Monday, October 24, 2005

To the TOP!

JAMBO! everyone. Thanks for all the comments and support. Well, to make a long story-short, I made it! Here's proof, Uhuru peak on the top of Kibo. Me and Magnolia.

To start the story off, we began with a rough 4 wheel drive of three hours to get to the Londorossi Gate to start the Lemosho route to the top. We drove to a little store in a village to wait for the truck with the guides and porters and equipment. About an hour from the gate, the Land Rover busted and axle and we all had to pile into the back of a big stock truck with the porters...and the adventure begins.

Our first day was a climb through the rainforest to a place called forest camp. There were all kinds of birds, flowers and monkeys in the trees. At night we could hear them calling over our tents...raw-raw-raw. Freaky!

The Tusker team really treated us well. They set up a dining tent and served us tea and meals all the way to the top. We were very spoiled. The porters are the real heros of the trail. They break camp after we leave every morning, pass us on the trail, and have the whole camp set up by the time we get there for tea and dinner.

The second day we hiked to Shira plateau, the remains of the first of three volcanoes that make up Kilimanjaro and the oldest. It was a 2700' climb and took all day. The best thing was that at the end of the day when we walked into camp. The porters came out to greet us and they sang songs to us about Kilimanjaro and about staying strong (in Swahili), it was really uplifting. The Shira plateau is in the heath-moorlands. Its dryer and colder there.

The third day was a hike to Moir Camp, also 2000' climb to 13,800' and now we entered the alpine desert and much less plants and much more cold. At this altitude everything you do is in slow motion, Pole-Pole, slowly slowly as they say here. You walk very slow.

The next two days were short hikes to Lava Tower and Arrow Glacier where I passed my new high altitude experience, you can see me with the altimeter in hand at 15,000 feet. Now the nights are starting to get really cold and the night at Arrow Glacier it snowed 6 inches. We knew we were going to have to climb the Western Breach in snow which is very dangerous. So far everyone seems pretty well and not much altitude sickness. Our guides suggest that Amy and Steve, who have not been on Diamox, start taking it.

The Western Breach day was the hairiest of all. It was a third to fourth class rock climb and we had the added excitement of snow. We had to wear helmets and daisy chains (rock climbing belts with loops). We roped up at least three times and climbed 2500' at over 16,000' elevation to 18,200 feet. It was scary, cold and icy and the climb took over 8 hours. With four girls in the group and on Diamox (which makes you pee alot) whenever we had to "go", the guys just looked away and we went over the edge of the rocks. We giggled about it later, you have to leave your dignity at the bottom of the mountain.

As you can see, crater summit camp was next to a glacier also. It was the coldest night of my life. This was so high altitude, everyone was sick except me. They had headaches, vomiting, diarea all from the altitude. It was a lonely night for me in the dining tent.

The next morning we set out at 5 am in the freezing cold and everyone feeling like hell. It was 1000' to the top and we were all anxious to get it over with. There were maybe thirty people at the top, all looking very sick but happy. I cried a little from all the effort and my gratefulness to my guides.
I know I have a lot more to tell and tons more photos and video of the trip. I cant wait to get back and show you all.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Climb Orientation

Today we had climb orientation and here's Magnolia getting her oxygen checked.

Last night the rest of the group showed up. There are six of us. Guion and Sharon from Texas, Steven from England, and Amy from Pennsylvania. We seem like a chatty bunch of globe trotters and I think this is going to be a group that will get along great!

I was surprised to hear that our little group of six will have three guides, thirty porters and two chefs on board. I feel like a really spoiled American. They told us that even if only one person is going up the mountain, they need nine porters. We were also impressed with the sleeping pads they are providing us. I've had a silent prayer that we wouldn't be sleeping on ridgerests and well, we're not. These sleeping pads are nearly 3 inches thick. They look more comfy than the mattress in my hotel room.

Amy, Steven, Mangnolia and I walked into town today. We made a series of wrong turns and never found our way into Moshi after an hour of walking but it was interesting anyway. It feels so different here and we must have been quite a spectacle but the people are so friendly. All it takes is a friendly "Jambo!" and suddenly people are asking "Habari?" (how are you) and smiling back. We wandered into a market where we saw produce stands, butchers, and little convenience stores and women in beautiful african print dresses with their heads wrapped in cloth. We also ran into a little boy who made an ingenious little vehicle out of bits of wood and wire.

