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    Is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro safe? Safety on the mountain

    10 minutes read
    is climbing mount kilimanjaro safe

    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, about 1,000 people evacuated from the mountain due to altitude sickness. In addition, several trekkers got killed during their Kilimanjaro expedition, primarily due to severe altitude sickness.

    Thus, climbing the highest freestanding mountain in the world is challenging and should be taken seriously. If you plan to take on the Kilimanjaro challenge, ensure you’re physically and mentally prepared for anything.

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

    Opting for an operator with ready safety systems, like Easy Travel, is also necessary. This way, you wouldn’t need to worry in case the unthinkable happens.

    Is climbing mount Kilimanjaro safe?

    Climbing mount kilimanjaro

    It’s generally safe to climb Kilimanjaro if you’ve undergone two to three months of training. The training will help your body get fit and strengthen 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 of some climbers experiencing 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 acclimatise and get used to the lack of oxygen at higher altitudes. This process is known as acclimatisation and generally takes around three days at a 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 acclimatisation. 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 why many trekkers need help to 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 acclimatise. There are three recognised altitude categories in 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

    Reduced performance and altitude sickness are typical in the ‘high altitude’ category. Meanwhile, altitude sickness and climbing performance are expected in the ‘very high altitude’ category.

    Trekkers can only function briefly with acclimatisation in the ‘extreme altitude’ category. This is because Mount Kilimanjaro’s 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 Tanzania’s most reliable and awarded tour operators, we ensure 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 immediately deal with any early signs to ensure our climbers’ safety and comfort.

    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 blood’s oxygen saturation, pulse rate, and oxygen level. 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 challenging 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

    Our personalised approach to ensuring a safe Kilimanjaro climb sets Easy Travel apart and is highly regarded among other Kilimanjaro operators. We offer the ability to design your experience exactly how you want it, enhancing your journey to the ultimate Kilimanjaro.

    Moreover, as a family-owned company, we treat our guests as extended family members. We take immense pride in delivering excellent value in our tours at an affordable price, ensuring all climbers experience the adventure they’ve dreamed of.

    We’ve been offering top-quality services for over 35 years, and our efforts have been recognised. TripAdvisor has awarded us the Certificate of Excellent Service for nine 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

    Climbing high-altitude mountains like Kilimanjaro can raise the risk of encountering symptoms of severe altitude sickness cases. As a safety measure and anticipating such possibilities, we carry bottled oxygen during the climb. This provision is strictly reserved for emergencies and acts as an extra precaution to safeguard the health and well-being of our climbers.

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

    Helicopter evacuation on Kilimanjaro

    High-altitude Trekking, like Kilimanjaro climbs, can pose risks such as severe altitude sickness. In dire situations, Kili MedAir provides helicopter evacuations, an operation typically covered by your insurance. Upon receiving a distress call, a rescue mission is swiftly launched, weather permitting.

    We recommend climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for the most favourable conditions during the dry season. The skilled Kili MedAir rescue team comprises expert pilots, rescue doctors, and emergency flight technicians, all equipped to handle mountain emergencies effectively.

    Takeaway

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

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    What are the symptoms of altitude sickness when climbing Kilimanjaro?

    Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), also known as altitude sickness, typically manifests through symptoms such as headaches, loss of appetite, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms usually occur within 6 to 24 hours of reaching a high altitude. It’s vital to immediately communicate any discomfort to your guide to take necessary actions.

    How should I prepare physically for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

    For climbing Kilimanjaro, a good level of fitness is advisable. Incorporate physical activity such as hiking, cycling, or running in your routine at least three months before your climb. 

    Also, consider endurance exercises and strength training focused on leg muscles. Consult with a fitness professional for personalised training plans.

    Which is the best route for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

    There are several routes to climb Kilimanjaro, each unique in its difficulty level, scenic beauty, and acclimatisation opportunities. Marangu and Machame are the most popular routes. However, the best route depends on the climber’s physical condition, experience, preferred scenery, and climbing expectations.

    What is the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

    The best time to climb Kilimanjaro is during its dry seasons, from January to mid-March and June to October. During these months, clear skies and fewer crowds provide an optimal climbing experience. However, climbers are known to ascend in all seasons, each with unique challenges and rewards.

    What gear is necessary for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

    An appropriate gear list should include warm clothing (thermal base layers, insulating mid-layers, and a protective outer layer), gloves, waterproof and warm hiking boots, a headlamp, sunglasses, sunblock, and personal medical supplies. Additionally, a comfortable, warm sleeping bag and trekking poles can vastly improve your experience on the mountain.

    How much does it cost to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

    The cost varies depending on several factors, including the climbing route, length of the climb, operator services, and additional expenses like equipment rental and tips for guides and porters. On average, a Kilimanjaro climb can range from 2,000 to 4,000 USD. Researching and comparing services and reviews is advisable to ensure value for your investment.

    Are there any age restrictions for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

    The climb has no maximum age limit if you are physically fit and medically cleared. However, the minimum age is ten years old. It’s always advisable for those under 18 years and over 60 to get a thorough medical check-up before attempting the climb.

    Can I use my phone in Kilimanjaro?

    There is some phone reception on Mount Kilimanjaro, especially on the lower slopes. However, the signal can be unreliable and weak as you ascend. Bring a portable charger or spare batteries, and consider using your phone in aeroplane mode to conserve battery life.

    Do I need to purify the water on Kilimanjaro?

    Yes. Although most Kilimanjaro operators provide drinking water, carrying your water purification tablets or devices is advisable. The water from mountain streams is not safe to drink without treatment, and having a means to purify your water can be a valuable safety measure.

    Do I need travel insurance for the Kilimanjaro climb?

    Absolutely. Comprehensive travel insurance that covers high-altitude trekking up to 6,000 meters and includes evacuation and medical treatment coverage is necessary. Ensure that your policy also covers possible eventualities like cancellation, delay, theft, and loss of equipment.

    Can I climb Mount Kilimanjaro without a guide?

    No, it is mandatory to climb Kilimanjaro with a licensed guide as mandated by the Kilimanjaro National Park. This rule is for the climbers’ safety and the mountain environment’s protection. Licensed guides are well-trained in monitoring the health of climbers and understanding the mountain’s various challenging conditions.

    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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