Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sreeni's Blog

Sreeni has been quite the studious Kili climber/blogger and has done an awesome job updating his blog with info and pics from both the climb and the safari.  Please go check it out! (I can't promise how long it will be before we get this one updated :-))

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Quick Update - Day 5

All still doing great. Sunny afternoon at Karranga Camp. This is the view outside each of our tents.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Day 4

We are at Barranco Camp waiting for dinner. We are four days in and all feeling pretty well. Today's hike took us from 12,500' at Shira 2 camp up and over the Lava Tower at 15,180'. We are now back down to 13,100'. It is a bit misty and cold - we are basically in a cloud, but the days have been warm enough for the most part. Each of us hiked higher than we had ever been before and all felt way better than when at our previous highest point (some were Leadville, CO, others Pikes Peak, and various other CO moubtains). We take this to mean the whole aclimization thing is working. We start out summit approach Monday morning just after midnight.

The picture below shows a lot of what today looked like.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Hiker: Sreeni

1. What is your nickname? Chinnu.  

2. Previous hiking experience:  Does the long walk to the car after a drunken night count as hiking?!? ;-) Seriously, before signing up for this trip, I had almost zero hiking experience. Since then, I have hiked through spectacular parts of Hawaii, Rocky Mountain National Park, the Austin Green Belt, etc.

3. What made you go on this trip? I was looking for a grand opening to my year off... Sets the standard for the rest of the year!

4. What legs of the trip are you going on? The Climb, and the Safari?  The Climb, and the Safari

 5. What words/phrase do you think you will slightly overuse on the trip?  
"Wow, this is awesome!"
"This is so cool!"

 6. What is your greatest fear leading into the climb?
That the rest of my triathlon-crazy group will leave me in the dust!

 7. What are you most looking forward to after the climb?

The rest of of this year. Travels thru India, SE Asia, Central & South America. Yes, and a much needed shower!

 8. What is going to be your "special phrase" for "the altitude is killing me and you all better leave me alone or else..."?


 9. Anything else we should know about you?  I am an introvert and a people pleaser! :-)

Hiker Intro: Dayna

1. What is your nickname? It was Dakota at one point long ago, but it's mostly Dayna or Dee these days. 

 2. Previous hiking experience:  Leadville in 2012...that's about it, haha. Lots of hiking time in the tri-state area and one climb up Hunter Mountain, but that was only 4,000 feet so not sure if that counts? Though I did climb 2,000 feet in 2 hours, so it counts to me!

3. What made you go on this trip? I've never been one to turn down an opportunity to follow the crew on some crazy adventure, and when else in my life will I be able to share the Kili experience with 10 of my closest friends? 

4. What legs of the trip are you going on? The Climb, and the Safari?  The climb, the safari, then Cape Town/South Africa to swim with sharks. Hopefully Megalodon doesn't make an appearance. 

 5. What words/phrase do you think you will slightly overuse on the trip? 

"Holy crap!"

"Photos will never do this justice"

"Is it time to eat again?"

"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming swimming swimming..."

"The task ahead of you is never as great as the power within you"

 6. What is your greatest fear leading into the climb?

Fear? What's that?

 7. What are you most looking forward to after the climb?

After swimming with the sharks in Cape Town, sharing my experience with my friends and family

 8. What is going to be your "special phrase" for "the altitude is killing me and you all better leave me alone or else..."?

"So, how bout them Cowboys?" 
In all honesty, if I'm hurting, the best thing I can do is talk to someone else and distract myself. Hopefully there's someone else to talk to that's not hurting as much as me :)

 9. Anything else we should know about you?  I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to experience something like this, so thanks friends for joining me and thanks friends/family back home for supporting me! Mom, if you're reading this, I promise we're being safe :)


Hiker Jerry

1. What is your nickname? The Buck. 

2. Previous hiking experience?  Lake Tahoe 50k. Leadville marathon. 

3.  What made you go on this trip?  Vegas (and crew) made me do it.

4. What legs of the trip are you going on? The climb and safari.

5. What words/phrases do you think you will slightly over use on this trip?  10 up, 10 down, drinks all around.

6. What is your greatest fear leading into the climb.  Freezing.

7. What are you most looking forward to after the climb?  Running a faster 5k because of training at altitude. 

8. What is going to be your "special phrase" for "the altitude is killing me and you all better better leave me alone or else..."   I'm in my man cave.