I'm having a terrible time adjusting to the time. I'm nine hours ahead of California time and I wake up here at 3 am and then want to nap all afternoon. Today I'm resisting taking a nap and its very hard. I think the Diamox I'm taking for acclimitization is making me drowsy. I noticed another side effect of the Diamox is that it makes carbonated beverages do a weird fizzing in your mouth.

So I still haven't figured out how to make calls to the states on my cell phone but I get good cell reception and have received some voicemails from my mom. I am able to see my comments on this Blog though so feel free to make a comment. I really look forward to hearing from you.

Tomorrow we leave early in the morning and drive three hours to the park gate on the west side and then we hike 3 hours to our first night in the rainforest. I won't be updating this blog until I get back on Oct 24. Wish me luck!

Friday, October 14, 2005


Hi everyone, here I am at the Keys Hotel in Moshi Tanzania...finally.

After roughly two days on airplanes with very little sleep and the zen experience of sitting still, I got to Moshi last night at around 8:00pm. I feel lucky not to miss any flights though. In Amsterdam I had 20 minutes to get to my next flight which, of course was all the way on the other side of the airport. Boy, for such a small country, they have a very large airport!

There were two highlights of the flight.

1. We flew over the Alps and it was a clear day. The view was spectacular of the georgeous, rugged peaks with some snow dusting the tops and tiny villages and meadows tucked in between. I could just picture people down there eating cheese and drinking beer. It intrigued me even more to visit those mountains some day. You'll read later of the irony involved here...

2. KLM airlines serves Cognac after

I also looked down at the Sahara desert for about two hours while flying across north Africa.

When I got in last night it was unfortunately too dark to see Kilimanjaro.

The Keys hotel is very nice. Its a large gated compound...a little bit reminds me of "Hotel Rwanda" and the staff is very sweet. The room is a little spare with two hard beds, a mosquito net overhead, a non-functioning tv, and a large bathroom. Its very clean. I slept last night to the sound of chickens and dogs in the street and it was very warm and humid.

The toilet paper is blue and rough.

So after seeing the Alps from the airplane, I had dinner with a bunch of climbers at the hotel, one of which was a Swiss climber named Fred who actually leads trips on the Haute route and he gave me his card. He says its a 6 day trip and involves some glacier travel. Anyone interested????

Well, Magnolia arrives today and I'm very excited to see her. I'm hoping today to make a trip into town and see the moutain from the distance although it would be really easy to languish around this hotel all day too.

Cheers everyone and thanks for all your support.

Monday, October 10, 2005


This photo shows my last training climb of White Mt. 14,246' on Sat. Oct. 8. The summit is behind me and as you can tell, it was butt-cold!

Welcome to my blog on climbing Kilimanjaro!

This is an adventure to scale the tallest peak in Africa at 19,340' I will do this trip in 8 days. Seven days to get to Uhuru peak and one and a half days to get down. The total gain will be around 10,000'. I leave on Thursday, October 13 to fly to Moshi Tanzania and the climb begins on October 17.

To start, the preparation for this trip has been monumental. Theres the fitness and there's the equipment. Somehow a trip of this magnitude has given me full carte blanc to buy any sort of equipment or technical clothing that I remotely can justify needing. In other words, its been a fun couple of months shopping.

In terms of fitness, I've been hiking, biking, doing resistance training, and yoga. I think the two most valuable things I've done is to cycle four times a week or more. This really increases my lung capacity and gives me the opportunity to do some cardo pushes that I just can't do when I'm hiking. The other thing is that I do is a big hike 1-2 times a week. Usually I do Mt. Pacifico (12 miles 2200'gain) on Wednesdays and a hike with the local Sierra club group on the weekends. These have included Mt. Baden Powell, Telescope Peak, and White mountain. The long hikes pound my bones like no other exercise can. I think it's invaluable for the kind of endurance needed to scale Kilimanjaro.

In terms of equipment, you need everything from shorts and t-shirts for the equatorial Africa part to full snow equipment for the glacier weather at the top. That means 4 layers of polypro - no cotton, rain gear, and warm hats and gloves. You also need gaiters and poles. October is the beginning of the rainy season so I am preparing for that.

The following is the itinerary for the climb and it comes from which is the website for the guide service "Tusker Trails" that I'm going with. They've been really great so far and helped me with making all the arrangements. I would recommend them to anyone thinking of making this trip.

