Eyan was born and raised in Marangu. At the young age of 15, Eyan began climbing Kilimanjaro as a porter. His first summit on Kilimanjaro was at the age of 19. Eyan then began training to further his career. First learning all the routes, which lead to his assistant guide license. Eager to learn, Eyan again began training and earned a position of being the head guide for climbing Kilimanjaro. Working hard and long hours as a guide, Eyan continued his educational training. Along with rock climbing and ice climbing training, Eyan also received his rescue training certificate, which is crucial to have as a guide. Eyan has reached the summit over 200 times in his career. With 26 years of experience, Eyan knows Mt. Kilimanjaro and can climb it better than anyone I know.
Back in 2004, when I was a young pup of 57, I summited Kilimanjaro with Eyan. The route I elected to take was the Western Breach because I did not want to spend 14 hours or 15 hours hiking in one day. The Western Breech route involves spending about a full week, or maybe 8 Days on the mountain and sleeping in the crater before summiting. It makes for an easy summit day as you only have a few hundred feet more to make it to the very top. The first 3 days I spent more time with the porters then with the other people in our group. A little bit into the fourth day though I was completely out of breath and ready to quit. Eyan assured me he could get me to the top, all I had to do was get behind him and take a step whenever he took a step. The strategy worked although sometimes I did have to call for a rest stop when I was out of breath. It is difficult to explain the exhilaration I felt when I climbed into the crater and saw the glacier.
There was another group traveling the same route with us. It was comprised of six physicians who were making a second attempt to summit Kili. At the end of the third day, all six had descended. I can’t guarantee that they would have had a better success rate if Eyan had been their guide, but all three in our group made it to the Uhuru Peak sign.
Everyone wants bragging rights and a Kilimanjaro climb is hard to beat, but summitting Kilimanjaro twice in less than a year is the best of all ... all thanks to my friend, Eyan Minja. Eyan possesses the ultimate in skills and experience but he has something that separates him from the rest. He is truly a born leader. He assembles his "crew," picks up supplies, plans his menus, assigns tasks and starts the treck like a well oiled machine. He sends the fastest porters well ahead of the group to pick out and reserve the best campsites. He acts like our "mother", making sure that we properly hydrate, eat to keep our energy level up and maintain a comfortable pace. He is full of stories of great interest and shows us subtle aspects of the terrain, fanta and flora that others miss. During the hard parts of the hike he looks after all but stays with the members who most need his help. He makes sure that an assistant guide is close by to every trecker.
After the first climb we were blessed to have Eyan visit in our home in Tennessee. He was featured on the Nashville CBS affiliate and also provided an outdoor program at the Nashville REI store. I had promised a friend, who had planned to go on the first trip but had to cancel at the last minute that I would go back to Africa with him if he ever got the chance. Less than a year later he got the chance to go, and I was on the top of Kilimanjaro again with Eyan. I have referred Eyan to others who have been equally happy with the trip that he planned. The climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro is a life long accomplishment that creates a special bond with the people who share the experience. Even though we live a world apart, the two trecks that he has shared with me have made us brothers.
Mark Rassas - Tennessee