On Kilimanjaro Day 3 we started to finally get an elevation that most of us rarely go to on a regular basis. We started from Shira Cave Camp and went all the way up to Lava Tower at 4,600 meters (15,000 feet) then to Barranco Camp.
We did not set up camp to stay the night at Lava Tower, but instead just had lunch before we dropped down to Barranco Camp which is at about at 3,900 meters (13,000 feet).
The welcome we received at Barranco Camp at the end of the day from the porters and guides was amazing! You can see it in the video underneath.
Video From Kilimanjaro Day 3
Kilimanjaro Day 3 Acclimatize At 4600 Meters
We spent about an hour for lunch at Lava Tower. The purpose was to acclimatize at this elevation before dropping down a thousand meters to spend the night. 4,600 meters (15,000 feet) is quite high up there, and this elevation will give you a great indication of how well your body is acclimatizing. I could actually really feel a major difference from being at 3,000 meters (9.800 feet) to going up to 4,600 meters (15,000 feet). I had more of a shortness of breath, and just noticed I had to take it easy and save my energy. For me, it was a big difference compared to Day 1 and Day 2.
The walk to Lava Tower is a pleasant walk through Alpine Desert. Not really much happening up there, but it’s still beautiful as you can see in the pictures. Lots of lava boulders from the volcano.
Kilimanjaro Day 3 Clothing
I continued to wear hiking pants, a thin long sleeve hiking shirt, and my jacket during this hike. It really depends on how much you sweat. One guy on our team would sweat like crazy and had to be really careful not to get a cold. If you’re sweating a lot then it’s a little harder to manage your body temperature. You just don’t want any of your clothes to be wet. You want to regulate your body temperature as much as you can. I take off my jacket when I was warm, but put it back on as soon as it got windy or I felt cold. It worked very well for me, but everyone is different. I always had either a beanie or a hat on to cover my face and neck since it’s easy to get sunburned at that elevation.
During our breaks, if I were not wearing my jacket, I would put it on and pull up the hood. When we were trekking, my temperature was fine, but as soon as we stopped to rest, then I would quickly notice my body getting cold. It’s easy to catch a cold this way since it’s windy, especially if you’ve been really warm from the trek.
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Safety Climbing Kilimanjaro
I’m so glad that we went with a company that really values our safety above anything else. They would often check in on us and take our check the amount of oxygen levels. If we were below 75% of oxygen in our body, they would take us straight down to a lower elevation. Here is a popular pulse oxymeters on Amazon by Santamedical. I really wish I would have brought one, and if I am to go again I will definitely bring a pulsoximeter!
Drop In Oxygen Levels
During lunch at Lava Tower, one of our team members was not feeling great and getting a little nauseous. They measured her and she took Diamox to get her oxygen levels up. But her numbers did not increase but dropped even more. She was therefore rushed down to Barranco Camp. It’s a fairly steep drop, therefore getting down to a lower altitude went very fast. She measured 95% after 30 minutes of the descent, so she was totally fine and felt normal after she was taken down to a lower elevation.
Altitude Sickness On Kilimanjaro
Another guy on our team told me he did not feel great at Lava Tower on his climb the previous year. At that time, he was also rushed down to a lower elevation.
This can be a little dramatic to experience, but most people are fine as long as they catch it early on. The body usually responds well going down just 1,000 meters, and together with Diamox and drinking lots of water, the oxygen levels will normalize again.
What is nice about going to Lava Tower (4,600 meters) for lunch is that you get to test how you are acclimatizing to this elevation. Checking the oxygen levels in your blood using a pulse oximeter is very helpful to see if you need to make any changes to prevent altitude sickness.
Oxygen In Water
Altitude sickness can often hit the person right away, and then it can be too late to continue the trek. Therefore any unusual symptom experienced it’s best to inform the guide of right away.
To prevent altitude sickness the best thing you can do is drink plenty of water. There is oxygen in the water, which is why it’s so important to stay hydrated. Taking deep breathes combined with drinking lots of water will prevent altitude sickness.
Pressure Breathing Technique Kilimanjaro
We were also taught to do a breathing technique they referred to as “pressure breathing.” This is basically taking a slow, deep breath and quickly blowing out the air to get rid of the carbon dioxide in the body. I would do this at almost every step of the climb. Some people do it on every 2 or 3 steps. I took really slow steps and would take a deep breath, and blow the air out quickly. You could hear a sound when I exhaled, almost like I was spitting out the air.
Drinking 2-3 liter of water per day, pressure breathing and walking very slowly using a rest step (I’ll discuss this later) will help prevent altitude sickness.
We’ve heard all kinds of stories of people that were not feeling good when they climbed, but their guides still dragged them to the top. They can’t remember being at the top of Kilimanjaro, but have the picture as “proof.”
Can Be Very Dangerous
Altitude sickness can be quite scary, and I didn’t realize how dangerous it could be until Day 6 – Summit day. We saw some people that looked really messed up coming down the mountain. Some of them were being rushed down by their guides, one with an IV in her arm, and another person was taken down on a stretcher. It, therefore, is something that you want to be very careful about and pay attention to how your body is responding.
Check Your Body
If you feel the slightest change in your body, headache, nausea, dizziness, then you want to inform your guide right away so they can check you. It’s not worth pushing through and getting sick and not be able to get to the top. It’s much better to just go down 1,000 meters until the oxygen in your body is normal, and then come up again later.