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. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

The First Aid Kit

Details, details....

I spent my Friday night putting together our group's first aid kit and watching "Say Yes to the Dress" - I know how to have fun.

So far, this is what we have in the kit:

Ibuprofen - ~100
Tums - 3 travel size rolls
Zyrtec - 15 pills
Chewable pepto - 36
Sterile needles/syringes - 4
Acetaminophen - 20 tabs
Hydrocodon - 18 (Rx with Tylenol)
Tegaderm bandages - 2
Nextcare large waterproof bandages - 3
Large nonstick dressing - 2
Sterile gauze pad - 4
Anti itch cream
Antibiotic cream
Wound cleaner
Small duct tape
Paper tape
Alcohol swabs - 12
Benadryl - 12
Nauzene (for nausea) - 20
Assorted blister band aids (multiple day use) - ~18
Regular band aids - small spots to large bandages - lots
Coldeze cough drops - 15
Nail clippers
Nail file

I'm hoping we don't even need 10% of what I'm planning to bring, but I'm sure if there is something we don't bring, we will inevitably need it.

Training Preparation: Rob and Bekah hike Mount Massive Jul 3, 2013

Rob and Bekah extended the Colorado trip past the Leadville Heavy Half trail run for some training hikes up a couple of the 14'ers.  "14'ers" are the name for summits above 14,000 ft elevation...  and apparently people "collect" hiking all of them. There's a checklist and everything at   

Mount Massive was the top of the list for us to hike.  It's the second highest in the area -- Mount Elbert wins the title of tallest by 12 measly feet.  On the difficulty scale, Massive is ranked as a "2".  With a 14 mile roundtrip and 4,000 feet elevation gain,  you'd think that elevation gain would be fairly spread out.  It was a nasty surprise to learn that the last 2,000 feet are covered in the last mile and half or so.... 

I should have paid closer attention to this profile before hiking

I had learned my lesson from the trail run at Leadville--  this was going to be a slow day.  At Leadville we had climbed 3,000 feet and the trip was 15.5 miles roundtrip.  Factoring in  "Kili prep"  of hiking boots and loaded backpack,  I estimated it would take 8 hours, maybe 8.5 to do this hike roundtrip.  I was wrong. so very, very wrong.

At the trailhead, ready to tackle our first 14er!
Rob had read somewhere that we needed to take 3.5-4L of water with us.  That's a lot of water. and a LOT of weight.  But, this was a training hike and it would really suck to run out of water, so I loaded up my 72 oz camelbak bladder,  grabbed three gatorades and two sports water bottles.  Also, I was carrying my DSLR camera and extra lens.  I didn't want to hike to the top and only have phone pics.

poles help crossing streams
The first part of the trail wound through the woods and over a couple of streams. We were definitely going up, but it was very manageable and enjoyable.  The cool air, beautiful forest were very soothing. It was my first time using my hiking poles and I was getting used to using them for balance.

This part of the trail was right on plan. we were averaging over 2 mph,  which is what I expected with packs.

One of my primary roles on this trip was "safety buddy" since anything can happen out on a hike like this. My inner AustinFit coach made an appearance as I reminded myself and Rob to hydrate and to eat.  While we're just walking, the duration of the hike means you do need to be taking in some nutrition.

At the treeline, we stopped for a snack and took this photo.    Still a long ways to go to the top.

We kept climbing and soon could see Leadville below us in the distance:

The weather was holding up and the skies were clear. As we got higher in elevation, it was getting a bit cooler. We had chatted with some hikers (and a few trail runners) who were already on their way down and they warned that it would be very windy in the saddle but that otherwise it wasn't too bad up top.

Sometime after 12,000 ft, our pace really slowed down. Rob dropped two of his water bottles off at this point to lighten up his pack. We marked the elevation and the interesting rock he stashed them at so we could pick them up on the way down.  I held on to my overloaded liquid stash for another 670 ft in elevation change before I decided I had enough too.  I picked a nice large boulder with a little carve out to stash a full gatorade, my two sports bottles and a half gatorade,  also noting the elevation so I wouldn't miss them on the way down. Wow it felt good to be lighter!!  

