Martina Navratilova succumbs to altitude sickness on Kilimanjaro

Last week we reported that tennis great Martina Navratilova was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa to raise funds and awareness for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. She was setting off to reach the top of Africa’s tallest mountain, which stands 19,340 feet in height, and hoped to hit a few tennis balls off the summit to celebrate her success. But as the week wore on, she began to struggle, eventually turning back as she developed the very serious symptoms of pulmonary edema, also known as altitude sickness.

After struggling for several days on the trail, Martina was forced to turn back last Thursday when her lungs began to fill with liquid. She reached a height of 14,800 feet, but was too weak, and taking too great of a risk, to continue any higher. Instead, she was helped back down the mountain by a group of porters, who took her to a nearby hospital in Tanzania. From there, she was sent to a larger facility in Nairobi, Kenya, where she was treated for three days before being released on Sunday.

Before starting up Kili, Navratilova has never been to an altitude higher than 12,000 feet, but living in Aspen, Colorado she believed that she could acclimatize to the altitude quickly. She even went so far as to call the trek “just a basic hike.” After being released from the hospital she was singing a bit of a different tune however, saying “This was supposed to be fun, but nobody had fun. It was just survival. It is not an experience one would enjoy.”

Each year, a number of trekkers underestimate the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro, which results in numerous evacuations from the mountain. Most are not as serious as this one however, and had she continued higher, Navratilova ran the real risk of death. Fortunately, her guides knew when to take her back down and get her the medical attention she needed.

If you’re planning a Kili climb of your own, don’t let this story dissuade you. Do your best to prepare ahead of time, getting in some good cardio workouts and go on a few distance hikes carrying a pack. When you get to Tanzania, listen to your guides, and take their advice to go “Pole! Pole!”, which means “Slowly! Slowly!” With that in mind, you’ll have a good chance of reaching the fabled snows of Kilimanjaro.

[Photo credit: Chris Jackon/Getty Images]

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova to climb Kilimanjaro

54-year old tennis legend Martina Navratilova is in Tanzania this week where she’ll be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa at 19,340 feet. She is making the climb to raise funds for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting sportsmanship and a code of conduct in athletics, around the world.

The nine-time Wimbledon singles winner has never been above 12,000 feet before, so the altitude could prove to be a bit of a challenge. She lives in Aspen, Colorado however, so has a good level of acclimatization before ever arriving on the mountain. Navratilova doesn’t seem too concerned about the challenges of the climb though, as she has called the trek “just a basic hike.”

She does hope to raise 100,000 euros, or about $134,000 through the donation page on the Laureus webpage. A little more than half of that amount was already raised before she after left for Africa.

While still playing professional tennis, Martina was viewed as one of the toughest competitors to ever set foot on the court. During her long career she won 167 individuals titles, including 31 Grand Slams, and dominated the sport like no woman before or since. When she reaches the top of Kilimanjaro, she plans to hit tennis balls off the summit of course.

Fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa by climbing Kilimanjaro

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is an amazing experience that deserves to be on the “life list” for any adventure traveler. Standing 19,340 feet in height, Kili is the tallest mountain in Africa and the highest free standing volcano in the world. Located just a few degrees off the equator, its snow capped summit is the stuff of legends, even inspiring Ernest Hemingway to write about it. Now, you can combine your desire for a great adventure with the opportunity to have a positive impact on the place you visit.

In 2011, the American Foundation for Children with AIDS is sponsoring four charity climbs up Kilimanjaro, delivering an unprecedented opportunity for travelers to experience that adventure while helping young people in Africa as well. The AFCA is a non-profit organization that raises awareness and fund for children affected by AIDS on that continent, and in recent years they’ve made an annual climb up the mountain as one of their primary fundraisers. Participants on those climbs are expected to raise a minimum of $8000 to take part in the expedition. That money is used to pay for transportation and lodging while on the trip, food while climbing the mountain, including water and snacks and hiring guides. Additionally a $5000 donation is made to the AFCA’s to help fund their work in sub-Saharan Africa.

The dates for next year’s climb are as follows;

February 28 – March 10, 2011
August 6- 17, 2011
September 11-20, 2011
Women’s Only Climb: October 1 – 12, 2011

Each of the expeditions can accept up to 14 travelers and with several options available, there is some flexibility for when participants can take part in the adventure. With dates as far out as October of next year, there is still plenty of time to get signed up and start the fund raising process.

For more information on the organization and these great charitable climbs, click here.

Spanish climber sets new speed record on Kilimanjaro

Kilian Jornet, a Spanish mountain climber and endurance athlete, set a new record for the fastest climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro earlier this week, making his way from the base to summit, and back again, in just 7 hours and 14 minutes. The previous record for the climb was held by Tanzanian Simon Mtuy, who made the round-trip journey in 8 hours and 27 minutes.

Standing at 19,340 feet, Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa and a popular trekking destination amongst adventure travelers. Most hikers who go to the summit take six or seven days to complete the trip, which means Jornet was moving at a pace of roughly one days worth of climbing per hour. A pretty impressive feat no matter what the trail conditions are.

Jornet set out on his record-breaking attempt at 8AM local time on Tuesday and reached the summit just five hours and 23 minutes later. Running past the famous Uhuru Peak sign, he immediately started back down the mountain, finishing up an hour and fifty minutes later.

Kilimanjaro is famous for its five climate zones that begin in at the base on the savannah, which gives way to cloud forests and then marshlands. From there, climbers proceed up into high alpine desert and finally arctic conditions at the top. Jornet had to not only deal with those changes in climate along the way, but also large fields of rock left over from the last time that the volcanic Kilimanjaro erupted.

Upon reaching the finish line after his record breaking run, Jornet was greeted by the previous record holder who embraced the man who just shattered his old mark by an hour and thirteen minutes. I guess even he was impressed by this amazing display of strength and endurance.

[Photo credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim via WikiMedia]

Climb Kilimanjaro with Polarmax’s ultimate adventure sweepstakes

Standing 19,340-feet in height, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa, and a popular destination for adventure travelers. The climb to the summit is a non-technical, but still challenging, affair that will take your breath away as much for the spectacular views of the Serengeti below, as for the thin air at the top. For many, a Kili climb is a once in a lifetime adventure, and now, thanks to Polarmax, you could make the journey yourself.

The company has joined forces with Backpacker Magazine, Cotton Incorporated, and Zara Tours to bring us the Kilimanjaro Ultimate Adventure Sweepstakes which will send one lucky winner, and their guest, to Tanzania in January of 2011 to attempt to climb the mountain. The grand prize includes round trip airfare to Africa, ground transportation while there, four nights stay in a hotel, and a six day Kilimanjaro climb guided by Kili expert Macon Dunnagan. The sweepstakes winner will also be outfitted with plenty of Polarmax gear to keep them comfortable and warm while on the trek, and a custom video of the expedition will be shot for the Polarmax website as well.

To enter the contest, simply go to this page and fill out the entry form. Entries are being accepted through October 11, with travel scheduled to take place January 7-17, 2011. This is a great opportunity to experience one of the best adventure travel options on the planet, and entering the contest couldn’t be any easier.

For an idea of what to expect on this adventure, check out the video below.