Logistics on a Mountain Top: Kenya’s New Frontier

What first comes to mind when someone mentions tourism in Kenya? Odds are, images of the Masai Mara and a few of Kenya’s Big Five form your definition of tourist attractions in the country. While this positive stereotype is completely understandable, a recent resolution involving Nyeri county seeks to flip your perception on its head.

Having identified the spending power of niche thrill seekers that relish harsh conditions and superhuman feats of athleticism, Former Kenya Wildlife Service Director, Julius Kipng’etich has recommended marketing Nyeri as the prime destination for the ultimate challenge: mountain climbing.

Such expeditions call for a competent, well trained guide, who serves as a supply chain manager for the entire experience. These can be provided by companies specializing in mountain climbing logistics, or agencies that connect local guides to tourists as needed. While the option of dealing with independent guides is available, the risk involved with trusting an individual not affiliated to any recognized group is generally a deterrent.

Relying heavily on the logistics function, mountain climbing involves careful planning and execution to ensure the preservation of human life and an enjoyable trip for all involved. The first decision made in mountain climbing trips, after selecting a guide, is choosing a route to take up the mountain. Here, the guide functions as the supply chain manager, plotting the safest route as one would plan the delivery of cargo from one place to another, taking several factors into consideration. These include weather forecasts, skill level and experience of climbers, scenic needs of the group, intended completion time and so forth.

Mount Kenya. Photo/Credit: BestKenyanSafaris.com

Mount Kenya. Photo/Credit: BestKenyanSafaris.com

The guide also functions as the supply chain manager by ensuring that the proper equipment for the trip is acquired and used correctly for maximum efficiency. In regular freighting, logistics managers would take cargo into consideration and acquire support equipment necessary to guarantee successful delivery e.g. for goods requiring climate controlled environments, portable refrigeration machinery would be sought, extra security vehicles could be acquired for high value cargo such as jewelry and the like.

Similarly, guides must advise would-be climbers on what gear is needed for the trip. From basics such as warm clothing, tents where needed, and sturdy thermal shoes, to more specialized equipment such as walking poles or headlamps. Guides must organize for climbers to get this equipment, via purchase or rent, and train them on using them where necessary to ensure that the human cargo reaches their destination in one piece.

Mountain climbing enthusiasts will also need supplies to tide them over during the trip, in the form of food and water. For expeditions in harsh climates such as this, it is often upon the guide to advice participants on what kind of sustenance to bring to meet their energy requirements, as well as how to store said food to maintain it in edible condition. In this way, the guide becomes a supply chain manager in the food industry, including offering insight on water supply such as whether to attempt to carry clean water for the duration or bring water purification agents to decontaminate water supply at camps along the route if any exist.

One key aspect in which the logistics function and guide are tested is emergency preparedness. Should a climber suffer injury on the way up or down the mountain, it is usually the duty of the guide to call upon knowledge of emergency first aid as well as procedure to get the wounded to professional medical attention. While there are usually protocols put in place for such situations, logistics comes into play both for the guide, where the wounded can be carried to relative safety, and medical services in the area in cases where the injured cannot be moved and help must find a way to get to them. Given the nature of the terrain, it becomes necessary to ascertain the optimum mode of transport and again, route in light of injuries suffered.

Overall, the place of logistics cannot be overlooked as Kenya ventures into this new age of tourism. As we work to diversify Kenya’s international revenue stream, we must show support for our distant cousins, our associates in supply chain that make this exciting new venture possible. To all those involved in facilitating we salute you and offer full support from the logistics industry.

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