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Kilimanjaro Health & Safety

HEALTH & SAFETY

SAFETY MEANS SUCCESS

Highly skilled safety-focused guides understand what it takes to make your wildest dreams a reality, while also observing optimum safety procedures. With decades of leadership experience, Tusker’s world class guides weave your challenge into safety-driven passion-fired treks, building your energy into a wild success. Staying healthy on your climb will ensure that you face your challenge fully and enjoy it beyond the final moment of your achievement. A professional guiding team with a trained responsive support team can also save your life in the event of an emergency, which can and does occur regularly on Kilimanjaro.

THE ALTITUDE EFFECT

94% of the world’s population live below 5,000 feet. Most of these people have also never traveled above 8,000 feet and have no experience at altitude. The chances are that this includes you. Kilimanjaro is 19,341 feet above sea level and is a completely new experience for most climbers. To succeed at reaching Kilimanjaro’s summit, it’s important to choose a company that has a lot of climbing experience and highly trained guides.

Another important consideration for you is route selection. Most climbers who fail to reach the  summit get altitude sickness because they climb a route that is too short and does not allow their bodies to acclimatize. When selecting your climbing route, you should consider climbing a longer route, which will vastly increase your chances of a successful and enjoyable summit climb.

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GUIDE TRAINING

Every year the Tusker guiding team completes a comprehensive high-altitude medical course (HAFR), which Tusker designed specifically for Kilimanjaro. This course trains our guides to monitor acclimatization and treat high altitude emergencies. The training prepares the guides to utilize Tusker’s full support network from the mountain down to the hospital and all the way back home, if needed. Well respected on Kilimanjaro, Tusker guides help out with national park rescues and give advice and assistance with other companies’ emergencies.

CREATORS OF THE HAFR COURSE

Dr. Greg Bledsoe

One of the top wilderness medicine specialists in North America

Dr. Bledsoe spent five years on faculty in John Hopkins Department of Emergency Medicine and held the role of instructor and medical consultant to the United States Secret Service, and high-altitude medical advisor for the U.S. Special Forces. Dr. Bledsoe is also the founder of EXPEDMED.ORG, which conducts annual expedition medical conferences and CME expeditions.  Tusker has run numerous wilderness medical credit CME expeditions for the organization up Kilimanjaro.

Tusker Founding Guide Eddie Frank

Guide with 54 Kilimanjaro Climbs

Eddie Frank has been a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) for over two decades. Back in 2000, while taking the course, he realized that the WFR course spent only 2 hours teaching high altitude. With the help of his medical instructor and Dr. Greg Bledsoe, he designed the HAFR course focusing on the high-altitude environment. This is the only course on Kilimanjaro specializing  on high-altitude. Eddie has also been a speaker at Dr. Bledsoe’s EXPED.ORG wilderness medical conferences.

High Altitude First Responder (HAFR) training is an expansion of Wilderness First Responder (WFR) training, with a focus on high-altitude medical issues. All Tusker’s Kilimanjaro guides are meticulously trained as High Altitude First Responders. For this reason, Tusker’s Kilimanjaro guides also comprise the medical team on our treks to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.

EMERGENCY MEDICAL EQUIPMENT

Tusker Trail is one of Kilimanjaro’s original climbing companies, so you have the backing of years of Kilimanjaro experience at your side all the way to the summit. Having led thousands of adventurers to the pinnacle of Africa, you tap into the most highly experienced guiding team accompanying you on the challenge of your lifetime. Medical training combined with the proper medical equipment goes hand in hand. Every Tusker climbing group travels with an extensive array of medical and safety equipment, allowing your medically trained guides to monitor your health during your climb and to respond to mountain emergencies.

In the event you have severe altitude sickness, the best treatment is a quick descent and a steady supply of oxygen. Each one of your Tusker guides on your climb carries a Jumbo “D” cylinder, which contains 640 liters of oxygen – plenty to get you down to safety. Tusker also utilizes portable altitude chambers (PACs), also known as Gamow bags. They are portable hyperbaric chambers designed to simulate air pressure at lower altitude and are lifesavers. Each of your guides is thoroughly trained in their use and application. Because of their experience and training, Tusker Trail’s guides are highly respected by both the National Park authorities and other guiding companies. Here’s a list of some of the gear that will accompany you on your climb.

  • Comprehensive first aid kits
  • Pulse oximeters to check your O2 levels
  • Portable oxygen
  • Stethoscopes for lung checks
  • Portable Altitude Chamber (PAC)
  • Patient transport litters (Same as US Army)
  • Backup cold weather gear
  • Water purification

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MEDICAL EVACUATION

If needed, you will be evacuated promptly by your guide and a team of porters, either on foot or by litter down the mountain to definitive medical care at the hospital in Moshi. If you need special medical care that cannot be provided in Moshi, then Ripcord will evacuate you back home to the hospital of your choice.

At the start of an evacuation, your guide notifies Tusker’s Moshi Operations, who directs your evacuation.  The contact US Headquarters and Ripcord, Considering our 98% summit success rate, medical evacuations occur infrequently. Tusker has used Ripcord as an emergency resource for many years. During emergencies, Tusker has 24/7 access to Ripcord’s team of emergency doctors.

