May 122014
 
Ascend_past_Rebmann_Glacier_Mt._Kilimanjaro

Ultimate Kilimanjaro, the #1 guide service on Kilimanjaro, has recently made significant improvements to its climbing operations. For nearly a decade, Ultimate Kilimanjaro has guided thousands of clients on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africas highest peak. However, their success is not measured by how many people they take to the summit, but how great of an experience it is for all climbers.

“We strive for continuous improvement,” said Adam Collins, Expedition Coordinator for Ultimate Kilimanjaro. “We sat down and looked at everything from top to bottom with a critical eye, and what we’ve come up with is truly the best experience for our clients. I’m really excited, and our clients will be too.”

Among the changes implemented are upgrades in camping equipment, additional safety measures, and better food.
Many people who climb Kilimanjaro do not have any previous backpacking experience, which means clients are not accustomed to sleeping outdoors. Ultimate Kilimanjaro eases the transition by providing thick foam sleeping pads and state of the art Mountain Hardwear and MSR brand tents on all trips.

“These are serious tents, built for the toughest alpine conditions. They are perfectly suited for the weather on Kilimanjaro,” said Collins.

Besides enduring extreme cold, anyone climbing Kilimanjaro may develop symptoms of altitude sickness due to its staggering height – 19,345 feet above sea level. Ultimate Kilimanjaro guides constantly monitor climbers throughout their journey. Twice daily, health checks are performed with the assistance of a pulse oximeter, a handheld device used to measure oxygen saturation in blood. Additionally, climbers are evaluated based on the Lake Louise Scoring System for detection of altitude sickness. Oxygen is used to treat climbers with moderate or severe altitude sickness.

“Bottled oxygen is included on all climbs,” said Collins.

The food served on Kilimanjaro is made with fresh ingredients, carried by porters and prepared by mountain chefs. The menu consists of a variety of entrees and tastes intended to keep energy levels high after a hard day’s hike. Food is resupplied to climbers on longer itineraries so climbers have ample fresh food.

“One of the symptoms of altitude sickness is a loss of appetite,” noted Collins. “That’s why it’s important to provide tasty dishes, so that people will eat even if they don’t feel hungry.”

The improvements didn’t stop with just the clients. Ultimate Kilimanjaro guides are dressed in Mountain Hardwear waterproof hardshells, insulated down jackets and moisture wicking tee shirts. And as one of the strongest supporters of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP), Ultimate Kilimanjaro guides and porters receive far more than the standard compensation than those working for other companies.

“Climbing Kilimanjaro is a team effort,” Collins stated. “Without guides and porters, there are no clients. There are no operators. It’s in our best interest to see that everyone is treated fairly.”

Ultimate Kilimanjaro offers private and group treks on all Kilimanjaro routes year round, including the new Northern Circuit route. For seasoned backpackers with high altitude experience, there is also an option to sleep next to one of Kilimanjaro’s last remaining glaciers and visit Kilimanjaro’s volcanic center, the Ash Pit.

“Our customers are going to be thrilled. The best Kilimanjaro operator just got better,” said Collins.

Dec 032011
 
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Altitude sickness is the main cause of fatalities on Mount Kilimanjaro. Therefore, many operators have oxygen available to treat climbers who have developed moderate or severe altitude sickness.

Upon request, Ultimate Kilimanjaro will carry oxygen for emergency purposes only, to treat a stricken climber in conjunction with immediate descent.

However, there are some operators who advertise the use of  a “personal oxygen system” to assist climbers on Mount Kilimanjaro. Besides the fact that you would look more like a hospital patient than a mountain trekker, there are serious reasons why using oxygen in this manner is NOT advised.

When you develop symptoms of moderate or severe altitude sickness, it is not because the body is trying to make it unpleasant for you without merit.  It is because the body recognizes that you are unable to function at the current altitude, and does not want you to climb any higher. Your body is telling you– DESCEND NOW.  Not listening to the body is how most people get into trouble on the mountain.

By using supplemental oxygen, you have effectively stopped your body’s attempts at acclimatization by raising the oxygen content of the air you breathe. Using oxygen to climb ignores your body’s clear message to descend. And while your body was unable to acclimatize to the current altitude, you have made things even worse by climbing even higher. It is dangerous situation.

Lastly, what is point of climbing Kilimanjaro with supplemental oxygen? The difficulty of Kilimanjaro lies with its altitude. As a trek, it is not difficult by hiking standards, if you remove the challenge of high altitude.  I guess some people climb Kilimanjaro just to say they did it, regardless of the manner in which it was done. But it is not much of an achievement if you put the mountain at sea level.

The bottom line is that supplemental oxygen is potentially dangerous when used to climb higher, is wholly unnecessary on Kilimanjaro, and is against the spirit and challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro.

Nov 112011
 

Crater Camp is a campsite that is located near the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, around 18,800 feet above sea level. (Uhuru Peak is 19,345 feet above sea level.)  It is utilized by some climb operators during longer routes, usually via the Lemosho or Shira route.

The campsite sits in between Uhuru and the Furtwangler Glacier. Understandably, clients are intrigued at the opportunity to sleep next to the disappearing glacier.

KI5F51~1-2500

We are occasionally asked whether we use Crater Camp on our routes.  We do so sparingly. Here’s why. Sleeping at such a high altitude is the most dangerous thing you can do on Mount Kilimanjaro. The previous night’s altitude is about 15,000-16,000 feet in elevation, whether you stayed at Arrow Glacier or Barafu. A gain of 3,000-4,000 feet is simply too much of an adjustment for most people. The result is that there is a high likelihood to be stricken by altitude sickness, especially during sleep.  And once that occurs, a evacuation from near the top of Kilimanjaro in the middle of the night, though possible, is a burdensome task.

It is far easier on the body to climb from 15,000-16,000 feet to the summit (19,345 feet), then descend down to Mweka (10,065 feet).  Clients who are affected by altitude sickness on the way up will usually recover very quickly as they descend.  That is a stark contrast to what would happen if they were required to sleep at almost 19,000 feet.

Because of the increased risk for both clients and staff to stay at Crater Camp, trips using Crater Camp are offered only by special request and are subject to approval by Ultimate Kilimanjaro.

Here is a review of Crater Camp by one of our customers:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g293750-d459953-r258165688-Mount_Kilimanjaro-Kilimanjaro_National_Park_Kilimanjaro_Region.html