Alberta tour operator faces lawsuit over African misadventure

An American woman is suing the owner of Canmore-based Berg Adventures International, claiming two members of her party climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa were drugged and robbed. Company owner Wally Berg says he will fight the lawsuit.

American woman alleges 2 members of her group were drugged, robbed on Mount Kilimanjaro

The summit of Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro is seen in this 2006 photo taken from the Barafu Hut camp, the last resting point for most climbers before attempting to reach the summit. Some 20,000 tourists attempt to climb the 5,895-metre summit every year. (Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters)

An Alberta tour operator in Canmore is being sued by a customer who claims her trip to climb Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro went horribly wrong.

Eve-Rose Lewis, a lawyer from California, is suing Berg Adventures International and owner Wally Berg — claiming close to $700,000 in damages for her and two other plaintiffs.

Lawyer Rose-Eve Lewis is suing Berg Adventures for $700,000 in damages. (Rose-Eve Lewis)

Lewis told CBC News she booked her trip with the Canmore company because of its reputation for providing comfortable, full-service travel experiences.

But she alleged in her statement of claim that the expedition, which took place from Feb. 26 to March 3, was plagued with problems that culminated in her daughter Anne-Marie and a male friend being drugged in their tents during the night, and robbed of their cash, gear and her daughter's passport.

None of Lewis's claims have been proven in court.

Berg Adventures International told CBC News it can't comment on the matter while it is subject to litigation. However, Berg said he plans to vigorously defend his company against the claims.

Lewis acknowledges the pair did continue to the summit, but she claims that was the fastest way off the mountain.

"They went up and over to get out of there as quickly as possible, because if you're stuck with a syringe at 14,000 feet in Africa you have no idea what they used," she said.

Lewis said she was not present at that point, having turned back earlier because of problems with altitude.

Climbers sought medical attention

The pair descended the mountain rapidly in order to seek treatment and report the incident to police. A medical clinic in Moshi, Tanzania, confirmed the two had injection marks on their shoulders.

They were also given HIV-prevention drugs, Lewis said.

Lewis also alleges the guides frequently smoked marijuana — which is illegal in Africa — and actually worked for another outfitter, despite Berg's claim that it does not use third parties.

  • Listen to the interview from the Calgary Eyeopener:

Lewis said she decided to sue Berg Adventures International after the company failed to contact her or apologize for what the travellers went through.

She said she was also angered the company posted dispatches from the trip on its website, congratulating her daughter and her friend for their rapid descent of the mountain, without acknowledging that the reason was to seek medical treatment.

"When I realized that the reaction to this is that basically, this is your problem, you're on your own, and then when I saw the dispatches and I realized they were completely erroneous," said Lewis.