Climbing Mount Toubkal in Winter – A Brief Introduction

We have been leading winter climbs of Mount Toubkal in the Moroccan Atlas mountains for a few years now. It is a superb trip and one that people often sign up for as a great little winter break and also a chance to try out trekking and mountaineering in winter conditions for the first time. In many ways it is an ideal trek to do this; it is a short and inexpensive flight away, it is a short trip, it is only to moderate altitude, weather and snow conditions are generally reliable etc etc.


Approaching the Summit of Toubkal in February

However, when people make the step up from trekking in summer conditions to winter conditions they nearly always have reservations and concerns about whether they are ready to make that step. From talking to many people in this position, we note that the same questions nearly always come up. We will try to address a few of these common questions below:-

  1. I have never used crampons before.

This is one of the most tangible differences between summer and winter trips. For some, the idea of using crampons is one of the key points of interest, for others it is one of the key concerns. A lot of this seems to be influenced by the image of crampons being used in their most extreme ways. Ie hard core ice climbing up vertical sheets of ice. However, at their root, crampons are just an upgrade for the sole of your boot to allow you to get some purchase on snow and ice. They make things that would be very difficult in just your boots extremely easy.

They say that learning to use crampons takes half an hour to learn and a lifetime to perfect. This is true to some extent, but the crampon skills needed for a winter climb of Toubkal can easily be learned within the training session that we will have on our first day above the snowline. We will then also have ongoing training and tips on this throughout the trip. Learning and practicing these skills is a big part of the interest and focus of the trip.

ice climb

Not Winter Toubkal!

  1. Your info says I need an ice axe; are we going to be hanging off cliffs by our arms?

The short answer is – yes you need a (walking) axe – No you won’t be using it to ‘climb’. The type of ice axe we use on trips like this is different to the one alpinists use for ice climbing.

We use a walking axe which is longer and straighter and is used in a similar way to a walking stick almost all the time. It does also have an adze which can be used to cut steps and a pick, which can be used to stop you sliding if you end up lying in the snow. In reality you won’t need to do either of these things, but we do carry and learn how to use the axe in case of an emergency.  Again, learning and practising how to use these techniques is actually great fun and part of the interest of the trip for most people.

At no point on the normal ascent of Toubkal would you normally need to use your hands. There is an alternative descent route on the north cwm where you might hold on to the rocks as you walk down some of the upper snow slope. It is really very easy and the guides will decide whether to go that way based on the group and if we do then they will help show you how to do it.

Another peak we usually climb is called Ouanoukrim. The climb starts with a walk up the frozen valley with a steeper section near the head of the valley, but it is walking all the way. There is then a section along a ridge to get to the easy broad slopes beyond. A couple of sections of this ridge do have steep slopes dropping off to one side and we use our hands to steady ourselves on the rocks. However, the weight is on your legs, not your hands and it is actually very easy and the guides will be there to help show you the best way to tackle it.

Looking at Ouanoukrim from Toubkal

Looking at Ouanoukrim from Toubkal

  1. There is a lot of expensive gear on the kit list. I don’t think I can afford all that.

It is true that if you bought everything on the kit list it would add up to quite a bit of cash, especially of you bought it all new and top of the range. However, most people hire at least a few of the more specialised items if they are not sure they will use them again. This would often include crampons, axe and harness, and also often B1 mountain boots, sleeping bag and down jacket too. Companies such as offer packages and also the opportunity to buy the gear at the end of the trip, at a used-price, if you really liked it.

A lot of people also borrow gear from friends or get some items second hand from places like ebay. For this trip it is also important to remember that you don’t necessarily need top of the range gear. It is worth targeting your expenditure, boots are somewhere where it is well worth getting good ones that fit the shape as well as the size of your feet. Safety gear like a harness, axe and crampons clearly need to be in good condition. Your warm and weatherproof layers can quite easily be of a shop-own-brand level of quality. Sleeping bags can be cheaper but heavier and bulkier synthetic insulation rather than down-filled as we are not carrying them. We sleep in a refuge so the comfort temperature only needs to be just below 0degC, and you could always upgrade an existing bag with a fleece liner.

We encourage you to speak to us about kit and especially before buying or renting anything so that we can advise you and make sure you save your cash for buying pretty trinkets in the souks of Marrakesh instead!

