People looking to save money on trekking often ask about climbing Kilimanjaro solo versus going with a group. Many are experienced trekkers and feel they don’t need a guide or porters to get them to the roof of Africa. The reality is that altitude trekking is very different from a normal day in the Irish mountains. Our guide Fiona Mullan talks through the idea of going solo on Kili, and why it makes sense to go with a reputable company.
Climbing Kilimanjaro solo
I have just returned from climbing Kilimanjaro with Earth’s Edge as a trainee guide, having led numerous treks around the world with other providers. I have also trekked solo several times I have some experience on the matter of solo trekking vs group trekking.
One of my most memorable solo treks was to around Ausangate, Peru ( of “Touching the Void” fame), at this moment in time can I just clear up the fact that you’re never technically “solo” on a Trek. Most countries require you to employ the services of a local guide, and unless you want to carry all your stuff a porter or in my case a horse and a Caballero.
Going trekking “solo” gave me and my partner great satisfaction booking our own travel, insurances, accommodation, going to the market and buying our own expedition food, sourcing our own Caballero etc. Doing all of this for yourself takes time and some experience, we were lucky in that we had both.
All went well for us no sickness or injuries and we had an excellent but somewhat lonely trip. Our guide didn’t speak any English so we didn’t learn very much about the environment we were trekking through.
Trekking with a company
The other side of the coin is trekking with a company. Having experienced trekking with Earth’s Edge I can unbiasedly say I prefer the latter. Why? Well, we never stopped laughing, the camaraderie and friendships made still continue after the trip. As well as the social aspect that going with a company offers there are other benefits one of the biggest is that you pay your money and the company take care of the logistics.
This leaves you to get on with your life and organising the nice things like buying your gear and trail snacks. This admin and planning you would expect any good company to organise for you. There are hundreds of trekking companies but I found Earths Edge as a company excelled at taking care of the details.
Training before Kilimanjaro
My first encounter with the expedition participants started about 4 months before our departure with a training weekend in Wicklow with our guide. This training really prepares you for the expedition in terms of knowing where you stand with your fitness and training for the climb. You are given a good equipment demo what to buy, hire or borrow and the quality needed. During the weekend you get to know your fellow trekkers and to join a Whatapp group with everyone else including your expedition leader.
This group chat is great to arrange some trek training, swap equipment tips, and make arrangements to get to the airport. It also helps build the excitement for the trip and it’s a great way to get to know the group!
Earth’s Edge is special in my view due to their diligence in sending pre-departure information. This includes links to the weather forecast for your trip and further links to interesting in country news which may or may not affect your trip, such as strikes, civil unrest etc.
Some of the BIG reasons to choose a great company like Earth’s Edge to trek with are that they handpick and vet their leaders. The leader’s experience and ability mean that you benefit from their wealth of knowledge. Also, it goes without saying that every leader has all the necessary qualifications, often they have more than is required. They are one of the few companies that send a Doctor out with each team so you the client can rest easy and not worry about any health issues and you don’t have to wait for an appointment!
Small Irish company
Earth’s Edge is a small run family business, which has huge numbers of repeat customers. There are a few reasons for this and a big one for people is their strong environmental, social and economic Travel Policy. This means that whenever possible they use locally run hotels, guest houses, markets, restaurants and steer clear of multinationals.
Environmentally they operate a ” Leave no Trace” policy and offset carbon emissions by planting three trees for every person that travels. They do this through another small Irish company called Trees on the Land, which is trying to repopulate Irish native trees!
Socially Earth’s Edge are partners of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project which sends an inspector to monitor the welfare of the porters on each trek. The guide exchange programme is where one local guide gets the opportunity to go on another Earth’s Edge trek in a different country. In 2019, the popular head guide Goodluck is going to Everest Base Camp in the autumn. As well as that, two of the porters got the opportunity to go to guide school, paid for by Earth’s Edge.
I must say seeing the joy on these guys faces brought a tear to my eye. I think that coming from one of the richest countries in the world, we have a responsibility to travel with people who have a genuine interest in other poorer communities.
Climb with conscience
Not all companies adhere to the above policies and put back into the communities, in which they travel through and some just pay it lip service. I have waxed lyrical long enough now about the differences between climbing Kilimanjaro solo or with a company.
You could say this about many places in the world too, from Nepal to Argentina. It’s important to remember that we’re going to these beautiful places as visitors. I think with all the above reasons, a company comes out on top and Earth’s Edge top of the top because they go to the end of the earth for you and the local people they work with.