Three of us climbed Kilimanjaro in September of 2016. We knew beforehand that choice of guiding company would be one of the most crucial decisions we would make, and after much research and deliberation we picked Tusker Trail. Writing now post-climb, I couldn't be happier with that choice. From the pre-trip material Tusker sent us (recommended training regime, recommended gear lists, recommended medical considerations, etc) to the personalized contact and service pre-trip (hi, Haley!), to the very well-organized logistics pre-, during, and post-climb, we felt ourselves to be in extremely competent and capable hands at all times.
We investigated more economical options, and discarded them all as either inappropriate for our circumstances or extremely ill-advised in terms of failing to meet a number of critical criteria, not the least of which were safety and security.
On the climb itself (Lemosho route) we encountered climbers in different groups using different guides. It was very informative to learn that some groups had some of the same amenities we did, and other groups had other amenities that we did. We didn't encounter a single group that reported having all the same amenities that we did, whether it was comprehensive medical checks at least twice daily, excellent food (we had spaghetti bolognese one night!), an adequate supply of clean, potable water, thick air mattresses and cold-weather rated sleeping bags, portable toilet, etc, etc, etc.
I'm sure it's very possible to climb the mountain with fewer amenities and comfort - heck, we saw groups doing it. We also saw climbers who had no business being on the mountain (for reasons of completely inadequate clothing, for reasons of being completely disoriented and incapable well before the summit, etc), who had clearly decided to pick more economical guides.
We also directly experienced the "Tusker effect", in which climbers and guides who run into difficulty seek out the Tusker guides for help: on our descent day, a small group of climbers ran out of water and their guide approached ours for help. Of course, the Tusker guides helped out and gave them the water they needed. I have no doubt those climbers paid less than we did for their experience, and I'm glad Tusker was able to help. Let's just say there was no question we were going to run out of anything.
People die on Kilimanjaro every year; although I'm sure that sounds a bit dramatic we were determined that we were not going to be among them. If you're young, fit, and already know that you will perform well at altitude, fill your boots. If those things are not as true as you would prefer them to be, don't take chances. Invest in the best security and peace of mind you can, and pick Tusker.
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