The colossal Kilimanjaro rises 5900 meters into the sky and at such dizzying heights, altitude is a reality. Ascent to the Uhuru Peak is a trek through diverse landscapes; each offering a unique climactic experience. As the trail rises upwards, you traverse through a gamut of climatic zones, ranging from dense rainforest to heath and moorland, alpine desert and, finally, arctic ice cap. So what’s the catch you wonder? The ascent is rapid, and it doesn’t allow for sufficient acclimatization and exposes trekkers to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), also known as altitude sickness. Of the nearly 40,000 climber the mountain attracts every year, nearly ten end up as casualties.

Kilimanjaro Altitude Profile

High Altitude:

1500 – 3500 m (5000 – 11500 ft)

Very High Altitude:

3500 – 5500 m (11500 – 18000 ft)

Extreme Altitude:

above 5500 m (18000 ft)

The first strains of altitude sickness are felt at 8,000 feet (about 2,400 meters) above sea level with symptoms of a headache, fatigue, sleep disturbance, problems with the digestive system and dizziness. Not heeding to the symptoms and continuing the ascent can intensify the symptoms leading to conditions like High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) which require immediate evacuation and attention.

Higher altitude means thinner air. With the decreased air pressure, less oxygen enters your lungs and therefore your bloodstream and the associated risks. So is climbing Kilimanjaro dangerous? It’s challenging for sure and the dangers can be mitigated by training and acclimatizing well. And of course by going Pole-Pole (slowly slowly in Swahili

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Godfrey Willy is our Trekking Expert and as a seasoned traveller has the inside track on the most memorable adventures.

Godfrey Willy
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