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Author Topic: Kilimanjaro and a bad stomach  (Read 14110 times)

Thor

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Kilimanjaro and a bad stomach
« on: Jan 4 2009, 18:49 »

I just returned from a failed attempt on Kilimanjaro. Downer. I chose not to attempt to summit from Kibo Hut at 4700 because I suffered from a really bad stomach which had me throw up everything; leaving me starved and dehydrated. The choice was my own entirely and based on selfknowledge gained through other athletic experiences. It was tough nonetheless - and the night spent alone in a tent at Kibo Hut probably the worst of my life.
My problem is this: All the way up the Rongai I did not seem to suffer very much from mountain sickness. I acclimatised fairly well and had absolutely no headache at 4700. Do you think this bad stomach could be atttributed to some kind of altitude sickness? Our group consisted of 4 people and the 3 of us suffered from varying degrees of bad stomach. Even now, 5 days later and back at sea level, my stomach is far from its prime condition.
If it was just some typical tourist stomach, it was simply bad luck. But if it WAS altitude sickness, what can I do to prevent it the next time?
I'm up for a fast comeback: Machame route, August 2010.
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Re: Kilimanjaro and a bad stomach
« Reply #1 on: Jan 4 2009, 22:48 »

Hi Thor,

thanks for your post and welcome to the forum. Can you tell me the schedule of your climb? I.e.: how many days did it take you to get to the hut?
Most altitude/stomach issues are a result from too quick an ascent. Even though Kili is technically easy, it is a very high mountain.

This can cause nausea and even vomiting (which is a definite sign of not ascending anymore!), and it can take your body several days to recover once at lower  altitude.

Of course, it can also be food poisoning, especially if others in your team had the same problem, but it is hard to tell. Who did you climb with?

Cheers,
Harry
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"He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary." -- Friedrich Nietzsche

Thor

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Re: Kilimanjaro and a bad stomach
« Reply #2 on: Jan 4 2009, 23:37 »

Hey Harry

I was actually part of the Baldridge exp with ZARA tours through 7summits.com climbing with Living as our guide. We were doing the Rongai in 8 days but decided to cut it down to 7. First night was spent at 2500 - next at 3200 - two nights at 3950 - and the next one at 4700. This last one was supposed to have been summit night for me. The physical and mental challenge was nothing to speak of - but the stomach set me apart. I felt some cramps, lost my appetite and got the diarrhea in the afternoon before our last sleep on 3950. I took a ciprofloxacin and went to sleep. I felt good in the morning but two of my companions now seemed to be suffering from the same thing and one of them vomited most of the way to Kibo Hut. While he spent that afternoon recovering, I was starting to feel bad again. Arriving at Kibo Hut I felt really excellent, had eaten a lot and still had a lot of appetite - but first I lost the appetite, then the cramps returned, and two hours before the summit attempt I vomited for the first time and was unable to keep any food in me.
We had eaten some oily egg-sandwiches the afternoon I started feeling bad at 3950 and our burps kept reminding us of that. I guess that's your stomach telling you it doesn't like it too much. Besides, that same day we had an acclimatisation hike to 4600 - still with no trouble like headache or shortness of breath. 
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Re: Kilimanjaro and a bad stomach
« Reply #3 on: Jan 5 2009, 00:11 »

Hey Thor,

I am sorry to hear that. It is very difficult to say what caused it, can be a combnation of:
- Eating something wrong: food your stomach cannot handle (like fat stuff, even though you might like it at lower altitude, it might not work higher up).
- Picking up some bacteria along the way, anytime from a few days to the evening before. In the past years I have had only one report of one client having to quit because of stomach problems, but of course it can happen, due to various reasons (cook's/kitchen staff's problems/fault, climbers sharing water bottles, personal hygiene etc)
- Still going to fast (skipping the planned day, meaning going up in 5.5 days instead of 6.5 days, or 15% faster)
- Mostly overlooked: Jetlag. You climbed the day after arriving. Not sure if you live in the same place as Luke, but even though there is only 8 hours difference between Michigan and tanzania, it can cause bad stomachs as you are eating and exercising at times your body expects to rest and vice versa.

and of course it can be classic AMS as well, which can hit anybody, doesn't matter if you are young/old, male/female or experienced or not. But usually this does not hit everybody in teh same party unless they take a very short (5 or 6 days) trip.