Day 1-2
MOSHI: After arriving in Moshi, we check into our hotel, and prepare for our great climb. We spend 2 nights here. On your second day you will meet your guide for a climb orientation and equipment check.

Day 3
LONDOROSSI GATE to MTI MKUBWA (9,170 ft.): A three-hour drive from our Moshi Hotel brings us to the Londorossi Park Gate located on the western side of Kilimanjaro. At the gate we in. We then have a short drive to the trailhead at Lemosho Glades and start our trek through the rain forest. In places the vegetation is so untouched that it grows right across the narrow track. The flora and fauna are richer here than on the other more popular routes through the rain forest. In about 4 hours we reach our camp in the rain forest at Mti Mkubwa (Big Tree).

Day 4
MTI MKUBWA to SHIRA CAMP (11,500 ft.): After breakfast, we start the climb cross the remaining rain forest towards the giant moorland zone. Today is a 6-7 hour trek with an altitude gain of 2,400 ft. A great lunch stop is at Gane & Marshall One, a beautiful valley just outside the Shira Crater at around 10,000 ft. After lunch we cross into the Shira Caldera, a high altitude desert plateau which is rarely visited. Shira is the third of Kilimanjaro's volcanic cones, and is filled with lava flow from Kibo Peak. The crater rim has been decimated by weather and volcanic action. Today you'll get your first close views of Kibo - the dramatic summit of Kilimanjaro.

Day 5
SHIRA CAMP to MOIR CAMP (13,650 ft.): After breakfast continue hike east across the Shira Plateau past the Shira Cathedral towards Moir camp. The views of the plateau are nothing less than spectacular. It's about a 5-6 hour hike. Once we settle in, we'll take an "acclimatizing hike" to the Lent Group Mountains at 14,950 ft. This is the "hike high, camp low" rule. It's a key part of getting your body used to the altitude. The view at the Lent Mountains are fantastic. This is a 2-3 hour round trip.

Day 6
MOIR CAMP to LAVA TOWER (14,950 ft.): In this Alpine Moorland Zone, the plants are extremely hardy, and consist of lichens, grasses, and heather among others. The view of our climb up the Western Breach is truly magnificent. We have some fun and take a non-technical scramble up to the top of the Lava Tower rock. You get a spectacular view from the top of the rock of Kibo Peak, Mt. Meru and the rocky terrain. Today's hike is about 6-7 hours.

Day 7
LAVA TOWER to ARROW GLACIER CAMP (15, 925 ft.): After climbing for awhile you begin to see our route up the breach appear. A 2-3 hour climb gains us only a few hundred feet in altitude, to our campsite near Arrow Glacier. We will take a hike after lunch, up to a great viewpoint to help us acclimatize, and then head back to relax around camp.

Day 8
ARROW GLACIER to CRATER SUMMIT CAMP (18,370 ft.): We repack our gear, taking only what we'll need for this one day. The porters will carry the rest of our gear around to Millennium Camp, where we will rendezvous with them on our descent. We slowly wind our way up the breach (non-technical route) for around 7 hours until we reach the edge of the crater floor. You'll be running short of breath here, so we'll give you a hit of some oxygen, if you need it. We will have time to hike around the inner crater before going on to our camp on the crater floor. There might be snow along this part of the climb. We spend the remainder of the day taking it easy, and enjoying our camp at the highest possible altitude.

Day 9
THE SUMMIT ! to MILLENNIUM CAMP (19,340 ft. - 12,500 ft.): We spend about 2 hours hiking up to Uhuru Peak, the summit. After enjoying the spectacular view, exploring the surrounding area, and taking tons of photos. After all the celebration, we head down to our last camp on the mountain, "high" in more ways than one. You will be totally ecstatic after summiting. We descend to Millennium Camp, and your lungs will thank you as you as you breathe the oxygen-rich air. We enjoy a celebration meal, prepared by the our cook at camp, and enjoy our last night on Kilimanjaro.

Day 10
MILLENNIUM CAMP to MOSHI: In the morning we have a 4-hour walk down to the road. We then get a lift back to the hotel and a well-deserved shower, and a beer. We overnight at our hotel.

I am hoping to be able to update this blog in Moshi when I get there on October 15th and again after the climb. Following Kilimanjaro, my friend Magnolia and I are going to Zanzibar for a week. This should be an interesting opportunity to see a different part of the country.