The Porters of Kilimanjaro


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The porters of Kilimanjaro are featured in my book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, which chronicles my attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The book is on sale now as an e-book for $3.99 and in paperback for $9.99 from Amazon and other booksellers.

They are the unsung heroes of any mountain climb — the guides, porters, and cooks who help climbers reach the summit and get back safely. The workers who serve on Mount Kilimanjaro are brave and dedicated souls who work for low pay and risk their lives to assist climbers in their quest to realize their dreams.

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Guides, porters, and cooks have helped thousands of people climb Kilimanjaro since the mountain was first summited in 1889. That team, led German professor Hans Meyer and Austrian mountaineer Ludwig Purtscheller, included a local guide, nine porters, and a cook.

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Although climbers are responsible for getting themselves to the summit, their support team carries most of the gear and equipment they need to do the climb. Each porter and cook carries up to 15 kilograms (33 pounds), a heavy burden to bear for days and hours on end, again and again, up and down, in any kind of weather, over different kinds of terrain.

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Cooks carry all the food and equipment needed to prepare meals.

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Porters haul climbers who need to be evacuated from Kilimanjaro down in a mobile stretcher — something that looks like a wheel barrow.

Workers arrive at camps ahead of time and set up campsites so they’re ready when the climbers arrive. For every climber on the mountain, there may be three or more assistants helping them.

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Although working conditions on Kilimanjaro can be difficult, most guides, porters, and cooks are passionate about their jobs and take pride in being a member of an elite group. Many start out as porters or cooks and become guides after graduating from mountaineering school. Park management hires some graduates as park rangers. A few go on to start their own tour companies.

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Workers who don’t earn much money often make do with whatever clothing or equipment they can afford or hand-me-downs donated by climbers. In some cases, their wardrobe may consist of tattered shirts, light jackets, worn pants, loafers or tennis shoes with inadequate soles. Underdressed workers often race up the mountain and pass climbers with expensive clothing and gear.

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If you hire an outfitter or guide to help you climb Mount Kilimanjaro, please consider these suggestions when you’re on the mountain.

  • Meet your team. Get to know the guides, porters, and cooks who help you fulfill your dream. Tanzanians are generally friendly and helpful. They go to lengths to help those they care about, including their clients. Learning a few phrases in Swahili, the local language, will go a long way to building rapport with your team. They will remember you as the foreigner who spoke their language.
  • Pay decent tips. Many members of the support team earn very little on a climb. The pay is small but more lucrative than most jobs on the local economy since the guides and porters earn additional money from tips. Giving them a decent tip is the right thing to do. They work hard for you. There’s no set rule for the amount, but a decent tip is reportedly 15 percent of the fee you paid your guide shared among all members of the team.
  • Donate extra gear. You may not need some of your clothing and equipment after you finish your climb. Many climbers donate extra gear to the team. It’s a personal decision whether to give away your belongings, but your team will appreciate it. You can make a donation to any of the many porter support groups that help workers by giving away used gear in good condition. Many are online.
  • Treat workers with respect. The workers on Kilimanjaro work for you and other climbers. They are dedicated professionals and deserve your respect.

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I appreciate what my team did for me on my climb. There was no way I could have focused on climbing Kilimanjaro if I had to what they did for me. I’m grateful that they carried my heavy bags, set up and took down my tent every day, cooked and served me food, and made sure I survived.

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The workers on Kilimanjaro are heroes behind the scenes who deserve credit and respect for doing the difficult job of helping climbers reach a place that would otherwise be uninhabited by humans.

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More About Kilimanjaro

Click here to learn more about the book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill about the author’s attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.

Click here to learn about the fauna and flora on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read the story of the iconic wooden sign on Kilimanjaro’s summit and the metal one that replaced it in January 2012.

Click here to read about the vanishing glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read about The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the 1936 semi-autobiographical short story by Ernest Hemingway, the 1952 film, and the main character, Harry Street.

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M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

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The Kilimanjaro Sign–Old and New


Buy from Amazon.comThe Kilimanjaro sign is featured in my book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, which chronicles my attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The book is on sale now as an e-book for $3.99 and in paperback for $9.99 from Amazon and other booksellers.

The Kilimanjaro Sign. It’s what every climber tries to reach when they attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Not only does it make a great photo op, it symbolizes achievement. They did it. They made it to the top of Kilimanjaro!

Until recently, the summit was marked by an iconic wooden sign with yellow lettering, covered with stickers left behind by climbers who wanted to leave their mark.

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The old Kilimanjaro Sign was more than a marker erected by the Tanzanian government on the top of Uhuru Peak, the highest point on Kilimanjaro. To many, it symbolized that they had beaten the odds and achieved something remarkable – standing on the rooftop of Africa. Thousands of photos of climbers next to the sign adorn desks or hang on walls around the world. Thousands more dream of taking their own photo with it.

The wooden sign, in English, read:

CONGRATULATIONS

YOU ARE NOW AT

UHURU PEAK TANZANIA 5895 M A.M.S.L.