In any way, I apologize for not having the experience you had expected, whatever the cause. I understand and commend you for wanting to know how to prevent this for next time, but it is very hard to pinpoint what exactly caused it.

If you feel you want to come back and try again, I will make sure you get an even better deal.
Hope you still enjoyed he beauty of Kili and the friendly people of Tanzania,

With best regards,

Harry
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Thor

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Re: Kilimanjaro and a bad stomach
« Reply #4 on: Jan 5 2009, 00:37 »

I was most satisfied with your arrangement and am looking forward to using 7summits again. I was not flying in from Michigan - I come from Denmark and just met Luke on the internet. So I did not suffer from any jetlag either. My best guess is, actually, that it was caused by the too fat food. I do not tolerate it too well, not even at low altitude, but Living urged us to eat a lot - and I did. He was a great guide. Could not have hoped for anyone more dedicated and competent than him. In the end, it was just a matter of extremely bad luck as I was, as described, totally fit for fighting only a few hours before summit attempt. This experience did not get me down. On the contrary: I'm excited by the chance to make a strong comeback. At 20, I guess this was the best lesson I could learn at the beginning of my mountaineering career. It doesn't go as planned every time - if ever.
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Re: Kilimanjaro and a bad stomach
« Reply #5 on: Jan 6 2009, 07:39 »

Those are wise words, that many climbers twice your age can still learn from  8)

Thanks for the heads up, hearing back from Luke it seems like just a combination of the above which kept you from summiting.

Looking forward to see your experiences on other climbs!
Keep us posted,
With best regards,

Harry
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jedi-knight

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Re: Kilimanjaro and a bad stomach
« Reply #6 on: Jan 11 2009, 11:30 »

I was most satisfied with your arrangement and am looking forward to using 7summits again. I was not flying in from Michigan - I come from Denmark and just met Luke on the internet. So I did not suffer from any jetlag either. My best guess is, actually, that it was caused by the too fat food. I do not tolerate it too well, not even at low altitude, but Living urged us to eat a lot - and I did. He was a great guide. Could not have hoped for anyone more dedicated and competent than him.

Been away for a long while....so much so that I forgot my login password to this forum....hahahaha....anyway, I digress.

I climbed Kili twice with 7summits, the second time was in Feb 08 with Living as the guide and Zungu the asst guide. Both times via Machame route, although I did not summit the first time. They are a swell team I can tell. I would climb again with Living anytime. He would want you to attempt the summit, unless he feels that you are not well enough for it.

I am not sure what your flight itinerary is like, but our group landed the morning a day before our climb. We had enough time to get used to the surrounding climate and environment and the food. Essentially, we had breakfast, lunch and dinner at the hotel in Moshi even before we go up the mountain. By the time we were on the mountain, the food are mostly carbs (which is what we expected) and eggs, but surprisingly we have other nice things included. Our guide living would ensure that everyone ate well and rehydrate. He would not be too concerned about the time factor, even though we have pple from their 20s to their 40s in our group.

If you are not used to the food that you got on the mountain, you may want to try those food at home prior to the trip. If you are not used to eating a lot of say, potatoes, then you'll have a hard them swallowing them at altitude.

May I suggest that you try the Machame route the next time, at least 7 days on the mountain. You can do it man ! Good luck !

JK ;D

PS: One other thing that I observed on the mountain is that the fitter climbers tend to go a lot faster than the rest. Nothing wrong with that, but it might affect your body's ability to adjust to the altitude. Unless of course you have been on a high altitude just before your Kili trip.
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Thor

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Re: Kilimanjaro and a bad stomach
« Reply #7 on: Jan 21 2009, 05:49 »

Thanks. They actually served me one full plate with just plain potatoes - no salt, no oil, boiled - coming down the mountain and being feeling pretty sick, because I requested it. I ate some - but at that time I did not have much appetite left. In my experience, powerbars are a good supplement when your stomach is acting like that and may not be too happy about big meals.
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