Greetings from Arkansas. . .yes I am here for work at the moment :)
Well I made it back to the states on the 26th of July and flew straight to my next work assignment in Chicago (I am a management consultant). . so the last week has been a bit of a blur and it almost seems unreal that just weeks ago I was on the roof of Africa!
I am super grateful for Genevieve, Brooke, Melanie, Sergio, Steve, Corina, Martin, and my dad (Hector) for signing up for the challenge not only of climbing the highest free standing mountain in the world (5896m), but also to take on the challenge of fundraising for International Medical Corps and their efforts for women and children in the Congo and Uganda!! Neither of these tasks was an easy feat by any means!! Yet they all rocked it and the entire team reached the summit at Uruhu Peak on July 16th at 7:45 AM and 8:15 AM---100% success rate, which is INCREDIBLE!! Climbing Kili set the altitude record for the entire team. . .we all went higher than we had ever gone before!
So a little bit about the mountain-Crowned by eternal snows, the mighty Kilimanjaro (19,340ft) is the highest free-standing mountain in the world and dominates its landscape unlike any other mountain. Located in Tanzania, this extinct volcano looms over five eco-systems and large game reserves and is certainly one of the world's most impressive sights. The terrain is nothing short of dramatic.
As one of the most fascinating and diverse regions on earth, Kilimanjaro has attracted both climbers and nature enthusiasts with its magnetism. The ascent up this great peak is non-technical by nature and it affords a full mountaineering experience (with all the rigors and rewards) for those in strong physical condition. Kilimanjaro at 19,340’ is an extreme, high altitude climb and is perhaps the most underestimated of the seven summits.
So here is a little run down of how the trip went:
July 8: I departed LAX on route to New York, NY, then Dakar Senegal, then off to Nairobi, Kenya. It would be a long. . long journey. Since Delta had cancelled all of our flights. . my departure and connection details had been disrupted. Thus, lucky me got to spend 12 hours in Dakar Airport. .during which I was bribed once and then almost had my bag run off with by someone else trying to get a bribe! In effort to avoid this situation I had to literally pry my 47 lb duffel bag from some man's hands in which I managed to bend my thumb completely backwards and well. . today it still hurts! Thank goodness you don't need your thumb to climb a mountain. All I could think was . .the adventure was already beginning. . lol. Needless to say I stuck tight inside the Dakar airport. . not willing to explore after this close encounter. This put a damper on my plans, as I thought I could kill time and check out the sights versus sit steady for 12 hours! Thank goodness I had a good book to read to keep me entertained. . The Shack :)
July 10: I finally arrived in Nairobi around 6 AM and it was straight to the Pan Afric hotel for a quick shower and bag drop. . then off to the McKinney Rogers Office in Kenya for my last day of work before the climb. My lovely co-workers took me out that night in Nairobi and we enjoyed the local nightlife seen until it was time for me to get ready and head to the airport once again to meet my dad, Corina, and Martin.
July 11: It was an early morning for me, as I met my dad, Corina and Martin at NBO Airport at 5:30 AM. Our 8 hour shuttle ride to Moshi would begin at 8:30 AM and we would depart to the Springlands Hotel. The only glitch at NBO was that my dad's baggage had been lost!!! Big problem, considering all of his climbing gear was in there! Well, all we could do was file a claim and pray that his bags would arrive on time for the climb! As I described in another posting. . this shuttle ride was an adventure all on its own. . something out of Mr. Toad's Wild Adventure down a dusty, rocky, paveless road for 8 hrs. It was really great to see the outskirts of Nairobi and drive by the various towns and villages and get a glimpse of what life was like here. What really struck me the most was the lack of water sources near residential establishments and watching young girls with heavy Jerry Cans. . walking probably a couple of kilometers to get water for the day. . most of them also barefoot. We saw a few Masai Villages on the way to Moshi. . .and well they were simply fascinating. It is incredible to see how well they have protected their culture and traditions and maintained a very simple way of life. My deep love and fascination for goats was beginning. . . more to come on the Uganda portion of the trip :o)
Finally around 4:30 PM we made it to the hotel. . The Springlands Hotel was modest but nice. . it had nice lush landscaping, a bar, a restaurant, a pool, a gear rental shop, a souvenir shop, and Internet room. . what more could you ask for on a climbing trip?? I was happy. . .would have loved a hot shower while I was there. . but hey you can't have it all right? :)
That night all of us with the exception of Melanie and Steve, who had not arrived, had dinner and enjoyed a couple of Kilimanjaro beers together and shared stories of our journey to Moshi and just relaxed. We were all roaring to go and supper excited to start the climb!
