My first review was taken down. So I am trying again as I think overall it is constructive criticism for the company and also useful for people to know a bit more of what they are booking...
My trip was great but there are a few things that could have been better. At least I hope the Altezza team is reading this to find ways to fix the problems that I encountered.
It has been a while since I climbed Kilimanjaro with Altezza. The trip itself was amazing and I really respect the hard work of all of the guides and porters who made this dream a reality. Joseph must be one of the best guides on Kilimanjaro and was really the reason I made it to the top. I could have never done it without him and the porters.
The pre-trek info is spot and the sales team are great as well.
The first issue I was a bit disappointed with is that we did not have the same type of tents that are in all the pictures. Our tents were fine, but when choosing a company you do look at the quality of gear and the tents in the picture look far better than what they were. One of the guides told me that they company only has a few sets of these fancy tunnel tents that are in the pictures and mostly they use tents like other companies. The tents worked fine, but I feel like they should be more transparent about this.
The second issue I had was that they collected the tip money before we even went on the trek. This is odd coming from the US as a tip is very much depending on how good the people do their job. But the tip amount is fixed, like a local payment we paid to the safari operator for the park fees. Again, if this is how it works that is fine, but I did not feel comfortable with this. In my mind I brought money along to tip the crew and instead I was told how much I needed to give before I even set foot on Kili. I have no idea where that money went, not sure I want to know. The porters never complained so I hope they got it. If not I assume they would refuse to work.
The last issue and maybe the most pressing issue, but the one that has been eating at me for many months. I want to write an honest review, but I don't want people to think that I am a racist or something. Finally after reading an article about the awkward situation on the International Space Station, I decided that if astronauts are not above it then why should I be. In my trek the majority of the climbers were Russians.
Most of them were nice, but two guys were very disrespectful towards the Tanzanians, which was disheartening to see. That was difficult to sit back, but they one was the type of person just wanting someone to say something so he could pound them. On top of this, the fact that the majority of the group spoke Russian it made it challenging to have any sort of unity within the group and a lot of tension. I imagine any one of them would feel the same if the majority was English speakers and they did not speak English and then felt left out.
Since all of my communications where in English and the website is in English, I assumed that the trek would be a good mix of people from many different countries, but overall that English would be the primary language spoken between the climbers. But it was not the case and I believe the company should inform people of this in advance. Especially given the state of the World today... There were many other groups on the mountain that I envied. I went on a group trek to make friends and meet people. I did achieve this with a few of the guides and porters, but I would have actually been better off to hike alone to avoid the added pressure from this dynamic. One of our guides told me that this was the hardest part of his job. He said before when the company had almost only Russians it was fine, but now that they get climbers from other countries but still mostly Russians it is very hard to make the trek great for everyone.
Had I known this I would have either done a solo private trek or chosen another company. I have nothing persona against Russians, even if the group had been mostly Italians, or French, or Danish or wherever who speak a language that is not the language the trek is advertised it would have probably been the same. I would highly suggest that Altezza do different groups based on how they sell the group. The groups on the English site should not be the same groups as on their Russian website, this will help everyone to have the right expectations. Then if I speak Russian I can join a Russian trek, or a Russian who wants to practice English and meet others from other places could always join the English speaking trek.