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Yes or no.. personal oxygen systems for the climb?

London
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Yes or no.. personal oxygen systems for the climb?

Hi,

I'm currently planning a group trip for a climb up Kili via the Lemosho route. However, I'm getting different opinions as to whether you should get a personal oxygen system or not. Would anybody be able to share their experiences please?

The argument against is that it apparently could mask more serious underlying altitude sickness. I guess the argument is that you better off finding out much lower down the mountain rather than on the penultimate day when you've got a long way down

The argument for is that it improves your chances of success. I'm always a bit suspicious of operators trying to push rental of their equipment though.

I'd greatly appreciate it if I could have some views. I'm organising for a group and I don't want to be accused of slipping up on this important health and safety issue.

Thanks

Jonathan

Austin, Texas
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1. Re: Yes or no.. personal oxygen systems for the climb?

My non-pro opinionated opinion is that anybody needing supplemental oxygen as part of their climbing gear on Kili has no business being there. It is not that high. Anybody who has health issues (pulmonary, BP, ....) has no business climbing Kili, just because some operator is willing to take your money to give you the experience that may have to be aborted at 10K'. A normal healthy person should not need supplemental O2 on Kili and any climbing operator worth paying money to should recognise other signs of AMS and bring you down before you have to be given O2.

When do you plan to climb? If you have time and ability between now and then, please climb some 10-12K' mountains to see how you do. Please don't let Kili be the first mountain you climb.

I'd run from any operator pushing rental of personal oxygen system for Kili.

Sydney
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2. Re: Yes or no.. personal oxygen systems for the climb?

Hi Jonathan

Ghumoon comments are spot on. To further support his comments, I am an experienced mountaineer and the only place for O2 on Kilimanjaro is for the emergency treatment of clients who experience an acute medical episode requiring O2 (very rare).

Personal oxygen systems being offered are purely a gimmick and it is downright dangerous to just suck on oxygen to summit or the days preceding. Without getting too technical, if you use oxygen to boost your system and the system fails up high and you have not acclimatised you will suffer a medical emergency. Your body will be used to a high concentration of oxygen (like being at sea level) and your body/red blood cell creation will not compensate adequately. You may be suddenly exposed to high altitude oxygen debt given that you are at a significantly high altitude with markedly reduced oxygen levels compared to sea level.

No one needs supplementary oxygen on Kilimanjaro and find it reprehensible that one specific UK reseller promotes this product. There is no place for this on Kilimanjaro.

The key to success with Kilimanjaro is trekking and general health and fitness, pure and simple. Yes there is a point where the mind takes over generally on the last three nights with the effects of altitude sickness and especially on the summit night for some, though not all. Some take Diamox, some dont to combat these issues.

Quality trekking companies ensure your health status is continuously monitored and if you are not well enough to continue your ascent, they will take the decision to accompany you down.

Hope I have been clear and you find the information valuable.

3. Re: Yes or no.. personal oxygen systems for the climb?

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Baltimore, Maryland
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4. Re: Yes or no.. personal oxygen systems for the climb?

Hi, I, too, am wanting to know more about the personal oxygen system as I'm trekking soon on Kili with said UK group. they got great reviews but they definitely push the oxygen and in fact say you shouldn't use Diamox and oxygen, but just the oxygen on the day of summit. My friend read that this is often used on Everest and other mountains so it is commonly practiced. Does anyone KNOW of people that have successfully used this method? i'm assuming many many trekkers do as this company must take tons of people up each year? Why aren't there any reviews?

Sydney
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195 posts
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5. Re: Yes or no.. personal oxygen systems for the climb?

Hi Amanda

Could I please draw your attention to my posting as it is comprehensive and fully answers your question.

Also, no tour operator should be pushing supplemental oxygen for Kilimanjaro, full stop. It is reckless, irresponsible and potentially very dangerous.

Baltimore, Maryland
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6. Re: Yes or no.. personal oxygen systems for the climb?

Thank you Roger - but from what I understand, personal oxygen systems are used on higher climbs such as Everest and the pitch we have been given is that it makes it more enjoyable summit experience while Diamox makes your body work harder. My hiking partner is convinced it is a good technology since they do use it on Everest and such; however, I am just concerned because if people love it like the website says they do I do not understand why there aren't reviews and why only one company offers it. Also, if this is a gimmick have I given a large amount of money to a company that will not look out for our safety/wellbeing?

Sydney
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7. Re: Yes or no.. personal oxygen systems for the climb?

