Gugu Zulu ‘should have turned back’‚ experts say

19 July 2016 - 14:08 By Nomahlubi Jordaan

Gugu Zulu should not have continued his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro after complaining of having flu-like symptoms. Climbing experts told TMG Digital on Tuesday that flu-like symptoms were a cause for serious concern at high altitude.Zulu died while taking part on the Trek4Mandela expedition on Mount Kilimanjaro. He complained of having flu-like symptoms on Saturday and posted on his Instagram account that he was “struggling with the mountain”.The next day‚ he continued walking and was photographed getting acclimatised. Hours later he required medical treatment for breathing difficulties.Tragedy on Mount Kilimanjaro - what we know so farClimbing experts suspect that Zulu could have succumbed to altitude sickness – although the cause of death is yet to be confirmed - also known as pulmonary oedema‚ which they say is a common cause of death on high mountains. The Nelson Mandela Foundation said on Tuesday said that it did not have any details about the cause of death.“Any such [flu-like] symptoms are a cause for concern whilst at altitude‚” explained Justin Lawson‚ a mountain guide from Climbing ZA.“If you have symptoms of mild AMS (acute mountain sickness)‚ then you should not go any higher for 24 to 48 hours. If the symptoms do not improve or get worse‚ then you should descend immediately‚” he said.“… he should have turned around sooner. However‚ it should be noted that it is very common for climbers to get symptoms associated with acute mountain sickness at some point during their climb‚” said Adam Collins‚ expedition coordinator at Ultimate Kilimanjaro.“So it is really a question of what degree of acute mountain sickness Zulu experienced‚ and what was done to prevent‚ identify‚ and treat altitude related illnesses‚” he said.WATCH: 5 things you might not have known about Gugu Zulu“Mount Kilimanjaro is commonly described as ‘Everyman's Everest’ because it is one of the seven summits that can be climbed by anyone in decent physical fitness. No technical mountaineering skills are required‚” said Collins.“However‚ at 5895m-tall‚ there is a high probability of developing some degree of acute mountain sickness while on Kilimanjaro.“Therefore it is good practice for those wanting to climb Kilimanjaro to get cleared for high altitude trekking by their doctors‚” said Collins.Collins said Mount Kilimanjaro was not a dangerous mountain to climb‚ but‚ “there is always danger when climbing high mountains”.“It is commonly reported that approximately 10 climbers die every year on the mountain‚ primarily due to acute mountain sickness‚ out of some 35 000 people who attempt it annually.The last image posted on Gugu Zulu's Instagram account“By mountaineering standards‚ this fatality rate is very‚ very low. Some peaks have 50% fatality rates‚” said Collins.Edmund February‚ an ardent climber and an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Cape Town‚ however‚ believes there could be more deaths on Kilimanjaro which go unreported.“I would imagine it’s a lot more common than what comes out. Gugu was a famous guy that’s why we hear about it but I have heard of several deaths on Kilimanjaro.”Lawson said that for anyone climbing a mountain above 1500m‚ care had to be taken to acclimatise properly by ascending slowly and descending immediately if one showed any signs of acute mountain sickness. “The more days you allow climbing the mountain‚ the higher the probability of success as your body has more time to adapt and acclimatise‚” he said. - Additional reporting Roxanne Henderson/TMG Digital..

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