Ten Tips for climbing Kili

Since I’ve been back from Kili I have met people who have done it – and I’ve also increasingly met people who are going to do it.

Everyone you meet has different questions to ask and I can talk about it for hours – I am after all now a self-proclaimed expert, I’ve ‘been there, done that’ and have the photo (see above), although I didn’t buy the t-shirt, not because I respected Nike’s possible patent breach of an entire range of ‘Just Done it’ t-shirts, its just I didn’t find one that I would ever wear again – as I’ve become older I appreciate this part of a purchase more, there were none in my colour….

A Quick top ten tips for those thinking of it –

1. If you are already training and you’re not going for 12 months or more, don’t worry, its in the bag.

If you followed my journey at all you will know my training was quite ‘compact’ and if I can do it, YOU can do it, and then you can buy the ‘Just Done it’ t-shirt.

2. Don’t spend a lot of time googling ‘Summiting Kilimanjaro’ or more specifically ‘failing to summit Kilimanjaro’ not good for the motivation and there are hundreds of horrifying You Tube videos out there of people gasping what appears to be their last breath, looking un-showered and in some distress due to altitude sickness or they might just be faking it – who knows, that’s why you can’t always trust the internet- people. You will make it!!! Believe!!!!
(Watch those videos when you get back, like I did)

3. Take Vicks – this is related to the fact that at some time in the vast rocky wasteland that is about three days worth of climb you will have to use a long drop or portable toilet. The Vicks is for across your top lip to protect your gagging reflex. I don’t think I need to elaborate further.

4. There will be things you take you don’t use, things you wish you took, the hours and days spent worrying about your packing will feel useless above 3000 metres so don’t worry too much. If you take one of everything you will still make it (although I do recommend two poles and two boots).
4a. Don’t wear all your gear at the airport before you get on the plane to go to Kili, boots maybe, we all understand luggage restrictions, everything else – not so much. It just looks wrong – on the way home, sure go for it, just not on the way there.

5. Walk, walk and walk those boots in. Your boots and you – going up a mountain. That’s as close as it gets to the most important thing you take with you. Wear your boots in, if you get blisters still after a month or so of wearing them in, if you have time, change boots, if you don’t (like me) just wear plasters and pack enough for the trip – they still work, there is no pain and your boots will have a slightly worn in look before you start. You don’t want to be the only person with brand new boots at the start – because, you just don’t.

6. Kilimanjaro is the zip off pant capital of the world, you will buy some zip off pants, you will wear them, you will notice no guides or porters wearing them. You will probably never use any of the zip off functionality – or you may. That’s just how it is. You may give your gear at the end to the porters as many do, no idea what they do with the zip off pants – they must sell them. Remember – you will probably never wear the zip off pants again, give them away.

7. Do not listen to all the other people in your hotel / backpackers / lean-to that are just back from the mountain if they have anything negative to say, didn’t make it, vomited a lot, or if they talk about Diamox. It is unlikely any medical professional or other climber knows as much about taking Diamox as your guide does. Only listen to your guide about Diamox. The guide you will have does that sh*t once a week – you have trained for months and they turn around and do it every SEVEN days – they know their stuff.  Listen to the returned hikers only about glory stories. It will make you feel better, it will also make you think – if THEY made it, I can make it.
(I am not a medical professional, so don’t listen to me about Diamox either)

8. ‘Pole, pole’ (pol-ay, pol-ay) – this has nothing to do with the two walking poles most climbers carry with them.  It is how you are told to walk – slowly, slowly. If you think you can walk slowly now – you are wrong, you have never walked as slowly as you will climbing Kili (unless you’re up for Everest next) it will feel so slow and yet still too fast, especially on that midnight trek from whatever base camp you are using up to the top.