Hi Amanda

I was sort of expecting that you would say that its used on Everest so it must be good. I didnt want to open up the debate further and explain why oxygen is specifically used on 8000 metre mountains though to explain it concisely, most humans cannot survive in the death zone on Everest. Some remarkable human beings can but only a very few specialised mountaineers. Most who climb Everest are cashed up sea level dwellers who wish to attain the highest summit in the world and can only do so on supplemental oxygen. It is so they survive not to increase enjoyment. If their oxygen fails they must turn around. If it fails without backup in the death zone then the outcome is much worse.

On Kilimanjaro, no one needs supplemental oxygen. The summit is attained by slow acclimatisation over a minimum of 7 days to make the experience more enjoyable. Climb high, sleep low.

In the kilimanjaro arena, foreign owned resellers and companies are looking for a marketing edge, something that may set them apart from others, hence offering oxygen.

Austin, Texas
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8. Re: Yes or no.. personal oxygen systems for the climb?

Amanda,

Kilimanjaro is not Everest. It almost ends where Everest begins. The Everest Base Camp (Khumbu) is at an altitude of 17000+ feet above sea level whereas the top of Kili is 19000+ feet. Oxygen on Everest is generally used above the South Col (26000+ feet) on the south route and at similar altitudes on the north route. One doesn't use oxygen to reach Camp1 (19K+') or even for Camp2 (21K+') on Everest. The summit of Everest is at 29K+'. Anybody who invokes the conditions for climbing Everest as a comparison for climbing Kili is utterly ignorant at best or utterly dishonest at worst.

One is required to show proof of competence to be able to participate in events like the Boston Marathon. A person like me (who cannot/does not run) cannot enter the race just because I can pay the registration fees and have someone pull/push me across the finish line so that I can have the Boston Marathon under my belt. One is required to have graduated high school before being given admission for higher education. You would be failed if you take someobody's help to spoonfeed you during the exams. But somehow, people are given the impression by (some/most?) climbing companies that mountains can be climbed without having the basic physical and mental abilities so long as you can cough up the dough. And people themselves seem to have so little integrity or interest in honest self evaluation. These climbing companies will give you all the handholding help and accessories to help you reach the goal, whether it is sucking on oxygen or reaching the summit on somebody's back/shoulders. Is that what you want?

Your company folks are scoundrels and contemptible, IMO.

Fremont, California
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9. Re: Yes or no.. personal oxygen systems for the climb?

In 2010 I had to turn back from Kibo camp because of HAPE, but I did not take on that trip Diamox. I would like to tried the longer route 8 days instead of 6 last time....to better acclimate my body. Would you recommend total against trying again? Thanks

Austin, Texas
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10. Re: Yes or no.. personal oxygen systems for the climb?

HongTu, are you asking me about trying Kili again? If so, I am not qualified (medically trained) to give you an objective answer. AFAIK, the specialized medical profession has also not been able to figure out AMS very well. There is no consensus on the use of Diamox as a prophylaxis either.

I myself would not hesitate to try something again if it was important to me and if I had a good grasp on the reasons of failure in previous attempts that I was willing to correct. If we never fail, we are probably never trying anything hard. At the same time, I recommend not doing dumb things or doing things dumbly or having any super hero/heroine syndrome. Going unprepared for something that could kill you qualifies as super dumb in my book. Not knowing that what you're trying could kill you also ranks in the same category.

I read a lot about AMS before I went "high" the first time. "High" seems to be different for different people. Some apparently feel it as low as in Denver (5+K'), some at ski resorts in UT/CO (6+K' to 8+K'), some not even at 15K', though 8K' is the generally accepted definition of "high".

If a small sample says anything, the range of experiences of the dozen people I went high with (15+K') was so varied that there is clearly no one-size-fits-all answer, though choosing one's biological parents thoughtfully may have some advantage, based on the data from this statistically insignificant sample.

There are some commonly recommended steps one can take to minimize the chances of getting AMS. However, there are no known guarantees for preventing it (as of now).

You can find a lot of information about AMS on-line. A few sites -

http://www.ismmed.org

http://www.altitudemedicine.org

…cdc.gov/travel/…altitude-illness

If you're asking about climbing Kili with oxygen, my answer would be "no". You would not fly in a commercial plane wearing a space suit just because a space suit is proven to provide good protection high up in the stratosphere and beyond, would you? You would wonder why the airline is offering you the space suit and/or if they are not pressurizing the cabin properly, or what stunts they may be planning mid-air....