Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness - Introduction and Cause

Technically an ascent of Kilimanjaro is classified as entry into the Extremely High altitude zone. Altitude is defined on the following scale: High Altitude Classification of Zones

  • High 2,500 - 3,500 meters
  • Very High 3,500 - 5,500 meters
  • Extremely High 5,500+ meters

No specific factors such as age, sex, or physical condition can be used to predict susceptibility to altitude sickness. Some get it and others simply don't. Most people can go up to 2,500 m without significant discomfort.

Information for trekkers going to high altitude

What Causes Altitude Sickness?

Air at sea level comprises about 21% oxygen, while the barometric pressure averages about 1 bar (1000 mbar). As altitude increases, the oxygen concentration remains the same but since the pressure falls the number of oxygen molecules per breath is reduced.

At 3,500 meters the barometric pressure is only about 630 mbar (depending on weather conditions), so there are roughly 40% fewer oxygen molecules per breath. In order then to supply adequate amounts of oxygen to your body your breathing rate - even while resting - must increase.

This extra breathing increases the amount of oxygen in the blood, but not to sea level volumes. Since the amount of oxygen required for activity is the same, the body must adjust itself to coping with less oxygen. This process is known as acclimatisation. Failure to give your body the opportunity to undergo this process may lead to a dangerous condition known as AMS, or acute mountain sickness.

The following table details open safaris that are available for solo travellers to join. These safaris are not operated by Team Kilimanjaro. On the whole, these safaris are run on budget basis.

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This is a service for local safari operators who are looking to find additional clients to join their existing bookings. 

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Many people spend a lot of time and money training and equipping themselves for a Kilimanjaro climb, only to fail in their objective of reaching the summit. Failure is avoidable and we really want trekkers to understand how to prevent it.

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This itinerary is recommended from June to October, when the Wildebeest Migration is expected to be in Northern Serengeti.

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As from March 2021, PCR testing (or rather, sample-taking) is now available at Seronera and Ndutu airstrips in the Serengeti. This facility has been implemented to prevent clients having to either curtail their safaris or dissect their safaris with a journey to Arusha or, more recently, Karatu (FAME Hospital), mid-safari - so as to satisfy the "less than 72 hours old" validity rule that most airlines are required to enforce. 

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Arusha Cycling Club
Wednesday, January 20th 2021

Arusha Pedal Series club aims to organise a group ride three times a week - on Mondays, Wednesdays or Thursdays, and Saturdays. All keen cyclists are welcome to join.

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Dangerous to climb Kilimanjaro?
Friday, January 1st 2021

We read widely divergent estimates of deaths on Kilimanjaro, but how dangerous is it really? In this post we share our own experience of the dangers.

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Dealing with COVID in 2021
Thursday, December 3rd 2020

First of all - you can definitely still climb Kilimanjaro during COVID-19! There is absolutely no impediment within Tanzania. Issues only potentially arise with your own country's rules.

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How to Get a PCR Test in Zanzibar
Thursday, December 3rd 2020

Although there is no requirement to have a PCR test for COVID in order to enter Tanzania, many climbers are nonetheless required by their airline to show evidence of a negative COVID test before boarding the flight home.

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How to Get a PCR Test in Arusha
Wednesday, November 4th 2020

This following information is provided to reassure prospective climbers that there is a straightforward way to enjoy the incredible tourism and adventurous opportunities that Tanzania offers, while ensuring that returning home afterwards is stress-free.

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Kilimanjaro's Western Breach
Friday, July 3rd 2020

Kilimanjaro’s Western Breach is a beautiful and breathtaking place but represents the most risk-associated assault route to Kilimanjaro’s summit, of the four options currently sanctioned by Tanzania National Parks.

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How Much Does It Cost to Climb Kilimanjaro?
Wednesday, February 19th 2020

I think the question of how much it costs to climb Kilimanjaro is a little like asking, how much it costs to buy 'a car'! Apart from the obvious question of how many people you want the car to carry and whether you want it to have offroad capability, there are more subtle considerations.

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