Mount Kilimanjaro

Mt Kilimanjaro the famed ice capped mountain lies just 3° south of the equator. As Tanzania's landmark, Kilimanjaro towers over the surrounding African plains. In fact, it is the highest freestanding mountain in the world (5,895 meters/ 19,341 ft). It is also the highest mountain that can be climbed without technical equipment and climbing skills. For the most part, it takes just putting one foot in front of the other. Although this sounds simple, it is most likely the toughest challenge you will ever face.

The biggest obstacle is lack of oxygen at such a high altitude. Without expert guidance, this climb can be very dangerous. Our success rate places us among the industry leaders and we guarantee that we will not compromise your safety; using only quality equipment and only the best experienced guides and cooks. Our guides are trained to monitor your physical condition and know how to pace the group accordingly; offering you the greatest chance of a successful summit.

April - June
The main rainy season lasts from the end of March through to mid June. As elsewhere in the world, when exactly it rains and when it stops is impossible to predict. It's the warmest time of the year in Tanzania, but those months are so wet that many operators simply do not offer climbs in April/May at all.

June - August
The rain gradually decreases, and so do the temperatures on Kilimanjaro. The weather on Kilimanjaro is fairly dry and clear but the nights will be bitter cold. June is quiet, but the number of climbers increases as the year progresses.

Altitude sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), is a negative health effect of high altitude caused by the failure of the body to adapt quickly enough to the reduced level of oxygen in the air. Altitude sickness generally develops at elevations higher than 8,000 feet and when the rate of ascent exceeds 1,000 feet per day. The elevation gains on some days during your Kilimanjaro trek fall into this category. Therefore it is likely that you will experience some form of mild altitude sickness on Mount Kilimanjaro.

The most common of altitude sickness are headaches, sleep disturbance, fatigue, shortness of breath and dizziness. These can be considered normal for climbing Kilimanjaro. However, complications can develop on Kilimanjaro, and everyone attempting to climb the mountain must be aware of the risks involved. The symptoms of altitude sickness generally appear within hours of moving to higher altitudes and vary depending on the severity of your condition.

Mild forms of altitude sickness are best treated by rest, maintaining fluid intake, and by a painkiller such as paracetamol. Mild symptoms which have lasted for 24 hours or more can be treated with Diamox which aids acclimatization. Some people start taking Diamox before the climb to prevent AMS as prescribed by their doctor. Alternatively, it can be used as a treatment for AMS once symptoms have arisen. The use of Diamox is a personal decision but we do recommend you bring it in case you need it.

Serious cases of altitude sickness can only be treated by immediate descent. Severe cases of acute mountain sickness can cause more intense symptoms, affecting your heart, lungs, muscles, and nervous system. This occurs rarely develops for climbers. However, these conditions can lead rapidly to death unless immediate descent is made.

Is an advanced form of altitude sickness caused by fluid build up in the lungs. This is caused when some blood vessels in the lungs become constricted due to altitude, and the blood pressure in the vessels results in a high-pressure leak of fluid into the lungs. Pulmonary edema is characterized by crackling noises from the chest and the coughing up of pink sputum.

Is an advanced form of altitude sickness caused by fluid leakage from the brain. The cause is possibly due to an increase in cerebral blood flow due to increased permeability of cerebral endothelium at high altitude. Cerebral edema is recognized by severe headaches combined with a severe loss of balance, dizziness, and confusion.

Mild Altitude Sickness symptoms may include: headache, sleep disturbance, fatigue, shortness of breath with physical exertion, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, irritability, muscle aches, swelling of the hands, feet, and face, rapid heartbeat.

Severe altitude sickness symptoms may include: wet coughing, chest congestion, extreme fatigue, fast, shallow breathing, gurgling breaths, blue or gray lips or fingernails, pale complexion and skin discoloration, inability to walk or lack of balance (ataxia), confusion, social withdrawal

Incidences of altitude sickness can be minimized or avoided altogether be taking the proper steps in while planning your climb and while on the mountain.

First, we encourage our clients to select Kilimanjaro routes that are lengthy and have favorable acclimatization profiles. Due to the time on the trail and the nature of these routes, occurrences of serious altitude sickness for our clients is very low. Furthermore, we have established four primary steps to help our clients achieve successful acclimatization on the mountain.

1. Drink lots of water - we recommend fluid intake of 4-5 liters daily. Fluid intake improves circulation and most other bodily functions. Fluid intake does not add to fluid leakage from the body. Our menu contains lots of soup, hot drinks, and fresh fruit. And you need to drink 3 liters of water per day too! If your urine is clear and copious, you are drinking enough. Avoid consuming alcohol on the mountain.
2.Walk slowly - it is vital to place as little strain as possible on the body while it is trying to adapt to a reducing oxygen supply. Unless there is a very steep uphill section, your breathing rate while walking should be as if you are walking down the street at home.

3.Climb high sleep low - this means climbing to a higher altitude during the day and the sleeping at a lower altitude at night. This is done through well-planned itineraries that include afternoon acclimatization hikes to a higher level (climbing high) before descending to camp (sleeping low). All our itineraries have this feature, although due to time and distance to be covered the longer 8 and 9-day climbs have more acclimatization walks.
4.Use Diamox - Diamox is an FDA approved prescription medication that prevents and treats altitude sickness. It is recommended that you use Diamox to assist with acclimatization. Diamox may not be available in Tanzania, so bring it from your home country. Note that our guides do not carry Diamox and will not be able to provide it for you on the mountain.

Our guides have extensive experience in the field. They climb Kilimanjaro around 20 times per year and have been leading climbs for many years. Therefore they have literally handled thousands of clients and are experts in altitude-related illnesses.

On peak Holiday guides are skilled at preventing, detecting and treating altitude sickness. Every single guide is certified as a Wilderness First Responder - the Western industry standard for professional guides. Wilderness First Responders take comprehensive and practical coursework in medical training, leadership, and critical thinking. For that reason, our guides have knowledge of the essential principles and the required skills to assess and manage medical problems in isolated and extreme environments.

During the low season, extensive multi-day training courses are held off-site to reevaluate and refresh their knowledge of first aid and rescue. These courses reassure that our guides are well prepared for any situation they encounter.

For your safety, our guides will use a pulse ox meter to regularly check clients' oxygen saturation levels during the climb. Oxygen saturation is a measure of how much oxygen is in your blood. A person's oxygen saturation at sea level is usually around 94-98%. At altitude, oxygen saturation is lower. However, it is an indication of how well a person is acclimatizing.

Monitoring one's pulse and oxygen saturation twice per day gives our guides additional insight into a client's health. We start by giving a health check at the trip briefing. This gives us a baseline to work with. We log these results and compare them each day at our health checks.

We also take regular temperature and blood pressure readings, and we listen to your heart and lungs with a stethoscope.

It is quite common for climbers to have a mild form of altitude sickness. However, our guides can recognize the symptoms of more serious altitude sickness and know how and when to treat a climber. If necessary, our guides will organize an immediate descent, which is by far the quickest and best treatment. Most often an ill climber will recover very well just by descending a few thousand feet, with no further treatment needed. We will use a portable stretcher in cases where the climber is unable to walk on their own.

We carry emergency oxygen and medical kits on all climbs. Administering oxygen is very effective in treating altitude related symptoms. On Peak Holidays is one of only a few Kilimanjaro operators that offer ALTOX Personal Oxygen Systems. ALTOX is designed to aid climbers on their ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro. It can eliminate most if not all of the symptoms of altitude illness, in the process it can greatly improving your chances of a successful summit and making it a far more pleasurable experience.

Mount Kilimanjaro Climbing Routes