"Deeply humiliated" Kilimanjaro tour organizer leaves trekkers stranded in Tanzania as funds disappear

A team of hikers approach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro
The group of charity trekkers received the news upon arriving in Tanzania (Image credit: R. Tyler Gross)

A group of trekkers planning to climb Kilimanjaro to raise money for charity is claiming they have arrived in Tanzania only to discover that their trip hasn't been booked – and their money is gone.

According to a GoFundMe page set up by Danielle Carrigan, the trip was the brainchild of Lea Turner, who recruited 22 others to join her on the 9-day trek to raise money for Hope4, a charity aiding Ukrainian refugees in Moldova. The group employed the services of Wales-based outfit Aspire Adventures to organize the tour, but North Wales Live is reporting that when they arrived in Tanzania several days ago, they received the following email from founder Jason Rawles informing them that nothing has been paid for:

"Over the past week we have been hit by a series of events outside of our control with cash in the bank and payments needed. I have tried everything, and I do mean everything. We have now just run out of options and cash flow is just one of many things that have happened all at the same time.

"I have no personal funds or assets. Covid and business let downs have seen to that. I have made some heartfelt calls to continue with the business including not paying myself since 2019. When I say I’ve explored everything, I do mean everything. The reality is we cannot make payment for what is needed for your Kilimanjaro trip and Aspire Adventures along with myself must have a health break effective immediately and I’ll be seeking support from professional care teams."

His email also reportedly apologized to the trekkers and claimed that they would not be left out of pocket.

Two ladies hiking Mt Kilimanjaro on a sunny clear day

The email also reportedly apologized to the trekkers and claimed that they would not be left out of pocket. (Image credit: thinair28)

Aspire Adventures was founded by Rawles in 2013 and offers guided tours to Kilimanjaro as well as Everest Base Camp and Island Peak in the Himalayas. According to their website, the cost for a tour to Kilimanjaro begins at £2,497 but North Wales Live is reporting that the total missing sum is approximately £100,000. 

For now, the trekkers are claiming they have to each raise £1,600 ($2,000) to pay for a new tour and accommodations. At the time of publication, the GoFundMe page had only raised £5,445 of the £22,000 target, but the group seems to have forged ahead, with Hope4 sharing pictures of CEO Chris Lomas climbing Kilimanjaro with trekking poles in hand yesterday.

Posted by WeAreHope4 on 

Advnture has reached out to Rawles for comment on this story and received the following automated response:

"Effective immediately, myself and Aspire Adventures are taking a mental health break until the start of March. No emails will be checked. If you have a trip booked with Aspire from April onwards it is absolutely our intention for it to be delivered and will be in touch. All social media channels are deactivated in the meantime. If payments are owed for Jan they will be honoured so please check your banks over the coming 10 days. Apologies for any anguish caused."

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.