Compared to other extreme altitude climbs, Kilimanjaro is a safe mountain. Although relatively safe, hikers still need to be fully aware of risks associated with any high altitude climb.
At Sabaya Tours, we take your safety and wellbeing extremely seriously; our guides are professionally trained, well equipped and highly motivated to put your safety first. Before each climb, we take the time to explain risks that may be encountered on the mountain and the measures you should take to stay safe. Our experience over the years has taught us that, accurate and frequent communication between guides and hikers and careful self-monitoring during the hike, are key to ensuring a safe and successful climb.
Our mountain crew knows that, although we equip them with high-quality safety and rescue equipment, it is their quick, informed and decisive actions that can make a significant difference when dealing with emergency situations. We invest a lot of time and effort in planning smooth and safe Kilimanjaro climbs; however, once on the mountain, regardless of how much we try, there are things we can not fully control(emergencies). What we can do, however, is to have emergency procedures to deal with such incidences.
Over the years, we have defined, tested and formalized an emergency and evacuation procedure that has been internalized by our guides; they know how to analyze a situation and act decisively. Minor emergencies are handled by guides on the mountain; guides analyze the situation and administer first aid accordingly. When faced with a major emergency, our guides know how to act quickly, correctly and decisively based on the situation. They are required to administer a quick and effective first aid and then remove the hiker from hostile high altitude conditions by immediately, carefully and rapidly descending to safer lower altitudes; once at lower altitude, the hiker is quickly evacuated to a medical facility where they can receive professional medical care.
While it is not possible to fully eliminate the risks associated with high altitude climbing, they can be minimized by a professional and competent mountain crew.
Mount Kilimanjaro is relatively safe; however, we still believe it is in your best interest to be made fully aware of risks associated with climbing a high altitude mountain. We do not present the risks to scare you; we want to help you make informed safety decisions when climbing the mountain.
Altitude sickness is a condition that happens when the body fails to adjust to the low pressure and low oxygen environment associated with high altitude climbs. Dehydration, rapid ascent and a high degree of exertion are also major contributing factors to altitude sickness. Most people consider Kilimanjaro an easy climb but a significant number of climbers still fail to reach the summit due to altitude sickness. Most people do not feel the effects of altitude sickness until they climb to above 3000 meters above sea level.
Before climbing Kilimanjaro it is important to learn how to identify and manage altitude sickness in order to increase your chances of reaching the summit; altitude sickness can be mild, moderate and acute. It is expected that most people will at some point feel the symptoms of mild altitude sickness; the symptoms range from mild headaches, nausea, dizziness, loss of appetite and insomnia.
Experiencing a mild altitude sickness does not necessarily mean that you should give up on the climb immediately; if you stop the ascent and rest the symptoms will mostly disappear and you can continue with the ascent. If mild symptoms are experienced for a long time without clearing, you could be suffering acute altitude sickness. Severe headaches, prolonged dizziness, extreme fatigue, vomiting and labored breathing at rest should be taken extremely serious because they are symptoms of acute altitude sickness.
Acute altitude sickness can be fatal and requires immediate attention; the hiker should immediately descend to lower altitudes(about 2000m) and then be sent to a medical facility for profession observation. If ignored, acute altitude sickness can cause High Altitude Cerebral Edema (swelling of brain tissue due to fluid accumulation) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (fluid build up in the lungs).
Symptoms of High Altitude Cerebral Edema include Headache, Weakness, Disorientation, Decreasing levels of consciousness, hallucinations, Loss of memory and coma. On the other hand symptoms of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema include, shortness of breath at rest, Tightness in the chest, persistent cough, fatigue and weakness, a feeling of impending suffocation, confusion, and irrational behavior.
Generally, the main cause of altitude sickness is climbing too high too quickly without giving your body enough time to adapt to decreased oxygen levels at specific altitudes. Hikers should ascend gradually and spend some days at specific altitudes in order to allow their bodies to adapt to decreased oxygen levels at those altitudes. It takes about one to three days for your body to fully adapt to a specific altitude.
To prevent altitude sickness you should consider the following precautions:
Kilimanjaro seasons are very stable and predictable but there is always a risk if you choose to climb during the wettest months and if you do not gear up properly. See the section containing details about the best times to climb and recommended gears and equipment.
Kilimanjaro trails are very safe but it is still an adventurous high altitude climb so there is a risk that you may suffer some form of injury. Our guides are first aid trained so you are in safe hands; minor injuries are treated on the mountain but serious injuries usually require evacuation so you can get medical attention in a proper medical facility.
If you suffer from a pre-existing disease, especially cardiac or pulmonary diseases, please consult your doctor before climbing Kilimanjaro. For a safe and successful climb, you should be fit.
Evacuation from Kilimanjaro is usually on a stretcher or sometimes on foot until the highest possible point that can be reached by a park issued rescue car. Kilimanjaro also has ranger posts with radio communication to help facilitate rescue operations.
Sick hikers are usually transferred to a hospital in Moshi or Arusha; however most sick climbers do recover from altitude sickness as the descend from high altitude to low altitude areas. Evacuations from Kilimanjaro utilize quick descent routes in order to minimize the amount of time spent evacuating the sick climber.
Air rescue is also possible and is usually done by helicopter; it is possible to do air rescue up to an altitude of about 4700M but it is highly dependent on the weather.