Safety Is Our #1 Priority

Safety prcedures for climbs

Altitude Sickness

AMS: Acute Mountain Sickness

During the trek it is likely that more than 75% of climbers will experience at least some form of mild altitude sickness. This is caused by failure of the body to adapt quickly enough to the reduced level of oxygen in the air at an increased altitude. There are many different symptoms but the most common are headaches, light headedness, nausea, lost of appetite, tingling in the extremities (toes, fingers) and mild swelling of the face ankles and fingers. These symptoms in a mild form are not serious and will disappear within 48 hours; it is the result of poor circulation or small leakages of fluids within the body.

HAPE: High Altitude Pulmonary Edema

“Water in the lungs” This more serious sickness has very clear symptoms, breathless at rest, very high pulse, crackling sound in the chest leading to coughing of fluid (sputum). This condition is rapidly fatal unless the casualty experience immediate descent. There are no drugs to cure and no possibility of re-ascent on this trip.

HACE: High Altitude Cerebral Edema

“Swelling in the brain” Again there are clear symptoms, a combination of two or more very strong headache, severe loss of balance, mental confusion, repeated nausea. At this condition is rapidly fatal unless the immediate descent. There are no drugs to cure and no re-ascent on this trip.

Diamox

Diamox is a drug which can be taken to assist the body by improving the efficiency with which oxygen can be absorbed from the thin air. There is no disputing the efficacy of the drug. There is, however, a big debate as to whether Diamox should be used and how.

There are three ways to use Diamox on the mountain…

The first way is to use it as preventive through out the trip starting from the day before the climb. The conventional argument against doing this is that it conceals the symptoms of body underperformance, thus increases the chances of a failure if one does occur being catastrophic.

The second way is to “listen to your body” until day three (6 day climbs) or day four (7 day climbs) and then, if you are not demonstrating any severe symptoms, to take Diamox as directed above to boost your performance at higher camps. The arguments against is the same as previous.

The third way is to only use Diamox as a treatment for altitude illness. This is reasonable, but severe symptoms can only be treated by removal from altitude.

We carry enough diamox in our medical kit in case it’s needed for your climb .

For basic instructions on how to prepare and to achieve acclimatization, click here.

Other health issues

Aspirin and Paracetamol are highly recommended for headaches because they also thin the blood, so improving circulation and oxygen delivery to the body.

Strong painkillers are not recommended as they can suppress respiration.

One altitude problem which is not altitude illness is Cheynes Stokes Breathing, which involves waking up in night gasping for breath. Climbers should not panic about this, it is simply because slow breathing at rest is not able to pull in enough oxygen from the thin air. A period of panting should restore the climber to normality.

Another issue is frostbite. The summit ascent is the only real time that climbers may be at risk from the affects of the severe cold. If you have two good pairs of gloves and a couple of chemical hand warmers, then you should have no problem. It is essential however that you make your guides aware of particularly cold hands and feet.

Ladies please note that altitude may affect the menstrual cycle, so bring appropriate materials.

Contact lenses must be removed at night to allow eyes to absorb oxygen from atmosphere. The rare field conditions of altitude reduce oxygen level and in extreme cases a Corneal Edema can develop.

Emergency Procedures

We are well trained specifically for both judging when the evacuation is necessary and how to properly carry out the evacuation. When you are on the mountain it is the team you are with that do all the important stuff in cooperation with the park authorities.

Communication

Kilimanjaro national Park authorities have radio call communication at almost every overnight location. In case of any emergency, our guides communicate directly to the authorities, rescue team, and to ATA offices in Arusha to pinpoint what action needs to be taken, and to take care of the situation. We do not rely soley on the authorities’ rescue team because in many cases that is not enough. Our team is trained to detect someone who may be in need of help and to know what to do and act quickly. We also work in cooperation with the authorities when needed.

On safari, every vehicle will have radio call communication as well as cell phones, which work in some places, too.

Stretchers

We bring our own stretchers and other emergency evacuation equipment on every trip of ours.

Staff allocation

The ratio is 3 staff (porters) to every climber . For example, a group of two people will have 1 chief guide, 1 assistant guide, 1 cook and 6 porters. A group of five people will have 1 chief guide, 2 assistant guides, 1 cook and 15 porters. A group of 12 people will have 1 chief guide, 4 assistants guides, 1 cook and 36 porters. With this high number of staff we will be able to to rely on our team to detect any problems with our climbers and deal with any emergency evacuation.

Vehicular support on the mountain

Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA) send a rescue vehicle up, if needed to rendezvous with the descending casualty. There are access routes from Londorossi gate to Shira Plateau, from Mweka Gate and from Marangu Gate. Only authorities rescue cars are allowed there.

Things to know on safari

See our Safari Safety and Tips page for information.

Nutrition

For climbs we have designed our menu to have lots of liquid and carbohydrates to help with acclimatization. Each day there will be breakfast, lunch and dinner.

For breakfast we bring foods such as porridge(oats) and other cereals, eggs, bacon, sausages, bread(toast), jam, butter, peanut butter, variety of fruits like banana, oranges, pawpaw (papaya), mangoes, etc., plus tea, coffee, and hot chocolate.

For lunch there will be soups such as vegetable soups (zucchini, cucumber, mushroom, etc.) served with rolls. The main course includes entreés such as spaghetti, minced meat sauce, french fries, fried chicken, rice, variety of vegetables, cheese and sandwiches. There will also be a variety of fresh fruits.

Dinners include soups served with rolls, fish, beef, pork, chicken (fried, steamed or curried), spaghetti, pasta, mashed potato and rice. There will be variety of fruits, again.

Security

Tanzania is a safe country to travel in. Tanzanians are warm-hearted and generous people and are eager to help visitors get the most out of their stay. Tanzania is a political stable, multi-democratic country. As in all countries a little common sense goes in a long way and reasonable precautions should still be taken, such as locking valuables in the hotel safe and not walking alone at night.

See also page on Go With the Experts