Frequently asked Questions
Your Title Goes Here
What Gear Do I Need To Bring?
You are responsible for bringing personal gear and equipment while communal equipment (tents, food, cooking items, etc.) is provided. Below is a gear list of required, recommended and optional items to bring on your climb.
1 – Waterproof Jacket, breathable with hood
1 – Insulated Jacket, synthetic or down
1 – Soft Jacket, fleece or soft-shell
2 – Long Sleeve Shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
1 – Short Sleeve Shirt, light-weight, moisture-wicking fabric
1 – Waterproof Pants, breathable (side-zipper recommended)
2 – Hiking Pants
1 – Fleece Pants
1 – Shorts (optional)
1 – Long Underwear (moisture-wicking fabric recommended)
3 – Underwear, briefs (moisture-wicking fabric recommended)
2 – Sport Bra (women)
1 – Brimmed Hat, for sun protection
1 – Knit Hat, for warmth
1 – Balaclava, for face coverage (optional)
1 – Bandana (optional)
1 – Gloves, warm (waterproof recommended)
1 – Gloves, thin
1 – Hiking Boots, warm, waterproof, broken-in
1 – Gym Shoes, to wear at camp (optional)
3 – Socks, wool or synthetic
3 – Sock Liners, tight, thin, synthetic, worn under socks to prevent blisters (optional)
1 – Gaiters, waterproof (optional)
1 – Sunglasses or Goggles
1 – Backpack Cover, waterproof (optional)
1 – Water Bottle (Nalgene, 32 oz.)
1 – Water Bladder (Camelbak type, 3 liters)
1 – Towel, lightweight, quick-dry (optional)
1 – Pee Bottle, to avoid leaving tent at night (recommended)
Stuff Sacks, Dry Bags or Plastic Bags, various sizes, to keep gear dry and separate
1 – Sleeping Bag, warm, four seasons*
1 – Sleeping Mattress
1 – Trekking Poles, collapsable (highly recommended)*
1 – Head lamp, with extra batteries
1 – Duffel bag, 50-90L capacity, for porters to carry your equipment
1 – Daypack, 30-35L capacity, for you to carry your personal gear
*may be rented on location
Insect Repellent, containing DEET
First Aid Kit
Wet Wipes (recommended)
Snacks, light-weight, high calorie, high energy (optional)
Electrolytes, powder or tablets (optional)
Camera, with extra batteries (optional)
Visa (available at JRO)
The most common mistake that climbers make is that they over pack and bring way too much gear.
Be selective in what you take with you. Please note that our porters are limited to carrying 33 lbs (15 kgs) of your personal belongings. Everything the porters will carry for you between campsites should be placed into the duffel bag, including the sleeping bag, but it is OK to pack the sleeping bag separately if necessary. If you rent a sleeping bag from us, note that the bag weighs 5 lbs 6 oz. and this weight does count against the 33 lb limit.
Our porters will place your duffel bag and sleeping bag into a large, sturdy, waterproof bag with a roll-top closure.
If you have excess weight, you will be required to hire an additional porter. It is rare to require an extra porter and should happen only in special cases, such as for carrying extensive photography equipment. You are expected to bring everything you need, though we do rent warm sleeping bags and trekking poles on location. All extra luggage, items you will not use on your climb, such safari clothing, gear and equipment, can also be safely stored at the hotel.
Plastic, recyclable water bottles are not allowed in the park, due to past problems with litter. So water should be carried in Nalgene bottles, water bladders, or similar devices. You should be able to carry 3-4 liters of water with you at all times. Please do not bring alcohol. It is illegal to have alcohol in the park. Our staff will not carry it for you. Besides, drinking and high altitude do not mix well.
Checked luggage on airplanes can get lost or delayed on the way to Tanzania. You should prepare for this possibility by wearing or carrying on the items that are essential to your Kilimanjaro climb. While most clothing, gear and equipment can be replaced in Tanzania prior to your climb, there are some things that you should not replace.
