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".

Monday, August 5, 2013

Hiker Introduction: Rob

1.  Nicknames?

Glob is my gaming screen name.  Not going to give anybody any other ideas.

2.  Previous hiking experience

Not much.  When I was 17, I did a hiking/canoe trip with a church group to the Boundary waters ( The lakes between Minnesota and Ontario).  We had to haul either a 60lbs backpack or a 80lbs canoe between lakes.  Some of the portages where over a mile long.

The things I remember about the trip are:

  *  Lots of mosquitoes.

  *  Missing the Moose.  We were paddling so hard to keep up that we didn't see the moose that was 100ft away.

  *  Falling asleep while tending the fire.  Since this was a trip affiliated with a church, every one in the group was supposed to take turns tending the fire at night to reflect.  When It was my turn, I had other plans.  I dragged my sleeping back and fell asleep at the fire. The next morning they found me asleep by the fire pit and the fire was out.

3.  What made you want to go on this trip?

 *  Done the Ironman/triathlon thing.  Want to try something different.

 *  The Kilimanjaro trek will be challenging, a little scary and will push my limits. 

 *  Being around 6 beautiful single women sounded like a good idea.

4.  What legs of the trip are you going on?

    *  Kilimanjaro (8 day Lemosho trek)

    *  Safari ( Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire)

    *  Zanzibar

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

  *  I have a headache.  Because of the altitude on the climb, I think people are going to be saying this a lot.

  *  HAFE  (The non-serious altitude sickness)
  *  It's all good.

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

  *  That I won't make it to the top. 

  *  That I will get sick.

  *  My luggage will get lost.

  *  Miss the connection in Amsterdam.

  *  Recently the Terror Warnings.

  *  Watched "Touching the Void" a while ago.  It is a movie that shows what can go wrong in mountaineering.  Even though it doesn't really apply to this climb, it keeps coming to my mind.   The movie is more about hard decisions and the need to keep pushing.

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

After 7 days without a shower, so it has to be a 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..."?

When hiking with Bekah in Colorado, she would kiddingly hint that she want to "push me off of the mountain."  I reminded her that if she pushed me off a cliff that she would have to go down the mountain, find my body, and get the car keys.

9.  Anything else we should know about you?

A year ago I had a lot of concerns about the trip.  Mountain climbing can be dangerous.  There are all kinds of things that can occur.  One is altitude sickness. 

HAPE - High altitude pulmonary edema.
HACE - High altitude cerebral edema.
HARH - High altitude retinal hemorrhage

When I was in for an eye exam, I asked the eye doctor about HARH.  Instead of talking about HARH the doctor said.   I was watching PBS a few days ago and a guy with no arms and no legs climbed Kilimanjaro.  What the doctor was really trying to say but couldn't was;  There are risks, but go climb the mountain.

Weather Forecast....colder than planned

We just found a link to weather at various places on the mountain.  I guess the good? news is that the weather on the summit isn't any worse than we were expecting...but I guess that isn't hard to do when we were basically expecting the worst!  The surprise is that the first few days are colder than any of us were thinking.  Looks like we start the trek in weather around 60F near 7800' and then it drops to the 40s for our first night at 9500'....and just gets colder from there.

Link is here:

Click the little buttons on the left near the date to go between "metric" (elevation in meters and temperature in Celsius) and "imperial" (elevation in feet and temperature in Fahrenheit).

Friday, August 2, 2013


Several of us visited the travel clinic at Austin Diagnostic Clinic (ADC) for our vaccinations and medications and so far I think we have all been fairly pleased.  Here is a rundown of what most of us got:

1.  Hepatitis A/B combined vaccine - this is a three injection series with the second injection 4 weeks after the first and the third is 5 months later.  This is a good reason to get in at least 6 months before you travel for your first round of vaccines.  Cost was $135 for each round.  You are covered for 30 years for Hep A and a lifetime for Hep B after receiving the full round (3 injections).

2.  Tdap - Tetanus diphtheria and pertussis.  The pertussis part is a fairly new addition to the vaccine and strongly recommended.  I had my last tetanus in 2010 and they said if I didn't know for sure if I had pertussis included that I needed to get the whole shebang again.  Whohoo.  None of the injections hurt while receiving them, but this one makes your shoulder hurt for days afterward.  One rounded needed, $70.  Td (without pertussis) booster is recommended after 10 years.

