You hear it all the time: Kilimanjaro is just a hike...anyone can do it. Well, yes, it is just a hike from a technical perspective by the standard routes, but, its altitude - almost 6,000 meters - catches many people unaware - even great athletes.
As Jason Hendricks over at Extreme Adventure News brought to my attention, tennis great Martina Navratilova was just brought down off the mountain, suffering from HAPE, or High Altitude Pulmonary Edema. All in all, she's fine, and is expected to make a full recovery. However, it could easily have been worse; there were no doubt many rescuers and helpers involved in getting her safely back down the mountain and to Nairobi Hospital.
Navratilova's mishap on the "easy" slopes of Kilimanjaro should serve as a warning to people: altitude can strike anyone, even great athletes on mellow terrain. So, be prepared, climb slowly and allow yourself to acclimate. Know how to read your body, and respond accordingly to what it's telling you. And, as Martina did, don't be afraid to turn around and come back another day...a summit isn't worth dying for.
If you want to learn a bit more about Acute Mountain Sickness, and it's more serious cousins, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema and High Altitude Cerebral Edema - and what to do about them - check out my articles on the subject below:
- The Basics of Altitude: A Primer on AMS, HACE, & HAPE, Part I
- The Basics of Altitude: A Primer on AMS, HACE, & HAPE, Part II
- The Basics of Altitude: A Primer on AMS, HACE, & HAPE, Part III
Enjoy, and be safe out there!