Tanzania Escapade® recommends that you wear one complete hiking outfit on the plane, including a long sleeve shirt, hiking pants, underwear, socks, and hiking boots. In your carry on baggage, you should bring your backpack, waterproof jacket and pants, insulated jacket, fleece pants, snacks, toiletries, medications, camera and all paperwork. Airline regulations do not allow you to carry trekking poles on the plane. Make sure you do wear/carry your hiking boots; wearing a different pair of boots on your climb will likely cause blistering.
If your baggage is lost or delayed, please notify us immediately upon your arrival so we can assist you in assembling the necessary gear. We will take you to local, independently owned rental gear shops in Moshi. Note that these shops generally carry second-hand items that may not be up to Western standards. Tanzania Escapade® cannot guarantee the fit, quality or functionality of items found in local shops. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to carry on the most important pieces of gear as noted above. We will make reasonable attempts to deliver delayed luggage to you on the mountain. All additional expenses that are incurred by us while resolving lost or delayed luggage problems must be reimbursed locally.
How Do I Train to Climb Kilimanjaro?
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a physical undertaking, so you should prepare yourself accordingly with a Kilimanjaro training program. Being in good shape is important in many respects. Obviously, strong, conditioned legs make it easier to walk uphill and downhill for sustained periods of time. General aerobic fitness allows the body to function efficiently with less oxygen. And a fit body is more likely to withstand the stress of consecutive days of hiking and camping. Finally, a positive mental attitude can work wonders for you when fatigue and doubts arise.
How hard is it to climb Kilimanjaro? That’s a difficult question to answer because some people don’t train much and fare very well, while others engage in a disciplined training program and succumb to the altitude in a few days. We’ve heard marathon runners tell us that climbing Kilimanjaro is the hardest thing they’ve ever done. The best advice we can give is to train adequately, as described below, and get yourself in the best possible hiking shape. The mountain is a big unknown, and you won’t know with certainty how you will react until you are there. In a survey we administered, on a scale of 1 (easy) to 10 (difficult), respondents rated their climb with an average difficulty of 7.
The best exercise that you can do to prepare for Mount Kilimanjaro is hiking.
There are training regimens on other operator’s sites which entail strict, extensive, cross-training programs, featuring hiking, running, biking, swimming, weight training, etc. Do not be alarmed by this. Those programs are excessive and unnecessary to sufficiently prepare for climbing Kilimanjaro. The best and perhaps only exercise you need to do is to hike – period. After all, that is what you will be doing on the mountain. Ideally, you should try to hike as much as possible on hills or mountains to simulate ascension on Mount Kilimanjaro. Doing day hikes is superb training. For those who do not have access to trails, but have membership to a gym, you can train very productively on a stair master machine. If you have no access to trails or a gym, then try to walk as much as you can, with extended walks on the weekends.
You should start training for climbing Kilimanjaro at least two months prior to your departure.
If you’ve never hiked before, you should start with shorter time intervals, a slower pace, and no weight (in your day pack) and then gradually increase all of the above as your fitness level improves. Remember that on Mount Kilimanjaro, you will walk slowly for prolonged periods, and carry probably no more than 20 lbs in your day pack. Therefore, in your training, it is better to increase the time interval/distance and keep a slow pace than to shorten the time interval/distance and increase the pace. Try to train three times a week, for at least one hour per session, at a minimum. If you can do day hikes for four to six hours, with moderate elevation changes (~1,000 ft/305 m) while carrying a 20 lb pack, or if you can walk on a Stairmaster for 1-2 hours, at 30 steps per minute while carrying a 20 lb pack, then you’re probably ready for the real thing.
Your longest/hardest workouts should be performed two to four weeks before your departure. For the last two weeks, you should taper off your training and in the final days, rest so that your body has time to recover before your actual climb. In addition to walking/hiking, you can also supplement your training with exercises such as running or cycling, which will increase your aerobic capacity.
It is imperative that during Kilimanjaro training, you wear the boots that you intend to climb with so that they are sufficiently broken-in (to prevent blisters). Additionally, you should wear the day pack you intend to carry so you’re your shoulders/back/hips get used to the points of contact and weight (to minimize chafing and soreness).
Lastly, physical training is just one part of getting in shape. If you have an unhealthy lifestyle, use the climb as your motivation to change. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Reduce your red meat consumption. Don’t drink or smoke. Get eight hours of sleep per night. Don’t worry. Be happy.