  1. Its Morocco, in Africa, surely we don’t need all these warm layers.

This is a very common misconception, mainly on the summer trip rather than the winter one. There is a lot of detailed information on our website about it but the brief answer is – Yes, you do need all the warm layers, and; Yes, it does get very cold at times. (even in the summer)

The cold is mainly due to the altitude but also due to wind-chill if there is a breeze. Normal temperatures drop by around 5 degrees per 1000m of altitude, Toubkal is 4167m high, therefore it is likely to be 20 degrees colder on top of Toubkal than at the beach in Essaouira. Therefore, even if it was 25degC on the beach you would expect it to be about 5degC on Toubkal. Add to that a light 15kmh wind and you are down to -5degC including windchill. As the wind may also have blown up the valley over a load of snow, and your feet are stood on a pile of it and you can see that you need to have a good set of warm clothes to stay happy!

'Hero Shot' with Toubkal behind

‘Hero Shot’ with Toubkal behind

These are just a few of the most common questions and we are happy to answer all these and others in order for you to feel happy and prepared for the trip. A winter Toubkal trip is a superb little expedition and we can’t recommend it highly enough for a short, exciting winter break and as a first introduction to trekking in winter conditions.

Winter Mountaineering Gear Pt 3 – Choosing and Fitting Winter Mountaineering Boots

Winter is coming!

For some people that is not a welcome statement, but for those of us who love winter sports then the first dusting of snow on the high ground gets us excited about getting out on the ice and snow.

The third in our series on winter mountain gear will give you some tips on choosing and fitting winter mountaineering boots.


Remember – On a mountain trip you will spend a lot of time in your boots and your feet will be working hard. You will greatly regret cutting any corners with selection and fit of your boots!

If you are buying expensive boots for an expensive expedition it is strongly recommended that you visit a specialist retailer with trained staff, proper foot-measuring facilities (length & width) and a wide range of brands and models. This will allow you to try out a range of different boots before committing to one. Another important thing is to take the exact socks that you will wear on the trip with you to the shop. You need to try the boot on with the right sock as this can make a huge difference to the volume and comfort of the fit. Good shops will have also have some simulated terrain so that you can walk up and down hill in the boots. When you get home, wear the boots around the house for a few days, walk up and down the stairs etc. Most shops will allow you to exchange boots within a certain time period as long as they haven’t been used outside.

When fitting your boots, you often need to go up a half size or so from what you would buy in a normal shoe. This will allow for thick socks and some extra space as your feet often swelling a bit at altitude. Generally on high mountains you are walking very slowly and deliberately and will not experience the same amount of movement that you would with an approach boot. However, you do need to ensure that when walking you do not experience any ‘heel-lift’ inside the boot and that there is sufficient space around your toes for you to wiggle them. Any tighter than this and it is likely that they will either rub and give you blisters or be so constricting as to restrict the blood supply and lead to cold toes.

Note that certain boot brands commonly produce boots of a certain shape, ie. a narrower or wider fit. If your feet are of a certain shape it is worth identifying the most appropriate manufacturer for you. Some manufacturers such as Scarpa have ‘thermo-fit’ liners for their plastic boots; these are heated in an oven and then put on with special toe-spacers, the liner then moulds to the shape of your foot and when it has cools it stays in that shape. When the toe-spacer is removed it leaves some space for your toes with the rest fitting snugly. You will need to go to a shop with this facility to get this done properly.

Below the snowline it is possible to use B0 graded hiking boots, make sure they are worn in, but not worn out, and have good ankle support. However, a good solution for smaller peaks is to use a B1 or B2 Four-Season boot which can then be used on the peak too. This means that you don’t need to bring another set of boots.

If you are booked onto an Adventure Alternative trip then you get full access to our experienced staff before the trip so that you can be sure that you get the right gear.

Trips where you would need warm, crampon compatible winter boots include:-

Trip/Peak Reccommended Boots
Mount Everest High Altitude Triple Boots
Muztagh Ata Plastics + Overboots Reccommended
Huayna Potosi Plastics + Possibly Overboots
Pequeno Alpamayo Plastics + Possibly Overboots
Aconcagua Good Hybrids, Plastics or possibly Triple Boots
Mount Khuiten Good Hybrids or Plastics
Mount Elbrus Good Hybrids or Plastics
Mera Peak Good Hybrids or Plastics
Ojos del Salado Good Hybrids or Plastics
Island Peak 4-Season Boots or better
Yala Peak 4-Season Boots or better
Toubkal Winter 4-Season Boots

Winter Mountaineering Gear Pt 2 – Boots for Warmth

Winter is coming!

