Kilimanjaro trek – the facts!

I will be arriving at Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania, with the rest of the Sparks team, on 2 February 2011. After a night in a hotel to rest and prepare ourselves, we will commence our trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. We are taking the Rogai route and therefore starting ‘on the Kenyan side’.

Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the highest freestanding mountains in the world and stands at 19,340ft/5895m. It is classed as a dormant volcano.

Team Sparks will start the ascent through cultivated farmlands and then walk through the rainforest, which is home to buffalo, leopards and monkeys. It is also home, of course, to some of the nasties such as snakes and spiders!

We then progress through alpine meadows and then finally across a barren lunar-esque landscape up to the twin summits of Kibo and Mawenzi.

Equatorial and artic conditions are present on Kilimanjaro and therefore the weather changes between very hot and dry to wet and misty, to very, very cold depending on the time of day and altitude. It’s particularly cold at night. There is permanent ice at the summit and below freezing temperatures can be expected. A friend who recently climbed recorded temperature ranging between 30°C and -27°C! For that reason our kit list contains everything from sunglasses, swimming costume and suntan lotion to ski gloves and thermal underwear!

Our adventure is for 9 nights in total. It will take us 4.5 days to trek up the mountain and 1.5 days down. We will be sleeping in tents and have limited creature comforts, our washing facilities will be a bowl of water outside our tent!

Our team will include a trek leader, a doctor and a number of porters.

Each individual on the trek will carry their own food, clothes and water.

We will be expected to drink huge volumes of water whilst walking, rumoured to be 2.5 litres between breakfast and lunch, 2.5 litres between lunch and arriving at camp. This is in addition to fluids consumed with meals, of course this is to combat the effects of dehydration and altitude sickness.

The thing that I am most worried about is altitude sickness. Whilst there is a drug you can be prescribed to combat the effects of altitude sickness, that can also bring its own problems in terms of side effects and masking potential health issues.

The altitude problem is the shortage of oxygen: as you climb higher, the air gets thinner. At 6000m, atmospheric pressure is about 50% of that at sea level.

There are a variety of symptoms including headaches, tiredness, irritability, nausea and depression. I am told its like being drunk and having a hangover at the same time! The effects of altitude can be felt from around 2500m upwards. Not everyone is affected by altitude sickness and fitness, size, age or sex is not an indication of who might suffer.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
AMS symptoms, if mild or moderate often disappear if the victim rests or ascends no further. No expert or textbook can predict who will be affected.

Severe AMS can be life-threatening (HACE – High altitude Cerebral Edema or HAPE – High Altitude Pulmonary Edema). It is avoidable and treatable, and as part of our briefing we will be made aware of the symptoms.

Our doctor will carry emergency oxygen and medication. If at anytime a member of the team starts to suffer with symptoms of altitude sickness, the answer is to descend immediately.

The organisers of this trek are very clear to point out that this is a trek and not a walk. You need to be fit to attempt this.

The facts of the fundraising are that I have pledged to raise £3750 for Sparks childrens charity. I am paying for the cost of my expenses (£1250) myself and so the fact is that any money you donate, or any money I raise with your help will absolutely be going towards the good work that Sparks fund.

At the time of writing (24 October) I calculate that I have cash and promises totalling £2000 towards my target. So I guess another fact is that I need some more sponsorship! Will you help me hit my target and raise much needed funds for the valuable work that Sparks do?

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