How Can I Prepare for High Altitude?
Getting your body in great shape through physical training certainly helps prepare you for altitude. However, the ability to adjust quickly to the changing oxygen content is largely genetic. As the Kilimanjaro Climb success rates show, some people can climb Kilimanjaro in as little as 5 days, while some still fail with 8 days. It is impossible to tell how well a prospective climber may fare in an oxygen deprived atmosphere until he or she is actually in it.
High altitude training systems enable climbers to pre-acclimatize at home, drastically improving the success rate, safety and enjoyment of the climb.
Altitude training systems simulate high altitudes to induce beneficial biological adaptations in the body. Besides going to (and staying in) high altitude places, using a high altitude training system is only way to pre-acclimatize to high altitude before your trip.
Should I Get a Medical Check Up?
All climbers should have a medical check prior to attempting the mountain. Ask your doctor if high altitude trekking is permissible for your age, fitness level and health condition. Ask if you have any preexisting medical conditions that can cause problems on the climb. Ask if any of your medications can affect altitude acclimatization. Ask whether Diamox can be taken with your existing prescription medicines.
If you have any medical issues that can be make climbing Kilimanjaro more dangerous for you than the average person, we need to be informed of this before you book.
Such medical issues include but are not limited to: spine problems; circulation problems; internal problems such as diabetes, hypoglycemia, intestinal or kidney problems; respiratory issues such as asthma; high or low blood pressure; head trauma or injury; heart conditions; blood disease; hearing or vision impairment; cancer; seizure disorders; joint dislocations; sprains; hernia.
The minimum age for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is 10 years old. There is no maximum age. However, the climb is strenuous and presents health risks, especially to people in high risk categories. Serious consideration should be given to anyone under the age of 18 and over the age of 60. The climbers on the extreme ends of the age spectrum should definitely consult their doctor.
Our minimum fitness requirements are that each climber must have a resting heart rate of under 100 beats per minute. We will check your resting heart rate before your climb. If your resting heart rate is above 100, you will be required to see a local doctor prior to the climb to get approval. The average resting heart rate is 60-80 beats per minute.
What are the Entry Requirements for Tanzania?
Foreigners seeking to enter the United Republic of Tanzania should be in possession of a valid passport, at least six months prior to expiration. The passport is to be presented to the Immigration Control Officer at any entry point: border station, airport, harbor. The passport must be presented along with one of the following:
• A valid visa
• Resident permit
• A pass
A visitor must also present an onward or return ticket together with proof that the visitor has sufficient funds to support himself or herself while in Tanzania.
All foreigners from non-Commonwealth countries are required to have a valid visa unless their countries have agreements with Tanzania under which the visa requirement is waived. Exemptions: Citizens of Commonwealth countries are not required to obtain visas unless they are citizens of the United Kingdom, Canada, Nigeria, or India. The visa is permission granted to a foreigner who intends to travel to Tanzania on business, for a holiday, to study or conduct research, or for other approved activities. When entering Tanzania, the visitor with a visa may then obtain from the immigration control officer, a pass or any other authority to enter the country.
Visas are issued by the following:
• The office of the Director of Immigration Services, Dar es Salaam, and the office of the Principal Immigration Officer, Zanzibar.
• Tanzanian representatives abroad: Visas can be obtained at Tanzanian Embassies and High Commissions.
• Entry points to the United Republic of Tanzania: principally Namanga, Tunduma, Sirari, Horohoro, Kigoma port, Dar es Salaam International Airport, Kilimanjaro International Airport, Zanzibar Harbour and Zanzibar Airport.
• Any other gazetted entry point.
At Kilimanjaro Airport, passengers disembark their flights outside on the tarmac. Upon entering the airport (which would be from the left side of the photo), there is one line for visitors who have their visas and one line for visitors who need to purchase their visas.
To avoid potential loss of passports in the mail or delays in visa processing, Tanzania Escapade® recommends to obtain your visas upon arrival, at Kilimanjaro International Airport. It is an easy and simple process. The cost of a Tanzanian visa for US citizens is $100, payable in US dollars.
Canadian, Australian, British and most European passport holders can also obtain visas upon arrival at the airport. The cost of a Tanzanian visa is $50, payable in US dollars. Confirm with your embassy.
