Kilimanjaro – Stay Safe

It is fair to say that those taking on Kilimanjaro (‘Kili’) as a Charity Challenge can often get carried away with the excitement of it all without knowing too much about the climb other than its tough. It’s natural.

My job is to get you up and down that huge and physically challenging mountain with a massive dose of high altitude in amongst it, in one piece, in other words safely. And that comes from experience, which we have in buckets!

Importantly, we care.

Just a little understanding of high altitude and the geography of the mountain itself can mean the difference between a successful summit and a lot of discomfort and worst case scenario, your life. This is no exaggeration.

The shape of the Kilimanjaro is not ideal; certainly not for acclimatisation. Imagine a Mexican sombrero hat, walking around the rim and turning left to go straight up to the top of the hat; that’s Kili.

Many inexperienced trekkers often get anxious, even panic when they feel the effects of altitude. we will make sure you do your homework on the signs and symptoms as most are not life threatening, merely the effects of being up there in thinner air.

Trekking to High Altitude – useful information to the uninitiated.

Kilimanjaro Map

Once the preamble of the first few days is over, the real test comes with the ascent to Barafu and then to the summit. That final climb is big; about 1300m, usually overnight (and therefore dark), cold and it’s long (6 – 7 hrs). The problem with it being dark is that you can’t see your colleagues’ face properly and therefore their demeanour. That face tells you a lot about how they’re feeling.

Getting to the summit is not a given; the altitude will have its say. It doesn’t matter whether your 20 years old or 60, what religion you are, what colour, race or creed or gender, if it’s not your day, it’s not your day. You will know. Summit fever is a strong emotion and it drives people hard, sometimes too hard to the point of collapse. Reach that point and you’re potentially in real trouble. Unable to perform the simplest of tasks (even walking), you are likely to be suffering from High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). The key is not to reach that point and a good group will be keeping a close eye on each other to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Having to retreat from the summit on the ascent is no failure. It’s called making the right call at the right time to protect your health. Kili will always be there, you might not if you collapse.

Future Kilimanjaro treks

Some Tips

  • Discuss the potential scenarios on that final climb with your partner and other group members. Decisions are so much easier if they are pre-discussed on what happens if…..
  • Discuss and run through the signs and symptoms of high altitude sickness.
  • Make sure you know the details of your partner’s travel insurance (or where they are). You don’t want to be searching for them when you’re tired.

About the Author:

Terry Crosby is the founder and co-owner of Travel and Trek Limited. He started the Company in 2005 after an long military career, which ultimately gave him the skills to set up, run, manage and develop what is now a global adventure travel company. He has extensive experience in all of the countries the company travel to and is an ex Mountain Leader and Arctic Survival Instructor.