July 12: This was a free day for the team to just get acquainted and well in my dad's case wait for his luggage to arrive. . lol. We found out the bag had been located, yet the airline fell to fly it to Kilimanjaro Airport as promised, thus our kind shuttle driver from the day before was kind enough to arrange for a ground transfer! What a relief!!!
The entire team with the exception of Genevieve and Brooke headed into Moshi to explore, have lunch, and do some shopping. As I mentioned in a previous post. . we caused quite the stir in town and well almost formed a mini parade everywhere we went, as we were being pursued by local vendors trying to sell us their fine products and lure us into their shops. Everyone was extremely friendly. . .We ended up at a local restaurant in town and indulged in the local cuisine of sausage, chicken, ugali, plantains, and can't forget the Kilimanjaro beer. . all in all it was good. . .a bit gamey but good ;)
We headed back to the hotel after lunch and some us went for a dip in the pool. .which was quite refreshing and just relaxed . . chatting, reading, and resting for the day ahead.
Genevieve and Brooke had gone to visit a Masai Village and had a marvellous time . . they learned tons. . we invited to dress in their traditional attire and partake in a traditional dance!
That afternoon, we had our final briefing from Gap Adventures and met our guides Alfan, Stanley, and Martin.
That night the entire team had dinner together, we celebrated my dad and Corina's b-day, and met other fellow climbers about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime! I also found out that Melanie had found out about the trip while looking to participate in a 10k run for charity! Instead she found out about this trip for International Medical Corps and decided to take on this great challenge!! So glad she joined us and no the 10k run! :o)
July 13: Marangu Route Well after all the months of prepping. . the day was here and we were to depart by 8 AM. It was a busy morning around Springlands as two teams were departing for the mountain. It was about an hour and a half journey to the Marangu Gate, where we would register, organize our gear and embark on our journey. Upon arrival we say all of the porters ready to start carrying loads to our first hut, the Mandara Hut.We were told it would be about a 4-5 hour hike to the Mandara hut and that We would pass through a thick rain forest zone, then spend the night at Mandara hut (2750m). The rain forest was really beautiful with lush landscape, streams, and waterfalls. We stopped for a quick lunch and were able to get a first glimpse of the local wildlife, mainly birds and monkeys, but also this little guy that looked like a ferret and that Martin named "Peter". .lol. This large crow-like bird managed to swoop in and fly off with a bar of chocolate! The hike itself was not strenuous, especially since the porters were doing the heavy lifting. If there was one thing I would have preferred on this hike. .it would be that we all carry our own gear, but that was not allowed. Once we got the hut, we had to register once again and get our hut assignments. We would be 6 to a hut. We spent most of the late afternoon watching some monkeys nearby. . .eating a very yummy dinner. . . well watching some more monkeys. Needless to say why our team name became "Nyane Kitcha," the crazy monkeys!!! That is what we were for sure :) My dad was enjoying practicing his monkey calls. . lol. The team was really feeling strong up to this point and eager for a good night rest in prep for the day ahead. The Mandera Hut sees about 85 climbers per night. . .keep in mind you can triple that amount of people once you consider porters, cooks, guides, etc. The logistics involved in feeding all of the teams at this location, getting all the gear properly sorted is really remarkable and these guides have it down to a science and virtually seamless. I was quite impressed! This night Corina and Martin gave my dad quite the scare at about 1 AM as he was trying to make his way back to their hut from the outhouse. . lol. It was a good laugh in the morning.
