When you book your Kilimanjaro Expedition, the last thing on your mind is failure, but sadly, a large percentage (believed to be more than 50% on 5-day expeditions) do not make it to Uhuru Peak.
You can improve your chances by booking a longer trek (at least 7 days), training hard in the 12 weeks leading up to your trip, talking to your doctor about altitude medication, and preparing yourself mentally for what will be, quite possibly, the hardest thing you have ever done. But unfortunately, altitude sickness can affect anyone at any time, even young healthy athletes, and if the unthinkable happens to you, here is what you can expect on the mountain in non-emergency cases.
Altitude sickness can affect climbers from as early as day 2, and while your mountain guides will do everything in their power to help you overcome the initial symptoms (sometimes a litre of water and a couple of Ibuprofen will do the trick!), if you condition worsens, you will have no choice but to go back down the mountain to higher oxygen levels.
What happens if I’m Climbing Kilimanjaro with a Group and I cannot continue?
Whether you are climbing Kilimanjaro with just one friend, or a whole group of travellers, the expedition will continue as planned, so you don’t need to feel guilty if you can’t make it. One of the mountain guides or assistant mountain guides will accompany you down the mountain, while the rest continue the trek with the other guides in the group. Depending on how high you are on the mountain, you may have to hike down for a good 4 – 5 hours to meet the evacuation vehicle, but the further down you get the more your symptoms will ease.
Once you are picked up by the evacuation vehicle, you will, in most instances, be transferred to the hotel where you stayed prior to your climb, or if your symptoms are severe, you will be taken to the local hospital.
Costs involved is you do not complete your Kilimanjaro Expedition
You should bear in mind that you will be required to pay for the evacuation transport, any hospital bills, and the cost of the hotel (including meals, drinks etc.) for the duration of your stay, so it is vital that you have adequate travel insurance before you head to Tanzania.
Once you are back at the hotel, you have 2 choices. You can wait for your friends to complete the expedition and fly back as planned, or if you are travelling alone, you can try to change your flight ticket (at a cost) and fly back early. Either way, you will have to foot the bill, so again, make sure your travel insurance policy covers all eventualities.
I truly hope that you will never need the information above, and that your expedition to the Roof of Africa will have a happy ending, but as my grandmother used to say, ‘forewarned is forearmed’, and when it comes to Climbing Kili, preparation and planning is EVERYTHING!