For some people that is not a welcome statement, but for those of us who love winter sports then the first dusting of snow on the high ground gets us excited about getting out on the ice and snow.

The second in our series on winter mountain gear will explain the differences between boots and how they are graded for warmth.


Aside from allowing the fitting of crampons, another very important consideration when choosing your mountain boots is that of warmth. For anything other than technical climbing, this is likely to be the over-riding factor in your choice of boot. Different types of boot are constructed differently, with different materials and built up in layers. Usually on warmer boots, the layers are able to be seperated into an inner and outer boot. This helps as it allows you to warm/dry the inners and also to wear them inside the tent.

It sounds obvious when it is pointed out, but it is not just the ambient air temperature that is an issue. If you are walking on snow, your feet lose heat through the sole of your foot into the cold ground. This is made even worse if the snow is not hard packed, as you may be ankle or even shin deep in the stuff and your whole foot and lower leg may be conducting heat to the snow. Therefore, it is also the condition of the mountain that affect which boots are needed, aside from just the altitude or location.

Invitably, the warmer the boot the more volume and bulk it has to it and usually the more expensive it is too. Using a boot that is too warm can be as problematic as having one that is not warm enough. It will lead to excessive sweating which is uncomfortable and can ultimately lead to greater chance of blisters, cold feet or even frostbite- when you stop working hard, the sweat conducts warmth away from your feet, or can even freeze.

Above the snowline there are four main options, in descending order of warmth:

Triple-Boots‘ for 8000m or very cold peaks (eg Cho Oyu, Everest, Denali) such as Millet Everest, La Sportiva Olympus Mons, Scarpa Phantom 800. These are constructed with inner boot, shell and super-gaiter.

Plastics‘ like the Scarpa Omega or Vega, preferably with a high altitude rated inner boot for warmth (eg for Elbrus). These are a double-boot with a shell and a liner boot.

These can also be upgraded with an overboot (eg 40 Below Purple Haze) if over about 6000m (eg Muztagh Ata), which will usually it up to a limit of about 8000m.

Hybrids‘ like the La Sportiva Spantik or Scarpa Phantom Guide which are a double or even triple boot but the outer boot is not solid plastic so tat is can be more dextrous and comfortable. This may also need to have its warmth upgraded with an overboot over about 6000m which will generally take it up to a limit of about 7000m.

4-Season‘ boots like Scarpa Charmoz or Manta; these are what you would commonly use in UK winter conditions. They would be suitable for mountains like Toubkal or other Moroccan Atlas peaks in winter, Yala Peak, Island Peak and possibly Mera Peak.

If you are booked onto an Adventure Alternative trip then you get full access to our experienced staff before the trip so that you can be sure that you get the right gear.

Trips where you would need warm boots include:-

Trip/Peak Reccommended Boots
Mount Everest High Altitude Triple Boots
Muztagh Ata Plastics + Overboots Reccommended
Huayna Potosi Plastics + Possibly Overboots
Pequeno Alpamayo Plastics + Possibly Overboots
Aconcagua Good Hybrids, Plastics or possibly Triple Boots
Mount Khuiten Good Hybrids or Plastics
Mount Elbrus Good Hybrids or Plastics
Mera Peak Good Hybrids or Plastics
Ojos del Salado Good Hybrids or Plastics
Island Peak 4-Season Boots or better
Yala Peak 4-Season Boots or better
Toubkal Winter 4-Season Boots

Winter Mountaineering Gear Pt 1 – Boots for Crampons

Winter is coming!

For some people that is not a welcome statement, but for those of us who love winter sports then the first dusting of snow on the high ground gets us excited about getting out on the ice and snow.

The first in our series on winter mountain gear will explain the differences between boots and how they are graded for use with crampons.


Boots for any climb over snow and ice need to be of a type that will allow fitting of crampons. Boots are graded according to their compatibility with different types of crampon.

Boots graded B0 are not suitable for use with crampons. The sole is not stiff enough to prevent them moving differently to the crampon with the result that the crampons will move around and may come off all together. They are also not very stiff in their upper section and may not provide enough support to your ankle or enough rigidity to allow ‘edging’ of the boot in snow when not using crampons.

Boots Graded B1 are suitable for use with strap-on C1 crampons for use on moderate snow and ice conditions. They have fairly stiff soles so that the crampon does not loosen or come off as the boot flexes during walking. They are also fairly stiff on the upper part so that they provide good ankle support and allow edging in the snow when not using crampons. They are however not so stiff that they are too uncomfortable to walk in off the snow.

