Tanzania is incomplete without mentioning the magnificent Kilimanjaro. Standing at 5,985 meters (19,341 feet), the imposing mountain is a joy to behold -whether you ascend or just stand at the bottom and gaze at it.
The ascent to the apex of the formidable mountain is a journey through five distinct routes, each representing different degrees of difficulty, climate, and vegetation. But what compounds the matter is that “it’s a high altitude trek” and the “rapid ascent profile “ doesn’t give space for acclimatization and makes the trekkers acutely vulnerable to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), also known as altitude sickness. Of the nearly 50,000 hopeful trekkers the mountain attracts every year, nearly ten end up as casualties.
Kilimanjaro has three distinct altitude zones. The effects of altitude first show up once you breach the 2400m mark and intensify once you cross 3000m. Preliminary symptoms that show up as of a headache, fatigue, sleep disturbance, problems with the digestive system and dizziness. This is considered normal and some rest and time for acclimitization can get you to cope with it better. But if the symptoms don’t improve and you continue to push ahead then life-threatening complications like High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) be a possibility requiring immediate evacuation and attention.
High altitude (2,500 – 3,500 metres)
Very high altitude (3,500 – 5,500 metres)
Extreme altitude (above 5,500 metres)
At higher altitude the air is thinner. With the decreased air pressure, less oxygen is available for your body and the body struggles to adapt to depleted oxygen. But it’s not something beyond you, as evidenced by 70% of the people who make a successful summit every year. Better planning and little caution can help you manage altitude sickness. Train well, follow the principles of climb high/sleep low; hydrate well, eat enough calories on the mountain, rest and acclimatize well and take preventive medicines as per your doctor’s advice. Never be rushed. Pole- pole will put you on the drivers’ position to the top.