We have designed our 9-day climb route with successful acclimatization in mind. The summit of Kilimanjaro, at 19,341 feet, is considered extreme high altitude. As you climb the mountain, the air becomes less compressed and contains fewer molecules of oxygen per breath. At 9,000 feet, there is 75% of the air pressure there is at sea level. At the summit of Kilimanjaro, there is half. Altitude Sickness (also called Mountain Sickness) is the name given to the physiological and symptomatic reactions of the body caused by rapid ascent to high altitude.
Some of the early symptoms include headache, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, and generally feeling bad. All climbers will likely experience mild early symptoms of Altitude Sickness. But given time (during which you are recommended to not overexert), your body adjusts to the decrease in oxygen by producing more oxygen-carrying red blood cells (hemoglobin) while your kidneys excrete the imbalance of alkali in your blood built up by the increased breathing rate. This process requires time and patience. It is vital to ascend to higher altitude slowly so your body has the time to acclimatize properly.
The two more life-threatening complications of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) are High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE, water accumulation in the lungs) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE, water accumulation in the brain). In both cases, immediate descent is mandatory.
The young and physically fit often assume that they need to worry less about Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), but there is no correlation between age and physical fitness and successful acclimatization. Polepole. Swahili for “slowly” is the #1 key to proper acclimatization for everyone.