Mount Kilimanjaro is considered extreme altitude as it rises 19,340 feet above sea level, making it an attractive yet deceptively dangerous mountain for climbers. The hiking itself requires no special mountaineering skills or techniques, rather what creates danger is ascending too fast to the summit. This happens when a person’s body is not allowed sufficient time in the ascent to acclimatize to the lack of air pressure. If a climber’s symptoms go unnoticed they can become ill, unable to walk, or even die. For this reason SENE’s guides are all highly trained in mountain first aid and all SENE climbs are designed to ascend slowly and safely over several days to acclimatize to the extreme altitude – avoiding health dangers and dramatically increasing success rates to the summit.
Kilimanjaro Safety and Health
Safety is the first priority for Simon Mtuy and his SENE team. Simon has been climbing Kilimanjaro for more than 20 years and is an expert when it comes to safe climbing and client success to the summit.
The main health issue that people face when they climb Kilimanjaro is the medical problem called Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). If AMS is not treated it can lead to more serious conditions like High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) (see altitude safety + facts). Each year a very small number of climbers die on Kilimanjaro. These deaths could be avoided if all licensed guides had high altitude medical training and all outfitters carried oxygen and a portable hyperbaric bag. Sadly, this is not the case for the 2000 or more “guides” on the mountain. There are no minimum safety requirements set by the Kilimanjaro National Park Authority for companies guiding on Kilimanjaro.
Wilderness First Responder Training
Simon has completed an eight day Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course in Crested Butte, Colorado with the high altitude experts, Crested Butte Outdoors. The WFR course with certification by Wilderness Medical Associates is the gold-standard of medical training for outdoor educators, expedition medics and guide companies working in remote regions of the world. The emphasis on the understanding of body systems and medical principles is designed to give them the skills and confidence to adapt and respond to medical problems anywhere from the open ocean to the high mountains. WFR is the best basic medical training for people working and traveling off the beaten path.
With the help of Susan Purvis, founder and president of Crested Butte Outdoors, Simon brought a Wilderness Medical Instructor to his village on the flanks of Kilimanjaro to teach SENE mountain guides about how to recognize and prevent AMS. Ray Martodam, a Wilderness First Aid Instructor, spent more than two weeks with SENE guides, which included classroom time and the practical application of principles of wilderness medicine on a nine day climb. According to Ray, “Safety and well being is built into Simon’s trips and nothing is left to chance. The medical kit [Gamow bag, oxygen] meets the highest standards… Climbing pace and acclimatization strategy, wholesome foods, medical support, and guide commentary and camaraderie provide a perfect blend of challenge, safety, and comfort on the mountain.”
Simon returns regularly to the United States for additional hours of wilderness medical training and mountaineering courses and for re-certification in these areas. He teaches and instills these skills and knowledge in all those who guide for SENE, reinforcing that SENE’s primary responsibility as mountain guides on Kilimanjaro is the safety of our clients and crew. Some of SENE’s guides have themselves become certified as trainers in Basic First Aid and have further trained and certified many of the SENE crew. During the climbing low season in April SENE guides and staff train in WFR and Wilderness Advanced First Aid courses in Moshi taught by Tanzania-based Savanna Medics. As the founder and a senior guide of SENE, Simon is proud to have working with him a team of guides with superior knowledge in wilderness and high altitude medicine.
SENE’s Kilimanjaro Safety Measures
SENE delivers the highest quality safety measures on Kilimanjaro. Simon and his team of guides are confident in caring for their climbers’ and fellow crew members’ safety and well-being while climbing this majestic mountain all the way to 19,340 feet.
We take the following steps on all climbs while you enjoy your adventure in Tanzania:
- Carry oxygen tanks for supplemental oxygen.
- Carry a portable hyperbaric chamber (Gamow bag) and have a system in place for immediate evacuation off the mountain.
- Use a pulse oximeter to monitor your oxygen saturation and heart rate twice a day – or more often if necessary.
- Monitor your water intake to assure proper hydration.