J'S KILIMANJARO PRACTICUM
Over the summer of 2014, I hopped on an opportunity to join an expedition group to assistant guide for a once in a lifetime trip to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. We spent a period of six days climbing the mountain, each day acclimatizing to new heights. Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing mountain in the world and the highest in Africa at 19,341 feet. On our journey, we ascended on the Machame Route and descended down the Mweka Trail.
What I found was that one of the coolest aspects of the climb was working alongside the native Tanzanian guides who climb this mountain for a living. It is required for all groups who climb the mountain to employ a local guide company to ensure that finances for the trips are also feeding back into the local economy. The locals benefitted the group because we got to experience the culture, learn the language a bit, and understand the environment better.
One of the trickiest aspects I learned about guiding a group on the trail was to choose a pace so that everyone can continue for the following days. Particularly on summit night when the temperatures are well below freezing, it is extremely important to keep the group warm and not to overtax your body of oxygen at such a high altitude. It is important to make sure everyone is comfortable and pay attention to each member of the group by constantly checking that there is enough water and food intake and that no one is getting cold or light-headed. Since we were in a third-world country and relatively exposed high on a mountain, there is no option of a fast descent, and therefore group management is critical to keep the team strong.