I had a slightly different experience to most on the holiday- including about 3ft of fresh snow on summit night and having two companions be stretchered off the mountain! So my view is probably slightly jaded... but still valid!
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
- Seeing a rainbow after our aclimatising walk at Mawenzi; Seeing the sun rise on summit night (sadly not on the summit due to the snow slowing the pace!)
- What did you think of your group leader?
Not a great deal, unfortunately. The assistant guides were all fantastic but our lead guide- and our hotel contact- were both very poor.
The lead guide only led us on summit night and was far from encouraging. We'd not even reached Gillman's Point (which we did) when he said that our pace meant it would take to long to go on to Uhuru. Whilst some members of the group were struggling, younger ones werent and we felt there were enough guides to have split us up. Plus, he was setting the pace! Additionally, he wanted money for the very sick people to be stretchered off the mountain. I gave this to him for one of the travellers only to find he then asked her for more money later- disgusting considering how ill she was, that he'd already been paid and that the park fees include evacuation costs (confirmed by exodus on my return).
Similarly, the hotel contact essentially abandoned us with two very sick people, having told us they were 'fine'.
Our experience appears in the minority. On the plane back, a companion sat with a man who had done the same climb with AWC the night before and his experience sounds a world apart. For example, when we arrived at the gates we were handed our certificates in a brown envelop without our names on on anything; his group had them all laminated and a bit of a presentation ceremony was held for them. Our lead guide seemed more keen to go and have a drink than do that and certainly couldn't be deemed 'encouraging' at all.
Both of these matters will be followed up separately with Exodus.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Invest in equipment you can trust! Even though the weather on summit night was horrendous, I knew that I had gear that I totally trusted. I bought a Rab down jacket, as recommended on one of these reviews, and it was fantastic. Similarly, I'd been out walking in torrential rain before I went to test out my waterproofs and knew they'd do a good job.
I really feel the cold so found having two sets of merino wool thermals excellent- I was toasty! However, none of this is cheap. If this is your first time, start spreading the cost and buying something each month. The month before I went, I felt I was haemorraghing money as I had so much to buy! But it is an investment and worth every penny when you're on the mountain!
Also, have energy tablets. Altitude sickness is not like a mild hangover but more like 'i'm never drinking again' hangover. I couldn't face any food when I got hit so having something you can just swallow to keep the energy levels up would have helped!
Finally, be confident. I wish, in hindsight, that we'd challenged our lead guide and made him split the group. As it was, you have to have so much trust in them that you assume they know best. This is bound to be true for most of the time but if they are unwilling to support and encourage you to the top, press for it- you've paid a lot of money to not get to the top due to a negative attitude from your guide!
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
The food was fantastic but make sure you eat as much as you can- force yourself! You'll need the energy for summit day!
Try, if you can, to head out a couple of days prior. One member of our group did and started aclimatised and refreshed. We, on the other hand, had our flight cancelled so arrived at 3.30am on the day we were due to start the climb- not an ideal start and an extra $60 for another night (different hotel in Moshi) seemed like a wise investment!
Don't worry! I think we were unfortunate with our group; our lead guide seems an exception to the rule rather than a common example and the weather was unusual. These two aside and physically I was totally capable- more so than I thought I would be- and had no problems with the 5 nights camping, lack of showering and toilet facilities! A positive attitude is a must though!
Finally, one of the reasons we chose Exodus was because of the charitable aspect. The guides, on the whole, had a good grasp of English which seems to show that this is working.
However, as a whole, we were fairly disturbed by their poor clothing- this might be an enthno-centric issues but a poncho for mountain rain seemed fairly slack! As did jeans and trainers and, on summit day, cheap primark-looking sunglasses! This may or may not have anything to do with Exodus but the trip is fairly costly and we did, as a group, wonder if the money was being filtered down to those who needed it. To this end, if you can take stuff you're happy to leave behind, please do.