3.  Typhoid - I chose the oral vaccination (4 days of pills if I remember correctly).  Also had the option of injection.  Oral lasts 5 years, injection lasts 2 years, both cost $80.

4.  Polio - one injection recommended.  Lasts a lifetime, cost: $45.

5.  Yellow Fever - the big question mark.  Per current CDC guidelines, yellow fever is not required to travel to Tanzania from the US (assuming you don't stop in some random places for too long on the way there).  However, there are rumors abound that the first thing they ask you for in customs is your yellow fever card.  If you don't have it, you are taken to a different place - if you have it, you continue on through customs.  No one has necessarily verified what happens in that "other place" but it is presumed you are made to get the shot there on premises.  Most of our group has elected to get the vaccine to avoid any potential issues in the airport and none of us is interested in receiving an injection of any type in Africa.  The vaccine lasts 10 years.  I'm unsure of the cost as I'm getting it next week.

1. Malaria drugs.  There are four types we received info on from ADC.  All had various use guidelines and side effects.  It is best to discuss with your medical provider which will be best for you.  I went with generic Malarone.  It was still $165 for a 26 day course.  Awesome.  You begin taking it 1-2 days before entering the region and continue through 7 days after leaving the region.

2.  Antibiotic.  I got generic Zithromax; 2 tablets as one dose to take for traveler's diarrhea if necessary.  Received 4 tablets total.  Cost $20

3.  Diamox.  I do not have the specifics on this yet as I haven't gotten my rx for it but will next week.  This drug is used for altitude.  Some people don't take it until they need it, others take it throughout the climb as "insurance."  It isn't guaranteed to work - some say it works wonders and others do not notice anything.  The #1 side effect is going to be a huge nuisance: it is a diuretic.  Awesome.  I get to pee on the side of a mountain in 10 degree weather even more often now.

Other Drugs
1.  Ambien - I did my research and found out ambien is okay for taking at altitude - hallelujah!  If I don't sleep, this whole trip will go to hell in a handbag quickly.  Apparently the camp sites can be very noisy, not to mention uncomfortable.  I have also read there are monkeys who like to jump from tent to tent at night on one of the early nights - awesome.

2.  Asthma drugs (symbicort and albuterol) - I forget I have asthma most of the time, and usually by the time I remember it is too late to do a lot for immediate relief.  However I plan to bring both drugs with me and will use as needed.  Both have been indicated as potentially beneficial/helpful at altitude.

3.  OTC drugs: immodium, pepto, advil (see first aid kit post for more listed)

4.  Supplements/Herbal remedies: Ginger has been touted as a great thing to have to combat nausea that is almost inevitable from a host of issues while climbing.  Several of the group have been trying out beet juice supplements as well and they are supposed to help with altitude.

Please leave a comment if you have anything else to add!!

UPDATE:  I was fairly pleased with ADC until it came to the rx for Diamox.  The literature they give you recommends 125mg twice a day starting 24 hours before entering altitude (7000' according to them) and continuing for 24-48 hours after reaching the highest point.  So that would mean I'd take the drug for at least 8 days.  Twice a day = 16 pills.  They gave me 7.  Seriously?  And they would not budge.  So, plan ahead and know you will have to get this from your regular dr if your travel clinic is anything like ours was.

Good Videos to Watch

I had hopes of updating my own blog as this process went along to create a guide of sorts for others who may be interested in climbing Kilimanjaro.  I haven't done a very good job of that but thought I would at least post a few good bits of information that have come about from our almost two years of discussion and research on the trip.

Rob sent us all these videos and they are a great account of what the trip can be like:

Red Nose climb

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Monday, July 8, 2013

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Hiker Introduction: Mike

1. Nicknames?

These are a handful of names that I have answered to over the years, some more flattering than others:  Lil Mike, Mikey, Larth, Weasel, Jabberwocky, Mutton Chop Evil, Pancho Villa, Tank, Captain Sack and Colonel Mustard to name a few.

2.  Previous hiking experience:

Was this a prerequisite??  I didn't think you needed hiking experience to climb Kili, if so, Im screwed.  Is it to late for a refund?  In all honesty, I had zero hiking experience prior to signing up for this adventure.  Over the past few months, I have hiked the Greenbelt in Austin, climbed 2k feet to the top of Enchanted Rock (watch out) and walked countless laps around Memorial Park with my back pack and hiking boots, often being confused for a homeless person.  In July I am traveling to Colorado to climb Mount Massive and Mount Elbert, so that will be a huge test prior to heading to Tanzania.  