Boots Graded B2 are suitable for use with C1 or C2 crampons. C2 crampons have a clip lever at the back and therefore require the boot to have a protruding shelf at the heel for the end of the heel lever to engage with. The boots have a stiffer sole than B1 boots and will help to keep the crampon in place on moderate mountaineering climbs. Some B2 boots are still flexible enough to be used on an approach walk although this is very dependent on the materials and construction of the upper.

Boots Graded B3 are suitable for use with technical C3 crampons. The boot is fully rigid and allows the crampon to be used on more technical climbs (where there is likely to be sustained use of the crampon’s front points) without the crampon losening. B3 boots are likely to be very uncomfortable for approach walks and trekking as they are rigid and often heavily insulated.

On all climbs or treks where crampons will be used, your boots will need to be rated at least B1 or B2 for use with crampons.

If you choose to purchase your own crampons prior to the trip please ensure that you take your boots to the shop and ask a suitably experienced person to check the fit of the crampons with the boot. Some combinations of boot and crampon do not provide a good match and can lead to poorly fitting crampons and consequent problems on the mountain. If you are planning on using overboots to upgrade the wrmth of a boot you will also have to check carefully if the crampon will be secure. You may need to cut out sections of the overboot to align with heel or toe bails.

If you are booked onto an Adventure Alternative trip then you get full access to our experienced staff before the trip so that you can be sure that you get the right gear.

Trips where you would need crampon compatible boots include:-

Mount Everest
Muztagh Ata
Huayna Potosi
Pequeno Alpamayo
Mount Khuiten
Mount Elbrus
Mera Peak
Ojos del Salado
Island Peak
Yala Peak
Toubkal Winter

& the Gold Award for ‘Best for Poverty Reduction’ goes to Adventure Alternative

So yesterday was an exciting day for all of us at Adventure Alternative. Our MD, founder and captain of the AA ship, Gavin Bate, was sat in a packed audience of over 500 tourism professionals, media, ministers and officials. The room was hot and he looked slightly uncomfortable in a shirt (he’s more at ease in a down jacket on a snowy knife edge ridge), the room lights dulled and the stage lights ignited as the compare announced the

New Picture

These awards are highly regarded within the industry and are competed for globally. We were over the moon when Adventure Alternative made the shortlist in the ‘Best for Poverty Reduction’ catagory, but we didn’t expect to win…… But we did! Suddenly Gavin, who prefers the quiet, solitude of the mountains found himself on a stage with a million watts glaring at him, the music pumping and his mug shot on the big screen. Meanwhile in the various AA offices around the globe whoops and cheers went up as the @RTAwards twitter feed announced the winner as Adventure Alternative!

WRT AwardsWhat the Judges wanted: The Best for poverty reduction category is one of the longest standing categories of the World Responsible Tourism Awards. With this category we are looking for holiday providers that offer memorable experiences that support their activities in seeking to reduce and prevent poverty in a local community.

Judges reason for winning: “We have previously awarded Gavin Bate, when he won Best Personal Contribution in 2009, but the judges felt that the extent to which he has expanded the operation of Adventure Alternative and increased the flow of benefits to the local communities with which the company works, deserved further recognition. Over twenty years, Adventure Alternative has developed companies in Kenya, Nepal, Tanzania, Malaysia, Morocco and Russia using responsible tourism and equitable contracts to create sustainable livelihoods and help people out of poverty. The judges were impressed by the wealth of detail that Adventure Alternative provided on their impacts and the way in which it is building self-reliant locally owned businesses”.

Gavin Bate, the founder of Adventure Alternative, is a man who climbs mountains. And moves them too, by knowing clearly what he wants to achieve in tourism. Which is to take tourists into extraordinary, rural mountain landscapes in developing countries and, in doing so, pull the local people who host them out of poverty and into wealth creation.

Traditionlal Maasai Dancingphoto(10)Matt Harding in Poria, Papau New Guinea

For all of us in the AA family, whether in the offices in Portstewart, London, Nairobi, Moshi, Kathmandu, Moscow, Kota Kinabalu or working out in the field or on treks or peaks it was great to be given this recognition. Our business model is purposely designed so that tourism positively impacts on everyone involved. Sustainable and reponsible tourism is our DNA and it’s great that other people outside of the company / our clients also appreciate and recognise the difference that can be made if the right approach is taken.

And today, heavy heads in the office? No, we’re busy as usual planning more trips and we hope to launch our new website very soon with even more stories about the wonderful people and communities with whom we work around the globe!

