Saturday, 20 December 2014

Kili - The experience

What did I take away from the trip? This seems to have been a regular question, well other than numb toes, sore knees and losing about a stone there were a lot of less physical things.

Say Yes
When I think about the Kilimanjaro 'experience' I count in all the training and fundraising too, as one big take away for me is that I can achieve a lot in my spare time and I can take on a challenge and succeed. One of my lessons from this is to say yes to more. I'm usually quite cautious and retiring and often said no to things or didn't volunteer myself in case it didn't work out. Tom really had to talk me into the Kili climb. However I've learned from this that if you put yourself out there and say yes to things the worst outcome is probably going to be that it doesn't pan out, then you are just back where you were before you started. What's to lose?
Lesson - Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.

Perseverance
I left not really knowing what to expect, but that it was going to be hard. However it was harder in different ways than I thought. The walking actually wasn't that challenging, we went at a slow pace and depending on the route you probably won't actually walk more than 10 miles in a day other than summit day. My training walks were all 10 miles plus so the distance wasn't an issue for me. What made it hard was the altitude, the terrain and the conditions. We had some wet, cold foggy days. We had nights when the water seeped through the bottom of our tents, and our kit got damp and cold. We walked up seemingly endless steep sections only to go back downhill again. Some of us did it on little sleep, or no food, or feeling breathless and ill. We did it all though, sometimes I felt like crying, and sometimes I did cry, but I made it.
Lesson - Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you'll get there.

Team Work
I made it to the summit, but not without a lot of support, moral and otherwise. However I made it, and I made it at the same time as others who didn't need so much help. I can be very insular, and often want to work alone. I tend not to take offers of help when I should. I had to swallow that pride on the mountain though, I had to take advice, help and hand holding. I wouldn't have made it without it though. Plus if I had made it without the A Team and the amount of memories and friends I made it wouldn't have been the same.
Lesson - It's still an achievement even if you have help, and sometimes the journey and who you meet on the way is more important than making it by yourself.

I can do that...
Since we got back I found that my gym classes seemed really easy and I have since changed gym, and I have a lot more confidence when climbing to try routes that are challenging. I'm not fitter than before I left, it's just that I am so much more willing to be challenged. I'm looking up other challenges and my general attitude is 'Psh, I climbed a mountain, I can do this'. Summit night was one of the hardest things I ever did, and the whole experience was so outside my comfort zone that it really made me appreciate what I can do when I have to. We bought a wooden giraffe as a souvenir on the bus back to the hotel. I named him Raymond, after the guide who carried my bags and held my hand on summit night. He lives in the hallway on the bookshelves and when I am leaving for a hard day, or something I don't want to do, then I look at him and remember that I climbed a mountain. I can do this.
Lesson - You can do more than you ever think you can, if you just get that voice in your head that says no to shut the heck up.

You can read the first 2 posts on the trip here and here.

Happy Christmas everyone reading, I'll be back before New Year with a post. I have no idea where I'm going next year blog wise...it seems to be a challenge to keep it up but I have a few more Kili things to talk about (I have not shut up about it since we got back) and I hope then I might get back to doing some home improvement things before the wedding completely takes over my life...4 months to go!

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Sunday, 9 November 2014

Kili Kit

After we climbed Kilimanjaro I took a bit of time to get my thoughts in order on a few things, so there'll be a few Kili posts coming up. I do also have some projects to show you as now we have a bit more spare time I've got some things done!

Kit was something I thought about a lot before we left, the rest of it is such an unknown, it's really only training and kit I felt I could prepare with! If you're preparing to go, or thinking about it, then you should have a kit list from your company. However we all took too much. We discussed that the kit list from the company we went with had far too much on there. I took things I didn't  use, and I gave a lot away to the porters and guides. I finally finished unpacking and washing all our stuff and thought I'd write a post about what I actually used. I'm no expert though and I've only been once this is just how it went for me, so consult the company you're going with if you aren't sure!!

The absolute essentials I would say are:
Boots - comfortable, well worn in, waterproof.

Day Pack - comfortable, with rain cover, 30L was fine (our kit list said 30-35L but my 30L was half empty most of the time). You need to be able to carry 3L of water at least, as well as snacks, sun cream, waterproofs, extra layers of clothes etc. Train with the bag on sometimes if you can.

Coat - Down or equivalent jacket. Warm, warmer the better we both had Montane down jackets and were warm enough.

