Staffing on Team Kilimanjaro Climbs
6.1 Do you have your own guide and porters, or will you be putting our group with another company or group?
I have personally selected all 23 of our chief guides, most of my assistant guides, some of my cooks and a small percentage of my porters. On the last selection course I ran, I started at 0545 in the morning with 220 porters and after beasting ourselves up and down our local training hill (Kivesi), having strength tests on the summit and a race back to TKBase there were only actually around 25 names that were permanently added to my staff list. It is very hard finding the best porters who are strong and reliable and hard working and honest and even of these 25 from one particular selection I gather only around a dozen are now working with us because strength and aptitude are just a small part of a porter’s requirements. Because of this difficulty, while I always select every single chief guide for TK, I generally allow the chief guides to select their own porters. But if I have understood your question correctly, we certainly don’t just subcontract somebody else to do our work for us. And actually, if we did so, all the above would be totally fictitious as I would be relying on the word of some local admin staff to answer all these questions on my behalf and I’m afraid the culture of local outfits is not such that the management climbs with its staff, trains or even selects its staff. The management wear nice suits and sit in air-
6.2 Are your guides knowledgeable in the flora and fauna of Kilimanjaro?
Yes, all our guides have at least an acceptable level of knowledge in this field and a couple of our guides have an extraordinary and almost encyclopaedic knowledge of flora and fauna.
6.3 Are your guides knowledgeable in health and safety procedures?
Frankly, if I’ve got a sick climber and a doctor together on Kilimanjaro and I reach them on the phone, I always get a great deal more sense out of the guide than the doctor.
… So in answer, it depends who is asking the question. None of my guides have medical degrees but I trust them totally to make sensible decisions and to be decisive in implementing evacuation procedures where they judge this to be necessary. And I trust them a great deal more than I would a doctor, in a high-
6.4 Are your porters well dressed with appropriate clothing and shoes for the trek to the summit?
Our porters do not generally go to the summit except by special request, or where a porter has aspirations to train towards being an assistant guide. My guides and assistant guides – who obviously are required to summit –
Clothing is a matter of perspective. What I would say is that when I personally am already acclimatised and carrying 25kg at altitude I do not dress very dissimilarly from them. However, if a climber is not acclimatised, is moving very slowly (as is recommended and as we will pace you) and is only carrying 5-
We have only ever had one death amongst our porters and this was of one of the brothers of one of my guides in a road traffic accident while on his way to work. My porters are generally very sensible. We do however encourage the guides to check their porters’ kit before starting each climb and my office admin staff make regular spot checks also. The following is inside the guide’s contract but some don’t bother carrying a sleeping mat and gloves as they find these unnecessary and an annoying addition to their bulk. I support them in this as I often don’t bother to carry gloves or a mat for myself when I climb as I sleep with the porters and we are packed quite tight together and it’s nice and warm, and I assault with my hands in my pockets and draw heat from my thighs and so never get cold hands. But anyway, the following is what we recommend guides and porters to have and the chief guides mostly humour us in this:
REQUIRED KIT FOR PORTERS
1. waterproof jacket x 1
2. waterproof trousers x 1
3. socks x 2 pairs
4. boots or trainers with good tread
5. fleece or warm jacket x 1
7. lightweight trousers x 2 (tracksuit type)
8. balaclava x 1
9. gloves x 1 pair
10. sleeping bag
11. water bottle x 2 litres
12. sleeping mat
REQUIRED KIT FOR GUIDES & ASSISTANT GUIDES
As for porters plus:
13. insulated jacket (down or similar) x 1
14. warm socks x 1
15. insulated trousers x 1
But again, please ensure that you do differentiate very clearly between your own requirements (given here) and those of my staff. It really is essential that you have the items on the kit list and if you are at all unsure about the quality of any of your own gear, I would strongly recommend that you hire from us. We notice that consistently climbers will fail to anticipate how cold their hands will get during the assault and snow-
6.5 Do Team Kilimanjaro treat their porters well?
We suspect that some readers’ perception of people in Africa may have been influenced by cynical mainstream western media, which in our experience portrays the majority of Africans as poor little exploited people who don’t have a voice of their own. Some bad eggs inevitably capitalise on this perception to exploit naive visitors to Africa, employing the hang-
The fact of the matter is that the locals have a rich evolving culture, proud traditions, and an open labour market where the best workers can compete for employment in any of 350 different companies in Arusha and Moshi. Team Kilimanjaro staff are generally regarded by most of the rest of the local population as being relatively privileged, with incomes many time is excess of the country’s GDP per capita, and active and varied lifestyles.
Our workers have loud and clear voices and full access to all levels of the chain of command, through which any sincere concerns can be addressed. Such concerns are always taken seriously, as our management are cautious to ensure that nothing challenges the corporate sense of purpose and close cohesion that we enjoy and from which emerge the highest standards of cooperation and performance. As a pertinent example of the genuine social concerns that motivate them, some of our staff have formed bands through which –
Those who have a genuine social concern for the people are Africa are most welcome to approach us and we will offer candid advice on how best any funds that people want to donate can be administered. Our recommendations are likely to centre on ways to help the homeless and the sick, though, rather than exploiting climbers’ generosity to ourselves parade as philanthropists whose real agenda is actually to promote their own company’s philanthropic profile for marketing purposes.
On a daily basis, Team Kilimanjaro receives requests from guides asking to migrate their established employment with other operators, to us. We do not believe that such a trend would emerge if it were perceived that our workers were not treated well; particularly when one considers that there are 350 other climb operations that they could approach.
Please see here for a very old summary of a porter’s lot while on the mountain. (Since this was published, we feel that staff experiences have been enhanced a great deal further).
6.6 How many guides and porters will you be assigning to a group of 4 climbers?
Your group’s support staff would comprise:
1 x chief guide
1 x assistant guide
1 x cook
14 x porters & camp crew