9. Take the longest route you can. You don’t want to train, fly all the way to Tanzania (guessing most of you don’t already live there) and then not make it because you chose the six day route, not the seven day one. Far fitter and stronger men and women than me failed to summit (22,000 a year attempt and 10,000 make it) because they had to walk past that second last campsite while I got to lay down and sleep for a night. I know because I watched them do it and spoke to them afterwards.

10. Don’t be Henk the guy with the fancy equipment that tells you how far you’ve walked that day, hour, minute, the temperature & perhaps more specifically and importantly what your altitude is. Or if you are that guy/girl, don’t tell Charles anyone else – because they will share the good news of your technologically advanced scientific device with others near and far and every 10 seconds someone will ask you something about how far / high / what the temperature is. If you can believe it this will be more annoying on the way down than on the way up. Trust me!

Go with old friends, make new ones, have fun!

That’s my Top 10 – what are your tips? What questions do you have left? I can help – the expert now remember?!


How many rolls?

With 48 hours from now until LDL and I will be getting on the plane in Durban and slightly less time until the OAC boards in Hong Kong we are definitely in the final countdown – the last minute items on the ‘To Do’ list are underway.

One of these items was the pharmacy visit, the one where you stock up on everything you think you might need and will probably find in the back of your cupboard in 4 years time when you are moving house and wondering why you never knew that was there and try to remember why you have it.

The pharmacy haul

Its your standard conversation with the pharmacist when you pick up your prescription for Diamox, you debate the pros and cons of the generic brand Immodium vs the real thing and so on down the list for a range of medications designed to relieve symptoms of diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramping, vomiting, headaches, insect stings and various other aches and pains you anticipate you could encounter during the climb.

When you finish your exchange, exhausting the list of items you have and the extras they have added the conversation finishes by them wishing you an ‘amazing trip’ – and to have a ‘fabulous time’. The thought running through my mind at that point was ‘Only if I don’t have to use any of this stuff.’

You then cruise the aisles for band aids, baby powder (no shower for a week remember) and wet wipes (the no shower thing again) and ponder the big question –
How many toilet rolls will I really need to take with me?
One imagines it will have something to do with whether you need to delve into your pharmacy treasure chest for that generic brand Immodium you decided on after all…..

WAFYO weighs in

Getting ready to head to Kilimanjaro in *gulp* five sleeps time – is not just about fear of vomiting, sleeping on the ground, 20km training walks and making sure you have an insulator for your water bottle so you don’t dehydrate on summit day.

Current draft calendar - a page from 'The Manual'

There are also complex family plans to be made – this is the reason I obviously stopped at two children. The ins and outs of organising their schedules, school pick ups, activities, birthday party attendance for the mere 13 days I will be gone means I should have started ‘The Manual’ I am leaving for their care much much earlier. If there was one or two more of them I am sure I would have given up and said – ‘too hard, can’t go’.

The plan was always to go when school was in session – making it much easier to manage their schedules and keep them in some kind of routine. Not going quite to plan, unfortunately it is the last few weeks of term so there are school concerts, grandparents (or for us grandparent-less) days, art exhibitions and of course parent/teacher interviews all happening.

This week we had the WAFYO’s (world’s angriest four year old) parent/teacher interview. Last week when I was at the doctor for my ‘manky’ eye we were discussing kids and school and agreed that if you are in there longer than five minutes when you have a child in pre-school there is a problem. I was in there for 45 minutes……..

Turns out the WAFYO has a problem or two behaviourally that has emerged recently and may be related to the fact her primary care giver is heading off for two weeks to parts unknown.  There is also an increase in ‘willfulness’, ‘bossiness’ and playing hard and fast with friends. After a mild and gentle but firm reprimand from the teacher for not having informed her earlier of my plans to go away we discussed how we were going to work to resolve the issues.

One of the outcomes was for WAFYO to do a school project about her mum’s trip – which included being provided with a large piece of cardboard to make a poster to use while sharing information about the trip with her class and the other pre-school classes. She took to it with gusto – twenty minutes later declaring she was finished and could I help her with the words. Today she took the poster to school where by her own reports she did a presentation to the class and their ‘gogo’s’ (today being Caregiver’s day) and they all clapped at the end.