What Vaccinations, Immunizations & Medications Do I Need?
Recommended Vaccinations and Preventive Medications
The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to East Africa. Discuss your travel plans and personal health with a health-care provider to determine which vaccines you will need.
• Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG). Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.
• Hepatitis B, especially if you might be exposed to blood or body fluids (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not receive the series as infants.
• Malaria: your risk of malaria may be high in all countries in East Africa, including cities. See your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug.
• Meningococcal (meningitis) if you plan to visit countries in this region that experience epidemics of meningococcal disease during December through June.
• Rabies, pre-exposure vaccination, if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas, such as might occur during camping, hiking, or bicycling, or engaging in certain occupational activities.
• Typhoid vaccine. Typhoid fever can be contracted through contaminated drinking water or food, or by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is infected. Large outbreaks are most often related to fecal contamination of water supplies or foods sold by street vendors
• Yellow fever, a viral disease that occurs primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America, is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes. The virus is also present in Panama and Trinidad and Tobago. Yellow fever vaccination is recommended for travelers to endemic areas and may be required to cross certain international borders (For country specific requirements, see Yellow Fever Vaccine Requirements and Information on Malaria Risk and Prophylaxis, by Country.). Vaccination should be given 10 days before travel and at 10 year intervals if there is on-going risk. • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles, and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults.
Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. Humans get malaria from the bite of a mosquito infected with the parasite. Your risk of malaria may be high in all countries in East Africa, including cities. All travelers to East Africa, including infants, children, and former residents of East Africa, may be at risk for malaria. Prevent this serious disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites.
All travelers should take one of the following drugs:
• mefloquine, or
• primaquine (in special circumstances).
A certificate of yellow fever vaccination is required for entry into Tanzania when arriving from countries where yellow fever is present.
Food and Waterborne Diseases
Make sure your food and drinking water are safe. Food and waterborne diseases are the primary cause of illness in travelers. Travelers’ diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout East Africa and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage (hepatitis).
To stay healthy, do…
• Wash your hands often with soap and water or, if hands are not visibly soiled, use a waterless, alcohol-based hand rub to remove potentially infectious materials from your skin and help prevent disease transmission.
• In developing countries, drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, learn how to make water safer to drink.
• Take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your health care provider for a prescription.)
• To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot, even on beaches.
• Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
• Protect yourself from mosquito insect bites:
• Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats when outdoors.
• Use insect repellents that contain DEET (N, N-diethylmethyltoluamide).
• If no screening or air conditioning is available: use a pyrethroid-containing spray in living and sleeping areas during evening and night-time hours; sleep under bed nets, preferably insecticide-treated ones.
• Do not eat food purchased from street vendors or food that is not well cooked to reduce risk of infection (i.e., hepatitis A and typhoid fever).
• Do not drink beverages with ice.
• Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.
• Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis.
• Do not handle animals, especially monkeys, dogs, and cats, to avoid bites and serious diseases (including rabies and plague). Consider pre-exposure rabies vaccination if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas.
• Do not share needles for tattoos, body piercing or injections to prevent infections such as HIV and hepatitis B.
• Avoid poultry farms, bird markets, and other places where live poultry is raised or kept.
Should I Be Concerned About Ebola?
You have probably heard the news about the ongoing Ebola epidemic in Africa. As of January 5, 2015, there have been approximately 20,600 reported cases, with nearly 100% of these cases originating in West Africa (Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia).
There is virtually zero risk of exposure to Ebola while in Tanzania. As the map illustrates, the outbreak is many thousands of miles away. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s body fluids. Infected people are not contagious during the incubation period, and only become contagious with the onset of symptoms. Therefore people who are most at risk are health care workers and families of infected people, not tourists.
While we understand your concern and care for your safety, it is safe to continue with your Kilimanjaro plans until further notice. We will monitor the situation very closely and notify our clients of any changes.
If any confirmed cases of Ebola arise in Tanzania, we will allow clients to reschedule their climb without any penalty for up to a full year later. Therefore, you can book with confidence!
Do I Need Travel Insurance?
Travel insurance is required to participate on this trip.
