How you approach the walk is important too. Statistically, men are more likely to suffer from AMS than women, with young men the most vulnerable. The reason is obvious. The competitive streak in most young men causes them to walk faster than the group; that, and the mistaken belief that greater fitness and strength (which most men, mistakenly or otherwise, believe they have) will protect them against AMS. But AMS is no respecter of fitness or health.
Indeed, many experienced mountaineers believe the reverse is true: the less fit you are, the slower you will want to walk, and thus the greater chance you have of acclimatizing properly.
The best advice, then, is to go as slowly as possible. Let your guide be the pacemaker: do not be tempted to hare off ahead of him, but stick with him. That way you can keep a sensible pace – and, what’s more, can ask him any questions about the mountain that occur to you on the way.The most frequently heard phrase on Kilimanjaro is ‘Pole pole’. It means ’slowly slowly’, and it should be your mantra for your trek.
In addition to being a cure for altitude sickness, Diamox can also act as a prophylactic – ie, it can prevent the onset of altitude sickness happening in the first place. There seems to be no hard-and-fast rule about how much you should take each day, and when you should start, but most companies seem to advise taking 125mg twice a day, starting on the first day of the trek.
Other tips for avoiding altitiude sickness on Kilimanjaro
There are other things you can do that may or may not reduce the chance of getting AMS. One is to eat well: fatigue is said to be a major contributor to AMS, so try to keep energy levels up by eating as much as you can.
Dehydration can exacerbate AMS too, so it is vital that you drink every few minutes when walking; for this reason, one of the new platypus-style water bags which allow you to drink hands-free without breaking stride are invaluable. Wearing warm clothes is very important too, allowing you to conserve energy that would otherwise be spent on maintaining a reasonable body temperature.
Although there hasn’t been a serious study on this subject, many people swear that carrying your own rucksack increases your chance of succumbing to AMS. Certainly, in my experience, this is true, so, finally, hire a porter to carry your baggage (the agencies will assume you want this anyway unless you specify otherwise).
<< What is Altitude Sickness | How to treat altitude sickness >>