Kilimanjaro Alpine Service | Arusha, Tanzania

MiReviewz 75217202MiReviewz 75217202   April 07, 2014  
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Kilimanjaro Alpine Service | Arusha, Tanzania

The Kilimanjaro Alpine Service exists to serve those who wish to climb Kilimanjaro on a budget, and who understand and are happy to accept the implications of implementing cost reduction measures against mid-range and top-end climbs, but who do not wish to compromise their summit prospects any more than strictly necessary, or make the usual safety-related sacrifices associated with booking a cheap Kilimanjaro climb.

Cheap Kilimanjaro Climbs

There’s a lot of aggressive rhetoric on the Internet about some top-end Kilimanjaro tour operators and middle-men overcharging and making obscene per climber profits on the one hand; and on the other hand, budget companies not paying their staff fair salaries and making dangerous corner-cutting decisions to keep their costs as competitive as possible. Much of what you may already have read is probably true and much will have been exaggerated, however, the basic fact is that if a climber is not very experienced at altitude and not used to moving independently in hostile environments, then choosing to climb with an overtly budget-orientated operator is certainly not an obvious choice and needs to be looked at very carefully. That may sound like a strange way for a budget Kilimanjaro operation to offer their services, but we don’t want to encourage bookings that are made on a false pretence, or attract climbers who will end up disappointed with their decision. Indeed, before making the decision to climb with a budget company, we would prefer that prospective climbers understand how we keep our costs low, so that no-one proceeds with their planning on the basis of any erroneous assumptions.

Choosing a budget Kilimanjaro operator

The reality is that a company that offers cheap Kilimanjaro climbs simply cannot provide the same quality, reliability and newness of equipment, the same calibre of mountain support staffing and professional oversight, and the same volume and quality of climb provisions, as an operator that has more funds to spend on equipping their climbs and attracting the most competent staff. So, at the outset and before proceeding further, it needs to be understood and accepted that when deciding to climb Kilimanjaro on a budget, you will simply not enjoy the same quality of experience and level of support as you would benefit from if choosing to delay your climb a few months or until the following year, and save up a few hundred dollars more to spend on your climb. We are aware that there are claims to the contrary on the Internet, but we believe these to be disingenuous and misleading.

How we keep our own Kilimanjaro climb costs low

For those climbers who are realistic in understanding that in order to achieve a relatively cheap climb (though with park fees being what they are nowadays, that’s a very relative term) certain cuts have to be made, we are very keen to welcome you to consider booking with us. To be as transparent as possible we prefer to state frankly how we reduce our costs. If you’re happy with these measures, we’ll be glad to progress your proposed booking. If you’re dubious about these measures we’ll be  willing to advise you who we believe that you would do best to approach, provided you let us know which considerations are most important to you.

  • Our guides do not work exclusively for KAS but are also junior members of an operation that is often regarded as amongst the top handful of Kilimanjaro operators. These guides are assigned to KAS when they do not feature on the staff schedules of the other operation. Consequently, although our budget prices mean that we are unable to pay daily wages that are as high as the other operation, these guides are nonetheless very happy to work with the KAS when we schedule them, as the alternative is unpaid inactivity between climbs with the other operation.
  • Whereas opting for a budget Kilimanjaro operator usually means having to sleep in very old tents that have been rejected by all serious operators and are available very cheaply on the local market, or else in tents that have been bought from a grocery store that are actually designed for family beach use or similar, and ought not really to be used on a mountain, climbing with KAS entails use of professional mountain equipment, but whose grade is conspicuously lower than more upmarket operations. With upmarket operations climbers can usually expect spaciousness that minimises condensation and aids personal administration while in camp, with the KAS climbers need to accept that they will be accommodated in tents that are less new and much more compact. That said, we do our utmost to ensure that all of our equipment is serviceable and appropriate for use on Kilimanjaro.
  • Whereas with an upmarket operation, climbers ought to expect a very comprehensive level of support that allows for three course hot lunches which enable climbers to relax for an hour at the day’s chosen high point, which maximises rest, nutrition and hydration, and so enhances summit prospects, with budget-oriented operations, including the KAS, climbers will not enjoy the use of mess tents and so will be required to take their meals within their own tents. Eliminating the otherwise very welcome use of mess tents is a very necessary, though regrettable measure, when aiming to eliminate any costs that are not strictly necessary. Carrying robust mess tents that are appropriate for use in cold environments significantly adds to the overall porterage load and therefore staff numbers and salary requirements.
  • This is by no means an exhaustive description of our cost saving methods. These measures are however, the most significant. It should be noted that while our wage structure does not attract the very best cooks, we nonetheless aim to supply our climbs with a very high standard of nutrition.

The benefits of climbing Kilimanjaro with the Kilimanjaro Alpine Service

Because we are managed as an extension of a high-level Kilimanjaro climb operator we benefit from the same professional oversight of highly trained expedition coordinators, as well as having access to the same extensive infrastructure of staffing, transportation, communications, and equipment - albeit with cost-cutting downgraded options wherever safety is not impacted.

Being under the auspices of this senior operation means that the same comprehensive level of multi-directional communication between climbers, support staff and management, is maintained, with families and friends of climbers able to watch climbs in real-time by following our daily updated Kilimanjaro Google Map.