Trip deposits are non-refundable and balance payments are only partially refundable. Therefore, it is prudent for you to protect your investment against trip cancellation, interruption, delays and unforeseeable expenses. Standard travel insurance provides coverage for:
• Trip cancellation
• Trip interruption
• Missed connection
• Travel delay
• Baggage delay and personal items lost
• Hurricane and weather
• Employment layoff
• Pre-existing medical conditions
• Emergency medical
• Medical evacuation and repatriation
• Financial default
At a minimum, the insurance should protect you against trip cancellation and trip interruption, should you need to cancel your trip due to circumstances such as training injuries or sickness or emergencies.Ideally, insurance should cover high altitude trekking (not to be confused with “mountaineering” or “mountain climbing” which most insurance will not cover) and all medical and repatriation costs.
For our customers residing in the USA, we recommend that you obtain Travel Guard’s Silver, Gold or Platinum plans, which provide coverage for high altitude trekking, trip cancellation, interruption and delay; lost, stolen and damaged baggage; medical expenses and emergency medical evacuation; and luggage delay, for a low cost.
For our international customers, we recommend that you obtain travel insurance through World Nomads.
Climbers are strongly advised to obtain travel insurance immediately after booking their trip. Travel Guard insurance covers trip cancellation due to pre-existing conditions only when insurance is purchased within 15 days of booking. Clients must be able to provide proof of insurance to staff upon request. Clients who fail to obtain travel insurance will not be allowed to climb.
Where Do the Kilimanjaro Climbs Begin?
Our climbs originate in Moshi, a coffee-producing gateway town to Mount Kilimanjaro. Moshi is located at the base of the mountain to its south, at approximately 3,000 feet. Moshi is a short 25 mile drive from Kilimanjaro International Airport (airport code: JRO). If you fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport, we can arrange for transport from the airport to the hotel. Transfers are available at any time, including early morning or late evening, and take about 40 minutes.
KLM flies from the USA and UK to Kilimanjaro International Airport regularly. KLM flights typically arrival at Kilimanjaro International Airport in the evenings. Most people choose not to take a rest day, and will begin climbing the following morning. But it is a good idea to take a rest day to recover from a long flight, to adapt to the new environment, and to get your things ready for the trek.
We do not recommend flying into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (airport code: NBO) in Nairobi, Kenya or Dar es Salaam International Airport (airport code: DAR) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Although flights are cheaper than flying into Kilimanjaro International Airport, getting to Moshi from Nairobi requires an overnight stay in Nairobi, the purchase of a Kenyan visa, and a 7 to 8 hour bus ride/shuttle with a border crossing. Getting to Moshi from Dar es Salaam also typically requires an overnight stay and an 8 hour bus ride (Dar Express).
Arusha is about 50 miles west of Moshi. We can arrange a private vehicle for pick up and drop off in Arusha if needed. However taxis and shuttles are readily available between Moshi and Arusha. It is a 90 minute drive.
Is Climbing Kilimanjaro Safe?
If you only read one page on our site, this should be it. Climbing Kilimanjaro is probably one of the most dangerous things you will ever do. Every year, approximately 1,000 people are evacuated from the mountain, and approximately 10 deaths are reported. The actual number of deaths is believed to be two to three times higher. The main cause of death is altitude sickness. Everyone climbing Mount Kilimanjaro should be familiar with the symptoms of altitude sickness. And everyone climbing Kilimanjaro should choose an operator like Tanzania Escapade® that has the proper safety systems in place.
Tanzania Escapade’s Safety Precautions:
Our guides are highly experienced in preventing, detecting, and treating altitude sickness because they handle over 1,000 climbers per year
• Our guides conduct twice daily health checks using a pulse ox-miter to monitor your oxygen saturation and pulse rate.
• Our guides administer the Lake Louise Scoring System (LLSS) to help determine whether you have symptoms of altitude sickness and their severity.
• Our guides are certified Wilderness First Responder (WFR). They have the tools to make critical medical and evacuation decisions on location.
• Our staff carries bottled oxygen on all climbs and can administer it to quickly treat climbers with moderate and serious altitude sickness.
• Our staff carries a portable stretcher at all times to evacuate climbers who need to descend but are unable to walk on their own.
