Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Kilimanjaro 5895 meters
Kilimanjaro, with its three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, is a dormant volcanic mountain in Kilimanjaro National Park, Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania. It is the highest mountain in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5,895 meters or 19,341 feet above sea level (the Uhuru Peak/Kibo Peak)
We went the Marangu route. The trek began in the south-east area of the mountain at Marangu Gate. The route took fives days for us to complete. We slept in sleeping huts along the route. The descent was done on the same path.
Lack of oxygen
The summit of Kilimanjaro is 5895 meters above sea level and as such it is classed as a high altitude trek. Complex and not fully understood physiological changes take place in the body once above 2500 meters and this is because the air becomes thinner and there is less oxygen. When we breathe, our intake of oxygen is less and so our body has to work much harder to get oxygen to its essential organs. To put it into context, at the summit of Kilimanjaro there is half the amount of oxygen than there is at sea level.
Altitude sickness and exhaustion
Approximate 50% of our group did never reach the highest point Uhuru Peak due to altitude sickness and exhaustion. Some reached the lower summit Gilman’s Point, 300 meters (980 feet) short of Uhuru but decided to break the ascent and go back to base camp.
High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema (HAPO) and High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACO) are two, more serious and life threatening conditions that are associated with altitude sickness and occur when an individual has not been able to acclimatise properly or has climbed too quickly. Symptoms that are not assessed or remain untreated can eventually result in either of these conditions, where lack of oxygen can result in leakage of fluid through the capillary walls into either the lungs or the brain causing swelling. Both conditions require immediate evacuation and hospitalisation.
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