3.  What made you want to go on this trip?

Lions, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, leopards and elephants.  Need I say more?  I cant wait to see these animals in their natural habitat, its going to be awesome.  I'm a little excited for the safari.

4.  What legs of the trip are you going on?

Attempting to climb Kili, the African Safari & wrapping up the trip spending a few days on Zanzibar.

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

I think these will cover the entire trip:

  • Are we there yet? How much further? 
  • Sounds great, but Im going to need to take a break before we do that.  
  • Are you sure this is edible?
  • I just want to see a lion!!!!

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

If flying half way around the world to climb a mountain and freeze my rear off isn't enough, its probably being eaten by said lion in question #5.  Either that or being bitten by some snake/insect/mosquito that was not part of the 20 shots I had to get to go on this vacation.

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

Laying in a hammock in the shade with an iced cold beer.  A close second is the ground beneath my feet being level.

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

One of two options:
"Dude there?" or "Buddy!!!!!"

9.  Anything else we should know about you?

My vote will always be to slow down!


Mount Quandary or is it Mount Quandry?

Mount Quandary,  Mount Quandry.  I've seen it both ways and I'm still not sure which is correct!

Originally  we had planned on hiking the shorter Mount Quandary route on July 3, and then tackling the longer Mount Massive route on Independence Day.  After checking the weather,  the fourth had more chance of rain and Rob's priority was Mount Massive so we hiked that first and rescheduled Mount Q for the following day.
After surviving the 11 hours on Mount Massive and all of the excitement of getting caught in a storm, we managed to get dinner and the negotiations about hiking Quandary in the morning began. Rob didn't think we'd get enough sleep because it was already late and we'd be getting up early. I argued that we wouldn't need to start as early because it was a shorter hike,  and that we could always set the alarm and make a game time decision in the morning.  Rob agreed and reiterated that he was pleased with finishing Massive and Quandary would be a nice-to-have but not mandatory.

Rob takes a bit more time to get ready in the morning so he arranged for another wake up call from the hotel. I admit, I silently groaned a bit when the phone rang.  20 minutes later my phone alarm went off and it was time to get up and make a decision.  We discussed forgoing the Quandary hike and going to Garden of the Gods instead but soon realized that we'd be spending most of the day in the car getting to and from Garden of the Gods and we'd rather spend that time hiking.  I repacked my pack-- a little less water and less weight this time, but still heavy with the camera and the water I did carry.  Off we went to summit our second 14er in as many days.

Mount Massive had been rated a "2" on the difficulty scale,  and Mount Quandary was rated a "1" despite achieving the same elevation change in about half the distance.  If you look up the difficulty ratings,  a "1" is supposed to be walk up trail on level ground.  Obviously when you're climbing 4,000 feet in 3.5 miles, it's not level in the sense that you're on flat ground, but I'd assume the trail was well groomed with a lot of switchbacks.   Indeed, the beginning of the trail looked like this:

I had estimated it would take us 4 hours to reach the top and two hours to get down.  More time to get up because of how hard it gets to breathe climbing that fast in a short time and needing to take breaks, but must faster coming down because the extra oxygen would feel great and those groomed trails would be easy to navigate without worrying about falling. 

So far, so good!  I actually felt pretty good given the previous day's hike and ready to tackle this mountain!

The terrain soon changed and started to get more rocky. 

You can see from this picture all of the people on top of the ridge. No, that's not the top of the mountain. It's not even close

Once we reached the ridge, it became very clear that there was *nowhere* a girl could answer the call of nature without flashing everyone on the mountain.  And this was a popular hike with full vantage both up and down trail.  :(

The trail kept getting rockier and rockier.  In fact, there was no trail to speak of,  at least not by any definition I know.  Occasionally there were large man made piles of rocks sticking out of all the other jumbles of rocks, and these let you know you were mostly heading in the right direction.  On either side of you, if you went too far there were steep slides into oblivion that were definitely not where you wanted to go. 

We joked with another hiker who was descending that this climb is like one of those "Choose your own Adventure" books where you pick a path and go to page 92 to continue on with your hike.   We were also starting to see a lot of the same people… a group of three couples in their early 20s who would leap frog us,  then rest for 10 minutes and then leapfrog us again,  and "old navy sweatshirt" guy  who actually wasn't there alone but sure seemed to be.

