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 a few people who, given the large number of trekkers who climb Kilimanjaro each year, are under the mistaken impression that Africa’s highest mountain is also a safe mountain. Unfortunately, as any mountaineer will tell you, there’s no such thing as a safe mountain, particularly one nearly 6000m tall with extremes of climate near the summit and ferociously carnivorous animals roaming the lower slopes.
Your biggest enemy on Kilimanjaro, however, is likely to be neither the weather nor the wildlife but the altitude. Unsurprisingly, KINAPA are shy about revealing how many trekkers perish on Kili each year but what is known is that, during the millennium celebrations, when the mountain was swamped by more than a thousand trekkers on New Year’s Eve alone, three died and thirty-three more had to be rescued.
The authorities are doing what they can to minimize the number of deaths: guides are given thorough training in what to do if one of their group is showing signs of altitude sickness and trekkers are required to register each night upon arrival at the campsite and 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 discuss in detail what AMS actually is, how it is caused, the symptoms and, finally, how to avoid it. Read this section carefully: it may well save your life.