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Previous experience at altitude?


Thorn Tree Refugee
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Joined: February 8th, 2007

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  • Added on: February 11th, 2007
Hi, i have been reading all the information on this site and it has been a great help so far. I'm thinking about doing kili at end of september and although i'm prepared to get fit and already doing lots and lots of hill walking in the uk, i keep reading that you should have previous treking or altitude experience before taking this on. What do you guys think about this?


Thorn Tree Refugee
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Joined: October 29th, 2006

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  • Added on: February 11th, 2007
not necessary.
was born and lived my life at sea level.
spent 43 days on an overland truck eating my way from west-east aftica as preparation.
did the climb with no altitude experience and didn't use the diamox tablets i took.

Note one thing that i didn't understand about climbing kili but wish i had known...
the first 3 days is pure bush/trail walking; just at a really slow pace. easy as, wear your fav joggers. the only hard part is the final night's launch to the summit - for that all you need to be able to do is tell yourself to take one step after another (for 5 hrs :^)).
www.rhein-valley-hospital.com - support this cause!


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Joined: January 21st, 2004

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  • Added on: February 11th, 2007
Previous high altitude experience is not necessary for the trip. However, it is nice to have so that you know how your body reacts to the altitude. Everyone reacts differently. I've learned from previous trips (before Kili) that I am extremely sensitive and get ill for a solid week at high altitude. Going into the trip, I knew what acute mountain sickness felt like. And I told myself, if it got really bad, I would abandon my summit push.

I did have altitude sickness at about 13,700 ft on day 3 -- throwing up and heaving. Rested overnight and acclimatized, so I pushed on.

I think the knowledge of how altitude sickness affects me and knowing what signs to look for made me more confident overall on the climb. It's really a personal choice as far as the previous high altitude training goes.


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Joined: December 5th, 2005
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  • Added on: February 11th, 2007
Having previous high altitude experience is certainly not necessary. However, acclimization is everything in order to reach the summit. So, the benefit of previous high altitude experience is that it should teach you how to make adjustments such that you can acclimate in the shortest amount of time necessary. For instance I know from experience (uh...bad experience) the following are likely to decrease my rate of acclimization:

- sleeping above 10,000 ft (3,000 meters) the first night
- not reaching a higher altitude than I sleep, even if just a few hundred feet
- pushing my heart rate into the anaerobic zone
- eating too many fats/proteins before getting to camp when I am going to an altitude that I haven't been to yet
- gaining more than a thousand vertical feet per hour at altitudes I haven't been at yet

Of course, everyone differs on how their bodies react. But to make up for lack of not knowing how your body will react, the best way to ensure success is to add extra days to your itinerary. This should give you the best chance of acclimating regardless.


Thorn Tree Refugee
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Joined: July 21st, 2006

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  • Added on: February 12th, 2007
Don't worry about it! You will find out how your body reacts when you get there. You can not base it on previous experieince because you never know what your body will do. Listen to your guide and drink a lot of fluids.


Thorn Tree Refugee
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Joined: December 29th, 2006

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  • Added on: February 16th, 2007
I just got back from Kili last week and had no previous altitude experience. I was actually pretty good and followed our guides advice of going 'pole pole' (slow) the whole time. I did my research before I left and bought a lot of stuff from the health food store including hydration pills, drops and chloro-oxygen (something to put in your water). Along with this and some electrolytes and just going really slow, my partner and I did just fine. I would be happy to answer any other questions since I just got back.


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Lost in Place
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Joined: January 23rd, 2006

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  • Added on: February 20th, 2007
We took a less traveled route using the Lemosho Glades Trail.
We had never been to altitude other than two business trips to Mexico City years before. Because of our inexperience I decided to take 9 days to get to Crater Camp then summit on the 10th morning. Even with extra days we didn't sleep at Crater Camp but beyond a headache on
occation and not being hungry up high, we did just fine.

A rule of thumb is 6 days up 60% chance to make it. 7 days 70%, etc.
One third of the attempts, about 10,000 people per year, don't get to the top. Each person is different, of course, but an extra day or two on the trail will help your confidence if you are worried about getting sick.

50% of mountain climbing is mental. The total distance you will hike is 50 miles. Know before you go to Africa that you can hike that distance (do it with 3 or 4 hours hikes with some back to back) as you break in your boots (We took two months to prepare and did all the hikes in Wisconsin...no altitude here). If you are spooked by the altitude, add some days to your trip. (I took the 9 day option because I had no altitude experience, I was 53 and had no intention of going all the way to Africa and fail). Also, it's beautiful and there was no reason to be in a hurry, it was a father/son trip.

This is the article I wrote about our trip. It gets into more detail about our preparation and choices of route, etc.


It is an awesome experience...have fun!

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