Safety on Kilimanjaro
Although climbing Kilimanjaro is relatively easy compared to say a Himalayan mountain, trekkers should still respect the fact that it is close to 6000m above sea level. And with that comes many scenarios that a potential summiteer of the highest mountain in Africa would need to take seriously. Before you embark on your trekking adventure there are a number of things that you should familiarize yourself with. Some of the things may seem obvious like getting sufficient training, but there may be other things that make all the difference in terms of your safety on Kilimanjaro.
Let’s take a look at a few of the key factors that ensure a safe passage to Uhuru at 5895m:
1) Training for Kilimanjaro – Safety on Kilimanjaro
The average trekking time per day on Kilimanjaro is between 5 and 7 hours per day. The final summit day can sometimes be up 16 hours long!!!! This is where safety on Kilimanjaro becomes important and what trekkers fail to realize is that your fatigue compounds on a daily basis leaving some climbers with an ‘empty tank’ on the final day when you will need your energy reserves the most. Running for 20 minutes every few days is not going to cut it. Find a training plan that is cardio and endurance focused. And include multi day training periods so that your body gets used to it. The more you train your body, the less likely it will ‘freak’ out when you are pushing it for 7 days in a row. And try get outdoors!!! Hiking is the best training for hiking.
2) Effects of Altitude – Safety on Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro is a relatively easy mountain to climb. One of the key contributors to a climber not making the summit is how the body adapts to the thinning air. In terms of safety on Kilimanjaro, this is the one aspect we at South Africa Adventures take the most seriously. It is difficult to predict whether or not someone is prone to AMS (acute mountain sickness), Pulmonary or cerebral oedema. Although the chances of getting one of the oedemas is only between 3 and 5 % it is still something that needs to monitored hourly. Tour ensure our clients safety on the mountain, we conduct 3 compulsory medical check-ups every day. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner) We record the following data per client:
Oxygen saturation levels
Use of Stethoscope to listen to signs of ‘gurgling’ in the lungs ( a sure sign of pulmonary edema)
Lake Louise Altitude Sickness Scoring Sheet
These daily checks are crucial in our client’s safety on Kilimanjaro. Over the past 15 years of guiding and climbing on not only Kilimanjaro but other numerous mountains in the world, we have determined certain ‘benchmarks’ in terms of where our clients ‘personal climbing safety statistics’ should be. If we detect any anomalies, we are able to make an informed decision on whether it is safe for the client to continue. At altitude, conditions don’t generally get better, they get worse. And sometimes it’s a matter of swallowing your pride and listening to the logic of your guide
3) Pre-climb Medical
There have been numerous incidents where climbers have suddenly developed a pulmonary oedema or dropped dead from a heart attack. Not that we want to sound like prophets of doom but it is a reality. This is a reality that can sometimes be avoided. A cough at sea level for example can be deadly at 4000m. We highly recommend that you go for a thorough check up prior to your climb. Any pre-existing conditions can balloon into catastrophic scenarios on the mountain. Your Safety on Kilimanjaro may boil down to a simple check-up that takes a few minutes.
Another key factor in not only makes your climb enjoyable but safe as well. You are going to want to make sure that your clothes and footwear fit properly months before you leave for the climb. When it comes to hiking boots it may be worthwhile to pay a little extra for quality and find a boot that fits best and will keep your feet warm and dry. A lot of boots nowadays wick way sweat thus keeping your feet dry which helps alleviate blisters and the cold. And please test them, preferably in the mountains. Also purposely wear you’re climbing clothes out during a storm, this will allow you to get an idea of how well protected from the elements you are. You might get a few weird looks from others but knowing the clothing and footwear is up to the job could save yourself a few fingers or toes.
Kilimanjaro can easily reach temperatures well below freezing. And hypothermia can strike very quickly. It is vital that you have the correct mountain equipment to survive on the mountain. When purchasing your equipment, ALWAYS, ALWAYS prepare for the worst case scenarios. And your equipment must be able to keep you dry. Avoid cotton.
At altitude where there is lack of moisture in the air, you are going to need to drink at least 5 litres of fluid per day to ward of the effects of dehydration. Follow the principle of prevention is better than cure. Dehydration is no easy to resolve at altitude and may involve the intravenous intake of saline to recover. Rather make it a habit to drink about 250ml every 20-30 minutes-even if you are not felling thirsty. A good rehydration solution is a good idea and helps with the boring taste of water.
Yes we all have these things called egos and pride. Something best left under a rock at the bottom of Kilimanjaro. Good communication skills and the ability to have compassion for others is important. One day you may be someone’s strength when they need it. You never know when you may need them. Try to be open and honest about how you are feeling. Emotion is stronger than logic especially on a mountain. Talk to your companions and especially your guide about how you are feeling. Let them be the logic. It may save your life.