Somewhere between 13,000 and 13,400 feet I suddenly started having a really really difficult time.  I threatened to drop my pack and come back for it,  surely without all the weight I'd be as nimble as a mountain goat bounding up these rocks.  Rob talked me out of it and convinced me that mountain rodents would eat holes in my pack if I left it. He offered to take two water bottles from me,  so that helped.   Maybe another 200 feet up,  he took the camera as well.  It was maybe five minutes before he told me that wow, the camera is heavy.   I'm not sure if it was the steeper climb today or just the cumulative effect of the week's activities and the hike the day before, but I continued to struggle up the slope and rested a lot.  I should have taken another Diamox,  as I had only been taking 125mg once per day after Leadville,  but I didn't.  Rob stopped and brought out his pulse-oximeter which somehow measures the oxygenization percentage of your blood. His measurement was 99%.  Mine was 70%!  This is not a good number. 

The closer we got to the top,  the less sure I was about wanting to get to the top.  I felt much worse than at Mount Massive,  this was supposed to be fun,  and I was getting extremely concerned about coming down without slipping or twisting an ankle. However, no one in our group ever quits so pressing on!  

Right before the summit, hikers have to cross an area of snow which is quite slick.  Mostly we tried to stay in the footprints of previous hikers but I watched a couple of people descending who were sliding on the slush.  

Finally we were at the top!!! Including the extra quarter mile from the parking lot to the trailhead, we were under 3 hours and 50 minutes so my estimates had finally been right.   What a great view. 

Proof: It's Quandary.  But the tshirts say Quandry! 

We spent 17 minutes at the top and I felt normal again. Time to descend over all that rock: 

On the way down I used only one hiking pole, as I find with two poles I'm always trying to figure out where to put them and then losing my balance over the rocks.  We had to be careful because the poles could get stuck between the rocks which might cause them to break.  I descended much faster, hopping from rock to rock along the ridge the best I could given I was in hiking boots and carrying a pack.  Rob took a more conservative approach and used both poles and descended at a safer speed.  

We had seen some goats from afar during the trip up, but on the way down we got up and close and personal with them.   They're BIG.   You don't want one of them pushing you or you will definitely go flying off the mountain!

Unlike Mount Massive,  there were no storms today.  Instead, the lack of shade became an issue as the sun beat down on us. I reapplied sunscreen twice on the way down.   Remember how a girl shouldn't flash the entire mountain?  Part of my hurry to get down was to find a nice tree.  Unfortunately, the first concealed tree group I found, the group of 20-somethings decided to stop RIGHT THERE on the trail and have a snack.  I've been holding for 3 or 4 hours now, but on we go. I lose sight of Rob for a bit behind me but I'm on a mission. I'm stopping to check every once in a while.  Old Navy sweatshirt guy passes me.  then the 20somethings catch back up. And the boys pick the next tree grove (only the second one available since the summit) for their own business and I wait impatiently for them to go on down the trail.  That group of trees was very well watered and popular from what I saw. 

Rob caught up at this point and also thought it was a very nice set of trees and then it was onward down the trail.  Finally made it back under the shade which felt amazing!!!!  It had taken us just over 3 hours coming down,  not nearly the time difference I expected between up (against elevation changes and going up) versus down (easier breathing,  but still having to pick my way through uneven terrain and slippery rocks).  

Total time:  7 hours 12 min  from parking lot to top,  taking pictures at top,  back to parking lot. 
Calories Burned:  My garmin thinks only 1800, but it also thinks I was only moving for 3 hours and 11 minutes! I guess when you move so slow and you're moving up rather than forward, it has a hard time figuring out that you're not just sitting on your butt.   I think I burned about 2500.  
Calories Consumed:  475  (one payday ,  half of a Pro Bar, 20oz Gatorade G2,  and some water). 

This time my legs were screaming from the abuse,  so we found a nice stream for an ice bath! Rob declined to participate in sitting in snow runoff temperature waters.   

That's it!  two 14ers in two days,  all in the same week as Leadville Heavy Half trail run.  I've learned that while I don't get sick, and I don't necessarily get a bad headache,  I am definitely affected by altitude but I'm okay if I get to level out.   Staying on top of the diamox meds in Kili is mandatory for me.