Like to read more? Full details: or

‘What kit / gear do I need to climb Kilimanjaro?’

Following on from last weeks blog, ‘How fit do you have to be to climb Kilimanjaro’ I thought we’d cover another popular question ‘What kit do I need to climb Kilimanjaro?’.

mountain gearThe most common comment we hear is “but the guy in the shop said I needed……”. So what do you actually need? Well, usually a lot less than a sales man will tell you and for most people they’ll already own most of it.

There is nothing worse than being on the side of a mountain, wet, freezing, tired, grumpy and wondering why you paid some of your hard earned for the experience! But of course if you have good kit, you’re warm, dry and comfortable, then the world is a better place!

Of course you need to consider what you actually need, but first consider what you already have and how you personally react to extremes of hot and cold. Consider the environments you will visit, the time of year and the expected weather. Factor in how your kit will be carried and remember you’re climbing Kilimanjaro, not Everest!

View of the QueueAA Kilimanjaro (2)                            Everest                                                         Kilimanjaro

First things first, check out a Kilimanjaro kit list. When it comes to extremes in terms of cold, wind, rain or snow then your layers and layering is key! Good layering will allow you flexibility in terms of balancing your temperature; all trekking requires this however at altitude it’s even more important as overheating = sweating = additional fluid loss / dehydration. The idea of layers is that you can adjust your temperature and protection level to changing weather / climate. This can be done by removing or adding a layer, or simply undoing a zip whilst walking and doing it up again when you stop. There are a few layers to consider.

The outer layer is key to keeping you dry and windproof. Think about when you will wear this layer – it’s likely to be at all levels on the mountain (as it can rain at the top or bottom) so a normal waterproof coat / trousers are needed and not thick snowboarding gear as it could be 25C and raining in Moshi! Check out what outer gear you have already and check they are still waterproof. If so, good, tick them off the list and chuck them in the ‘to go’ pile. If not, and this goes for all higher priced kit, consider whether you would like to:

a) buy new (is this a one off climb? Will you get good use out of the investment?)
b) buy second hand (online auctions etc)
c) borrow from a mate
d) or hire from the likes of Expedition Kit Hire.

Next is your cosy layer, which will keep you warm! Now you may be climbing a mountain in Africa – but it‘s still freezing and normally sub zero up top. Add in some wind and snow or hail and you need to be cosy! You don’t need to spend a fortune on these layers and the majority of people will already own all of these layers. Start off with a thermal top and long johns, some trek trousers, a short sleeved t-shirt and a long sleeved one on top. Then a thin fleece with a thicker one on top and that should be adequate for most people. You may need one other mid layer when relaxing around camp if you’re not in the tents. If you really feel the cold then you may want to buy, borrow or hire a down jacket however most people don’t need this on Kilimanjaro. The coldest you’ll be is before you start walking on summit morning. The rest of the time you’ll be around camp, walking lower down were it’s warmer and when you start walking towards the summit you’ll want to remove some layers, open zips and regulate your temperature.

The summit of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest point in all of Africa and one of the seven-summits.

The summit of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the highest point in all of Africa and one of the seven-summits.

The final and again a critical area to consider are your extremities. A well fitted fleece hat, a scarf, thin liner gloves and thicker outer gloves, good warm trekking socks, well broken in boots, sun glasses and finally some sun cream will ensure you can continue to regulate your heat and remain comfortable in your surroundings. Do remember at altitude, just like on a plane, your feet swell. Generally boots should be a half size too big.

The pitfalls to avoid are:

  • Don’t overspend on unnecessary gear – trust the kit list not the sales man.
  • Don’t take something ‘just in case’, think about your gear, talk with your trek organiser if you have any questions and take just what you need.
  • Take a good strong duffle or pack for your gear to go in and ensure everything is in dry-bags or garden refuse sacks.
  • Bags go missing on flights more often than you think! Wear your boots on the flight and put your waterproofs in your hand luggage along with essential medicines and other items not easily replaced. Mid layers are cheaper and easier to replace.
  • Make use of all birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas etc!
  • Finally pick a really grim day at home and go test your gear! Better to do it when you can return to a cosy home and an electric kettle!

‘Super-Human’ ‘Sherpas’?

OK first off, before we get started, a matter of definition that grates every time a newscaster reading their script gets it wrong…. The word ‘Sherpa’ (big ‘S’) does not actually mean someone who carries stuff or any Nepali who happens to be up a mountain.