Can you tell where the trail goes? this wasn't it.
 Then we were starting the real climb up to the peak. The closer we got to the top, the harder to distinguish the trail. We saw footprints and a path through the snow on one side so we followed that. Turns out that wasn't part of the trail.

Garmin Elevation: 14000+ ft! 
We finally reached the summit. Though to be fair, it seemed like there are a couple of summits. The official one is where you sign the register.  It had taken 6 hours to get to the top.  There went my theory of being back to the car in under 8.5 hours! 

We took a little bit of time at the top,  taking pictures. The weather was perfectly clear and we weren't the last ones to the summit  (we discovered later those that arrived after us had taken the shorter albeit steeper West slope route).  
On top of the world!

Rob at Mount Massive summit

After hanging out a bit at the summit, the wind chill was getting cool and we donned long sleeves and started on our way down. 

Along the way we met some of the locals.... whatever these rodents are.  they're kind of cute.

Right after we descended from the saddle, it really started getting cold and we stopped to get out our winter coats.  There were a few snowflakes but nothing serious yet.  We could see a storm forming off in the mountains on the left side.

At 12, 670 ft I stopped to pick up my water bottles. Turns out those cute little rodents had chewed off the lid on my IMAZ sports bottle. I emptied out what was left in that, put everything back in my pack and we headed down. 

Then suddenly, everything changed. The clouds off to the left got REALLY dark.  and a giant lightning strike happened on the next mountain over. I may have been yelling at Rob to pick up the pace as we tried our best to make the treeline before the storm rolled over.  Instead, we got pelted by hail.  Not big hail, but a constant and steady shower of tiny pellets. I feared to look back into the hail so I kept track of where Rob was by calling out and he would check in.  I was really getting the hang of those poles to move forward though! There are no pictures of this part of the adventure,  we were way too focused on hauling butt down the side of the mountain than documenting evidence of the fantastic clouds, hail and thunder. 

We finally made the treeline-- and the rain stopped. Of course. :) 

Turns out the last few miles are not all downhill, but go up and down. I didn't remember this from our trip up. Although the change from trailhead to summit elevation is 4,000 feet,  we had a total elevation gain over 6,000 ft. 

I estimate that we had maybe an hour and half of stops,  and the rest was in constant forward motion.  My Garmin disagrees: it tells me that I was moving so damn slow that only 5.5 hours of "actual moving time" count, even though it's spot on for the distance covered. That's kind of depressing. 

Total Time to complete hike, with time at summit and nutrition stops:  11 hours and 2 minutes.  

Ice bath for my tired feet after the hike

Adventures at Enchanted Rock

While many of our crew were in Colorado, half of the Kili crew did a day trip to Enchanted Rock State Park. Enchanted Rock tips out at a whopping 1900'. Watch out. We packed our packs fairly full (mine was 20lbs) and took some of the rockier paths around the park. Lisa and I ended up making our own switchbacks up the rock to make ascending a little easier. We had to do the same on the way down as well. My knees were far from happy. Temps were a cool 108 that day so my assumed plan of going up and down a few times and a few times around the 4 mile loop were shortened...a lot. We did get in a little over 4 miles hiking with 1 or 2 trips to the top (superstars Jerry and Sreeni went for round 2 while Lisa, Mike, and I sat in the shade - foreshadowing of what is to come? We will see).

Afterwards we enjoyed an amazing lunch at The Brewery in downtown Fredericksburg - it was great food! We had a blast on our little day trip and considered it as much team building as it was training.

Sreeni, Jerry, Kathleen, Lisa, Mike

Training Trip: Leadville Heavy Half Marathon June 2013

Several of the Kilimanjaro group decided to register and complete the Leadville Heavy Half this year as altitude training trip.  We weren't alone,  some of our good friends who can't make it to Kilimanjaro this year joined us for the fun.  The group at the starting line included:  Vegas, Alisa, Catharine, Rhonda, Michelle, Rob, and Bekah.

