You have probably heard the news about the ongoing Ebola epidemic in Africa. As of August 21, 2014, there have been approximately 2,500 reported cases, with nearly 100% of these cases originating in West Africa (Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia). There have been 15 cases originating in Nigeria.
There is virtually zero risk of exposure to Ebola while in Tanzania. As the map illustrates, the outbreak is many thousands of miles away. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s body fluids. Infected people are not contagious during the incubation period, and only become contagious with the onset of symptoms. Therefore people who are most at risk are health care workers and families of infected people, not tourists.
While we understand your concern and care for your safety, it is safe to continue with your Kilimanjaro plans until further notice. We will monitor the situation very closely and notify our clients of any changes. Should Ebola become an issue in Tanzania, trip insurance, which is a requirement for participation in our trips, would reimburse you for expenses if you purchase the optional coverage “Cancel for Any Reason.”
Here is a photo sent to us by our clients showing AltitudeTech’s altitude training system set up in their home. Sleeping at a simulated altitude of 10,500 feet for 6-8 weeks is recommended for pre-acclimatization for Kilimanjaro.
Ray Lewis, the recently retired 13-time Pro Bowl linebacker and Superbowl Champion, had to pull out of the charity trek up Africa’s tallest mountain due to an injured foot and fever.
Lewis was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro as part of an charity called TackleKili, which supports World Serve International and Pros for Africa. World Serve International is a non-profit organization aimed at developing locally sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities, education, and economic development throughout eastern Africa.
Before his climb Lewis stated, “Since retiring, I have explored the best direction for my commitment and belief– shared by all generations of the Lewis family – to serve others. When I learned that 4500 children die every day from illness because of a lack of clean water I said ‘Even one child lost is an unbearable loss.’ Through TackleKili everyone can do something – you can join our team and climb with me, follow me, and help inspire me to take another step. Because what I have to accomplish during this climb is nothing compared to what these children face every day just to survive. As part of TackleKili together we can save many lives.”
Besides Lewis and Pitt, other team members on the trip include former Chicago Bear Tommie Harris, celebrity fitness expert Basheerah Ahmad, and actor Kyle Massey.
Ultimate Kilimanjaro specializes in private climbs, but we offer group climbs on Kilimanjaro, which are perfect for solo travelers and pairs who want the companionship of others on their long journey.
We keep our groups limited to 12 people. This way our clients can have a meaningful social experience on the mountain by getting to know your fellow party members, while at the same time our guides can manage the party effectively. With 12 people, we staff the climb with 5 guides to make sure there are enough eyes and ears to monitor everyone in the group.
Below is a photo of another company’s group climb (NOT ours!) near Kibo Hut. Large parties like this are not all that uncommon on Mount Kilimanjaro, unfortunately. Unbelievably, that is a 35 person party, of which only four are guides. We fail to see the fun in having such a crowd with you on every step of the way.
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.
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.
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:
Trekking poles are an optional item when it comes to our gear list. However, trekking poles are very helpful when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
The purpose of using poles is two fold. One, your weight is distributed between four points of contact instead of two, easing the stress on your bones and joints Two, your poles assist in balance, reducing the wear on your stabilizer muscles. Studies show that the use of trekking poles can reduce the impact on your joints as much as 30%. And anyone who has used poles knows you save a significant amount of energy as well.
Poles are most beneficial during uphill and downhill sections. On the uphill, use your arm muscles to help you ascend. On the downhill, use your poles to lessen the impact of each step. Most people are unfamiliar with using trekking poles unless they are backpackers who carry heavy loads. But, it’s not difficult to learn how to use them, and it comes pretty quickly and naturally as your body figures out how to hike more efficiently.
To adapt to altitude, one needs to breathe more frequently during ascent to make up for the thinning air. What Diamox does is it increases the respiratory rate, speeding up acclimatization. The manufacturer of Diamox states that in their tests, “pulmonary function (e.g., minute ventilation, expired vital capacity, and peak flow) is greater in the acetazolamide treated group, both in subjects with AMS and asymptomatic subjects. The acetazolamide treated climbers also had less difficulty sleeping.”
What the manufacturer recommends it that it be used as a preventative measure, where you would take it 24-28 hours prior to rapid ascent, and throughout your climb (until descent). But some use it as a treatment, taking it only when symptoms of AMS arise.
Most people ignore this advice, but if one plans to possibly use Diamox on the climb, it is important that he/she should take a dosage for a day or two while in the comfort of their home to see what the effects are. There are some side effects (tingling hands, increased urination, hearing loss, taste loss, upset stomach, vomiting, confusion) to taking the drug, so one should be sure their body doesn’t have an adverse reaction before getting on the mountain with it. As you can see, some of those side effects can easily be confused with AMS.
Diamox is used for other purposes, like treating glaucoma, epilepsy and fluid retention. So who knows what else these chemicals may be doing to the body besides “increasing pulmonary function.” One should not take a drug without considering all the consequences, whether good or bad. And that’s why I neither recommend it nor do I discourage it… it’s up to the climber, based on their beliefs and hopefully based on information.