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Meet Your Kilimanjaro Guide: Simon Minja

Family dream

As a boy growing up at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, Simon Minja cut grass for his father’s cows, but knew he had a higher calling. He peered skyward to the Kibo summit hoping to join his dad atop the mountain one day.

Kilimanjaro Guide Simon

His father is a climbing guide and still leads climbers well into his 60s. “One day I met a friend of my father and he asked me if I would be a guide like him and I told him that was my dream. The first time I climbed I was 15, I got close to the summit, but started vomiting and I had to go down,” Simon recalls.

Today at 44, Simon is one of the top guides on Kilimanjaro helping climbers avoid altitude sickness while achieving their own summit dreams. He has spent 17 years working for Tusker and now is its Chief Senior guide.

Leadership gene

Inheriting the leadership gene from his dad, Simon also understands how far education can take him in life and on Kilimanjaro. High altitude medical training enhances his clients experience and he embraces the proprietary Tusker training course. His own early education was boosted by attending summer school in Lake Victoria, exposing him to the larger world outside his Marangu village. As the oldest of seven children, Simon was heir to the family guiding business and he didn’t disappoint.

Surviving the danger zone

When Tusker founding guide Eddie Frank met Simon he was working as a guide at a Moshi hotel. His earlier stint as a porter was risky and he saw fellow porters die on the mountain. He painfully learned what kind of gear and medical training was essential to survive there.

Eddie immediately sensed Simon’s potential and hired him. It was the start of a strong relationship that now transcends boss/employee.

Everybody loves Simon; he has a really good style for Kilimanjaro. He is firm, but fair with his crew (porters/fellow guides,) aand compassionate yet motivating with all our clients. He will get you to the summit, but will never sacrifice safety for the summit,” Eddie says.

On all Eddie’s climbs Simon is Eddie’s right hand guide, and has accompanied him on all his climbs since he hired Simon.

Through a guide’s eyes

Simon has spent all his life living and working on Kilimanjaro and has a much different perspective on it than the Westerners who drop in for a few weeks and leave with photographs and memories. We see it through the prism of our climb, but for a sensitive guide like Simon, Kilimanjaro is both his livelihood and his family history. His cousin, Alex has been a Tusker chef for just as long.

Simon is sensitive to Kilimanjaro’s changing environment and will impart these observations to his clients. “When I was younger I remember walking through the forest and seeing it getting cut as people were using the wood for their fires. Today there is less tree cutting. I also remember the glaciers being much bigger. The effects of global warming are here,” he recalls wistfully.

Characteristic seriousness

Among the biggest positive changes on the mountain is the way porters and climbers are equipped. Porters have much better equipment than when they climbed in the early days. Their safety has improved. Climbers are also showing up with much better clothing and equipment and are taking their climbs more seriously than in the past.

Still incidents occur.

My biggest challenge came in 2015 when we had a client with pulmonary edema at midnight. We were able to evacuate him to the hospital in Moshi and it turned out okay,” Simon recalls with his characteristic seriousness.

Meet Eddie Frank Minja, the next generation

Simon is a father of three, two boys and a girl, but is not pushing them to be guides. He wants them to be educated first and if they choose a guiding career so be it. He hopes to continue guiding for at least another few years and then return to Kilimanjaro’s base and the family farm.

He named his first son, now ten, Eddie Frank Minja. Don’t be surprised if in ten years you see another Eddie Frank leading climbs up Kilimanjaro. The Tusker crew think that it’s a good name to have.

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Comments

  • Judy Field
    January 28, 2018

    I loved readying this particular profile on Simon Minja. I was lucky enough to do a Kili climb with Tusker 8 years ago and can’t thank the guides and porters enough for all their care and wisdom, sense of humour and adventure… it added to making the experience so extra special.

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  • Hal Leaman
    January 28, 2018

    Simon was the guide for our family group of 4 + a family friend in 2009.
    He exhibited a high degree of professionalism and competence. We made the summit with much less pain and discomfort than I was expecting (there are many horror stories of climbers on Killi). I was 62 y.o. for the successful climb and attribute much of the success to Tusker Trail and Simon,

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  • KRISTIN M REID
    January 28, 2018

    Simon was our head guide when I climbed in 2002. It was only me and one other client climber and he was awesome! Encouraging and helpful. He and the porters totally made my trip wonderful. We took one of the most difficult routes. We reached base camp earlier than anticipated and since we were so far ahead of schedule, Simon suggested we camp in the crater by the glacier before summitting. It was so awesome!!!!

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  • Kelli Glaser
    January 28, 2018

    Simon lead our team also in 2014. He was very responsible, kind, and helpful. We wish him and Tusker continued success!

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  • Rob Tourt
    January 28, 2018

    Took my daughter to climb Kili as a high school graduation gift in June, 2016. Simon was our guide, can’t imagine a better person to take us up the mountain. Cheers!

    Hakuna Matata!

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  • John Ukich
    January 28, 2018

    Simon was my guide three years ago, I was 68 at the time. One of our four climbers had very low oxygen saturation at the summit and Simon swifted us from the top and kept us from spending the night in the crater. His judgment and leadership was great.

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  • Tori
    January 28, 2018

    Simon also led out expedition up the mountain n four years ago. He had a strong presence about him and me and my husband nicknamed him “ king of the mountain.” He knew his stuff and you could see the Tusker crew and other climbing crews listened when he spoke and respected him.

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  • Gladys Trzcinski
    January 29, 2018

    Simon was our guide in October 2005. I was 67 and the guides and porters called me “Mama,” hopefully out of respect for this old lady trudging up the mountain. What a wonderful experience! The care, respect and encouragement we received from Simon and his crew will never be forgotten.
    Thank you once again, Simon.

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  • Jackie Williams
    January 29, 2018

    We summitted the day after Christmas, 2016 with Simon as our guide. I had complete trust in Simon’s abilities. He led the team with awareness, knowledge, and respect for the mountain. Our safety was his number one concern. And he’s got a great sense of humor. I think about those days often and the fantastic porters, cooks, and guides who made it possible. Their lovely singing voices still ring in my head. The best of times. Assante sana.

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  • Kevin Musil
    January 29, 2018

    My wife and I climbed Kili in 2007 with Simon and crew. Had an excellent time! Hope to go again with him one day.

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  • Wanjira Njenta
    January 29, 2018

    Our group of 13 from Montreal did the Kili Climb in 2004. Simon was our head guide. I would never hesitate to do it all again with Simon. Excellent leadership skills, compassion, and really knows how to make the climbers enjoy the experience while staying safe. Thanks Simon, all the guides, and Tusker for a great experience.

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  • Maureen
    January 29, 2018

    Simon was my guide on my climb and he was excellent. I always felt like we were in the best hands on the mountain throughout the entire climb!

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  • Toshio Yokoyama
    August 11, 2019

    Dear Mr. Simon E Minya,
    About 22 years ago, Keys Hotel in Moshi arranged my hike up to the Summit. You and Fryd with two other porters helped my hiking through Machami Route. But I had a high altitude sickness at the Machami camp and went back to the hotel. I tryed again from the trourist route. At that time I walked to the 5500m with Fryd, but I decided to stop walking because I could not keep my eyes open. I enjoyed hiking with you. We exchanged letteres several times. I sent you baby clothes hearing you were going to marry. Do you remember me? How are Fryd and two young porters. I am glad if I can get your reply soon. I am surprised to see your big picture , so I am writing to you.
    I have visited many mountain areas around the world and have enjoyed walking.

    With Best Regards,
    Toshio Yokoyama (from Japan)

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