A few Common Kili Scams
Hard times always bring out the creativity in man. Necessity is the mother of invention. There are a slough of offers across the internet for cut price Kilimanjaro climbs being tendered by the lower two-thirds of climb market in Tanzania. This is the strata that caters for the bulk of the venture climb traffic.
This dovetails very neatly into the need for cheap climb options. Without these many would be unable in this economic climate to climb. However if a trip is offered below cost, and if economic survival is the key, then corners will be cut, and here are a few ways this is being achieved.
This is a trick that has surfaced and submerged often over the years. Currently it is back at the surface and breathing new life into the ailing bottom feeders who have always occupied the fringe of respectable Kili business. It is very simple, and here is how it works:
You pay for an 8-day trip and upon check-in at the national parks gate, usually with connivance of one of more TANAPA officials, your operator pays for only a 6-day trip. The crew are then under instructions to ensure that as many members of party as possible succumb to AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) within those 6-days, which can be achieved in any number of ways, particularly among novice climbers. These are then hustled off the mountain which allows the outfitting company to retain the parks fees, not only for those paying packs themselves, but also the porters and guides for whom fees will also have been charged but not paid.
The obvious way to guard against this is to make sure that the correct monies are paid at the gate and the correct registration completed. This not easy, particularly if a TANAPA official is in on it, but it is a precaution.
It is also worthwhile – particularly if you have been given younger guides whose attitude is less one of professionalism than random teenagers taking any job they can – not taking as rote everything you are told. The signs of this type of guide are usually that they remain plugged into their MP3 player or transistor radios from beginning to end, have no particular answers to any queries, and are more interested in what kit they can beg from you than your well-being or enjoyment.
If you find yourself with this type of guide you need to take more control of your circumstances. If you are suffering obvious health problems and your guide’s advice is go, go, go! … then pause and assert your status as a paying client and lay down the law. Do not be coerced or bulldozed into side excursions that you do not feel fit for, and do not adhere to any suggestions of short cuts, truncated days or any other creative route finding that strays from the written itinerary.
- Short Staffed
A very common sight on the final stretch of the climb are climbers clearly on their last legs, fading in and out of consciousness, retching and weaving, but being pushed forward by their guides. This might on the surface seem inspirational, but is in reality extremely poor practice. Here is why:
It is essential when setting off from Barafu Camp towards the summit to have with your group enough personnel qualified or experienced at high altitude to ensure that everyone has a shot of getting to the summit. Out of a group of ten packs it is possible that half might drop out at various stages and need to be escorted down by someone who knows what they are doing. The remainder are then able to continue up with another guide, usually the lead guide, who also knows what he or she is doing.
If a group of 10 packs is sent up on the last 6-hour slog to the summit with just one, or maybe two guides, obviously, in order that the whole group are not forced to return alongside the first casualty, the ailing member is put under enormous, and extremely dangerous pressure to continue. It is usually a very irritated party of climbers that has to return short of the summit thanks to the incapacity of one, or maybe two climbers.
Any climb outfitter worth its salt will provide a ratio of guides-to-climbers of three packs to one guide. Usually this is arranged so that the party is led by a ‘lead’ guide whose age and experience is sufficient to undertake the task. He will be supported by an assistant guide, or two, who are licensed, but gaining experience under the tutelage of the master.
Supporting these will be a clique of porters with ambitions to go through the licensing system who usually undertake the tasks of cook, camp manager and quartermaster, with the capacity to escort injured or weakened members of the climb party down if necessary, and otherwise to stand in as emergency guides in a crisis.
It is worth remembering the bulk of the porters you will have on your trip are part of the bottom rung of the climb fraternity, and for the most part they are an itinerant workforce with little mountain experience who do a trip or two when they need the cash and otherwise are lowland farmers or share croppers accustomed to the steppe. These are not men capable of any degree of professional mountaineering, and very much bring up the rear.
Another point worth remember is that there is a local industry is second hand kit, and your guides and porters will have their eye on what your might be relieved of from the onset. Requests for kit and tearful distress at low tips are a common feature of Kili, arm yourself with fore-knowledge, and do not give away kit you do not want to give away just because your petitioner looks like he might need it. Chances are he intends to sell it.
So these are just a couple of popular scams, let me know if you have experienced any others and I would be happy to compile a rogues gallery of naughty boys that do this kind of stuff.