Q. So, we know that you’ve been guiding Kilimanjaro climbs for over four decades. What made you decide to build a life around that?
A. The adventure and excitement of living the expedition life in Africa. There’s always the challenge, the excitement of African bush, and the serenity of life on the road. A lifestyle like that is hard to beat.
Q. What is it about Mount Kilimanjaro that has captivated you for the better part of your life?
A. When my group arrives, everyone brings their own baggage. And I mean that in a psychological sense. On day 1, all that baggage gets left behind, and people are like kids. Unless they’ve climbed before, every experience on the mountain is a new experience. Climbing the mountain is a great leveler. My groups range from physicians to farm hands. Back home people distinguish themselves by their profession. Here it’s meaningless. It’s an egalitarian experience. And a life-changing one as well.
Q. We heard that you have made plans for your 50th climb in January of 2014. How does that feel? How will the 50th climb be different from the first one?
A. In reality it’s just a number. But it’s also a measure of time. And challenges over time build character, which is how one is defined as a human being.
Q. We also heard that Tusker Trail has a 99% summit rate, which is far above average on the mountain. That’s incredible! What’s your secret?
A. Education and experience. I’ve always believed that my guides, who are just local guys from the village, could learn and lead. That’s exactly what they’ve done. And they lead at a world-class level.
Q. I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of change in the years that you’ve been doing this. How has the climbing industry changed since you started back in ’77?
A. It’s BECOME an industry. It never was before. There are a lot of “climbing companies” offering the full gamut of climbs. One would think that climbing standards would have been improved, but that’s not the case. There are many deaths and injuries on the mountain, which, with proper guide education, could be drastically reduced.
Q. What do you think people would be surprised to know about climbing Kilimanjaro?
A. How tough it is to climb. The common myth is that it’s a walk in the park. This misapprehension gets perpetuated because it’s not a technical climb. In fact it IS a walk. But not in the park. The altitude is what knocks people out. That’s why there’s such a high summit failure rate – on the shorter routes, which is what most climbers climb.
Q. What advice would you offer to someone who wants to climb Kilimanjaro but is intimidated or hesitant to commit?
A. Just do it. But do it smartly. Hire a company whose focus is your safety and well-being. Hire a company with an excellent track record on the mountain. It couldn’t be truer, but here you ALWAYS get what you pay for.
Q. 50 summits on Kilimanjaro is a big deal. And so is building a world-class adventure travel company. What other dreams do you have for the future?
A. 51 and beyond. It’s a magical experience. It’s life-changing in many ways, at climb number one as well as fifty.
Q. What do you think people would be surprised to know about you?
A. I’m a high-school dropout. but I never stopped the quest for learning. It’s a lifelong process that has mental nutrition you cannot enumerate.
Q. Do you have any other destinations on your “bucket list”? Any other mountains you want to summit?
A. Just going back to the bush. The real bush…in Africa. It’s timeless, it’s a teacher, and it’s bigger than anything we can create.