Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness

Kilimanjaro routes & which is the best route to climb kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness: 7 Essential Tips for Mastering & Ensuring a Safe Climb

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, affectionately known as the “Roof of Africa,” is a dream for many adventurers. However, with dreams come challenges, and one of the main challenges of Kilimanjaro is altitude sickness. In this guide, you’ll find vital information on Kilimanjaro altitude sickness, its symptoms, and most importantly, effective strategies to prevent it, ensuring a successful and exhilarating climb.

Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness: Prevention and Solutions for Climbers

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, affectionately known as the “Roof of Africa,” is a bucket-list item for many adventurers. However, tackling the world’s highest free-standing mountain requires a thorough understanding of Kilimanjaro altitude sickness and its prevention. Altitude sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), can be a significant concern when ascending too quickly to high altitudes. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll shed light on the symptoms, risks, and most importantly, the preventive measures you can take to ensure a successful and healthy ascent.

Understanding Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness

What is Altitude Sickness?
Altitude sickness is a condition that can affect mountain climbers, hikers, and travelers at high altitudes, typically above 2,500 meters (8,200 feet). Kilimanjaro’s peak, Uhuru Peak, stands at a staggering 5,895 meters (19,341 feet). At this height, the oxygen levels are nearly half of what they are at sea level. This rapid change in altitude can make climbers susceptible to AMS.

Kilimanjaro altitude sickness manifests through various symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. The key is recognizing them early:

  1. Mild Symptoms:

    • Headache
    • Dizziness or light-headedness
    • Nausea
    • Loss of appetite
    • Fatigue
    • Disturbed sleep
  2. Moderate to Severe Symptoms:

    • Shortness of breath at rest
    • Inability to walk or lack of coordination
    • Persistent cough or chest congestion
    • Bluish discoloration of the skin or lips
    • Fluid buildup in the lungs or brain

If climbers experience severe symptoms, it’s crucial to descend immediately. Even with mild symptoms, it’s essential to halt the ascent until you feel better.

Prevention is Key

Given the risks, prevention is paramount. There are several strategies and solutions for climbers to consider:

  1. Gradual Acclimatization: This is the most effective way to prevent Kilimanjaro altitude sickness. The body needs time to adapt to the decreased oxygen levels. Choose routes that provide gradual ascent, and consider spending an extra day or two at intermediate altitudes.

  2. Stay Hydrated: Drink at least 3-4 liters of water daily. Proper hydration can help reduce the symptoms of AMS. However, avoid excessive amounts as it can lead to other complications.

  3. Avoid Alcohol and Tobacco: Both can exacerbate altitude sickness by decreasing the body’s oxygen supply. It’s best to abstain while acclimatizing.

  4. Dietary Adjustments: Eating a high-carbohydrate diet can mitigate the effects of altitude sickness. It’s also wise to consume meals in smaller, frequent portions.

  5. Medication: Drugs like Acetazolamide (Diamox) can aid in acclimatization and reduce mild symptoms. Consult your physician before taking any medication.

  6. Know Your Body: Listening to your body is crucial. If you feel unwell, communicate with your guide and team members, and consider pausing or descending.

Selecting the Right Route

The route you choose to ascend Kilimanjaro plays a significant role in acclimatization:

  • Marangu Route: Known as the “Coca-Cola” route, it’s the most popular but has a lower success rate due to its shorter duration. It’s vital to add an extra acclimatization day if choosing this route.

  • Machame Route: Also called the “Whiskey” route, it’s more challenging but offers better acclimatization opportunities.

  • Lemosho and Shira Routes: These are longer, providing ample time for acclimatization. They merge with the Machame route later on.

  • Rongai Route: This less crowded route offers a gentler gradient, which can help in preventing altitude sickness.

Frequently Asked Questions about Kilimanjaro Altitude Sickness

  1. Is altitude sickness common on Kilimanjaro?
    Yes. Given the rapid ascent to high elevations, many climbers experience at least mild symptoms.

  2. How can I assess my risk?
    While anyone can get AMS, factors such as rapid ascent, dehydration, and physical condition can increase risks. It’s essential to have a medical check-up and discuss the climb with your doctor.

  3. Can I train for altitude?
    While physical fitness can help with the climb’s demands, it doesn’t guarantee immunity from altitude sickness. However, some climbers train in hypoxic chambers to simulate high-altitude conditions.


Understanding and preventing Kilimanjaro altitude sickness is paramount for anyone looking to conquer the Roof of Africa. Proper acclimatization, wise route selection, hydration, and medication (when necessary) are vital components in ensuring a safe and memorable ascent. Always remember, the mountain isn’t going anywhere. Prioritize your health, listen to your body, and enjoy the journey to one of the world’s most iconic peaks.