July 14:Well it was an early 6:30 AM start .. .and we woke up to what would be the typical wake up call, "water for washing," in other words some warm water to get cleaned up with in the morning :) We had a quick bite and then were off by about 8 AM. I normally do not eat breakfast, so it was a treat to have eggs, toast, avocado, coffee, and tea most mornings :) I especially loved the avocados, as growing up those were a big treat in my household and here they were plentiful. We continued our ascent through the forest, before reaching the heather and moorland zone at roughly 3000m. We took our time and took in the sights and snapped away photo after photo. The trail was filled with "Jambos", "Mambos" , "Poas", and of course. . . "pole, pole". . "slow and steady".. . this phrase we would all come to love, especially on summit day :)We made it up to the Horombo Hut (3720m) about 3 PM. We all were enjoying stunning views of the mountain peaks at this altitude. Little did we know we would be waking up Above the Clouds come morning! Also, it would be my first night of taking in the amazing Africa sky with it's millions of stars at night. . simply breathtaking. After a short rest. .we went on an acclimatization hike to Zebra Rocks, which was about another 300 m or so. The rock formations were really incredible and marked with a zebra like pattern. It was a good test for the team to go up a bit higher and then come down to rest a bit lower. Dinner that night was carb loading with rice and potatoes and vegetable sauce amongst some other goodies. . .I was missing the yummy beef we had had the night before, but no more refrigeration. . so all non-perishables from this point forward. We spent the night at Horombo Hut (3720m), which lies in a valley surrounded by giant lobelia and groundsel, flora which are characteristic of this semi-alpine zone. For the most part the team was strong! Dad and I started on Diamox this day. . .the rest of the team had pretty much been on it. . except Sergio, who made it up medicine free the entire trip!! I know that about 14,000 ft. I inevitably get quite nauseous and so I was trying to be proactive. My dad was a bit exhausted and started to lose appetite. The rest of the team felt okay. . it was just evident we were about 3000m now. . .we were all moving a bit more slowly. :)
July 15:It was another early start this morning as we had to get to the Kibo Hut (4703 m) and prepare for our summit bid. We were likely on the trail about 8 AM again and made it to Kibo about 3 PM. We again stopped for lunch and enjoyed the majestic views the entire way up. Our trek ascended onto the saddle of Kilimanjaro, between the peaks of Kibo and Mwenzi. The vegetation thinned out as we entered the desert-like alpine zone (approximately 4000m) and, once we crossed the saddle, a stunning view of Kibo peak came into view. The team was still really strong this day. . but moving slower than previous days. It was quite windy in the saddle and so we had to button up with our windbreakers and gloves. The Kibo Hut area was hustling and bustling. . as those climbers on the Rongi Route were camping here as well. My dad was feeling a bit sluggish and early signs of headaches were starting in the team, so a few of us splurged and bought Cokes, which surprisingly were being sold at the Registration Hut. . about $3-4 USD per glass bottle. I thought the sugar would help my dad out and also help settle his stomach a bit. The rest of the team decided to take a nap before dinner and I decided to take my journal outside in the cold, crisp air and just reflect on the previous days and journey ahead. It was really beautiful to just sit out on the rocks and take in the views. It was quite chilly though. .and I was beginning to realize that I had likely underestimated how cold it would get on our way to the summit. Stanley, our guide, had told me that it would be the coldest about 4 AM on summit day. . .I was soon to find out he was RIGHT! We spent the night at Kibo Hut (4703m), a comfortable stone construction in a room that sleeps 13 with double bunks. This semi-desert zone receives an annual rainfall of under 250mm and few plants other than lichens and grass survive in these conditions. We would have to wake up at 11 AM for our summit bid. .so dinner was served around 5:30 PM so we would have enough time to grab some shut-eye. After dinner the guides gave us a final prep talk about what to expect on summit day. . they also warned us about signs of altitude sickness and to be smart about making them aware if we were feeling really ill. After the guides left I gave the team a quick pep talk. .with my main point being that this climb is 80% mental and 20% physical. I am really a strong believer in this. . we had all trained hard for this ascent and were pretty much strong at this point. . . the key would be in believing each of us could do it. . .that determination would get us to the summit! I also did a quick review of "pressure breathing", which I had been coached on by any other guide I had ever climbed with. It helps your body get oxygen to the brain at a faster pace while in altitude and key! Lastly, I did a Gu check. . .I love Gu and it has gotten me up many mountains, so I wanted to make sure everyone had enough fuel to get them up the mountain the next day. Surprisingly I was able to sleep well for those 4 or 5 hours. . .poor Genevieve did not get a wink! At 11 AM Karem, came in and woke us up! It was time to go. . all or nothing. We had a quick bit of biscuits, tea, and coffee and were off!