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Contact Details

Company Name
Kilimanjaro Alpine Service
+44 777 123 5895

Products & Services Offered

Products & Services
• Our Kilimanjaro Mountain Equipment:
Continuing in the same vein of candour that is hopefully evident throughout this site, the mountain equipment used by the KAS is a combination of equipment that TK has trialled and subsequently rejected on the grounds that their climbers are likely to object to it for one of a number of reasons, or that has been used successfully by TK and then subsequently rejected as still technically serviceable, but not sufficiently new as to justify being used by climbers who generally demand a better state of repair. Taking one example, the tent in the above picture, a Vango Hydra 200, was one of an order that was originally intended for use by TK but within a short space of time it was found that the semi-geodesic design was not appreciated by their climbers as the vestibule area was too small and the body of the tent itself did not afford adequate space to climbers to conduct their personal administrations. Additionally, snug tents have the appearance to inexperienced users, of leaking, as condensation collects on the inside of the fly sheet and body movements within the tent will then often cause the tent’s inner to adhere to the fly and allow capillary action to draw expired condensed moisture back into the tent. This concept occurs wherever non-Ventile or non-Goretex tents are used in low temperatures, but is most evident where tents are small. Paradoxically, experienced climbers who climb dangerous mountains will prefer a compact geodesic or semi-geodesic tent as it withstands snowfall better and fares better in strong winds. On Kilimanjaro however these are seldom pertinent considerations and we concede that our Hydras are relatively awkward and cramped when compared to the generously sized tunnel tents in use with upscale operations.

• KAS’ reduced staff support structure :
Because KAS operates a streamlined support structure we are unable to supply mess tents for meals. From the luxury of your comfortable home, or from wherever you may be reading this, this may sound like a trivial detail. The use of a good quality spacious mountain mess tent should not however be underestimated as it allows for a full rest in warmth and shelter in the middle of the day; breaking up the day’s trek and affording better rest, hydration and nutrition. These considerations reduce duress on the body and actually aid acclimatisation significantly. Where a climber is to opt for a budget climb however, a decent mess tent needs to be excluded from the logistical equation. We do our utmost however, to make you comfortable at meal times, bringing you a tray to your tent with flasks of hot drinks and at least a couple of food courses, and when the weather is good, we are able to take lunch - and sometimes breakfast - en plein air.

• Safety equipment on Kilimanjaro:
The title is a misleading way to begin this paragraph as it’s an obvious misnomer. Under the care of a well trained guide, it is not equipment that is likely to keep you safe, but the close and knowledgeable attention of an observant guide. Our guides are trained immediately to descend climbers that evidence having succumbed to anything more serious than severe AMS. In consideration that the swiftness of the decision making process of the relatively inexperienced KAS guide as against a top-end operator’s guides, means that we elect as standard to equip our climbs with supplemental oxygen. In the case of top-end guides oxygen is virtually never used. Where a guide lacks the necessary experience to identify the early onset of a significantly threatening altitude related condition, it is safest that the guide begin to administer short bursts of supplemental oxygen, in an effort to drive up the climber’s oximetry. Such administration should always accompany descent. Where an on site handover can be coordinated we will usually carry oxygen just for the summit bid. Unfortunately, there are teams in operation who do not understand the correct use of supplemental when used without a nasal canula at this elevation and who have published misleading information elsewhere on the Internet. To address this, we ask that climbers please understand that supplemental oxygen will never be administered by KAS to a climber to assist their ascent on Kilimanjaro, but only to casualties for whom immediate descent is already judged to be necessary. Doing the opposite is unsafe.

• Are our porters well equipped?
We are aware that some climbers have read about the fate of porters who try to work with operations that don’t seem to care about them or know how to look after each other. These cases have very little in common with operations such as ours, but since this is frequently asked, we’ll address the question. Frankly, if one were to ask this question to our porters they would probably be very amused that climbers have such concerns when porters do this work with us professionally on a daily basis, and are trained and paid to look after your welfare. Yes, the mountain can at times be uncomfortable, but provided one keeps moving with the rest of the team and doesn’t get lost, go static and start losing body heat, then there are not significant threats against a porter’s comfort and safety. The dangers occur where a porter drops off the back of a group, loses the trail in the mist, and isn’t rescued by his team. In this sad event, however well equipped a porter is, in the alpine zone, his chances of survival are limited. A well targeted question ought instead then, to enquire to what extent the porter teams are able to work well together as a team and look out for each other. In our case, the answer is ‘to a very considerable extent’. While on the subject, we have seen some probably well intended advice offered by foreigners who seem to want to impose their own cultural values and habits on Tanzanians. With this in mind, we submit that it is a mistake to imagine that porters are comfortable in rugged boots, for example, or with carrying a western design rucksacks on their backs - which is objected to by most porters on the grounds that it shifts their centre of balance unnaturally far forward and places an unhealthy strain on the lower back. As children most of the porters will have spent most of their time in bare feet carrying water and firewood on their heads, and so in the mountains, provided they keep moving and each stays within communication range of their buddy, they’ll generally be swifter and much more comfortable in more lightweight footwear.

If any readers have difficulty imagining how clothing preferences can vary so widely between different climbers, we would invite them to consider that Rebecca Rees-Evans, the fastest woman to climb Kilimanjaro (13 hours 16 minutes) summitted Kilimanjaro in a blizzard in May at 0250 in the middle of the night wearing lightweight tights and running shoes. That said, we certainly do not encourage KAS climbers to follow suit!


Olturonto Road, Ilboru, Arusha
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