Climbing Kilimanjaro, the highest summit in Africa at 19,341 feet above sea-level, is a popular challenge for experienced mountaineers. Standing at an elevation of more than 16,000 feet, Kilimanjaro is by far the highest mountain on the continent of Africa. It has captured the attention of climbers and adventurers since it was first climbed in 1889. While climbing Kilimanjaro is widely considered difficult and dangerous, those who choose to take on the challenge usually find beauty and inspiration in the vastness of the mountain.
Reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro can be a treacherous task, and it involves considerable risks – both physical and psychological. Unfortunately, despite the precautions that climbers take, there have been reports of deaths on this iconic mountain. It is estimated that between 300 and 500 people have died in the past 30 years while attempting to climb Kilimanjaro.
Reasons for Fatality
The risks and challenges faced by those attempting to scale Kilimanjaro, tend to be underestimated by first-time climbers. This can be attributed to over-confidence in their abilities, lack of knowledge of the terrain, and misjudging the risks associated with high altitude trekking.
Brian Glover, an experienced mountaineer, has experienced both success and failure in the pursuit of Kilimanjaro. He believes that taking unprepared and improperly equipped hikers to extreme altitudes is a large contributing factor in the number of fatalities. Many climbers, for example, overestimate their physical capabilities and underestimate the extreme changes in air pressure and oxygen levels. This can lead to severe altitude sickness and in some cases, even death.
Poor planning and preparation also plays a role in the mortality statistics on the mountain. Those who attempt to climb Kilimanjaro, often underestimate the duration of the climb. For example, the most popular route, Marangu, typically takes about 6-7 days but many climbers try to cut the climb short by reducing the duration of the summit ascent. This can lead to fatigue and exhaustion, thus making them more prone to falling ill or even dying.
The increased popularity of Kilimanjaro has also played an important role in the high number of fatalities. Over the past decade, Kilimanjaro has become a popular destination for novice climbers and casual backpackers alike. Unfortunately, the lack of experience and expertise of these individuals, puts them at a greater risk of succumbing to the elements while attempting the summit.
Help and Prevention Measures
Despite the obvious risks associated with scaling Kilimanjaro, there are measures that can be taken in order to minimize the risk of mortality.
The most important factor to consider when attempting the summit is taking a qualified and experienced guide. All successful ascents are made in the company of a guide, and many operators provide additional advice and knowledge on the trek. These guides can provide invaluable help and support during the ascent, and ensure that the climbers feel safe and motivated throughout the climb.
It is also important for climbers to be aware of the amount of physical conditioning required for Kilimanjaro. Hiking long distances at a high altitude requires considerable endurance and stamina, and inadequate preparation may lead to tiredness and exhaustion. This can ultimately lead to a greater risk of altitude sickness.
Remaining hydrated is also key, and drinking plenty of water throughout the ascent will help in preventing altitude sickness. It is recommended that climbers hydrate with two to four liters of water per day in order to ensure that their bodies are not dehydrated. Additionally, having a healthy diet will help to ensure that the body is getting all the necessary nutrients it requires for successful summit.
Finally, it is advisable that climbers take all necessary precautions to protect themselves from weather-related risks while climbing. This includes using appropriate clothing, such as insulated clothing in the colder sections of the mountain, and using sunscreen and insect repellent to protect against Mosquitos and other pests.
Deaths at high altitudes
Climbing Kilimanjaro is especially risky due to its elevation. At high altitudes, the body can be subject to hypoxia – a condition in which the body is deprived of oxygen. This can lead to confusion, disorientation and even death. Furthermore, the mountain is particularly exposed to sunshine and strong winds, which can lead to sunburn and hypothermia.
According to research, the majority of Kilimanjaro deaths are attributed to altitude sickness. High altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) are the two most common forms of altitude sickness. Having said that, it is possible to climb Kilimanjaro with proper knowledge and preparation.
Despite the risks associated with taking on the challenge of Kilimanjaro, many successful ascents have been made over the past few decades. One example is the record-breaking ascent by one of the world’s best endurance athletes, Kilian Jornet, who set the record for ascending and descending the mountain in a single day.
In 2012, a team of British Army veterans became the first all-disabled team to reach the peak, raising more than £80,000 for charity in the process. This showed that with some degree of planning and preparation, even those with disabilities can successfully accomplish the clim.
Role of Technology
The use of modern technology has also allowed climbers to track their progress and alert their guides if they are facing any difficulties. For example, Global Positioning System (GPS) devices can be used to determine the location of climbers, and may be used to trigger emergency alarms in the event of a medical emergency. Additionally, the use of mobile phones can help climbers and their team track the progress of climbers in real-time, thus allowing them to adjust their route and strategy accordingly.
Conclusion of Risks
While climbing Kilimanjaro is an incredible experience, it does come with considerable risks. Although taking the proper precautions, including hiring an experienced guide, engaging in physical preparation and staying hydrated, can help to minimize the risks, it is still possible that tragedy can befall those attempting the summit.
Given the dangers associated with the climb, it is vital that those who are planning a Kilimanjaro expedition are fully aware of the risks and dangers of such an endeavor. Doing research and planning ahead of the climb will help to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the mountain.