Safe Trekking

Dear friend, please bear in mind there is no such thing as a safe mountain. At Diamond Glacier Adventures we take safety very seriously.

Many people are under the mistaken impression that Africa’s highest mountain is an easy mountain to trek. But without the proper guidance and equipment, it can be a monster.

The biggest enemy on Kilimanjaro is neither weather nor the wildlife but the high altitude. Many people face Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS), regardless of their fitness level.

What is AMS?

Altitude Mountain Sickness is an illness caused by a reduction of barometric pressure and the concentration of oxygen in the air at a high elevation. Lower pressure makes the air less dense so your body gets fewer oxygen molecules with every breath you take.

There are three levels of AMS – mild, moderate and severe.

Mild Acute Mountain Sickness

  • Common to travelers who ascend rapidly to altitudes above 7,000 feet.
  • Typical problems could include any or all of the following: headache, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, swelling of the face and hands, breathing problems and nausea.

Moderate Acute Mountain Sickness

  • Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, a constant headache, and severe breathing problems even when sitting still.
  • Carefully monitor the sufferer to ensure that he/she does not progress to severe AMS.

Severe Acute Mountain Sickness or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)

Main symptom: the loss of sense and balance

Sign and symptoms – Vomiting, loss of coordination, severe lassitude, seizures, loss of sensation on one side of the body, hallucinations, stupor, confusion, and severe headache.

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)

Main symptom: the accumulation of water in the lungs

This can happen as early as the second night. Usually it begins within the first two to four days of ascent to higher altitudes.

Sign and symptoms –

  • Breathlessness with minor exertion. As greater amounts of fluid collect in the lungs, shortness of breath will increase, even while resting.
  • Dry hacking cough.
  • Anxious, restless and rapid or bounding pulse.
  • Lips and fingers have a bluish color (which may mean you are not getting enough oxygen).


Altitude sickness

  • Eat foods high in carbohydrates and low in fat and stay well-hydrated. Graded assent is the safest way to prevent attitude illness.

Acetazolamide (Dynamos) is a prescription medication that may help prevent altitude sickness. It works while you sleep; it increases your respiration rate.

Mild altitude sickness

  • Do not go higher in altitude until the symptoms have gone.
  • Watch closely for progression of illness to more severe forms.
  • Minimize exertion.
  • Avoid sleeping pills.
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) 680mg to 1000mg or ibuprofen (Motrin) 400mg to 600mg for headaches.
  • Administer acetazolamide (Diamox) at a dose of 250mg twice a day.

Severe Acute Mountain Sickness or High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)

  • Immediately descend at least 3000 feet (1,000 meters).
  • Administer acetazolamide (Diamox) at a dose of 250mg twice a day.
  • Administer oxygen if available. A Gamow bag may also be helpful in mitigating the effects.
  • Administer 8mg of Decadron (Dexamethasone), followed by 4mg after 6 hours.

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)

  • Immediately descend at least 3000 feet (1000 meters). Do not wait. Waiting could prove to be fatal.
  • Administer oxygen (four to six liters every minute) if available. A Gamow bag may be helpful in mitigating the effects.
  • Every hour the dose of 10 to 20 mg of nifedipine (Procardia) may be helpful.


Main symptom: an abnormally low body temperature due to a cold environment.

  • 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) is considered mild to moderate hypothermia.
  • Below 90F (32C) indicates severe hypothermia.
  • Death from hypothermia is likely to occur at around 75 to 80F.

How we lose and conserve heat

  • Radiation – this is a direct loss of heat from a warm body to a cooler environment. Protection includes wearing a hat and scarf.
  • Conduction – this is heat loss through direct physical contact between the body and a cooler surface. Protection includes insulation from the ground.
  • Convection – this is heat loss by air movement circulating round the body and depends on the velocity of wind (wind chill factor.) Windproof clothing and shelter will help reduce heat loss.
  • Evaporation – when sweat or water evaporates on your skin, it cools you. Put extra layers under your clothing to act as a barrier.

This information is summarized from guide training Demi received from Kilimanjaro National Park.