Kibo, Kilimanjaro's summit cone
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Proposed configuration of assaults on Kilimanjaro via the Western Breach

 

While we are unable to recommend the Western Breach as a safe assault option, climbers and operational coordinators are asked to consider the following recommendations for route configurations:

 

Proposed timings for safe use of the Western Breach

- that Arrow Glacier Camp (4,871m) be reached in such time as to allow the assault of the summit to begin no later than 0530 the following morning, though preferably earlier than this.

 

Eliminating unsafe use of Crater Camp with respect to safe principles of acclimatisation

- conventionally, prior to 2006 most local climb operators would ascend from Arrow Glacier Camp at 4,871m to Crater Camp at 5,729m, and would overnight there prior to assaulting the summit the following morning at dawn. It is our recommendation that such a configuration be considered unsafe and that assaults from Arrow should attain the summit prior to climbers sleeping overnight at 5,729m. The reason for this relates to the necessity to attain a higher elevation during the day time than where a climbers sleeps the following night. There are straightforward physiological factors related to the body’s response to altitude that are responsible for this requirement, which we would be willing to discuss at greater length with climbers.

 

Illness and injury: optimising safety of evacuation from the Western Breach

- the Western Breach is not sanctioned by KINAPA as an acceptable descent route on Kilimanjaro. The reason for this is that it is very steep and the ground underfoot is unstable and the likelihood of tripping, slipping and falling is high on this route. In the event of an evacuation being required however, we would advise that if the climber is yet to make significant progress towards the top of the rock steps (pictured above, right), then the climber should descend with their guide to Arrow Camp, and from there pass via Lava Tower to Shira Huts from where they would expect to be evacuated by KINAPA’s rescue vehicle from an elevation of 3,760m. To familiarise yourself with these locations, please see our mapping page.

 

- climbers requiring evacuation from the Western Breach who have passed the rock steps section pictured below, right, are advised to continue upwards beyond the lip of the crater at 5,725m from where their guide should assist them swiftly 1.46km across the relatively flat crater surface to Stella Point from where descent to a safe elevation will be much faster than if the climber had turned around towards the very top of the Western Breach and begun their descent down the Breach. It should be noted that this scenario is the only exception on Kilimanjaro to the otherwise universal rule of immediate descent following a climber’s succumbing to a serious altitude-related condition, and is only advised on the grounds that:

 

A) a climber succumbing to cerebral oedema (or in some cases, even severe AMS) can be expected to suffer ataxia; a loss of co-ordination that would create a new and substantial risk of tripping and falling.

 

B) it is not viable for a team to effect a safe evacuation-carry down the Western Breach as there are many sections where the area of safe footing is too narrow to allow the carriers to stand in proximity to one another

 

C) the potentially fatal added risk compounded by the likelihood of slipping, tripping, falling or suffering substantial delays while descending the Western Breach, far outweigh the risks associated with gaining an additional 150 metres in elevation before being in a position from which rapid descent is possible. That said, if a sick climber has more than 200 vertical metres remaining before attaining the top of the crater wall then the risks associated with descending the Breach should be considered less than those associated with prolonged exposure to extremely high altitude and further exertion when already in a critical condition.

 

The parametric altitudes for a guide to consider immediate evacuation, or else continue to attain the Crater should be considered to be 5,500m to 5,600m. Above this elevation we recommend that evacuation should be upwards. Below this elevation, evacuation should be downwards. Within these parameters, the guide’s discretion should be respected as whether evacuation be upwards or downwards.

 

Ascending the Western Breach towards Pop To'olo and the unstable crater wall.
Looking downwards on the Western Breach from near the top of the crater wall.