Leadville is located at 10,200 feet and the "heavy half" (15.5 miles)  climbs up to Mosquito Pass at 13,185 feet.   This would be the second year of Leadville for Vegas, Michelle, Alisa, and Rhonda  (?? fact check).  Last year Vegas had a bad experience with the altitude and came prepared with Diamox.  I was taking maybe two doses of 125mg the first day in Leadville.  I had bought trail running shoes for the first time two days before at Luke's Locker in Austin, and this would be the first run in them. :)

When the race started, Rhonda jogged right past.  Somehow she never looks like she is working.  I kept her in sight for maybe the first mile but after that she was gone.  At times, I couldn't see Rob or the girls behind me. Somewhere in that first mile on the nice open, easy footing road yet very much an incline,  Michelle walked quickly by.  I was taking turns walking and jogging already, and we weren't at the hard part. Rob caught up and we took a picture looking back over the mountains.  Rob asked if I had given up on "racing" the event since I had been walking. I told him I was going whatever speed I could manage at any given point.

Eventually we reached a part of the road that started going down hill.  This was a fantastic section to stretch the legs.  Unfortunately,  I also needed to make a pit stop.  Rob passed at this point and I wouldn't see him again until he was coming down from the pass.   Along the way I met a group of girls going the same speed - walking when necessary, jogging when possible.  By 'group' I mean we all met each other right then, they didn't come together.  One of the girls was from Ashville, NC  (yay home state!)  who was just visiting Colorado and had learned about the race at 5pm the day before and decided to sign up.  She also camped for free out in the park.  (side note: I really think camping around here would be awesome! great weather, there is actually water if you're packing in, and trees.  but take bug spray).  While we did exchange names, we took to calling each other "Hey Ashville" and "Austin, you've got this".

The Trail keeps going up and up and up
Looking back before we get to the "hard" part

I think the last two miles were done at a 35 min per mile pace. It was getting hard to breathe, footing was a little precarious and our group was nice to move out of the cleaner lines of the trail for the 'real trail runners' who were hurtling themselves down the trail at top speed heading back to the finish line.  about a tenth of a mile from the top I saw Rhonda and Michelle heading back down,  and they reassured me the top was right around the corner. 20 seconds later Rob told me the same thing.  That corner seemed like forever,  but finally I reached the top.

I spent almost fifteen minutes at the top.  Taking pictures, reapplying sunscreen, and just catching my breath. By the time I left,  the group I had been with was way gone.

However,  I suddenly felt AWESOME going down.  I could breathe again, I wasn't having to climb stairs with every step,  I could practically fly. I did have my friend Shannon's voice in my head though, reminding me to be careful and not twist an ankle or break anything by slipping on the rocks. It would turn out later when I looked at my Garmin that my suddenly "speedy" downhill miles were still at 18 min pace,  but when compared to 35 minutes, it's a huge improvement.  I was really happy to see Vegas and Catharine on the way up, they were sooooo close to the top. Somehow I missed seeing Alisa  :(  but we were both watching our footing and passed without knowing it.  

The last couple of miles into town were straight down hill on level gravel road and it was possible to finally "run".  My running pace at the point was 9:30s.  I had trashed my glutes going up and in the next two days I would learn how badly I trashed my quads on this downhill.  I caught up to and passed Ashville and the BadAss compression socks girl,  and several other runners who had passed me earlier in the day.  I was having such a great time coming down the hill that I took a wrong turn when I reached town. In all fairness the white chalked line looked like a normal painted "stop" line for cars! Luckily BasAss compression socks started shouting at me and I figured out my mistake and came back to the course.  Finish time: 4 hours 46 minutes for my officially slowest half marathon ever (previous:  Las Vegas RnR Half walking, gambling and imbibing race in Dec 12 with a time of  3 hours 40 min) 

I think I told someone that this event was harder than Ironman.  The elevation is definitely a killer, and I recommend more trail running experience,  but it was definitely worth it. Soooo happy I came out for this!