The Things They Carry – by Jeffrey Walcott

the things they carry

A porter on Mount Kilimanjaro carries a bucket of water towards the clouds and the base camp at roughly 15,000 ft. A stream below the camp where clients embark to the summit of the mountain is the only source of water and porters are forced to carry 5 gallon buckets, or roughly 40 pounds, up the steep grade.

Photographer Jeffrey Walcott completed a story about the porters on the trails of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

I recently had the chance to mark off the main item on my bucket list, something that has captured my imagination since I was eight years old; climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. But when I arrived i found myself more interested in the porters on the trails than the mountain itself. I spent the next week detailing and photographing these porters on and off the mountain.

This story of these porters has merit because of the approachability of Kilimanjaro. The terrible tragedy with the sherpas on Everest has brought the plight of porters to the forefront, but most still dismiss these issues as outside of their reality. A $50,000 price tag and 29,000 feet make Everest, and the issues of those working there, distant. Kilimanjaro is different. It’s the tallest mountain in Africa and one of the Seven Summits. But it is doable.

However, is that adventure genuine? Or is this mountain approachable simply because of the porters who not only carry the necessities, but also the luxuries, up the mountain as well? Who are these people that support the “glamping” on the mountain, earning only 10% of the trip cost, while completing 90% of the work, relying on generous tips to make a living wage?

It is important to tell this story because there is a price to making adventure accessible to all. A price that is increased especially because most climbers of Kili don’t have a desire for high altitude mountaineering consistently in their lives. Kill is a one-off. It’s the dream. The trails of Kilimanjaro are not full of a community of climbers, and therefore, we cannot rely on them to pass the baton, increase knowledge, and work towards a better future for those responsible for their climb. We must pass this information to them. Information about the ridiculous numbers of porters – up to seven for one person – and the lack of payment for each.

In short, Kilimanjaro may not be the adventure many were seeking. But if it is, it’s important to ensure proper treatment of the workers without whom the summit would be impossible.

See more photos on Jeffrey’s blog.

the things they carry

A porter on Mount Kilimanjaro carries his burden in front of a distant Mount Meru in Tanzania.

the things they carry

Despite the altitude of over 15,000 feet, a porter relaxes wth a cigarette after putting down his load of up to 40kg. Many porters smoke on the trails of Kilimanjaro, despite the thin air and exhausting work they must complete on a daily basis.

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