Most deaths on Kili are preventable
Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest freestanding mountain in the world, standing at 19,341 feet (5,895 meters) high and is located in the East African country of Tanzania. The mountain has been attracting hikers, adventurers, and thrill seekers from all over the world since the first successful ascent in 1889. Despite its majestic beauty, however, Mount Kilimanjaro has had its fair share of fatalities. Reports from tour operators and journals place the number of deaths between 2014 and 2018 at 16.
Falling rocks, lightning strikes, and hypothermia are among the most widely reported causes of fatalities on the mountain. Inadequate physical fitness and poor preparation are also factors that can contribute to the risk of death. The elevation and terrain of Mount Kilimanjaro can put a great deal of stress on the body, and it is important that climbers pay attention to their physical and mental health before the climb.
The good news, according to experts, is that the vast majority of deaths on Kilimanjaro are preventable. It is essential to select an experienced, reputable tour operator who can provide access to the best resources, equipment and personnel on the mountain. Travellers should also ensure that they;
- Follow the recommended itinerary to avoid over-exertion
- Rest often to maintain energy levels
- Stay hydrated and fed
- Monitor their physical and mental condition and adjust the pace accordingly
Finally, it is advisable to book a qualified and knowledgeable mountain guide to increase the chances of a successful, and safe, ascent of the mountain. A guide will be able to offer advice and support as well as identify any problems as they arise. By preparing for the climb both mentally and physically, and by taking adequate safety measures, most deaths on Kilimanjaro could be avoided.
Altitude sickness, or acute mountain sickness (AMS), is another major risk faced by those who attempt to climb Kilimanjaro. At very high elevations, the air contains less oxygen and the atmospheric pressure drops significantly. This can cause a number of physical symptoms, including chest tightness and light-headedness.
Altitude sickness can be dangerous, so it is crucial that climbers take the time to acclimatise before attempting to reach the summit. Generally, it is recommended that climbers allow at least one day of rest for every 1,000 metres of elevation gain. In addition, they should limit their ascent to no more than 300 metres per day above the highest elevation they have achieved during the acclimatisation process.
It is important for all climbers to know the signs of altitude sickness and to look out for any of the warning symptoms. The most common signs include headache, nausea, loss of appetite and fatigue. If left unchecked these symptoms can worsen and, in extreme cases, be life-threatening. Climbers experiencing any of these symptoms should contact their guides or tour operators and seek medical advice.
Preventative strategies, such as the ‘climb high, sleep low’ method, can help reduce the risk of becoming ill from altitude exposure. This method involves climbing to a high elevation during the daytime and then returning to lower overnight camps. This helps the body acclimatise as climbers can ascend higher during the day while also spending nights at a lower altitude, where they are better able to recover and adjust.
Lighting strikes are another potential danger on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. Several people have died after being struck by lightning while on the mountain. According to experts, the risk of lightning strikes increases with altitude and during the rainy season (October–January).
Climbers should pay attention to weather forecasts to identify areas of high risk and plan their route accordingly. Furthermore, anyone on the mountain should take steps to reduce the chances of being struck. This includes not climbing in exposed areas and avoiding lone peaks or open spaces where possible.
It is also essential to bring appropriate safety equipment and wear protective clothing that will reduce the risk of injury in case of a lightning strike. This includes wearing shoes that are insulated and have rubber soles. Additionally, it’s important to stay low and away from trees and other tall structures while seeking shelter in the event of a lightning strike.
Finally, ask the tour operator or guide for advice regarding the terrain and take the necessary precautions before setting out on the hike. Taking these simple steps should reduce the risk of a lightning strike and make the trip to the summit of Kilimanjaro much safer.
Every year, a number of people are injured, or even killed, by falling rocks on Mount Kilimanjaro. Falling rocks are a particular hazard on the trails near the summit and on steep slopes.
The best way to protect yourself from falling rocks is to ensure you wear a helmet at all times while on the mountain. In addition, it is important to pay attention to signage and route markers and follow their advice. Most importantly, avoid travelling in large groups, particularly on steep and exposed sections.
In general, it is best to avoid travelling in areas known to be prone to rockfall. If you are travelling with a guide, ask them for advice on the best route and the potential hazardous areas. Furthermore, if travel is unavoidable, make sure you stick to paths and highly visible trails and move quickly once you enter a hazardous area.
Finally, it is essential to always stay aware and pay attention to your surroundings in order to identify any potential dangers. By following these simple steps, the risk of being injured or killed by falling rocks on Mt Kilimanjaro can be reduced significantly.
Poor Physical Condition
Mt Kilimanjaro can be a physically demanding climb and a lack of preparation or physical fitness can increase the risk of injury or death. The elevation and terrain of the mountain can put unprecedented levels of stress on the body, and it is important that all climbers should be in the best physical condition possible before attempting the summit.
It is advisable to begin the acclimatisation process at least one month prior to the climb. Regular exercise, such as running and swimming, will help to build strength and endurance, and prepare the body for the strenuous conditions of the climb.
In addition, it is essential to stay well hydrated and ensure a well-balanced diet to fuel the physical needs of the body. It is recommended to avoid alcohol and smoking and a minimum of 8 hours of sleep each night is advisable.
Finally, it is essential to take any medications as prescribed and not to self-medicate or take any drugs or supplements that haven’t been prescribed by a physician. Taking proper precautions and preparing adequately for the climb are important steps to avoid physical injury or failure to reach the summit.
Hypothermia is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by low body temperature and is often a result of inadequate clothing or an unexpected drop in temperature. It occurs frequently at the higher altitudes of Mt Kilimanjaro and can pose a serious risk to climbers.
The best way to avoid hypothermia is to be prepared with the right clothing and equipment. Make sure all members of the party are wearing appropriate mountaineering clothing, such as waterproof jackets, gloves, and hats. It is important to layer clothing and select items that are designed to breathe and keep the body warm.
It is also advisable to insulate any exposed skin, especially hands and feet, with layers of clothing and insulated boots. Finally, make sure the group carries an emergency shelter, such as a tent or bivvy bag, along with a sleeping pad. This will provide some protection from the cold, even if the group is forced to spend the night out in the open.
Staying hydrated and fed, and carrying sufficient emergency supplies are also essential for a safe climb. It is important to stay mindful of the weather conditions and to prepare for any sudden changes. By staying aware and taking the necessary precautions, the chances of developing hypothermia can be greatly reduced.
When preparing for a climb of Mt Kilimanjaro, it is essential to be aware of the risks and take appropriate preventative measures. The most important precaution is to select a tour operator or guide who has extensive experience in dealing with the various risks on the mountain.
Travellers should also make sure to register their climb with their embassy or the relevant authorities to help increase their safety. It is also essential to obtain adequate travel and medical insurance that covers any injuries or evacuation costs.
In addition to being adequately prepared with the right equipment, it is important to pay close attention to the terrain, signs and route markers in order to avoid hazardous areas. Finally, it is important to have a Plan B and be prepared to adjust the itinerary if needed.
Overall, the key to avoiding fatalities on Kilimanjaro is to take all necessary steps to reduce the risks and be prepared for all eventualities. By preparing properly, following safety recommendations and paying attention to their physical and mental condition, most climbers should be able to make a successful and safe ascent of Kilimanjaro.