to breathe or not to breathe
To breathe or not to breathe… no question, really :-)
The air on top of Kilimanjaro carries the same amount of oxygen as the air at sea level. But the air pressure is only about 40% of that found at sea level. So, it becomes much harder to fill your lungs since the atmosphere is not pushing so much air into them. As a result, every time you breathe you take in only about half as much air, and thus oxygen, as you would if you took the same breath at sea level.
Well, most altitude-experienced people I speak to tell me it’s gonna be a walk in the park. They say Kilimanjaro is one of the easiest high mountains to climb. As it’s not so much of a climb, but a hike rather. I’m not gonna need crampons or ropes or any other pro-style climbing gear. Just my hiking-boots (well, new ones as mine are worn out). I might also need a warmer down jacket. Hiking poles. A -20° sleeping bag. Day pack…
But it’s not about the hike. My friends know I’m not the most enthusiastic hiker, and they snicker at the thought of me hiking for 7 days ;-) But I will squirm my way up any hill with my 15kg Paragliding kit if there is a chance of a flight. And by no means would I be on this Kili adventure if it wasnt for the promise of flight :-)
So, I’m extremely happy to hear its gonna be easy as pie. However, I do have know people who managed to the top of Kili with all their wits about, and were subsequently carried all the way down unconscious (you know who you are ;-). Altitude sickness; when the brain isn’t getting the oxygen it needs; the only thing you can do is go down immediately.
People differ, some can handle it and some can’t. There is no way of telling who, and I’ve never been high so have yet to find out. Acclimatization is key, it’s essential as a way to prevent altitude sickness. While some altitude-gurus might only need 2-3 days to get to the top of Kilimanjaro, most people take 5, we will take 7. Because we only have this one opportunity to fly off. Then we have three days on top to wait for the right flying weather. After take-off there is a chance of thermals and we might even go higher. Off to see Allah!
I’m not worried about the hike at all. I will push through it with the help of 199 fellow hikers. I am however very worried about not getting airborne. It is highly unlikely that I will ever put myself through something like this again, ever! Besides, it’s probably the only opportunity Paragliding pilots will be allowed flying off Kilimanjaro, and I am not interested in going down on foot. So I’m spending a lot of time researching how to maximise oxygen intake.
For example this:
Yoga: I highly believe Yoga breathing and meditation will help
Nutritional food: condition my body to be a red-blood-cell-manufacturing-machine!
Supplements: Ginkgo Biloba, Chlorophyll…
Distance running: endurance must help, running also helps with concentration and controlled breathing, I need to learn to go slow and to not give up as I’m more into sprinting by nature, I love going fast but don’t have much distance tolerance. I once took part in a 10km run (a little under an hour) and was nearly bored to death ;-)
Viagra: I read about this research, a few guys were sent up a mountain with Viagra… yes, seriously!
Oxygen system: it’s not advisable to cheat your body out of the acclimatization process, and oxygen tanks mean extra weight to be carried up, but they do recommend it for the take-off, especially under the threat of thermalling up to even more height
Diamox: altitude sickness medicine, some recommend it, some don’t, side effects can be similiar to altitude sickness… I will at least bring it
Cold Sea Swimming: cures everything right? Strenghtens the heart and pulmonary system. I have a month to dip into the Icelandic ocean, and then the South African southcoast-sea is just as freezing!
Elevation training mask: maybe not the trendiest thing to be running around Africa with… but it might work.