One of our safety procedures, Our Mountain guides, carries a Pulse Oximeter used to take blood-oxygen level readings of clients twice a day throughout the Kilimanjaro climb.
This helps us ensure the climber adapts to the thinner air and does not develop early symptoms that could lead to altitude sickness.
One of the tools that we use to determine the status of our climbers is a pulse oximeter.
Pulse Oximeter is attached to the end of the climber’s finger; a pulse oximeter will use light beams to measure the total hemoglobin in the blood saturated with oxygen and your heart rate.
Most healthy individuals have an oxygen saturation (SpO2) of between 95-99% at sea level. As we climb higher, the atmospheric pressure drops, meaning there is effectively “less oxygen” in the air, and the oxygen saturation number will start to decrease.
At the summit of Kilimanjaro, there is approximately 49% of the oxygen available at sea level.
The percentage of blood oxygen saturation, combined with your heart rate, indicates how well your body is acclimatizing to the altitude. Recording these numbers twice daily allows our guides to watch your overall health while on the mountain and observe trends.
Pulse rate is also essential, as a very high heart rate can be an early indicator that a climber is struggling with the hypoxic (low oxygen) environment and the body is working hard to compensate.
These numbers cannot be used in isolation.
When climbing Kilimanjaro, our trained guides will do a routine medical check every day. You’ll be asked how you’re feeling, how you’ve slept, and other questions to build up a picture of how well you are doing.
When used in the context of any symptoms you are presenting and how you are feeling, these numbers indicate how well you are acclimatizing. Acclimatization is a complex adaptation process, and the pulse oximeter looks at only one factor.
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