Is it hard to breathe on Kilimanjaro?

Located in Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the world’s tallest freestanding mountain, towering at 5,895 meters above sea level. It is a popular destination for climbers around the world, attracting approximately 30,000 to 50,000 people annually.

However, many wonder: is it hard to breathe on Kilimanjaro? In this article, we will explore the effects of high altitude on the human body and how it impacts breathing on the iconic Kilimanjaro.

Understanding high altitude

Before we dive into the effects of high altitude on breathing, it is essential to understand what high altitude means. High altitude is defined as any elevation above 2,500 meters (8,200 feet).

As you ascend to higher altitudes, the air becomes thinner and contains less oxygen. This decrease in oxygen availability can lead to various symptoms, including difficulty breathing.

Shortness of breath

One of the most common effects of high altitude on the human body is shortness of breath. As the air becomes thinner at higher altitudes, each breath contains less oxygen.

The body compensates for this by breathing faster and deeper, but it may not be enough to provide an adequate amount of oxygen. This can make one feel out of breath even while engaging in minimal physical activity.

Shortness of breath is a natural response to high altitude and is not typically a cause for concern. However, if it persists or worsens, it could be a sign of altitude sickness, a severe and potentially fatal condition.


The best way to prevent altitude sickness and minimize the effects of high altitude on breathing is through acclimatization. Acclimatization is the process by which the body adapts to the decrease in oxygen availability at higher altitudes. It generally takes 1-3 days for the body to acclimatize, and during this time, climbers are advised to take it slow and not ascend too quickly.

Acclimatization can be aided by staying hydrated, eating a balanced and high-carbohydrate diet, and avoiding alcohol and strenuous physical activity. Some climbers also use medication, such as Diamox, to help with acclimatization.

It is essential to consult with a doctor before taking any medication to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Altitude sickness

Altitude sickness is a severe condition that occurs when the body fails to acclimatize to high altitudes. It can manifest in various forms, such as acute mountain sickness, high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). These conditions can be life-threatening, and immediate descent is necessary to treat them.

Symptoms of altitude sickness include severe shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, and dizziness. It is essential to be aware of these symptoms and to communicate them to your guide or fellow climbers to address them promptly.

Choose a reputable Tour Operator like Climbing Kilimanjaro

To ensure a safe and successful climb on Kilimanjaro, it is crucial to choose a reputable Kilimanjaro tour operator. Our Experienced Kilimanjaro guides and staff can recognize the symptoms of altitude sickness and provide proper care and assistance. They also plan the climb with acclimatization in mind, ensuring the safety and well-being of their climbers.


Is it hard to breathe on Kilimanjaro? The answer is yes, but with proper preparation and acclimatization, it can be manageable. Climbing Kilimanjaro is not a feat to be taken lightly, and it is crucial to be aware of the effects of high altitude on the body. It is recommended to train physically before attempting the climb and to choose a reputable tour company with experienced guides.

Ultimately, reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro is a challenging and rewarding experience, and careful planning and preparation can make all the difference. So, if you are up for an adventure of a lifetime, go ahead and conquer the iconic Kilimanjaro, but remember to take care of yourself and listen to your body along the way. Contact us now to start planning your trek.