Is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro safe? Safety on the mountain

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    Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro could be one of the riskiest things you’ll ever do in your entire life and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

    According to a report, there are about 1,000 people evacuated from the mountain due to altitude sickness. In addition, several trekkers got killed during their Kilimanjaro expedition, mostly due to severe altitude sickness.

    Thus, climbing the highest freestanding mountain in the world isn’t an easy feat and should not be taken lightly. If you’re planning to take on the Kilimanjaro challenge, make sure that you’re physically and mentally prepared for anything.

    The weather on the mountain ranges from extremely hot to cold and this can happen on the same day on your ascent. So, ensure to train yourself for months before taking on this challenge.

    It’s also necessary to opt for an operator that has proper safety systems ready like Easy Travel. This way, you wouldn’t need to worry just in case the unthinkable happens.

    Is climbing mount Kilimanjaro safe?

    Climbing mount kilimanjaro

    It’s generally safe to climb Kilimanjaro as long as you’ve undergone two to three months of training. The training will help your body get fit enough and strengthen it for the climb.

    It’s also best to consult your doctor to see if you’re healthy enough for the trek before packing anything for your Kilimanjaro adventure. As you might already know, your body will undergo different climatic conditions due to the various high altitudes, which your body might not be able to cope with.

    It’s the reason why most climbers don’t reach the summit. High altitude is the cause why some climbers experience acute mountain sickness (AMS), commonly known as altitude sickness.

    We at Easy Travel ensure each climber’s safety by executing the following precautions:

    Easy Travel Safety Precautions
    ●      Checking each trekker’s pulse twice using a pulse oximeter to monitor your pulse rate and oxygen saturation.
    ●      Assess if you’re experiencing altitude sickness and its severity by utilizing the Lake Louise Scoring System.
    ●      Our staff follows the Standard Operating Procedures to ensure the safety of our climbers against the COVID-19 while being in the country.
    ●     Our experienced guides can quickly detect and treat altitude sickness due to their experience. They’ve handled enough cases, making them sharp when someone is suffering from AMS.
    ●      Our guides possess the tools necessary to make medical and evacuation resolutions as they see fits. They’re also certified Wilderness First Responders, so you can ensure that your health and safety are highly monitored.
    ●      Our staff brings bottled oxygen, just in case trekkers will experience moderate to severe altitude sickness.
    ●      Since our guides are certified Wilderness First Responders, they can initiate helicopter evacuation through Kili  MedAir when things get too dangerous.
    ●      Our staff can also treat your cuts, scrapes, and blisters as they always bring a first aid kit along with them.

    What is acclimatization?

    Choosing longer routes for your Kilimanjaro climb can give your body more time to acclimatize and get used to the lack of oxygen at higher altitudes. This process is widely known as acclimatization and in general, takes around three days at the given altitude.

    What is altitude sickness?

    Tanzania - acute mountain sickness - is climbing mount kilimanjaro safe? Safety on the mountain

    Altitude sickness happens when you reach a high altitude without gradual acclimatization. This mostly happens at around 8,000 ft or higher, resulting in a shortage of oxygen.

    Mount Kilimanjaro has a total elevation of 5,895 m (19,341 ft), so altitude sickness is prevalent. This is the reason why many trekkers don’t successfully reach the summit.

    Some of the names associated with altitude sickness are:

    • Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
    • Altitude Illness
    • Hypobaropathy
    • Acosta Disease

    The oxygen percentage in the atmosphere at sea level is around 21% and as altitude increases, the oxygen percentage stays the same. However, the count of oxygen molecules in each breath is decreased.

    When you reach 12,000 feet or 3,600 meters, the oxygen molecules per breath are lowered to 40%, so your body needs to adapt to having less oxygen supply. This is how altitude sickness or AMS is born.

