While climbing Kilimanjaro the one thing that you don’t want to happen is to be placed in a position that requires you to be rescued. Everyone who climbs Kilimanjaro pays a US $20 rescue fee to the Kilimanjaro Park Authorities and this fee covers a rapid decent down the mountain in a one wheeled stretcher trolley. These trolleys do not look like the most desirable forms of transport and thankfully I have never had to use one. If I was suffering from some sort of mountain sickness or a broken leg I’m sure that the trolley would become a lot more appealing and I would welcome the bumpy ride down the mountain to safety. At 6895 meters the summit of Kilimanjaro is reachable by helicopter. A plan was put forward to start a programme with an aviation company called Air Alpha. The Air Alpha service would have used Euro-copters to evacuate injured or sick individuals from the crater rim at an altitude of 5730 meters. If the plan had gone forward it would have meant that trekkers could have been evacuated from the mountain within 25 minutes from the emergency call being placed. The Kilimanjaro Park Authorities were not in agreement with the programme as they wanted rescues to remain the job of the rangers on Kilimanjaro. Rumors have also been circulating about Global Rescue, a company that provides evacuation and medical assistance anywhere in the world. Rumor had it that Global Rescue had been identifying landing zones on Kilimanjaro where they could possible land a helicopter for evacuation purposes. At the time of writing no helicopters had landed and no one has been rescued from high on the mountain via helicopter.
There are helicopter landing pads at some of the lower camps and for the most serious cases and for those with enough money helicopter evacuation can be arranged from Barranco Huts 3980 meters, Horombo Huts 3720 meters and Millennium Camp 3800 meters but getting to these camps involves a bumpy journey in the one wheeled trolley. For those trekking on the standard routes rescue by the park rangers is always available but for those attempting seldom used routes like the Western Breach or the Cerner Glacier rescue is left in the hands of the outfitter and those in the climbing group. The rangers on Kilimanjaro have been carting out rescues for many years and their work has undoubtedly saved many lives. Helicopter rescues would make Kilimanjaro a slightly safer mountain but until this happens the rangers will continue to rescue sick or injured climbers via the successful yet bumpy one wheeled trolley method.