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Mt Kenya, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Climbing Tips and FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions)

When can I climb Mt Kilimanjaro/Kenya?

January, February and September are the best months to climb, since they are the warmest months and almost clear of clouds. Though one could easily succeed throughout the year, April and early May could get heavy rain or snow, but is good if you want a quiet clear mountain. It gets better in June through August (though colder) and November/December (could be wetter) though September and October it gets steadily warmer. October is particularly good if you want little or no rain - mild weather and few people on the mountain. January through to March are the warmest months - almost clear of clouds safe for a few brief rain showers followed by the main rainy season during April & May. The temperatures will still be warm but massive clouds will block visibility while dropping snow on the summit and heavy rain on the lower slopes.
What about acclimatization?
As pertaining to the Marangu route climb especially, in Mt. Kenya, some guides recommend a day for acclimatization. This is more of a personal decision but there is no evidence of any greater success rate amongst 6 day Marangu route climbers over 5 day climbers. More important for success is the overall approach to the climb, right from the start. That said, many people like an extra day spent on the ascent because it makes the whole climb more relaxed and gives an opportunity to go on some pleasant walks.

In case of an emergency, what is the procedure?
There are rescue operations for the national park Mt. Kenya in addition to the huts on the Marangu route which are linked to each other and to the park headquarters by radio. In the vast majority of emergency cases, the problem is altitude related and the solution is immediate descent to a lower altitude. In cases of such emergencies experienced guides deal with such cases by bringing climbers down to safe altitudes very quickly if park assistance is not quickly available.

Where can I rent mountain equipment?
While mountain climbing equipment can be easily rented from tour agents, climbers are discouraged to share or hire boots. Do bring along as much warm clothing as possible. 

Is the success rate on Kilimanjaro less than thirty percent?
For greater success rates, climbers are encouraged to prepare well in advance, health wise i.e. diet, in addition to having proper equipment. That having been observed, success rate to the crater rim should be 90%. While that to the Uhuru peak is 85%. Safety and a fulfilling experience, however, override all other reasons for mountaineering while reaching the summit is secondary.

What is the climate of kilimanjaro?
The temperature at the top of the mountain can vary widely. Sometimes it is only a degree or two below freezing, but visitors should be prepared for possible temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius, especially in conjunction with wind.

What about altitude sickness?

There are different types of altitude sickness. "Acute mountain sickness" is very common, and is not as frightening as its name suggests. The symptoms are headaches, nausea and vomiting, though not everyone suffers from all the symptoms. Normally, symptoms fade after a few hours, but if they do not a climber may need to turn back, especially if vomiting is leading to dehydration. Any enjoyment to be had from the climb will have disappeared by now anyway.

A much more serious type of altitude sickness is called oedema. This is a build-up of fluid in the body, and when the fluid collects in the lungs or the brain a serious condition develops which requires immediate action in the form of descent to a lower altitude, where recovery is usually miraculously fast.

In most cases AMS ( Acute mountain sickness ) can be avoided by following guidelines: drink lots of water, walk slowly, stay warm, eat well. We recommend that you familiarize yourself with the various affects that altitude can cause.

During your pre-climb briefing, we describe altitude sickness to you in detail, and advise you how to cope with it. The most important thing is not to fear it, but to respect it and to know how to deal with it. Our guides have seen every condition that the mountain produces, and they will always know how to deal with problems.

How is cooking done on the mountain?
We use modern Kerosene stoves. These are very efficient (about 90% of the efficiency of gas, which is not always available here) and reliable. You can also feel satisfied that no firewood is being used which might damage the ecology of the mountain.

What about tipping of guides and porters?
Tips are discretionary but obviously, it is expected. We recommend tipping guideline as follows:

What medicines/toiletries do we require?

a) Mosquito sprays and creams
Not very useful on the mountain itself. But when you get back down again it is useful to have some protection against the Anopheles mosquito. We recommend Autan.

b) Malaria prevention
Please consult your doctor regarding malaria prophylaxis.

c) Headache pills
paracet pills will help you in case of headaches.

d) Cold & Flu
Diamox can be used to prevent Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Please try them first to see if you don't get too many side effects.

e) Sun cream
we recommend creams with SPF 30, as the sun near the equator is very strong. Don't forget to have something to protect your lips as well.

f) Personal medical supplies (optional):
As your tour leaders, we will carry a group medical kit.

g) Personal Items & Toiletries
Toothpaste & tooth brush, body lotion, toilet paper and other personal hygiene items.

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