How to deal with altitude while Climbing Kilimanjaro

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, is an exhilarating experience that attracts thousands of adventurers each year. However, the a... Read more
How to deal with altitude while Climbing Kilimanjaro

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, is an exhilarating experience that attracts thousands of adventurers each year. However, the altitude can pose a serious challenge to those who are not properly prepared. Altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), is a common condition that can occur when a person ascends too rapidly to high altitude without giving their body time to acclimate to the changes in air pressure and oxygen levels.

The human body is quite capable of adapting to altitude, but it is important to follow some simple guidelines in order to acclimatise successfully. Here are some of our top tips for handling altitude while climbing Kilimanjaro:

 

Gradual ascent

The best way to avoid altitude sickness is to allow your body to gradually acclimatise to the changes in altitude. Kilimanjaro is a slow and steady climb. All of our routes take no less than 6 nights to reach the summit for this very reason. A gradual ascent gives your body time to acclimatise, reduces the risk of altitude sickness and ultimately increases the summit success rate - what everyone is there for!

 

Hydration

Hydration is crucial when climbing at high altitude as the dry air can lead to dehydration. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your climb. Aim for at least three litres of water per day.

 

Proper nutrition

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Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of carbohydrates and protein can help you to deal with the effects of altitude. Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy and protein helps to repair and build muscle. Our head chef and cook team works hard to ensure that the menu is carefully planned as you ascend, especially as it’s not unusual for people to lose their appetites at altitude. It is pretty amazing what this team of experts are able to produce on the side of the mountain! On all of our Kilimajaro adventures, all meals are provided for you whilst on the trek so you don't have to worry about it! This includes hot breakfast, 3 course lunch, 3 course dinner plus tea and snacks in the afternoon - we recommend that you bring your own trail snacks for during the walks. 

 

Medication

In some cases, medication can help to prevent or treat altitude sickness. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can help to relieve headaches and other symptoms. Acetazolamides, such as Diamox can only be obtained from a medical professional on prescription. It is important that you first consult your own doctor to ensure there are no contraindications with other medicines you may be taking and that you do not have an allergy to acetazolamide. Diamox commonly causes some minor side effects, such as tingling fingers and toes or a metallic taste in the mouth, but more severe reactions are rare. On trek, the decision whether or not and when you should take Diamox, as with any drug, will rest solely with you. If you intend to take Diamox, you must familiarise yourself with the appropriate dosage and regime prior to coming on the trip.

 

Altitude sickness awareness

Before beginning your climb of Kilimanjaro it is important that you familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Common symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath.  If you experience any of these symptoms or discomfort then you must report these to your guide straight away. All of our Kilimanjaro trekking guides are highly experienced with hundreds of ascents under their belt. They are also extremely able at spotting someone who is struggling with the altitude. On summit day we have a 1:2 guide client ratio.

 

Knowing when to stop and descend

If you are suffering from the altitude the best cure for your body is to descend. Our porters and guides that take you up Kilimanjaro are also expert at getting someone down at speed if required. We ensure that there are plenty of crew available for such a scenario. Usually, once you have descended your symptoms quickly disappear. Carrying on upwards can be very dangerous so listen to your body and take the advice of the expert crew.

 

Emergency equipment

We carry a portable altitude chamber (PAC) and bottled oxygen. A PAC is a sealed bag, big enough for a person to comfortably fit inside, which can inflated with a constant air flow and is used to simulate rapid descent.  A person suffering from AMS can be effectively 'brought down' as much as an equivalent of 2000m in a matter of minutes inside a PAC bag. All of our high altitude guides and staff on Kilimanjaro are trained in the use of PAC bags.

 


Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a challenging and rewarding experience that requires proper preparation and a commitment to taking care of your body. By following these tips for dealing with altitude, you can help to ensure that your climb is a safe and successful one. Always remember to listen to your body and to seek help if you experience any symptoms of altitude sickness. With the proper preparation and a little bit of caution, you can reach the summit of Kilimanjaro and enjoy one of the most breathtaking views in the world.

 


 If you would you like to know more about any of the above holidays, then give us a call on +44 (0) 17687 73966 or USA/Canada toll-free 1888 630 4415. We offer trusted holidays with financial protection and flexible booking conditions. 

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