AFRICA’S HIGHEST POINT

WORLD’S HIGHEST FREE STANDING MOUNTAIN

A fourth plank on the sign that read “One of World’s Largest Volcanoes. Welcome” disappeared by 2010. A box containing a logbook next to the sign vanished by 2007.

At 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above mean sea level (AMSL), Mount Kilimanjaro bears many distinctions. Among them:

  • It is the highest mountain on the continent of Africa and in the country of Tanzania.
  • It is fourth highest of the Seven Summits, the highest mountain on each of the world’s seven continents.
  • It is one of the world’s largest volcanoes, active or extinct.
  • It is arguably the highest mountain you can climb without technical gear.
  • It is arguably the highest free-standing mountain on Earth. Some say that Mauna Loa in Hawai’i is the highest based on its height from the ocean floor, although that is subject to debate. Of course, none compare to the volcano Olympus Mons on Mars, which, at more than 22,000 meters (72,000 feet), is three times higher than Mount Everest.

The old Kilimanjaro Sign listed all of these records. But now the iconic wooden sign is gone!

The New Kilimanjaro Sign replaced the old one at the summit in January 2012. The metal sign is bright green with yellow lettering. Reports suggest that the new sign was erected to commemorate Tanzania’s 50th birthday. (Then-Tanganika declared independence from Great Britain on December 9, 1961. The island of Zanzibar, which became independent in 1963, united with Tanganika to form Tanzania on April 26, 1964.)

What do you think of the New Kilimanjaro Sign? Will it replace the old one as an enduring symbol of Kilimanjaro in the hearts and minds of those who have reached the summit or long to climb it? Only time will tell.

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More About Mount Kilimanjaro:

Click here to learn more about the book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill about the author’s attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.

Click here to learn about the fauna and flora on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read about the dedicated guides, porters, and cooks who work on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read about the vanishing glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read about The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the 1936 semi-autobiographical short story by Ernest Hemingway, the 1952 film, and the main character, Harry Street.

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He recently published a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an ebook and in print on Amazon.com. His upcoming book, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, will be available in March 2012. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

Copyright note: Photo of the new Kilimanjaro sign courtesy of Pendaely Lauwo, Zephyr Adventures guide.

The Glaciers of Kilimanjaro


Buy from Amazon.comThe glaciers of Kilimanjaro are featured in my book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, which chronicles my attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The book is on sale now as an e-book for $3.99 and in paperback for $9.99 from Amazon and other booksellers.

When I attempted to summit Kilimanjaro in 2010, I noticed that it had few glaciers and virtually no ice or snow. I thought this odd for a mountain that rises 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level — even one located near the Equator. Kilimanjaro often appears in photos capped with pristine white snow. When I climbed, however, it looked more like the photo below — mostly brown with a few glaciers near the summit. I saw the large Northern Icefield and a small glacier to the south but none below the rim of the crater on Kibo Peak pictured in the photo.

Kibo Peak is the tallest of three dormant volcanic cones that cap Mount Kilimanjaro, a massive mountain that covers an area of more than 750 square kilometers in northeastern Tanzania. The other cones, Mawenzi and Shira, have little or no ice or snow.

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As I gathered research for my book, I came across some photos of Kilimanjaro taken by NASA in 2003 from the International Space Station. The glaciers in these photos were larger than they were when I was on the mountain in 2010. According to NASA, Kilimanjaro’s glaciers will disappear completely by the year 2020. Based on my own observations, I think it will happen sooner.

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I took the same NASA photo above and identified below the major glaciers on Kilimanjaro to see which ones have melted or still exist.

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Based on a recent satellite photo taken by the Harris Corporation, most of Kilimanjaro’s glaciers, snow and ice have already melted. The Northern Icefield, the largest glacier, was intact, as were some remnants of the Southern Icefield and Heim Glacier. Some of the more famous ones such as Furtwängler Glacier, Rebmann Glacier, and Arrow Glacier are extinct or on the verge of being consigned to history.

Theories abound as to why the glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro are melting. Some say that it’s due to climate change and decreased precipitation caused by global warming; others believe it’s a natural occurrence. Some attribute the melting partly to the body heat and footprints made by the thousands of people who climb Kilimanjaro every year. What is certain is that its glaciers are melting, and the beautiful snowcap on Africa’s highest mountain is almost history.

More About Mount Kilimanjaro:

Click here to learn more about the book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill about the author’s attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.

Click here to learn about the fauna and flora on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read about the dedicated guides, porters, and cooks who work on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read the story of the iconic wooden sign on Kilimanjaro’s summit and the metal one that replaced it in January 2012.

Click here to read about The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the 1936 semi-autobiographical short story by Ernest Hemingway, the 1952 film, and the main character, Harry Street.

Map picture

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He recently published a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an ebook and in print on Amazon.com. His upcoming travel novel, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, will be available on March 31, 2012. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

Copyright note:  The first photo has been licensed from Shutterstock. Photos taken from the International Space Station are public domain courtesy of NASA. The Bing map is courtesy of Microsoft. All rights reserved.