• Our staff carries a first aid kit to treat minor scrapes, cuts and blisters.
The above listed measures ensure that Tanzania Escapade ® guides and staff are prepared to keep our climbers safe and have the ability to treat climbers who become ill or injured. Your health and well being is our first priority.
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
The percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere at sea level is about 21%. As altitude increases, the percentage remains the same but the number of oxygen molecules per breath is reduced. At 12,000 feet (3,600 m) there are roughly 40% fewer oxygen molecules per breath so the body must adjust to having less oxygen. Altitude sickness, known as AMS, is caused by the failure of the body to adapt quickly enough to the reduced oxygen at increased altitudes. Altitude sickness can occur in some people as low as 8,000 feet, but serious symptoms do not usually occur until over 12,000 feet.
Mountain medicine recognizes three altitude categories:
• High altitude: 4,900 to 11,500 ft (1,500 to 3,500 m)
• Very high altitude: 11,500 to 18,000 ft (3,500 to 5,500 m)
• Extreme altitude: 18,000 ft and above (5,500 m and above)
In the first category, high altitude, AMS and decreased performance is common. In the second category, very high altitude, AMS and decreased performance are expected. And in extreme altitude, humans can function only for short periods of time, with acclimatization. Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit stands at 19,340 feet – in extreme altitude.
At over 10,000 feet (3,000 m), more than 75% of climbers will experience at least some form of mild AMS.
There are four factors related to AMS:
• High Altitude
• Fast Rate of Ascent
• High Degree of Extertion
The main cause of altitude sickness is going too high (altitude) too quickly (rate of ascent). Given enough time, your body will adapt to the decrease in oxygen at a specific altitude. This process is known as acclimatization and generally takes one to three days at any given altitude. Several changes take place in the body which enables it to cope with decreased oxygen:
• The depth of respiration increases
• The body produces more red blood cells to carry oxygen
• Pressure in pulmonary capillaries is increased, “forcing” blood into parts of the lung which are not normally used when breathing at sea level
• The body produces more of a particular enzyme that causes the release of oxygen from hemoglobin to the body tissues
Again, AMS is very common at high altitude. It is difficult to determine who may be affected by altitude sickness since there are no specific factors such as age, sex, or physical condition that correlate with susceptibility. Many people will experience mild AMS during the acclimatization process. The symptoms usually start 12 to 24 hours after arrival at altitude and will normally disappear within 48 hours.
The symptoms of Mild AMS include:
• Nausea & Dizziness
• Loss of appetite
• Shortness of breath
• Disturbed sleep
• General feeling of malaise
Symptoms tend to be worse at night and when respiratory drive is decreased. Mild AMS does not interfere with normal activity and symptoms generally subside as the body acclimatizes. As long as symptoms are mild, and only a nuisance, ascent can continue at a moderate rate.
While hiking, it is essential that you communicate any symptoms of illness immediately to others on your trip.
The signs and symptoms of Moderate AMS include:
• Severe headache that is not relieved by medication
• Nausea and vomiting, increasing weakness and fatigue
• Shortness of breath
• Decreased coordination (ataxia)
Normal activity is difficult, although the person may still be able to walk on their own. At this stage, only advanced medications or descent can reverse the problem. It is important to get the person to descend before the ataxia reaches the point where they cannot walk on their own (which would necessitate a stretcher evacuation). Descending only 1,000 feet (300 m) will result in some improvement, and 24 hours at the lower altitude will result in a significant improvement. The person should remain at lower altitude until all the symptoms have subsided. At this point, the person has become acclimatized to that altitude and can begin ascending again.
Continuing on to higher altitude while experiencing moderate AMS can lead to death.
Severe AMS results in an increase in the severity of the aforementioned symptoms including:
• Shortness of breath at rest
• Inability to walk
• Decreasing mental status
• Fluid build-up in the lungs
Severe AMS requires immediate descent of around 2,000 feet (600 m) to a lower altitude. There are two serious conditions associated with severe altitude sickness; High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). Both of these happen less frequently, especially to those who are properly acclimatized. But, when they do occur, it is usually in people going too high too fast or going very high and staying there. In both cases the lack of oxygen results in leakage of fluid through the capillary walls into either the lungs or the brain.