9. Anything else we should know about you?  It's been several decades since I've been camping over night. 

Hiker Vegas

1. What is your nickname? Vegas.  

 2. Previous hiking experience:  Town lake trail (haha). Austin Greenbelt plus a million times up the Hill of Life.  Does that qualify? lol

Mosquito Pass, Leadville CO. Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs, CO. Rocky mountain national park and Estes Park, CO. 

3. What made you go on this trip? I love adventure, and this was one of the few bucket list items still unchecked.

4. What legs of the trip are you going on? The Climb, and the Safari?  The climb, the safari, then Cape town. 

 5. What words/phrase do you think you will slightly overuse on the trip?  F#%^... Lol. 

"Life is short"

"Long live the bunnies!"

"You'll love me at the summit!!!" (In response to "Vegas made me do it!")

 6. What is your greatest fear leading into the climb?

Altitude sickness. Diamox is my best friend.

 7. What are you most looking forward to after the climb?

Swimming with the sharks in Cape Town!!!

 8. What is going to be your "special phrase" for "the altitude is killing me and you all better leave me alone or else..."?

"Shhh.....I'm concentrating.... Mind over matter."

 9. Anything else we should know about you?  I am a vegetarian and worried about the food.  I am also clumsy which could be interesting.  I would thank my awesome friends for always partaking in my crazy ideas of fun!  


First View of Kilimanjaro

Our first view of Kilimanjaro came from Bristol Cottages,  the morning after arriving in Moshi

It's really hard to capture the scale of the mountain -- or that really what you're seeing is in fact an entire mountain ABOVE the cloud line.... nevermind the rest of the mountain below the clouds


We ate at a neat little "food court" across the street for lunch. Most of us had pilau - a rice/meat dish that was amazing. We also had some chips mayai which is pretty much eggs cooked on top of "chips" (aka french fries). That was good too!!  The best part?  Each meal was less than $2.

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Neema International : please donate! --Mel

Luke 18:16-17: But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

We just met the founder of Neema International. an orphanage for children, Mandy Stein. Members from our group gave donations/items brought from the states. Mandy moved here 3 years ago and her love for these children is astounding. Think about it? Leaving your home to work(non-profit) in a third world country? She knows the language very well and is not afraid to protect us as we walked around town getting harassed. Thank you Mandy! 

Please please go on their website and help out! This is why I came! This journey is me sharing we have  so many things we don't need! We complain about a lot of things in our life, but we are fortunate to be able to complain of having things. We complain about the school systems; the work we have; the foods we least we have them. 

I know I'm preaching a little, but this is where my "leap of faith" comes out and Mandy has is more than I do. 

- Mel

Neema International

We just met Mandy Stein, a recent UT grad from Houston who is now living and working at a local orphanage in the area. We were able to bring over several supply donations and in return, Mandy has spent the morning showing us around town and has been a godsend. Check out her foundation Neema International.

We are thankful Sreeni happens to be taking Spanish lessons with Mandy's aunt and was able to put us in touch.

Some scenes from town:

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Mel's journey to Africa

Proverbs 29:25 "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. "

My flight from Dulles was 13 and a half hours. It actually wasn't bad at all! I will give credit to Ethiopian Airlines for providing great service. I ate 3 meals and always had something to drink. So what does a person do for that long if you can't sleep on a plane? I read the entire novel, Gone Girl, which kept me wanting to read more so you know it was a good book. I watched a movie or two, and learned some Swahili from my phone app. I would say it was a productive day. I landed in Ethiopia and was pretty sleepy by then, but stayed alarmed as I was in a new country. I followed some other hikers to the right terminal for the next flight, but had a 2 hour layover. I saw the business lounge ( don't imagine the US kind of lounge). It had chairs and Internet, as I now have no service on my phone. I was able to get in the lounge using my Star Alliance Gold status(lucky I had my card). I drank 3 small diet cokes to stay awake as it was morning here and 11pm Eastern time. Then it was time to go to my gate in which you had to go through security. Now, it's Africa mode--people kept cutting and getting in. You can't get mad-- you are in Africa! Go with the flow! The most awesome part was the screen at the gate--it had GMCR as one of their "foreign companies for fair trade" so I took that as a "meant to be" sign!!

We took off to Tanzania and I met a doctor and his daughter from DC who were also climbing. They gave me helpful advice with my altitude medicine. I met a guy who was also from DC and meeting his friends from Austin, TX! Ironic! I also got in an hour nap which was good because its about to be 24 hours. I am so sleeeepy.

