–Andrew Knott – UK

My thoughts and some recommendations on selecting a trekking company and a route for Kilimanjaro. I have been climbed and ski mountaineering in the Alpes, Hymalayas and Scotland so when I decided to have a go at Kilimanjaro with my 18 year old son I did a lot of research based on finding a company that would give the best chance of success, safety and a good route. Whilst there were a number of contenders we picked ClimbKili and this turned out to be an excellent choice. Proper research is seldom wasted.The pre-climb pack was excellent and well written. It covered all the areas that you would expect and some that you might not but all communicated the same enthusiastic and informative way that was apparent throughout our time on the mountain. Read this and be guided by their recommendations and you should have a good chance of succeeding.On the mountain and beforehand at the briefings the guides were excellent. What does this mean – they managed to approach each person in a suitable and appropriate fashion for their character, ability and mental state (claiming the anxious etc). All the time ensuring that each person was well and was making progress (physically and mentally) in the right direction. On the summit night their care and encouragement was exemplary and as a result we added to this team’s 100% summit success record. This did not involve physically dragging anyone up to the top – although we did see evidence of this, but ensuring that they were prepared and ready for the final push. We were a mixed group ranging in age from 18 to 61.On summit night you will climb “polee, polee” (slowly, slowly) for 6-7 hours in the dark with the tempature at -18C (0F)! Our guides were brilliant and they had added one more assistant guide just in case. Some companies were heading up with one guide for 6-8 climbers which is fine as long as everything is OK all round but if somebody had had an accident or could not go on because of the altitude what would happens? One down, all down or leave the victim alone.The route is an essential choice. Spend as long on the mountain as you can manage. It will simply increase your chances of submitting. Avoid the 4/5 day routes straight out from Moshi – they are quicker and cheaper but the chances of reaching the top are correspondingly less. I have a colleague who was green with envy at our success as he had dashed up from Moshi and promptly failed with projectile vomiting 2,000 feet from the crater rim! That said there are those who will not suffer as much from altitude sickness and may get to the top by this route, but why take the risk.Lemosho is a longer trek but gives decent time to acclimatise and the scenery is stunning although this is probably true for other routes. This route tends to be less crowded which is a very good thing because inevitably as you approach the last camp before the summit it does become very busy.The equipment provided by ClimbKili was good and reasonably new although I think our tents have now been replaced. They were fine but just coming to end of their time. I would add a self-inflating ground matt as this makes the whole sleeping experience more comfortable and they are light and do not take up too much space, but this is not essential. The food was excellent and plentiful although inevitably towards the end of the trek the variety does begin reduce. We were always well fed and had enough carbohydrates for the exertion ahead but you will be gald to get back down and have something different. Take your own snacks for during the day – sweets are best as they can’t melt. We did see other companies who I had researched and whilst I am sure that on the whole they provide a great experience I did not see anything that would appear to justify the additional cost that some of them were charging. On one occasion at lunch on a high pass some companies had erected mess tents and were serving a full sit down hot lunch whilst we were outside enjoying our pack lunch. Was this worth the sizeable price difference? Did we feel like a full hot lunch? In my case the answer to both is no but this may not be the case for all. The porters on Kilimanjaro are protected by local laws and they are no longer allowed to carry unreasonable loads although they did shift a great deal. Our porters were all excellent and did everything with a smile and good grace. They seemed genuinely pleased that we had summited and although the cynics may suggest this was more about their tips – wait until you get to the end of the trek and judge then! Why ClimbKili – they more than filled all my hopes and expectations. They were safe, engaging, encouraging and successful. You could pick another company, but why would you?