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Acclimatization & Altitude

Altitude & Acclimatisation

While Kilimanjaro may not be a technical climb, it is The Roof of Africa, and no matter how fit and healthy you may be, trekking to such high altitude brings challenges.

The majority of trekkers will experience some effects of altitude. These may be very mild symptoms as your body adjusts, but can be much more serious. You cannot train for altitude, and symptoms are in no way related to fitness. It’s therefore important to understand what to expect and how to manage the challenges altitude can bring.

What Causes Altitude Sickness?

Increasing elevation reduces atmospheric pressure, which in turn reduces the number of oxygen molecules available for each breath. Altitude sickness is caused by the body struggling to adjust to this and having to work much harder to perform its normal functions. Effects can be felt at elevations of approximately 2,500m (8,000ft) and higher.

 

What are the Effects?

Mild – Loss of appetite, nausea, headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath with exertion and poor sleep. These are common effects. Let your guide know and they will help you manage.

Moderate – The above symptoms may persist and/or become more severe. You may also experience symptoms such as a change in mental status, for example becoming disorientated or confused, and poor coordination. These symptoms are more serious and you will need to be very carefully monitored by your guide.

Severe - High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) is an advanced form of altitude sickness caused by fluid build-up in the lungs. High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) is also advanced, caused by fluid leakage from the brain. Symptoms are intense and can involve any of the above in addition to other problems related to lung function or neurological activity. It is extremely unlikely you will be affected by these conditions; however serious cases of altitude sickness can only be treated with immediate descent.

African Scenic Safaris has a very high success rate on Kilimanjaro, because we work hard to avoid incidences of altitude sickness, which can be minimised by taking the proper steps.

 

How to Combat the Effects of Altitude

Time – Choose a route which takes longer and allows you to climb high and sleep low, giving your body more time to acclimatise. The most effective tool against altitude-related illness.

Hydration - We provide unlimited amounts of treated drinking water, alongside hot drinks and fresh soups, to keep you hydrated and to keep your electrolytes in balance.

Walk Slowly – Your body will be working much harder than usual, even when walking slowly. Take care of it and allow it time to adjust. Our guides are excellent at setting the best pace possible to get you and everyone in your team safely to the top!

Eat Well – Energy and nutrients are essential to help your body do the work it needs and for easing the effects of altitude. You may not feel like eating, but it’s critical that you do!  Our cooks provide fresh, varied and nutritious meals to help you.

Knowledge - Our guides are trained and very experienced in assessing your symptoms and will ensure that you are well looked after. If you do not feel well during your climb, or you find that another climber is unwell, please inform the guides. They can recognise and effectively manage health issues associated with altitude sickness.

Diamox - Research shows that Diamox (Acetazolamide) can assist with acclimatisation. We recommend discussing the possibility of taking this with your doctor, who can advise you according to your personal circumstances. Diamox may not be available in Tanzania, so please bring it from your home country. Our guides are not physicians. They do not carry Diamox and will not be able to provide it for you on the mountain.

For many, the most important thing once on the mountain is a positive mental attitude, which can work wonders when fatigue and doubts arise. Please don’t be afraid of the altitude. Respect it, stay positive, relax and enjoy this incredible experience!