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Health & Safety on Kilimanjaro
 Health & Safety on Kilimanjaro

Health & Safety on Kilimanjaro

Physical preparation for Kilimanjaro

Once you have made the decision to climb Kilimanjaro there are some things that you can do beforehand to assist in ensuring you have a safe and successful climb.

Train at altitude or at least test your abilities at altitude: The very best way to prepare for climbing to high altitude is to climb to high altitude. Although this is difficult for most people, remember that the higher the altitude and the longer the hikes, the better. Whether it be to hike 2,000 feet to the top of the local hill or climbing larger mountains further afield; just being out hiking up hill is the best. This also allows you to get used to your backpack and boots.

Talk to your Doctor or Physician about the state of your own health, perhaps do a health check and if over the age of 60 ensure you get the full support and approval from your Doctor or Specialist

Fully disclose any past or present health issues with us, as well as any allergies or current medications.

Train your body: Running and biking are also very good and at least take you outdoors so you can test your equipment. Stair masters and climbing machines at the gym will work if outdoor hiking isn’t an option. Try not to go for short hard blasts of exercise but long sustained workouts instead. An adequate training regime is to maintain 80% of your max heart rate (220 minus your age) for an hour, three to four days a week.

Train your mind: Remember high altitude mountain climbing requires acclimatization and a strong mind is as important as a strong body.

Safety when on the mountain

Kilimanjaro is a non-technical climb but goes to very high altitude so safety measures need to be taken very seriously. It is important to climb Kilimanjaro with an experienced leader and crew who are rigorously trained in high altitude issues, bring the necessary medical equipment, and have the skills to monitor their clients on a daily basis as well as having the backing of an experienced team on the ground who can handle all types of evacuations.

Juhudi Expedition Ltd Trip Leaders are the most experienced on the mountain, our reputation after 5 years of running expeditions is what sets us apart from the rest of companies. All Trip Leaders are certified Wilderness First Responders and their high mountaineering training goes far beyond the normal scope of just this wilderness specific first aid. 

Our leaders are trained to identify and carefully monitor developing high altitude issues and discuss them with you continually. They understand the importance of gathering all your health data when evaluating potential altitude sickness not just relying on single factors such as the daily collected pulse oximeter data. For additional security we carry a Gamow bag which is a hypo baric chamber and oxygen on all ascents to aid in safe and expedient evacuation to lower altitude, day or night even in adverse weather conditions.

On every Juhudi Expedition Kilimanjaro climb we provide the following safety equipment:

Gamow Bag ( By Additional Costs)

A pulse oximeter is a non-invasive sensor device that is placed on the fingertip to monitor a person’s Oxygen saturation. Every morning and evening, each trip member uses the oximeter and the leader records the reading on a report. This allows our leaders to track everyone’s O2 history and help them identify the climbers who may be falling behind in acclimatization.

Emergency Oxygen Cylinder Tank

Each expedition departs with a 3 Litre canister of compressed pure oxygen that is administered in emergency situations only.

Wilderness First Responders training and beyond

Our leaders undergo extensive training to provide the safest Kilimanjaro climbs. Every year we operate an annual Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and Wilderness First Aid (WFA) training in Arusha, Tanzania. This certification is critical for all professional guides (and we consider it mandatory for our Kilimanjaro guides). The WFR course is well known internationally and often regarded as the world standard in outdoor medical care. We fly in experienced instructors to run this course to exacting standards and re-certify our guides every other year. We teach them together to make the course more rigorous and include 3 additional days of specialized scenario training on the mountain.

Our leaders closely monitor each climber’s health as they make their ascent. Our leaders are trained to detect early signs of altitude sickness and are well versed in protocols for emergency evacuation. Our goal is to make you as safe as possible so you can relax and enjoy the climb experience..

Mental preparation

Mt Kilimanjaro is an amazing experience and anyone is able to reach its summit (Uhuru peak). Think about this when you prepare yourself for the expedition. You will not be alone as JUHUDI EXPEDITION LTD Kilimanjaro Team will make you feel welcome and will be there with you all the way. Always think positively and you WILL enjoy the climb! Remember to make it a journey and not a destination.

How will i get fit?

The type of condition is more important than the degree of fitness. Kilimanjaro is a walk and the interesting part of it is you take your time, no rush, so the best preparation you can have is to walk, preferably under simulated conditions. Although to some extent it helps to go running/jogging, your muscles are still not preparing for seven days of quiet but heavy walking. I suggest that you will regularly walk long distances. Ignore the elevator and take the stairs or even take your dog for a walk.

Go walk, for example, in addition to regular fitness to let your muscles develop more. And try to opt for regular walks with altitude, so you can practice walking up and down at different incline levels.

If you can walk 80 kilometres (50 miles) in one week, you have done the Kilimanjaro Machame Route. Train your body for extra resistance for your muscles, because on the mountain the inclination varies.

In a period of eight weeks, using the gym and the many hikes, you can become fit enough for Mt Kilimanjaro climb.

Medical check-up

Before starting a physical training program, it’s always wise to get the approval of a doctor. Also knowing your health conditions from the doctor is a very essential key as you will be hiking at a high altitude and its very risky if by a mistake you didn’t consult a doctor and found out you have heart or lung problems and you need evacuation from kilimanjaro.

What to know about Altitude Sickness while climbing Kilimanjaro

The definition of altitude Sickness (Acute mountain sickness)

Is an illness that ranges from a mild headache and weariness to a life-threatening build-up of fluid in the lungs or brain at high altitudes. Acute altitude sickness is the mildest and most common form. Because more people are traveling to areas of high elevation like climbing kilimanjaro.

