Trekking Safely on Kilimanjaro

Altitude sickness on Kilimanjaro and other health problems

Acute mountain sickness, more commonly known as altitude sickness, is the single biggest killer on Kilimanjaro. This may surprise those who are under the mistaken impression that Africa’s highest mountain is also a safe mountain. But unfortunately, as any mountaineer will tell you, there’s no such thing as a safe mountain. Especially one that’s nearly 6000m tall, with extremes of climate near the summit and ferociously carnivorous animals roaming the lower slopes.

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Your biggest enemy on Kilimanjaro, however, is neither the weather nor the wildlife but the altitude. Unsurprisingly, KINAPA are shy about revealing how many trekkers perish on Kili each year. But to give you an example, during the millennium celebrations, when the mountain was swamped by more than a thousand trekkers on New Year’s Eve alone, three people died. Furthermore, another thirty-three trekkers had to be rescued.

The authorities do what they can to minimize the number of deaths. In particular, they train all guides in the causes and effects of altitude sickness. What’s more, trekkers are required to register each night upon arrival at the campsite. In addition, they have to pay a US$20 ‘rescue fee’ as part of their park fees.

But you too can do your bit, by avoiding AMS in the first place. The pages in this section look at AMS in details: what it is, how it’s caused, the symptoms – and, finally, how to avoid it. So read this section carefully. Because it may just save your life.

What is AMS or altitude sickness? >>

Other Kilimanjaro health problems >>