It’s hard to describe my feelings right now. It feels like such a long journey to get to this place of excited anticipation. I leave Monday to start my adventure of reaching the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I can’t believe it’s finally here. I’m filled with a mixture of joy and excitement as well as angst and nervousness. Will I be able to reach the top? Have I packed correctly? Will I experience more pain than exhilaration as I test my physical and mental limits? What will it look like in real life? How will it feel at the top? Have I prepared enough? I have been thinking about this trip seriously for 5 years. I have been planning this trip for 3 years. It has occupied a great deal of mental space in my life and certainly an extreme amount of physical time and space!
Part of the sweetness of getting this close to departure is the agony I was feeling a year ago this time. As many of you know, I was scheduled to do this trip in 2017 and one week before departure I went on a final training hike and fell and turned my ankle severely. I had to cancel the trip and the disappointment was nearly unbearable for me. (And poor Greg having to deal with mopey me for several months!) Needless to say I have trained very carefully and I can honestly say that today, I feel no remnants of the ankle pain that plagued me for 10 months.
I have been asked several questions so the rest of this blog is an attempt to answer the most frequently asked questions.
How do you train to climb a mountain? It involves a regiment of intense cardio for at least an hour at a time 3-4 times a week. This includes interval training to maximize my body’s Oxygen intake ability. I have done lot’s of running on a treadmill where I could control my pace and push myself to run fast. And lots of time on a stair climber – the kind that actually has stairs that rotate so you are mimicking climbing upwards.
Training also involves strength training to help the upper body manage a 25 pound pack. Lifting weights and doing cross fit 1-2 days a week has helped me not neglect my upper body since so much attention has been given to my legs the other days of the week. This also includes core training every day to help with balance of both the pack and the upper mountain rocky path. Doing Plank is my friend!
Finally, a critical part of training is taking long hikes on Saturday’s that involve altitude to mimic a typical 5 hour hiking day on Kili. This also let me train going down the mountain which is equally important to prepare for.
The good news is the variety of exercise regiments kept the weeks of training from getting too monotonous. The hard part was it has been very time-consuming and quite honestly, it’s not a lot of fun to wear a 20 pound weighted vest on a stair climber for an hour. I was happy when this past Thursday I could retire my stinky, sweaty training vest! Hopefully my car will start smelling better, too!
Who are you climbing with? Unfortunately, my husband is not able to go with me on this trip due to some health issues. I am climbing with a company out of Seattle- RMI. They will provide an expert Guide (ours is Dave Hahn!) and hire porters to assist us on the mountain. There are 10 total people in my group – folks from Iowa, Washington State, and California. Yes, I am the only southerner! 6 women and 4 men. I am looking forward to making new friends and sharing this adventure together! However the only person I know on the trip is our guide, Dave. He helped guide me up Mt. Rainier the first time I climbed it and is one of the most famous western climbers in the world. So I’m stoked to have him as our guide.
How long does it take to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro? So the local phrase or mantra is Pole Pole (pronounced Polay Polay) which means slowly, slowly in Swahili. The peak is 19,341′ high and you don’t use Oxygen. Instead, you go at a slow pace and let your body acclimate. So we will spend 7 days climbing the mountain. I will start next Thursday, summit the following Tuesday morning, and be in the parking lot in time for lunch the very next day on Wednesday! Needless to say, you come down a whole lot quicker than you go up! But by climbing 4-5 hours a day and then making camp you let your body adjust to the decreasing Oxygen levels. However on summit day, we will be hiking for 12-14 hours starting around midnight Tuesday morning. That’s the day to pray hard!!! (BTW I will be 7 hours ahead of you in time.)
Will you be able to blog while on the mountain? Unfortunately, no. I’ll blog before and after but I will not have wifi while climbing. But you can go to this link RMI Blog and follow our group by reading Dave Hahn’s daily reports on our progress. It will include a map that shows were we are at each stop. Just look for Dave Hahn- Kilimanjaro to make sure you are following my group!
How cold is it? The weather on top of the mountain has been interesting of late. They have gotten more snow than is typical. The temps will range from 60 degrees at the park entrance at 5000′ to 19 degrees on the summit. Most of the upper mountain will be in the upper 20’s and lower 30’s.
Is this a technical climb with equipment? No. That is why I was interested in climbing this particular mountain. After doing Rainer which is technical and involves ice axes, crampons and ropes- that was my limit of the hard and scary stuff. Kilimanjaro is a trail most of the way up with a little bit of scramble over rocks and loose volcanic ash closer to the top. I will use my regular hiking boots and my handy trekking poles the whole way. It also helps that we only have to carry 20-25 pounds on our backs. Porters help haul our heavy stuff up to the next camp each night.
If you have any other questions you are curious about please ask and I’ll respond. Right now I am rejoicing at the fact that I managed to get all of my stuff into my main duffel and a carry on. Does it weigh over 50 pounds – well maybe!
Feel free to ignore my posts over the next few days if you don’t want to hear about this again! I truly appreciate all of your prayers and well wishes.
Grace and Peace,