    Some hikers experience AMS symptoms at around 8,000 feet, while severe symptoms occur at 12,000 feet if you’re not able to acclimatize. There are three recognized altitude categories by Mountain medicine and they are:

    High Altitude4,900 feet to 11,500 feet 1,500 to 3,500 metres
    Very High Altitude11,500 feet to 18,000 feet3,500 to 5,500 metres
    Extreme Altitude18,000 feet and  above5,500 feet and above

    In the ‘high altitude’ category, reduced performance and altitude sickness are common. Meanwhile,  in the ‘very high altitude’ category, both altitude sickness and climbing performance are expected.

    In the ‘extreme altitude’ category, trekkers can only function for short periods, with acclimatization. This is because Mount Kilimanjaro summit is at 19,340 feet—belonging to the extreme altitude category.

    Upon reaching 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), about 75% of climbers experience some mild form of altitude sickness, such as:

    • Fatigue
    • Loss of energy.
    • Shortness of breath
    • Loss of appetite
    • Headache
    • Nausea

    As you might already know, four factors are linked to altitude sickness (AMS) and they are:

    • High Altitude
    • High Degree of Exertion
    • Fast Ascent
    • Dehydration

    However, the main cause of AMS is the high altitude and fast ascent. Your body will have a hard time coping with the lack of oxygen if you opt for the shorter routes— which means fast ascent.

    There will be changes in your body when you start to cope with the lowered oxygen in the environment, such as:

    • Higher production of red blood cells carrying oxygen.
    • Increased respiration depth.
    • More enzyme production assists in releasing oxygen from haemoglobin to your body tissues.
    • Increased pulmonary capillaries, pushing blood into lung parts that aren’t typically used when breathing at sea level.

    Symptoms of AMS could be worse at night or when your respiratory drive is lowered. Mild altitude sickness doesn’t interfere in your activities and it’ll subside once your body begins to acclimatize.

    The following are the signs and symptoms of Moderate Altitude Sickness (AMS):

    • Severe headache
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Shortness of breath
    • Reduced coordination (ataxia)

    When you feel that you’re experiencing AMS symptoms, make sure to let your guide or others know about it. Proceeding to a higher altitude while undergoing moderate altitude sickness can lead to death.

    Thus, make sure that your symptoms have subsided before continuing to a higher altitude. Let your guide know how you feel to get the necessary treatment.

    Severe altitude sickness (AMS) increases the severity of the following symptoms:

    • Shortness of breath even when at rest
    • Incapacity to walk
    • Deteriorating mental status
    • The build-up of fluid in the lungs

    There are two serious conditions connected to severe altitude sickness—High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). We discuss these later down in the post.

    The two conditions don’t show up frequently to trekkers who are acclimated properly. They typically occur on people who are going too high, too fast or going to a very high altitude and lingering there for a long time.

    As a result, there will be fluid leakage through the capillary walls into the lungs or brain, resulting in death.

    High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)

    Tanzania - high altitude pulmonary edema - is climbing mount kilimanjaro safe? Safety on the mountain

    HAPE occurs from fluid accumulation in the lungs. This fluid blocks effective oxygen exchange, which is why the condition grows more critical.

    The oxygen level in the bloodstream declines, leading to cyanosis, diminished cerebral function, and, worst of all: death. HAPE symptoms comprise of the following:

    • Shortness of breath even when at rest
    • Chest tightness
    • Fatigue and weakness
    • Suffocating feeling at night
    • Illogical and confused behaviour

    Illogical and confused behaviour clearly shows that insufficient oxygen is reaching the brain. A quick descent of approximately 2,000 feet or 600 meters is necessary to save the life during this situation.

    Those undergoing HAPE need to be evacuated to a medical facility immediately for proper follow-up treatment.

    High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)

    Tanzania - high altitude cerebral edema 1 - is climbing mount kilimanjaro safe? Safety on the mountain

    On the other hand, high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) is the outcome of brain tissue swelling from fluid leakage. Symptoms may include:

    • Loss of coordination
    • Decreased consciousness
    • Memory loss
    • Hallucinations & Psychotic behavior
    • Coma
    • Headache
    • Weakness
    • Disorientation

    This state is quickly fatal unless the distressed person experiences quick descent. Follow-up treatment from a medical facility is needed if someone has suffered from HACE.

