Can someone who is unfit and doesn’t train succeed in reaching the top of Kilimanjaro? Kilimanjaro is a slow, steady walk. Most of the days, with the exception of summit day, are short to medium in time and length, by trekking standards. The walking itself is not what is categorized as “strenuous.” By these measures, it appears certainly possible that an unfit, untrained person could summit.
But the factor that prevents most people from reaching Uhuru peak is not the trekking, it’s the inability to acclimatize to altitude. Although altitude illness can strike even the fittest climbers, by being fit, you give your body the best chance to acclimatize.
Everything unfamiliar that you subject your body to (hiking, different food, water, altitude, camping, jet lag, etc.) is an additional stress that impairs the body. The goal is to minimize these factors. While some factors are out of your control, preparing your cardiovascular system, muscles, joints and mentality for climbing is totally within your control.
A nonchalant attitude about climbing Kilimanjaro can get you into trouble, or worse. You don’t go from sitting in a cubicle for decades to trekking at high altitude on a mountain that claims lives every year. It’s simply careless, irresponsible and disrespectful. And it’s also this type of attitude that can push people to keep climbing even though AMS tells them to stop.