I finally landed so now to get through customs and find my personal driver. It was really fast as I had my yellow fever out and ready to show and had paid for my visa in the US. I just walked right through; got my luggage and walked outside. I met my driver right away and his name is Patrick. He was very kind and helpful. I shared the ride with a group from London who were also climbing the mountain. They were really cool people and I connected right away. (They adopted me in later that evening for dinner and picture taking and to walk around so I could be safe till my friends came) Patrick gave us a tour and showed us the "breweries" in Africa. They mix it in a large bowl with a stick and dry it out on tarps in the roads (like they do with the coffee beans). They then mush banana in it to make Banana Beer! I will try it after we climb to celebrate :) 

We made it to the cottages and l went to take a nap to wait for my friends to arrive. It was a long day! 

Then... We were all together :) 

Thank you everyone for your prayers and love! 


Sunday, August 18, 2013

We made it!!

All 10 of us are sitting down to dinner at almost 10pm Moshi time. We are at the restaurant at Bristol Cottages. It has been dark since before we landed so we haven't been able to see much. Out hotel is very cute - although it will be some of ours first time to sleep under mosquito nets.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Nine Months of Packing

Day pack (36L Osprey), small Patagonia messenger bag, XL North Face 155L duffel, smaller duffel with donations for local charity.

Looks nice and simple on the should see what went into it....

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Gear For Kilimanjaro

Here is the packing pictures for the climb on Kilimanjaro.  

1.  Additional Food for Kilimanjaro

Food includes:  Shot Blocks,  Oatmega bars,  Power Bars,  Honey Stingers,  Salmon and some nuts.

2.  Gear that I am carrying the first day.

3.  Gear that goes in the duffel bag that the porter will carry. 

Note that the sleeping bag is a camping sleeping bag that weighs close to the one I am going to rent.

4.   Total weight of the duffel bag that the porter will carry.

The max weight the porters can carry is 15Kgs (33lbs).  It looks like I have to:
  •  Leave some stuff behind
  •  Carry some more stuff in my backpack.
  •  Get another porter.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hiker Lisa ready for our adventure -- here we go!!


Not a lot of nicknames other than Lisa B and Lisa B Real thanks to the fact that I use my middle initial a lot J

Previous hiking experience:

Every morning I hike from the bedroom to the coffee maker, it is true exertion just making it that far without caffeine.

Lived in Colorado for a summer, vacation there a lot in all seasons. Lots of time spent in Tahoe as well. Had the joy of hiking the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand in 2010, one of the best days EVER.

Love mountains, love, love, love mountains.

What made you want to go on this trip?

I am a big fan of my version of “trekking.” And no I don’t mean a Star Trek television marathon. I love going places and wandering around.

I am trying to go to a new place every couple years for a few weeks at a time. After going to New Zealand I remembered how important it is for us to REALLY disconnect and explore and travel through a new culture.

I have always wanted to go to Africa and when I heard some awesome friends were talking about going I jumped in as quick as possible to join in the fun.

What legs of the trip are you going on?

Climbing Kili, Safari and then heading to Cape Town!

What words/phrase do you think you will slightly overuse on the trip?

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Asante, asante, asante!
Look UP

What is your greatest fear going into the climb?

Well after reading all about the climb I am most nervous about summit night J I have always had a strong ability to maintain slow and steady pace in triathlon, running and cycling. I pray my endurance can hold up and that I listen to the guides to keep any altitude side effects at bay. I want to make it all the way and I know with our group of friends we will all do everything we can to support each other to make it safely to the top!

What are you most looking forward to after the climb?

The opportunity to all be together and reminisce about our trek! I know each of us will have a slightly different experience. Sharing pictures and stories about the fellowship that will have happened on the mountain.

And of course a shower, I don’t know if I have ever not showered for this long…it should be interesting!

What is going to be your "special phrase" for "the altitude is killing me and you better leave me alone or else..."?


Anything else we should know about you?

Did you know there is a full moon when we are hiking? I love the sky and the moon and I am really looking forward to being close to the stars and moon. I hope we have clear nights and mild weather so that we get the full beauty of the heights we are climbing. I can’t wait to “look up” as much as possible and be thankful for this experience.

Friday, August 9, 2013

What does 6 lbs of food look like?