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)
HAPE results from fluid build up in the lungs. This fluid prevents effective oxygen exchange. As the condition becomes more severe, the level of oxygen in the bloodstream decreases, which leads to cyanosis, impaired cerebral function, and death. Symptoms of HAPE include:
• Shortness of breath at rest
• Tightness in the chest
• Persistent cough bringing up white, watery, or frothy fluid
• Marked fatigue and weakness
• A feeling of impending suffocation at night
• Confusion, and irrational behavior
Confusion, and irrational behavior are signs that insufficient oxygen is reaching the brain. In cases of HAPE, immediate descent of around 2,000 feet (600 m) is a necessary life-saving measure. Anyone suffering from HAPE must be evacuated to a medical facility for proper follow-up treatment.
High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)
HACE is the result of the swelling of brain tissue from fluid leakage. Symptoms of HACE include:
• Loss of co-ordination
• Decreasing levels of consciousness
• Loss of memory
• Hallucinations & Psychotic behavior
This condition is rapidly fatal unless the afflicted person experiences immediate descent. Anyone suffering from HACE must be evacuated to a medical facility for follow-up treatment.
Proper Acclimatization Guidelines
The following are recommended to achieving acclimatization:
• Pre-acclimatize prior to your trip by using a high altitude training systems.
• Ascend Slowly. Your guides will tell you, “Pole, pole” (slowly, slowly) throughout your climb. Because it takes time to acclimatize, your ascension should be slow. Taking rest days will help. Taking a day increases your chances of getting to the top by up to 30% and increases your chances of actually getting some enjoyment out of the experience by much more than that.
• Do not overexert yourself. Mild exercise may help altitude acclimatization, but strenuous activity may promote HAPE.
• Take slow deliberate deep breaths.
• Climb high, sleep low. Climb to a higher altitude during the day, then sleep at a lower altitude at night. Most routes comply with this principle and additional acclimatization hikes can be incorporated into your itinerary.
• Eat enough food and drink enough water while on your climb. It is recommended that you drink from four to five liters of fluid per day. Also, eat a high calorie diet while at altitude, even if your appetite is diminished.
• Avoid tobacco, alcohol and other depressant drugs including, barbiturates, tranquillizers, sleeping pills and opiates. These further decrease the respiratory drive during sleep resulting in a worsening of altitude sickness.
• If you begin to show symptoms of moderate altitude sickness, don’t go higher until symptoms decrease. If symptoms increase, descend.
Our guides are all experienced in identifying altitude sickness and dealing with the problems it causes with climbers. They will constantly monitor your well-being on the climb by watching you and speaking with you. Twice daily, our guides will conduct tests with a pulse oximeter to measure your oxygen saturation and pulse rate. Additionally, our guides will administer the Lake Louise Scoring Systems(LLSS) to help determine whether you have any symptoms of altitude sickness and the severity.
It is important that you be open, active and honest with your guide. If you do not feel well, do not try to pretend you are fine. Do not mask your symptoms and say you feel OK. Only with accurate information can your guide best treat you.
Of course, there is always the chance that you will have to abandon your climb. In these situations, the guide will tell you to descend. It is not a request, but an order. The guide’s decision is final. Do not try to convince him with words, threats or money to continue your climb. The guide wants you to succeed on your climb, but will not jeopardize your health. Respect the decision of the guide.
Our guides will use a pulse oximeter to measure the oxygen level in your blood and your pulse rate in the morning and evening. The oximeter is placed on a climber’s fingertip. The oximeter uses two beams of light that shine into small blood vessels and capillaries in your finger. The sensor reflects the amount of oxygen in the blood.
Oxygen saturation is a measurement of how much oxygen your blood is carrying as a percentage of the maximum it could carry. Normal blood oxygen levels at sea level are 95-100%.
As altitude increases, oxygen saturations decrease. Proper acclimatization generally brings oxygen saturations higher, which is why these figures typically
rise when oxygen saturations are tested after resting overnight. On Kilimanjaro, oxygen saturations percentages are regularly in the 80’s. However, if oxygen saturation is ever less than 80%, we monitor that climber very closely.