July 16:We started the ascent about 12:10 AM. Stanley had been right that it would get the coldest around 4 AM. I was warm enough when we got started, but an hour or so in I was pretty cold and about 3 hours in. .my poor little fingers were dying for the sun to come out and help warm them up! I stared out in Patagonia synthetic bottom base layer, with gortex Mountain Hardware pants on top, along with a capaline 3 Patagonia top, North Face fleece top, and Mountain Hardware Gortex Jacket. I decided to wear only 1 pair of my Smartwool mountaineering socks, which I regret not putting on the 2 pairs I had on me. . as my feet got a little cold. The gloves were where I really messed up! Having sub-zero Mountain Hardware mittens at home, I left them behind thinking they would be too warm and unnecessary considering I did not need them on Rainier, Elbrus, or Elbert! Well I could have really used them on Kili, over my heavy, water resistant pair of Mountain Hardware gloves. My hands were freezing 2-3 hours into the ascent. I tried using handwarmers, but they were taking too long to get warm. . .thus I decided to store my trekking poles in my pack and stick my hands, gloves and all into heavily insulated Patagonia Jacket, which I now had on. . .the gortex layer was not enough. How cold was it?? I will never know. . .but looking at forecast post the climb, I expect it was no warmer than 10 F if not colder with the windchill up till about 5:30 AM when the sun started to peak through. I would say we did not get full sun until about 7 AM. The Kili sunrise was breathtaking. .. I have no words to describe, but it was so profound to see the sun reflecting off the remaining bits of the glacier and exposing all of Africa below us. Watching the sunrise at high altitude has to be one of my favorite parts about moutaineering. .it just makes everything you have gone through worthwhile!. The sun came out past Gillman's Point (5685m), it is a further 3 hour round trip along the crater's edge to Uhuru Peak (5896m), the highest point in Africa. I had warned the team of this fact, particually because many people tend to want to turn around at this point from exhaustion. . again 80% mental and 20 % physical. Our team had been split into 2 about an hour and a half into the ascent. Half of us were requiring more breaks, making it difficult for the team requiring less breaks, as it was just too cold. I charged up ahead with Genevieve, Brooke, Melanie, and Sergio due to the fact I was too cold to keep stopping. My dad, Steve, Corina, and Martin became team 2. It was really tough for me to separate from my dad, as I wanted to be there for him going up. He and Corina were probably the most impacted by altitude sickness this day and so they ended up providing great moral support for one another the entire way up! I knew they could all make it, just at their own pace :) I was really glad my dad was wearing a red jacket, as our team was able to look back down and see that they were just a bit behind us, but still charging up the endless uphill. The ascent to Gillman's point really did seem endless. . . we were all glad it was dark and we could not see how much further we really had to go. I tried to keep myslef from looking up to see the headlams making their way up the mountain. Genevieve was up front and center on our team and really strong! It was awesome! I was feeling really nasiated and cold, which definetley slowed my pace up to Gillman's point. . .I was all about the "ploe, pole" . .lol. The teamwork and encouragement was really remarkable from all! Once the sun started to come out. . . I could not help but just snap away photos. . .it was so beautiful, I just hoped the pictures could capture a glimnps of what I was seeing. By the time we were pretty close to the summit. .there was great energy on the mountian, from congratulating those on their way down from the summit, to words of encouragement and "your almost there", to encouraging other exhausted climber form other teams and telling them you knew they could make it. It rocked!!! At last 5 of us reached the summit about 7:45 AM! Wow what a journey! We took a lot of time taking photos and videos. I had brought up a sign for International Medical Corps for the team to take a photo with at the summit. I just prayed that the rest of the team would make it. . .and from the looks of things they did not appear to be too far away. Just as we were about done with our photos, Alfan pointed out that my dad was just a few short steps away! We all rushed down to meet the 4 remaining members of our team and gave them a huge CONGRATS!! It was a pretty emotional moment for me to see my dad up there. . .wow!! Way to go!!! So from ther it was more photos and videos and of course signing the "Jambo Sana" song, I had come to love. We were all in good, strong, high spirits! Woooooohoooooo!!!! I gave a reallt big thank you to God up there for getting our team up safe and allowing me to embark on this journey and try to help others along the way. I just felt really blessed by the entire experience. I was rewarded for snapping some photos of one of the other climbing teams and offered a swig of brandy. . .silly me took a sip out of the flask without knowing what it was. .lol... my. . my. . brandy at almost 20,000 feet. . umm maybe not such a good idea. . lol. I was totally fine, but my little tiny sip realy hit me hard. . lol.