Things that I have deemed essential for the trip:
  • M&Ms
  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Chewy Lemonheads and Frinds
  • Giant Soft Now 'n Laters
  • Kind Bars
  • Justin's Nut Butter (honey peanut and chocolate hazelnut)
  • Life Savers
  • Trail Mix
  • Clif Kid Z Bars - Iced Oatmeal

Not sure the chances of everything else essential making it into my bag under the weight limit are that great.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mel, the hiker--hakuna matata!

1. What is your nickname? Mel because saying Melody Magallanez 100x is tough for some people, plus Mel fits my personality : ) Becca M. calls me "Mel Bell".

 2. Previous hiking experience: Well, I was very fortunate to hike the two highest mountains in Vermont last year and then go climb Leadville. This year of 2013, Nemo and I have hiked Stowe Pinnacle twice, but that will not be suffice for Kili. It's all about the altitude anyways.
3. What made you go on this trip?

I am sure my friends had to do with, no, I know they had all to do with why I am going. It's once in a lifetime. I know I am very blessed in being able to go--Something that I would have never dreamed! To say, "Hakuna Matata" or sing the song will be PRICELESS!!

4. What legs of the trip are you going on? The Climb, and the Safari?

The Climb

 5. What words/phrase do you think you will slightly overuse on the trip?

"I blame Vegas"..oh wait, that will be me saying it : ) Love you Vegas
"I can't breathe"
"One step at a time"

 6. What is your greatest fear leading into the climb?

 The terrorists
 According to Lisa, we won't be friends after
 People being dramatic and I may die

 7. What are you most looking forward to after the climb?

Look at the beautiful pictures and reflection
Take a shower
Safari time!

 8. What is going to be your "special phrase" for "the altitude is killing me and you all better leave me alone or else..."?

 "I blame Vegas"
 " God is good"
" I am living other people's dreams"
"God has blessed me more than I ever deserve"
" I love my Nemo"
"It's all a Leap of Faith"
" I am IronMel"
"Hakuna Matata"

 9. Anything else we should know about you?

 I am just going with the flow. I will have my music going and my journal to write about this experience. I have many fears leading to this as I truly do not know what I got myself into and don't even know what to expect. That is who I am anyways, so I am trusting everything to a higher being of positive energy and love that will get me through. I am also very excited as people are living through me and that is what will get me there. It will be life changing and I know that I will be surrounded by people that I trust and will make the right decisions. No matter what happens, I know that I have been extremely blessed with excellent health and amazing people around me, so knowing that I got there to see awesomeness and another world is all I need. ---True Story

Bekah's Gear List for Kilimanjaro

The preparation for this trip has been eye opening. I feel like I should be on a first name basis with most of the staff at REI by now.   Fortunately, my most expensive pieces of gear were acquired during the annual sale.

Kilimanjaro Hiking Gear: 

BackPack: Deuter Womens' air contact pack, Acquired during REI Sale with Member 20% coupon.  45 L.   Since we have porters carrying the majority of our necessities for the climb,  we really just need a daypack for snacks, our water for the day and any extras (like cameras) we want access to during that day's hike.  It is possible to get away with a regular school type backpack but eventually the straps will cut into your shoulders (especially for women with sports bra straps underneath), and I'd like to go backpacking again in the future and so this was an investment.

This pack is very comfortable after trying it out in Colorado on two 14ers and some day hikes in Austin on the greenbelt.

North Face BaseCamp XL Duffel:   This is the bag that will be checked on our flights over and that will have the stuff the porters carry up the mountain.   The XL seems to be the correct size for a trip this long. It has straps that can be used as a backpack and overall appears much easier to handle than the military style duffel bag I have from REI.  (I may still use the REI bag for donations to take to Africa)

Sleeping Pad:   We are renting sleeping bags there as there is no reason for Texans to own a $300+ sleeping bag rated for very cold temperatures. We would never get to use it here in Texas.  The outfitter did recommend bringing a more comfortable sleeping pad -- the porters will bring a thin foam mat but that is it.  I went with the Big Agnes Q-Cor insulated inflatable sleeping pad (everything is going to be cold, I  think I will enjoy some insulation. ).  Acquired this during the REI Sale.  I have since unpacked it and inflated it to test at home and realized that the probability of me being able to manually inflate it at elevation is unlikely-- all that cushiony goodness comes at a price.  Thankfully,  Big Agnes makes a "pumphouse" -- a dry bag that can be used to inflate the sleeping pad and then when stuffed with some clothes doubles as a pillow and weighs nothing.  I'll be acquiring one of those soon.