High Altitude: 1500 – 3500 m (5000 – 11500 ft)

Very High Altitude: 3500 – 5500 m (11500 – 18000 ft)

Extreme Altitude: above 5500 m (18000 ft)

Altitude Sickness Causes

Altitude sickness symptoms occur when the rate of ascent into higher altitudes is too quickly that the body doesn’t get time to acclimatize. Altitude sickness generally develops at elevations higher than 8,000 feet (about 2,400 meters) above sea level and when the rate of ascent exceeds 1,000 feet (300 meters) per day.

The following actions can trigger altitude sickness:

Ascending too quickly (rapidly)

Overexertion within 24 hours of ascent

Inadequate fluid intake


Consumption of alcohol or other sedatives

One way to avoid altitude sickness is allowing the body to get used to the altitude slowly (Acclimatization)

Acclimatization is the process by which the body adjusts to high altitudes.

The goal of acclimatization is to increase ventilation (breathing) to compensate for lower oxygen content in the air.

To compensate for this extra ventilation, blood needs to have a lower ph. In response, the kidneys excrete bicarbonate into the urine, which in turn lowers the body’s pH to accommodate for this extra respiratory effort.

Altitude Sickness Symptoms

Acute altitude sickness may be associated with any combination of the following symptoms:





Shortness of breath during exertion


Decreased appetite

Swelling of extremities

Social withdrawal

People with acute altitude sickness often attribute their symptoms to other causes such as an uncomfortable bed, bad food, or a hangover. However, it is important to recognize that these symptoms may indicate a high-altitude illness which are High altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and High altitude cerebral edema (HACE).

High altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) fluid buildup in the lungs, an advanced form of acute altitude sickness, causes the following progression of symptoms:

Shortness of breath at rest

Gurgling respirations

Wet cough with frothy sputum

Possible fever

Respiratory failure

Onset of HAPE can be gradual or sudden. HAPE typically occurs after more than one day spent at high altitude.

High altitude cerebral edema (HACE) is fluid buildup in the brain. It can begin with confusion.

A person developing HACE begins having trouble keeping up with the group.

Next, walking and coordination become impaired.

As the brain continues to swell, lethargy and then coma will develop.

If left untreated, HACE will ultimately result in death.

Both HAPE and HACE are potentially fatal but are thankfully extremely rare during a well-planned Kilimanjaro climb.

Altitude Sickness Treatment

Delay further ascent until symptoms improve.

Rest and stay warm.

Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for headache. (Ask your doctor for subscription)

Do not use sleeping pills or other central nervous system depressants to treat insomnia because they can suppress breathing.

If symptoms continue, do not travel any higher.

***In cases of HAPE or HACE, immediate descent is a necessary life-saving measure (2,000 – 4,000 feet [610-1,220 meters]). Anyone suffering from HAPE or HACE must be evacuated to a medical facility for proper follow-up treatment.

What is Acclimatization?

Acclimatization is the process in which an individual organism adjusts to a gradual change in its environment.So, while your climbing kilimanjaro your body undergoes a process of trying to adapt the altitude transformation.

So, physiologically, what happens during acclimatization is, as you ascend higher into the atmosphere, there is less atmospheric pressure pushing all the air molecules together, so oxygen molecules become few and far between.

What to do to Acclimatize and prevent altitude sickness while climbing kilimanjaro

Walk Slowly (pole pole)

When you climb Kilimanjaro, you will hear the phrase ‘Pole, pole’. This means ‘slowly, slowly’ in Swahili. The best way for your body to adapt to altitude is to move really slowly. This allows the intelligent body to adapt to the effects of altitude on Kilimanjaro. The higher you climb the higher the altitude and the harder it takes your body to cope up with its environment.

Drinking allot helps and its renown to be one of the BEST method while dealing with acclimatization. We recommend at least drinking 4-5 Liters of water a day while climbing kilimanjaro. It is usually good to keep an eye on your urine; if it gets too dark, you need to drink more.

Climb high sleep low
Another practice is “Climb high; sleep low.” What this means is that you should do day hikes that gain significant altitude, s and then return to sleep and recuperate at lower altitudes.

Avoid tobacco and alcohol and other depressant drugs including, barbiturates, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills. These depressants further decrease the respiratory drive during sleep resulting in a worsening of the symptoms.

Eat nutritious rich food
Eat a high carbohydrate diet (more than 70% of your calories from carbohydrates) while at altitude.

In case you notice altitude symptoms

If you begin to show symptoms of moderate altitude illness, don’t go higher until symptoms decrease. (infact, you should go to a lower elevation until you feel better)

Preventive Medications
Diamox (Acetazolamide) allows you to breathe faster so that you metabolize more oxygen, thereby minimizing the symptoms caused by poor oxygenation. This is especially helpful at night when respiratory drive is decreased. Since it takes a while for Diamox to have an effect, it is advisable to start taking it at least 24 hours before you go to altitude and continue for at least five days at higher altitude. While taking Diamox Possible side effects may occur and they include tingling of the lips and finger tips, blurring of vision, and alteration of taste. The side effects subside when the drug is stopped.

WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND Contacting your physician for a prescription. Since Diamox is a sulfonamide drug, people who are allergic to sulfa drugs should not take Diamox. Diamox has also been known to cause severe allergic reactions to people with no previous history of Diamox or sulfa allergies.

Dexamethasone (a steroid) is a prescription drug that decreases brain and other swelling reversing the effects of AMS. Dosage is typically 4 mg twice a day for a few days starting with the ascent. This prevents most symptoms of altitude illness.

Contacting physician for prescription because of possible serious side effects. It may be combined with Diamox. No other medications have been proven valuable for preventing AMS.