From the summit, it is downhill all the way to Horombo Hut where we spent our last night on the mountain. We did make a quick 1 hour nap stop at Kibo Hut, which we reached about 11:30 AM. . .it had already been almost a 12 hour day and from Kibo to Horombo it was another 3 hours down! My dad flew down to the Kibo hut and beat us all by about an hour. .lol. .he wanted down and fast. He and Corina had debated many a times about turning around on thier ascent... but they stuck it out and made it!!! The descent was tough down to Kibo because of the lose rock and sand like conditions. .it was easy to just slid down if not careful. We finally made it to Horombo Hut (3720m) around 5:30 PM and got cleaned up and rested until dinner. This hut area was quite full this night, so we were all scattered through the various huts. Genevieve, Brooke, Melanie, Sergio, and I got to share the upstairs of the dining hut with 20 other individuals. . lol. We were so tired, we did not care! We just needed some sleep and overall rest. Not everyone made it to dinner that night, as some just wanted to sleep. The next day would be our final day on the mountain and then back to Springlands Hotel.
July 17:Descent - Horombo Hut to Marangu Gate. We made our way all the way down to the Marangu gate. . with at 8 AM start time. The team had once again regained our stregnth and pace and we jetted down the mountain. Before departing Horombo, we enjoyed our last few sights of being above the clouds. Although the descent was not difficult, it did feel a bit lengthy. My dad was definelty feeling better and back to his good old self again. . . he got Melanie and Sergio pretty good by hiding in some bushes and jumping out at them on the trail when they weren't looking. .lol :)
Once we reached the bottom of the gate, we took a team "after" photo, collected our certificates, bought some souvenirs from the gift shop at the base and waited for a ride back to the hotel. What an adventure!!!!
Once back at SPringlands Hotel, we checked in, dropped gear and had a little certification ceremony with our guides. After that we all hit the showers desperately and then relaxed with a few Kilimanjaros, Safaris, and Tuskers while we waited for dinner and celebrated our hard work and success. It was a lot of fun to recount stories with our team and other teams who had also made the summit. I was so grateful that we had all made it and were now back safe and sound.
For me, Genevieve, and Brooke, our trip was only half over and the real emotional journey about to begin as on the 19th we would head to Uganda to visit Nakivale and Kyaka II Refugee Camps with International Medical Corps.
July 18: After a quick breakfast. . we said our good-byes to Melanie and Steve and the rest of us set off on a game drive at Arusha National Park for the Day. It was a great way to spend the day after the climb. . .We saw lots of monkeys, giraffs, hippos, birds, etc. It was really lovely. The terrain and lanscape were quite beautiful. After the game drive we said farewell to Sergio who was off to Ireland for work and the rest of the team headed back to the hotel.
July 19: It was a early departure from the hotel for Corina, Martin, my dad, and I. .. we had the 8 hour shuttle adventure back to Nairobi! I managed to sleep most of the way regardless of the bumpiness. . lol. I would meet Genevieve and Brooke in Kampala later that evening along with International Medical Corps. My dad and I managed to grab a quick bite at NBO before our flights took off. . we enjoyed a few more somosas. . .mmmm... so yummy.
It was a remarkable adventure shared with some really special and extraordinary individuals. . I could not have asked for a better team and am so grateful for them in joining me on this mission to help women and children in the Congo and Uganda, while also taking on a very personal physical challenge.
As I always like to close. . .if there is a dream you are after? Go after it. Life is too short, live it to the fullest. . and remember. . .Never limit yourself or life's potential. The extraordinary is always possible!!!
Thank you for all of your support and encouragement along the way. ..next will be a recount of our journey to Nakivale and Kyaka II with International Medical Corps in Uganda.
If you would like to continue to support our efforts, please visit: http://www.climbtakeaction.com/DonateNow.html