We carry bottled oxygen on all of our climbs as a precaution and additional safety measure. The oxygen cannister is for use only in emergency situations. It is NOT used to assist clients who have not adequately acclimatized on their own to climb higher. The most immediate treatment for moderate and serious altitude sickness is descent. With Kilimanjaro’s routes, it is always possible to descend, and descend quickly. Therefore, oxygen is used strictly to treat a stricken climber, when necessary, in conjunction with descent, to treat those with moderate and severe altitude sickness.
We are aware that some operators market the use of supplementary personal oxygen systems as a means to eliminate the symptoms of AMS. To administer oxygen in this manner and for this purpose is dangerous because it is a temporary treatment of altitude sickness. Upon the cessation of the use of oxygen, the client will be at an even higher altitude without proper acclimatization.
Large, one-wheeled rescue stretchers are found on Mount Kilimanjaro but they are only available within a small area of the park. That means that if a climber is unable to walk due to severe altitude sickness or a leg injury that compromises mobility, getting that climber down the mountain could pose difficult challenges for Kilimanjaro operators. Usually it means assisting the injured climber by carrying him or her on one’s back.
We carry a portable stretcher at all times in case of emergencies when a climber is unable to walk on their own and the trekking party is some distance away from the park’s stretchers. Our portable stretchers are compact, strong and lightweight. The device can be used to evacuate an injured climber quickly off the mountain. To use, the subject is secured to the stretcher using straps. Then porters hold on to the hand grips to usher the climber to safety.
Diamox and Ibuprofen
Diamox (generic name acetazolamide) is an F.D.A. approved drug for the prevention and treatment of AMS. The medication acidifies the blood, which causes an increase in respiration, thus accelerating acclimatization. Diamox does not disguise symptoms of altitude sickness, it prevents it. Studies have shown that Diamox at a dose of 250 mg every eight to twelve hours before and during rapid ascent to altitude results in fewer and/or less severe symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS). The medicine should be continued until you are below the altitude where symptoms became bothersome. Side effects of acetazolamide include tingling or numbness in the fingers, toes and face, taste alterations, excessive urination; and rarely, blurring of vision. These go away when the medicine is stopped. It is a personal choice of the climber whether or not to take Diamox as a preventative measure against AMS.
Tanzania Escapade® neither advocates nor discourages the use of Diamox.
Ibuprofen can be used to relieve altitude induced headaches.
What Is the Weather On Kilimanjaro?
The short answer is that the temperatures on Mount Kilimanjaro range from hot to bitter cold. The journey from the gate to the peak is like traveling from the equator to Antarctica in a matter of days. This is because the routes to the Uhuru peak cross different ecological zones. Mount Kilimanjaro has five major ecological zones, each approximately 3,280 feet (1,000 m) in altitude. Each zone is subject to a corresponding decrease in rainfall, temperature and life as the altitude increases.
Moshi, the gateway town from which our climbs are organized, is located just south of the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. At 2,667 feet (900 m) above sea level, the town is located in the lowest, warmest ecological zone. Average temperature, humidity and precipitation figures for Moshi are reflected in the following table.
As shown, January and February are the warmest months, April and May are the wettest months, June and July are the coolest months, and August and September are the driest months. These generalities about the weather in Moshi hold true for Mount Kilimanjaro as well.
Due to its proximity to the equator, Mount Kilimanjaro does not experience wide temperature changes from season to season. Instead, the temperatures on Mount Kilimanjaro are determined more so by the altitude and time of day. At the beginning of the climb, at the base of the mountain, the average temperature is around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 27 degrees Celsius). From there, the temperatures will decrease as you move through Mount Kilimanjaro’s ecological zones.
At the summit, Uhuru Point, the night time temperatures can range between 20 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7 to -29 degrees Celsius). Due to Mount Kilimanjaro’s great height, the mountain creates its own weather. It is extremely variable and impossible to predict. Therefore, regardless of when you climb, you should always be prepared for wet days and cold nights.
Selecting a Route
Selecting a route is a tough choice for most. To find the best Kilimanjaro route for you, considerations should be taken for the route’s scenery, difficulty, foot traffic and its altitude acclimatization characteristics, as depicted in the table below. Tanzania Escapade® has assigned overall ratings to each route.
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