Imagine waking up at 13,200 feet on Kilimanjaro on the sixth day of your trek. A friendly face might hand you a cup of coffee as you tie your boots. Another might refill your water bottles.
Later, a team breaks down your tent, toilet tent and dining tent, stows away the food and cooking equipment and races ahead on the trail to the next campground. After trekking up to 15,300 feet over the course of the day, you find camp and dinner waiting for you.
Those friendly faces belong to the porters. Their diligent work keeps you hydrated, fed, sheltered and safe on the mountain.
Together, porters carry equipment and supplies up Kilimanjaro and give climbers the support they need to reach the summit. Without them, getting to the Roof of Africa would be nearly impossible.
Each trek is different, but on average, it takes about 225 pounds of total luggage per trekker to get to Kilimanjaro’s peak and back, including:
On average, that 225 pounds is split among six porters. Why? It’s simply the right thing to do. The job of a porter is challenging. Splitting the weight among many people means a safer, more efficient, socially responsible climb.
We strictly follow the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) porter load weight limit of 20 kilograms (44-pounds), weighing bags before and during every climb.
That’s just one item from KPAP’s list of porter treatment guidelines; we comply with or exceed every standard.
The popular climbing advice on Kilimanjaro is “pole, pole,” which is Swahili for “slowly.” That mind-set is how countless trekkers reach the summit, but some porters prefer a quicker pace.
After your tents are broken down and packed away, a few porters often race ahead on the trail to secure the best spot at the next camp ground and to finish making camp before trekkers arrive.
Making camp itself is a skill – one the porters have mastered.
And making camp goes beyond setting up a tent. Consider supplying clean water, for example. Cooks need water for food preparation and washing dishes. Trekkers need water for washing and four liters of drinking water at a minimum every day.
Kilimanjaro has no plumbing. The porter team gathers water themselves, purifies it and supplies it throughout camp. That’s what it takes to get something as vital as a drink or a bowl of water to wash your hands in on the mountain, and it’s all thanks to the porters.
There are countless other things porters do during the trek to support you both physically and mentally.
There are specific porters who stay with the group all the way to the summit, carrying safety equipment and the like. When you need a little extra encouragement to power through the windswept, arctic conditions at the peak, they’re there to cheer you on.
Not only are they the difference between success and failure to the summit, they are the difference between a boring hike and an adventure of a lifetime!
If you’re interested in learning more about Kilimanjaro’s porters, KPAP is a fantastic source for data and historical information regarding treatment on the mountain, wages, responsibilities and more.