‘Just one thing mum, the children wanted to know why you were you to climb Mt Kilimanjaro?’

And that is a very good question children, a very good question indeed! Four and five year olds not being overly familiar with the term ‘mid life crisis’ I did opt for a slightly different answer and as she explained to her father when he arrived home tonight ‘Mummy is going to climb Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money for cancer so people like Mumma won’t get it anymore’
I really hope so WAFYO – I honestly do.

The poster - note top is above the friendly clouds & I am the one in colour - my climbing mates are just in blue

9 sleeps to go – What was I thinking?

Today I had a moment, actually I had several moments of absolute fear and terror at the thought of not making it all the way up the mountain. After all that is the point of whole expedition isn’t it? Why I am going to go shower-less for seven days, possibly vomit regularly, use open air toilet facilities, sleep on the ground and perhaps even consent to be photographed without full hair and make-up – I may possibly wear some tinted sunscreen – but you get the idea.

At this point there is not much I can do except stick to my training schedule for the last week (once I write it) and cross my fingers very hard, which will likely be increasingly trickier the higher we get up the mountain with all those layers of gloves I have planned.

At one point this morning I wanted to stand up in the middle of a paddock and yell – ‘Mid life crisis over’ can I just decide to play golf next Friday instead?’

I know I have a good reasons for going – but they make me even more scared, a lot of people, including some I have never met, have donated money to The Jodi Lee Foundation – an excellent cause – on the premise that I will make it to the top.

Here’s what I know
I’m fitter than I look – its terrible to have to say but it is actually true – I could have a lot of people who know me vouch for that, but that’s probably not going to help me get up the hill. Its also a very defensive comment and my first response when I tell people I am climbing Kili in less than two weeks and they ask me ‘have you been training?’ To be fair I have been polling the LDL and the OAC both very fit looking specimens and people do ask them the exact same question.

I walk very slowly uphill, but am regular speed on the flat and super speedy on the downhill – it wouldn’t matter how fit I was or if my BMI was 18 I am convinced I would still be the slowest person up a hill. As a friend kindly pointed out to me though, I am like a Clydesdale – I just put my head down and keep going. Deep down I know I can get there, I just have to stay convinced that I can do it at my own pace. Everyone who has done it says to you ‘it is so slow – you will walk so slowly’ – but I know I will even be slower than that. Admitting it out loud, early, I think is helpful for any mind games I may get into with myself later – I mean what else am I going to do without regular Twitter and Facebook access – I will ultimately in all likelihood end up talking to myself constantly.

Here’s my plan
Just do it
Or was that plan/slogan already taken by a large publicly traded sportswear and equipment supplier?
Do you think I can borrow it for a couple of weeks?

9 sleeps to go – many many swear words

14 Sleeps to go

Nerves & excitement – check

Blisters – check (new ones yesterday – must stop trying different sock combinations)

Water purification tablets – not yet

Beanie – still none to be found in Durban and less likely every day summer hits

Bank accounts – still frozen

Nerves & vomit like feeling – check

Manual for care of children for two weeks – underway, includes schedules, feeding and watering activities, birthday parties to attend, medication, proposed menu plans (someone had better read it)

Childcare arrangements for same two weeks – under negotiations with husband and various other parties

Nerves & sleeplessness – check

Training – never enough – am a little bit tired of saying ‘I’m slightly fitter than I look’ – What if I’m not?

Carbo loading – too early? Lets say I never stopped and it may not be entirely balanced…

Diamox trial (for side effects) – not yet

Post climb Game Park jaunt with OAC – still in research mode – needs to move immediately to booking mode

Fundraising – slow and steady, hoping for final surge – along the lines of expected fitness surge

Mum’s latest PET scan results – positive!!!