Acute mountain sickness is an illness that can affect mountain climbers, hikers, skiers, or travelers at high altitudes, usually above 8,000 feet (2,400 meters). Acute mountain sickness is caused by reduced air pressure and lower oxygen levels at high altitudes.
The percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere at sea level is about 21%. As altitude increases the percentage remains the same, but the number of oxygen molecules per breath is reduced At 12,000 feet (3,600 m) there are roughly 45% fewer oxygen molecules per breath so the body must adjust to having less oxygen.
Each expedition departs with a 3 Liter canister of compressed pure oxygen that is administered in emergency situations only. It is NOT used to assist clients who have not adequately acclimatized on their own to climb higher.
The most immediate treatment for moderate and serious altitude sickness is descent. With Kilimanjaro’s routes, it is always possible to descend, and descend quickly.
Therefore, oxygen is used strictly to treat a stricken climber, when necessary, in conjunction with descent, to treat those with moderate and severe altitude sickness.
98% of the companies on Kilimanjaro do NOT offer supplementary oxygen – because it is potentially dangerous, wholly unnecessary and against the spirit of climbing Kilimanjaro.
The challenge of the mountain lies within the fact that the summit is at a high elevation, where climbers must adapt to lower oxygen levels at altitude. Using supplementary oxygen is akin to putting the mountain at sea level, where nearly everyone can summit