Base Layers:  I have tons of tech tees from races and these will be my base layer under my top.  I picked up a pair of long underwear bottoms and some sock liners.

Convertible Pants--  I've got a couple pairs of Mountain Hardwear convertible pants.  The fit on these is far better for me than the equivalent Columbia or REI brand pants.  Hopefully by packing convertible pants, I have to pack fewer articles of clothing.

Existing outerwear:  I have a North Face 3in1 ski jacket  and some inexpensive ski pants I'm bringing for summit day.  I also already have heavy gloves and glove liners.  I did pick up some hand warmers from REI.

Water Purification:   The porters will be boiling our water for safety,  but it's recommended we take a backup option.  I've opted for the CamelBak  AllClear water bottle purifier. It's a .75L water bottle (quite similar to a nalgeen bottle ) that comes with two lids -- one is a stand cap and the other one contains a UV light that kills the stuff in water.   It seems the most compact option and less work (there are other purifiers you have to pump water through by hand,  and iodine tablets take 30 minutes but this is done in 60 seconds).

Headlamp for Summit Day. also useful for trail running

Hiking Boots.  The purple laces stand out,  but they're waterproof and comfy so far.

Goal Zero Guide 10 Solar Charger  (reviewed separately).

Existing  Camelbak water bladder -- but got a new insulated tube  (partially in an attempt to prevent it from freezing on summit day,  but mostly because it is near impossible to completely clean the tube and it's time for a new one).

Safari Gear:

Sun Hat, REI brand.


nothing so far.  

Gear Review: Solar Charging Kits

The closer we get to our trip, the more gear we have amassed to either "survive", or at least be more comfortable.

Under the "more comfortable" category,  several of the team have purchased solar charging panels.  While none of us expect to be making phone calls or updating Facebook from the top of Kilimanjaro,  there aren't any power options to charge camera batteries, headlamps, kindles,  or water purification bottle batteries. You'd think we could survive a week and half without electronics, but I think our society as a whole has forgotten how.... and now we don't have to.

So far Vegas and Kathleen have chosen the Joos Orange Solar charger ($153 Amazon):

This is an all in one tablet sized panel with a hard plastic casing that appears to be very rugged!  It has a loop hole at the top for hanging from your pack to charge as you walk around.   It also claims to keep charging when submerged.  Vegas and Kathleen have been testing it out on this past weekend's hikes in the greenbelt.  One thing to note is that it has one attachment point- the top. If you stop and pick something up off the ground make sure it doesn't flip over and bonk you on the head!

Sreeni and I both opted for a different model:  the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus  kit ($105 Amazon).    Both kits weigh approximately 1.5 lbs (for the Goal Zero, that includes the battery pack).  The Goal Zero panels fold up like a book when not in use,  and the back side has a mesh pocket for storing the battery pack and cables. There are multiple loops for attaching at multiple points. I'm using small s carabiner hooks to attach it to my pack.
Unlike the JOOS Orange,  the Goal Zero is not waterproof.  I mean, it will be fine in light rain (assuming you are still getting enough sun to charge,  but you can't use it in a pool like the JOOS pictures indicate).  It does not have an integrated battery in the panels,  if you are trying to catch sun with the panels then you either need to have the battery pack connected to store the charge or you need to connect the device (such as a phone) that you want to charge.  You can use the battery pack separate from the panels to charge one device while charging another from the solar panel.  

iPADs-- the JOOS will charge an iPad directly though I do not know how long that takes.   With the Goal Zero,  you can charge from the battery pack or use the battery pack as a conduit to the solar panels.

At home, I've connected the solar panel to a smartphone and immediately upon placing it in full sun, the device began charging. I can put the device in the mesh pocket (under the solar panel) to minimize how hot it gets in the sun.

Battery pack takes rechargeable AA or AAA batteries (must use 4 at a time),  so you can bring extra batteries to keep charging when the first set completes if you are using AA or AAA batteries in devices like cameras or headlamps. Unfortunately, my cameras take proprietary batteries so I need to charge them via USB from the pack or from the solar panels.   It is possible to buy a second battery pack so you could swap them out to store charges if you wanted, but I have not purchased one  ($35-$40, Amazon)

Pros:  a little cheaper,  can charge with both battery pack and solar panels simultaneously,  lightweight,  seems durable, multiple connection loops for securing to pack,  mesh pocket organization keeps cords handy.
Cons:  not as rugged at the JOOS Orange, no integrated battery,  does not charge iPads directly from solar panel,  not "waterproof".