Nepal Earthquake (7.8) Rescue 2015:  Ripcord was crucial for Tusker’s Everest Base Camp trek evacuation immediately following Nepal’s 7.8 earthquake in 2015. Tusker Trail was the first group out of Nepal, with everyone arriving home safely.

tusker trail 5 star reviews

"Tusker Trail exceeded all expectations and delivered us to the summit safely."  -  "You need a good crew of porters who are paid and treated well. You cannot succeed on Kili without happy porters. Please proceed with a company who treats their porters ethically and gives them all the tips from clients.  Our crew had been working together for over 10 years"  --  "Leigh O"

CONSTANT CONTACT

Your guiding team uses portable VHF radios and cell phones to stay in constant contact with Tusker’s Moshi Operations, U.S. Headquarters, other Tusker climbing teams on the mountain, as well as with Ripcord, our emergency evacuation partner. If you have any type of crisis, we trigger our emergency protocols in seconds.

CLIMBING SUPPORT CREW

You have a dedicated and extensive team backing you every step of your journey, from sign-up to summit, and back home again. It all starts with your booking and our HQ at Lake Tahoe. Seasoned guides, advisors, and planners, along with our large crew of porters, are all backed up by our ground operations team in Moshi at the foot of Kilimanjaro. Every team remains in constant contact with each other and our HQ.

A HEALTHY MOUNTAIN CAMP

Health and safety are always about the basics. The first part of your climbing chef’s training course conducted by the Culinary Institute of America focuses on kitchen hygiene and safety, ensuring our trained chefs know exactly how to adhere to strict hygienic food prep. 

Your drinking water is thoroughly purified and used for preparing all your meals. If you’re thirsty, you have an endless supply. Your private toilet tents are cleaned and sanitized regularly by a dedicated team, with plenty of hand sanitizer available. Our aim and yours will be to return to Moshi in perfect health, having achieved your goal by reaching the summit.

HYDRATION AT ALTITUDE

When you embark on an adventure at higher elevations your respiration increases, and your body works harder in an attempt to get more oxygen. This has an impact on your water intake. Your first concern is clean drinking water. Tusker Trail purifies all water used for drinking, cooking and hand washing during your entire climb. There’s also plenty of it, so we won’t run out.

At higher altitudes, your body loses water through perspiration twice as fast as it does at sea level. To fix this, you should drink an extra 1-1.5 liters of water each day at high-altitude, making a total of 3-4 liters. During your climb, your guides will monitor your water intake to ensure that you are drinking enough water. For your own piece of mind, an easy method to assess your hydration level is to check your urine. The rule of thumb is if your urine is dark colored, this usually means you are dehydrated.

A great tip for keeping hydrated during your climb is to take regular sips of water about every 15 minutes during strenuous activity and to take larger gulps when you are taking breaks. Make sure to keep your water easily accessible so you can drink as you climb.

DIAMOX - THE SECRET TO KILIMANJARO’S SUMMIT?

Kilimanjaro’s summit is 19,341ft/5895m above sea level, and not one everyone reaches the summit. The main reason for Kilimanjaro’s overall 40% summit success rate is the high altitude. In order to increase their chances of reaching Uhuru Peak, many climbers take Diamox, a prescription that helps prevent or lessen the effects of high altitude on your body. Diamox is the prescription name for the generic drug acetazolamide. Acetazolamide is prescribed for the medical treatment of glaucoma, sleep apnea, epilepsy and hypertension, plus it’s also used to prevent altitude sickness.

Acute mountain sickness (AMS), or altitude sickness, happens when your body reaches high altitude too quickly (generally above 10,000 feet/3,048 meters) and isn’t just isolated to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Common symptoms of altitude sickness include:

            • Nausea
            • Dizziness
            • Shortness of breath
            • Headaches
            • Difficulty concentrating, confusion
            • Lack of coordination
            • Insomia

When you start experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be forced to stop your climb before more serious medical problems develop, like high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) or high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE).  Acetazolamide can be used to prevent or lessen the effects of AMS. The Mayo Clinic says that Diamox is “fairly effective in preventing many cases of altitude illness.”

Diamox makes your blood more acidic. When this happens, your body thinks there’s too much carbon dioxide in your blood, so it works harder to pump more oxygen back in. That means your body will breathe deeper and faster to get rid of the excess carbon dioxide, allowing more oxygen into your bloodstream. This extra oxygen works well for acclimating your body to high altitudes and preventing AMS symptoms. Diamox is available via prescription from your doctor and is not available over the counter. While there are certainly benefits to using it, there are no guarantees.

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            • Diamox does not prevent AMS all the time.
            • Diamox does not cure AMS.
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The best way to prevent AMS is by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro slowly. When you give your body time to adjust to the changing altitude and go especially easy during the first two days of your climb, it has a better chance of adjusting on its own. Although acetazolamide can be helpful for preventing many symptoms associated with altitude sickness, it shouldn’t be your first option. You’ll have the most success reaching the summit and avoiding AMS by taking a longer route for your Kilimanjaro climb.

Here at Tusker, the health and safety of our climbers is our number one priority. Your guides will never push you to ascend too quickly, or if you’re feeling unwell. Plus, our guides are experts thanks to their high-altitude medical training and their long experience on the mountain.

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