In brief this article covers a few questions commonly asked about climbing Kilimanjaro.
Q. We hear the Marangu route is overcrowded and should be avoided?
A. Marangu route must be booked in advance, this route uses huts for accommodation and to avoid overcrowding numbers are strictly supervised. It is or at least was the most popular route for first time climb. Most operators now recommend the Machame route for your first attempt on Kilimanjaro.
Q. Does an extra day help acclimatization?
A. Most guidebooks recommend that climbers spend an extra day during the Marangu route climb. Statistics can be quoted to back up an argument for or against an extra day for acclimatization. Every person I have ever spoken to who took the extra day did not regret it. All other matters aside an extra day spent on the ascent is great because it makes the whole climb more relaxed and gives an opportunity to go on some pleasant walks. The most important factor for success is the overall approach to the climb, listen to your guide.
Q. If there is a problem on the mountain what are the rescue procedures?
A. The national park operates a rescue service, and the huts on the Marangu route are linked to each other and to the park headquarters by radio. In the vast majority of emergency cases, the problem is altitude related and the solution is an immediate and rapid descent. All registered guides are experienced at dealing with such cases and can bring climbers down to safe altitudes very quickly and without park assistance
Q.The success rate on Kilimanjaro is less than forty percent. Is this true?
A. Some people climb Kilimanjaro without taking the climb seriously and have a nasty shock as they realize what they have let themselves in for. Therefore they may be inadequately equipped and fed; they then have a miserable time ending up with a fruitless climb. Make sure that you are properly informed and equipped. I would say most guides have [or at least claim to have] a success rate to the crater rim in excess of 90% and to Uhuru peak at around 85%. It is said that reaching the summit is a bonus, but should never be seen as the sole aim of the climb – but who starts to climb Kilimanjaro without wanting to reach the summit – to do this be prepared and listen to your guide because he knows best!
Q.How cold does it get on Kilimanjaro?
A. The temperature at the top of the mountain vary; at times it is only a degree or two below freezing, but it is possible to have temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius, especially in with wind chill factor. At times there are snow blizzards and to walk across the saddle in a blizzard is hard work. It has been known for snow to stop climbing on the mountain for short periods.
Q.What should I know about altitude sickness?
A. There are different types of altitude sickness. “Acute mountain sickness” is common, and is not as frightening as its name suggests. The symptoms are headaches, nausea and vomiting, though not everyone suffers from all the symptoms. Normally, symptoms fade after a few hours, but if they do not a climber may need to turn back, especially if vomiting is leading to dehydration.
A much more serious type of altitude sickness is called oedema. This is a build-up of fluid in the body, and when the fluid collects in the lungs or the brain a serious condition develops which requires immediate action which is a rapid descent to a lower altitude, where recovery is usually miraculously fast.
I recommend sun creams with SPF 30, as the sun near the equator is very strong. Don’t forget to have something to protect your lips as well and not forgetting personal items & toiletries toothpaste & tooth brush, body lotion, toilet paper and other personal hygiene items.