Wednesday, February 3

Frequently Asked Questions, Part 1

How long will you be on the mountain?

6 Days up, 1 day for summit, 1 ½ days to get off the mountain

We go up slowly, hiking to higher elevations in the day, then returning to lower altitude to sleep (“climb high, sleep low”) to acclimate. Think: 2 steps up, 1 step down, then 2 steps up, 1 step down…

What’s the temperature up there?

All of the above. The climb begins in the lush rainforests at the base of the mountain, then we proceed through heath, moorland, and alpine desert, before finally entering into the arctic zone. As we gain altitude, the temperatures drop as does precipitation levels and vegetation. While the temperatures in the rainforest are generally very mild, averaging 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperatures during the night ascent to the summit are frequently below zero. Therefore, climbers need to be prepared for a wide range of temperatures, especially extreme cold.

Since it is near the equator, there is no seasonal variation, other than rainy season and dry season. January, February and September are great times to climb, as they are warmer and dryer. Even during the "dry" seasons, climbers may still experience heavy rains. The mountain's weather is unpredictable.

What will be the biggest obstacle to reaching the summit?

The main reason that climbers fail to reach the summit is due to the inability to acclimatize to the high altitude quickly enough. Short of going to high altitude, there is little that one can do to pre-acclimatize before the climb. Being physically fit does not guarantee that climbers can overcome altitude issues…there are marathon runners who don’t make it. In fact, the most common group to fail is men aged 20-30 (because they overestimate their physical ability, go up too fast, then the ladies and the older folks pass their crumpled bodies).

What is our chance of success at reaching the summit?

Overall, only 40% of people who attempt Kili actually make it to the summit. We think our chances will be much better by taking a longer route, allowing more time to acclimate.

Do you really get PH from mountain climbing?

Sure do. As the body goes into high and extreme altitude, hyperventilation results in acid-base disturbances in our bodies, fluids shift into different cells leading to swelling, and lack of oxygen causes our pulmonary blood vessels to constrict—causing pulmonary hypertension. Altitude sickness ranges from “Acute Mountain Sickness” to life-threatening “HAPE” or “HACE” (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema & High Altitude Cerebral Edema—which translates to lungs full of fluid & brain swelling). We will almost certainly all get some degree of Acute Mountain Sickness, which is characterized by severe headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue (I expect to feel like I have the worst hangover of my life). We need to closely watch each other for HAPE and HACE. We would know HAPE by symptoms like coughing up blood and gurgling sounds in our lungs. We may not know it ourselves if we have HACE, as those patients get confused, hallucinate, and have neurologic symptoms like a staggering walk. In the case of HAPE or HACE, the only cure it to get off the mountain ASAP, as death can occur in a matter of 12 hours.

At the summit, we anticipate our heart rates to be in the 130s and our oxygen saturation levels to be in the low to mid 80s. The spouse of a patient who recently passed is generously donating her miniature pulse ox device so that we can measure our oxygen levels on the summit.

As we descend in altitude, the pressure in our lung blood vessels will return to normal.

Do you carry everything on your back?

No. Our outfitter includes porters who carry the heaviest loads, such as the tents and cooking supplies. We must carry everything we need during the day between campsites (clothing, food, water, trekking poles, first aid kits, sunscreen, etc). We expect about 20 lbs in our daypacks… although I promise to actually weigh mine and post it prior to departure…

What gear do you need?

I posted a detailed blog on this :

Quick List: boots, many layers of performance clothing, wool socks with liners, waterproof hiking pants and jacket, poncho, winter gear (jackets, gloves with liners, etc), balaclava, wool hat, sunhat, sunglasses, trekking poles, pack, duffel bag, four-season sleeping bag with pad, hydration systems, water filter or chemical tablets, quickdry towel, toiletries, camera, sunscreen, bug spray, toilet paper (I plan to sell for $5 a sheet to those who forget!), headlamp, compass, maps, first aid kits (including blister kit, anti-diarrhea meds, antibiotics, anti-malaria meds, attitude sickness meds (diamox, nifedipine, sildenafil, dexamethasone), painkillers, etc.

Added bonuses: laptop to attempt to download pictures and satellite transmit them to PHA for the blog real-time, satellite phone for phone interviews recorded and posted by PHA, miniature pulse ox to document our oxygen levels at the summit, the PHA flag for the summit photo, the little monkey stuffed animal to pose in the picture with me for my 2 year-old son, Tyler.

Did you need special vaccines or medicines?

As clinicians we already have many necessary vaccinations. Additional vaccines needed for Tanzania are Yellow Fever , Typhoid, Hepatitis A, polio booster, tetanus booster. Some of the meds we will bring are: anti-diarrhea meds, antibiotics, anti-malaria meds, attitude sickness meds (diamox, nifedipine, sildenafil, dexamethasone), painkillers, etc.


  1. You go GIRL!!!... Slow and easy is a good motto to now embrace or another "better to be safe than sorry". If a longer route is the best way, then that's the best way to climb. And if you sell a "sheet" for $5 each will that be donated to PHA :o)
    Just a thought, if you all do this again -- do it in September, please. :o)
    I am still in awe with all you have to go through to accomplish this amazing trek. Lots of hugs of support from here.

  2. Hey Jessica, After reading this, I'm over my awe, beginning to question how safe are you guys in doing this? Is this feat worth risking our best professionals' lives? Tonight is a holy night for us and I shall be praying extra hard to the almighty to pass on His Strength, Courage, Stamina and whatever else you may need along with choicest Blessings for your safe success and return home to your loved ones.