    Daily health checks

    Tanzania - daily health check - is climbing mount kilimanjaro safe? Safety on the mountain

    As one of the most reliable and awarded tour operators in Tanzania, we ensure to make our Trekkers feel safe and sound from ascent to descent. Our guides will do daily check-ups, twice, to monitor your oxygen saturation and pulse rate to ensure you’re in good condition.

    They’re also highly experienced in identifying AMS and will deal with any early signs right away to ensure the safety and comfort of our climbers.

    What is oxygen saturation?

    Tanzania - oxygen saturation - is climbing mount kilimanjaro safe? Safety on the mountain

    Oxygen saturation represents the maximum capacity of oxygen your blood can carry. Normal oxygen levels are 95% to 100% at sea level.

    Our guides use a pulse oximeter to measure your oxygen saturation, pulse rate, and oxygen level in your blood. Through this device, they can tell if your oxygen level is unsafe and take action immediately.

    Insurance for Kilimanjaro

    Tanzania - travel insurance - is climbing mount kilimanjaro safe? Safety on the mountain

    Due to the remote location, high altitude, and hard conditions of the trek on Kilimanjaro, insurance is compulsory for all trekkers. This is to cover you from unexpected circumstances or costs that may occur before, during, or after your Kilimanjaro expedition.

    What makes Easy Travel different

    Tanzania - trip advisor certificate of excellence - is climbing mount kilimanjaro safe? Safety on the mountain

    What makes Easy Travel different from other tour operators is that we make sure to personalize everything. We can help you design the experience as you like.

    We offer excellent value in our tours at an affordable price. We’re family-owned, which means we treat our guests as part of our extended family.

    We’ve been offering top-quality services for over 35 years, and our efforts have been recognized. We have been awarded the Certificate of Excellent Service by TripAdvisor for 9 consecutive years.

    Mountain rescue

    Tanzania - mountain rescue - is climbing mount kilimanjaro safe? Safety on the mountain

    In case of emergency, our staff – who go with you on the climb – will carry the following tools to help evacuate trekkers quickly down the mountain:

    Bottled oxygen

    We bring bottled oxygen with us during the climb as a precaution of what can happen, and for additional safety measures. The canister of oxygen will be used only for emergencies.

    It’ll NOT BE USED to assist climbers who aren’t substantially acclimatized on their own to escalate higher. When anyone needs quick treatment both for moderate and serious AMS, we’ll descend right away as it’s the quickest remedy for moderate and severe altitude sickness.

    Helicopter evacuation on Kilimanjaro

    When things get too critical, a helicopter evacuation is possible through Kili MedAir. This will be shouldered by your insurance just in case you’ll need this service.

    Once our staff makes a distress call, a rescue will be initiated in minutes and the team will land as soon as their helicopters can make it through the weather. This is why we recommend climbing Mount Kilimanjaro during the dry season. The rescuers comprise expert pilots, seasoned rescue doctors, and emergency flight technicians—all of them are especially qualified and equipped for any mountain emergencies.


    If you’re up to challenge yourself by climbing the highest mountain in Africa, make sure that you are mentally and physically prepared. To ensure this aspect, make sure to go to a doctor and see if you’re in a good condition to do the climb.

    Furthermore, choose a reliable, award-winning, yet affordable local tour operator like Easy Travel to assist you in your Kilimanjaro adventure. This way, you’ll have a smooth, memorable experience on the mountain. Get in touch with our team of Kilimanjaro specialists today to start planning your dream climb.

    Musaddiq Gulamhussein - Owner - Easy Travel Tanzania

    About the author: Musaddiq

    Meet Musaddiq Gulamhussein, owner of Easy Travel Tanzania, a tour company creating life-changing safari experiences for over 35 years. Musaddiq has explored Tanzania, developing a deep understanding of the local cultures and traditions. Follow his journey and gain insights into the African Safari experience through Easy Travel's social media and blog.

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