When it comes to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, a common question arises: Is supplemental oxygen necessary for the climb? Let’s understand the role of oxygen and the challenges posed by altitude during this remarkable journey.
Supplementing Oxygen on Kilimanjaro
Altitude is a significant factor to consider when climbing Kilimanjaro. However, climbers do not require extra oxygen to reach the summit successfully. Instead, the “pole pole” method is employed – a gradual ascent to higher altitudes and sleeping at lower levels to acclimatize effectively.
Spending more time on the mountain improves your chances of summiting Kilimanjaro. To prioritize safety, we carry emergency oxygen tanks and medical kits on all our climbs.
Using Supplemental Oxygen: To Do or Not to Do?
It’s essential to note that we do not use bottled oxygen to alleviate low oxygen saturation or breathing difficulties for summiting purposes. This approach can mask underlying issues and lead to altitude-related complications later on. Some tour operators may advertise “personal oxygen systems,” but their usage is discouraged due to potential risks.
The Essence of Climbing Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro’s challenge primarily stems from its altitude. While the trek itself isn’t strenuous by hiking standards, altitude adds the real difficulty. The achievement of climbing Kilimanjaro is diminished if supplemental oxygen is used, as the essence lies in conquering its elevation.
Emergency Oxygen Usage
In emergency situations, such as severe Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), oxygen masks may be administered to alleviate symptoms and facilitate a safe descent to lower altitudes. For conditions like High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) or High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), quick descent is crucial. While oxygen can provide temporary relief, either avoiding higher altitudes or descending is the safest approach for those experiencing symptoms.
The Western Breach Exception
An exception applies when climbers tackle the Western Breach route, where descent is challenging and stretcher evacuation isn’t feasible. In such cases, oxygen (and/or dexamethasone) might be provided to assist climbers in ascending to the crater rim, followed by a swift descent via Stella Point.
Kilimanjaro vs. Everest Oxygen Use
While Everest climbers use oxygen in the “death zone” above 26,000 ft, this practice isn’t suitable for Kilimanjaro. Using oxygen on Kilimanjaro might mask altitude sickness symptoms and disrupt natural adaptation. Acclimatization on Kilimanjaro occurs gradually and requires a slow ascent, staying hydrated, and considering longer routes for better acclimatization protocols.
When approaching Kilimanjaro, it’s vital to prioritize safety and the genuine accomplishment of reaching its summit. Rather than relying on supplemental oxygen, focus on acclimatization techniques, consulting with medical professionals, and ensuring optimal physical condition to truly embrace the journey.