I have climbed Mt. Kilimajaro (by the long Machame route) successfully to the very summit (Uhuru Point). Do not under-estimate that mountain. Two very young, very well conditioned climbers (both physicians) got pulmonary edema and cerebral edema and had to be rushed down the mountain by the porters.
It is possible to have retinal hemorrhages due to the altitude and the very dry air and severe wind conditions causes a great deal of discomfort in our party. I took Diamox for the ascent and it helped but it will make your fingers and toes tingle and it was difficulty trying to determine if my hands and feet were cold or if it was paraesthesias due to diamox (it was the later).
Be sure you go with a reliable guided party (I went with Mountain Travel Sobek). Be sure you are in excellent condition. It was one of the best adventures of my life and the view of the sun coming up and lighting the mountain like fire and seeing a bed of clouds as far as the eye can see I hope will always be with me.
Good luck. By the way physicially climbing Mt. Ranier was tougher.
JCH III MD
Kilimanjoro Climb to Summit Certificate 35327
Thank you very much for your response and your valuable advice. It is very exciting to hear about your experience climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. My trip is still in the planning stage. I will look for a reliable guided party if the trip materializes.
What is Diamox for? You didn't have any eye problems when you made that climb, did you?
Can pulmonary/cerebral edema be predicted before the climb?
Can retina hemorrhages cause blindness? With my eye condition, do you think it is still worth climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro? I had hiked down the Grand Canyon and up a few times and it was quite easy. Perhaps I should practice on Mt. Whitney first as it is reachable within half a day's trip.
Thank you again.
Diamox (acetazolamide) is to prevent mountain sickness and perhaps reduce the chance of pulmonary edema and cerebral edema. Neither of these can be predicted and do not always stike the least fit. In our group one was the worse in shape (cerebral edema) and the pulmonary edema was probably the best in shape ( a amateur bicycle racer).
I did not have any problems. The type of retinal hemorhages described in mountain climbers have not left permanent damage.
I've done the Grand Canyon also, south rim Bright Angel trail and that was a walk in the park. Mt. Whitney would be a agood trial. Mt. Rainier would be even better and is the most difficult "hike" in the lower 48. We saw a number of technical climbing teams practicing for the Himalaya. We climbed in early July after a week of perfect weather in which all teams from Rainier guides made the summit we had a winter strom hit the summit and the wind chill was -50. they turned out group around about 300 feet from the summit and no-one summited for 4 days.
As long as you understand the risks and are in surperb physical shape and with a good company/guides I think the risks are acceptable. I have been absolutely delighted that I did mountain climbing, parachuting, white water rafting, paragliding, parasailing, etc. when I was young enough and strong enough. No regrets now.
Good luck to you.
JCH III MD
Hello again Doctor.
Thank you for taking the time to write back. I know what you meant when you said that there is no regrets for those adventures you had gone on when you were younger. After my retina detachment, I realized that I should have gone on more trips, have more adventures and experience more places. Fortunately I have my vision back though still blurry and distorted. So if I can, I would like to be more involved in activities such as climbing Mr. Kilimanjaro, traveling and enjoying nature.
Would people like me, who have had two cataract surgeries and a victrectomy for retina detachment, be more susceptible to retina hemorrhages in high altitude?
Do you have any advice as to how to go about looking for good outfitters that take people up Kilimanjaro? What do I look for? How would I know that the company is a good one? Do those companies bring doctors with them as part of their crew? It would be great to have an eye doctor like you in the party!