Just to clear up any confusion, the name ‘Sherpa’ refers to an ethnic group, hence the capital ‘S’. It is derived from “sher-wa” meaning “people from the East”, because the Sherpa ethnic group originally crossed from Tibet which is East of their now traditional homeland of the Khumbu area of Nepal. The Sherpa also have their own language, culture, and they are slotted into the mainly Hindu-Nepali caste system, en-mass. Almost all Sherpas have the last name “Sherpa” too. So if a Nepali, up a mountain, introduces themselves as Pasang Rai or Nima Tamang, they will be from the Rai or Tamang ethnic group rather than Sherpa. There are many Nepali mountaineers, guides and high altitude porters who are not Sherpas.

So, next time you hear someone say ‘Sherpa’, you can ask them if that is what they mean, or if they actually mean Nepali porter or Nepali mountain guide. When they stare at you blankly, you can educate them!

So, that’s the ‘Sherpa’ bit dealt with, now on to the ‘Super-Human’ bit.

For anyone who has been trekking in Nepal, the most immediately obvious example  of this notion will have been seening local Nepali porters (not necessarily Sherpas!) achieving apparently unbelievable feats of strength and endurance by carrying extremely heavy, and sometimes extremely awkward, loads up steep and rough terrain. All of this at altitudes of up to perhaps five thousand metres, where the available oxygen in the air is down to 50% of that at sea level.

When stopping to catch their breath, half way up a moderate slope, weighed down by the grand total of a few kilos of camera, water and a few spare clothes, many a trekker can be heard to exclaim….

“Wow, look at that, that is really impressive, they are superhuman”

….or words to that effect. Perhaps taking a photo to preserve the moment and jovially applauding the feat.

This is a common reaction and made innocently enough. But let’s look a bit closer….

Fundamentally; No, that porter is not super-human – he or she is very much human.

This may seem like semantics, but it is an important distinction. They are often very highly conditioned through a lifetime of being physically active and probably many years of carrying heavy loads. Plus, most of the people from communities who have lived at altitude for many generations have physiologically adapted to altitude, and of course they are probably well acclimitised in any case.

But they are made of the same stuff as you or I.

There is a limit to what force a muscle of a given size can produce. There is a limit to what stress a bone or ligament can sustain. Pain and injury are universal. By labeling them as super-human, perhaps we are creating that ‘otherness’ that excuses us the empathy of imagining ourselves in their position. Instead of marveling, maybe we should be asking ourselves:

  • What damage is being done to their body by carrying such huge loads?
  • What pain are they in after a day of carrying that load?
  • What pain will they be in every day as they age?
  • What is the average life expectancy of a porter?

These are the same questions that would almost certainly have come to mind more readily had it been a mule or a yak carrying an apparently unreasonable load. Perhaps under the argument that an animal had no choice in the matter.

In the same vein, on one level it is impressive that they are moving that huge load over such difficult terrain, and usually with such tight-lipped resolve and lack of drama. But on another level, perhaps we should be asking why they are doing so:

  • To what extent was porter-ing actually a decision of their own wider free will?
  • What are their other employment options?
  • What level of education did they have access to them as a child?
  • How much are they being paid to carrying those two full sized sheets of half inch, 8 by 4 foot plywood weighing up to 35kg up a mountainside? How much would I expect to be paid for that?
  • Why aren’t they carrying one 17kg sheet instead of two?
  • Why are they wearing flip-flops?
  • Do they have spare clothing? – What happens if the weather changes?
  • Where are they going to sleep tonight? – Do they have a sleeping bag or blanket?
  • Do they get enough calories and nutrition to sustain and repair their bodies?

Super Human Sherpas?

Maybe next time we see a porter struggling under an unreasonable load, instead of remarking….

“wow, look at that, that is really impressive, they are superhuman”

Perhaps we should instead be asking ourselves all the questions above and saying….

“wow, look at that, why are they having to carry such an unreasonable load, I wonder what pain they are in and what damage it is doing”

Then instead of applauding and congratulating what you are seeing, find out about them and take an interest (perhaps through your guide) and make it clear that it you are interested in their well-being. And if it is a porter carrying excessive luggage or gear for a trekking or climbing group, ask them who they are working for then get in contact, ask some difficult questions and let them know that their organization appears to be working in an unethical and irresponsible manner.

As a paying client, you have the power to influence this.

To find out more about Adventure Alternative‘s policies on porters’ rights please see – – and please do speak to us directly for any other information.