Clothes - I took 1 gym type T-Shirt, 1 long sleeve trekking top, 1 pair thermal leggings and 1 long sleeve thermal top, 1 pair of trousers (zip offs), 1 pair waterproof over trousers and coat, 1 pair thick waterproof salopettes, 1 down jacket, 2 fleeces (for layering) and 1 body warmer. I also took 3 pairs of socks, 2 liner socks, one pair of thick summit night socks, and 3 pairs of knickers. I think I did ok here, the only thing I could have maybe done without was the body warmer but it was good for days when it was chilly but not cold enough for the down jacket, and it was an extra layer on summit night (notice in the photos how I am much more padded out than Tom). I would recommend not worrying about multiples of things other than for layering, rather take a variety of things than multiples of one item.

Accessories - liner gloves and thick ski gloves - essential. Tom didn't use his thick gloves but he is a freak of nature with excessively warm hands. Sun hat and warm hat - Essential especially if like me you are prone to sunburn, I can say I didn't burn at all which is an achievement for a pale redhead spending 6 days solid outside at the equator above the clouds.

Camera - you want to capture this, our point and shoot was good as we could just clip it on our bag by a carabiner. Some people used phones which weren't as reliable battery wise, some has DSLR's which looked like a pain to carry, but their photos were much better.

Sleeping bag - We rented 5 season sleeping bags, and used a fleece liner on the colder nights and we were toasty and slept like babies. I slept in my thermals some nights too but Tom didn't and was still warm.

Sleeping mat - we both took self inflating sleeping mats and they were a godsend. Most camps were on rocky ground, and on 2 nights the tents were wet on the ground, the mats kept us up off the floor even if just by a few mm and they were insulating too.

Sun cream - 100ml Factor 50 lasted us both as after day 1 you are really only applying it to your face (I decanted it into those flight bottles you can buy from boots), we took spf30 but didn't use it much. We also took after sun which was nice after a day in the sun to put on before we went to bed although we didn't actually get burnt.

Wet wipes - I took too many (two packs, could have done with one) but they were indispensable for having a 'bath' in the tent after a long day, also for wiping off kit, shoes etc.

Antibacterial gel and wipes and nail brush - There was water for hand washing in a bucket in camp most nights and I gave my hands a good brush each night with a nail brush and soap, but the alcohol gels were an essential for using before lunch or just through the day. I also used anti bacterial wipes on my hands, and wiped off the end of my camel pack hose and the water bottle mouths with them sporadically. Getting a stomach bug is really not going to help you reach the summit!

Walking poles - I had never used them before but they were good for the descent, and helpful to steady myself with when I was a bit wobbly. To be honest I wasn't sure about them on the flat ground and sometimes they got in the way on more scrambly parts, but if you get ones which easily fold down they they can just go on the back of your bag.

Bin liners - We were told to line our bags and also to put our stuff inside bin liners and ziplock bags to keep it dry. However our holdalls were put inside thick plastic bags anyway during transit so they stayed dry, we used the bin liners on two nights though on the bottom of our tents when water was seeping through to keep us dry so they were invaluable. The ziplock bags were useful for keeping things separated and ease of packing as well.

Lip salve - You will probably get chapped or dry lips.

Glasses wearers - Take some solution and a cloth, the volcanic dust really stuck to my lenses and I had this tip before I went which I was thankful of. I bought a mini kit from boots which included a wipe, solution and a little tool with spare screws etc. I also took a spare pair of glasses just in case as it would be over for me if I broke my glasses unless someone was willing to literally guide me up there step by step.

Throat Sweets and Tissues - After summit night everyone had a runny chapped nose and a sore throat. I took plenty of losenges as I had heard about this before we went, they were essential and I gave lots out to others. I didn't take any tissues though and wish I had, I was using loo roll to blow my nose which didn't help with the soreness.

Meds - I went a bit OTT here but I always do. You need to take painkillers, anti inflammatories, throat losenges, plasters and blister plasters as a minimum. I also took antihistamine cream (I always get bitten and I did use this) and deep heat rub, loperamide capsules as well as immodium melts, some dulcolax, some dressings, stoma pouch extensions (best things for back of heel blisters!) and some antiseptic cream. I didn't use most of it and took too many of each thing, but it would be worse to need it and not have it right?

What we took which we could have lived without:
Snacks - I would take some but not so many. I lost my appetite from altitude. Plus we were so well fed that I probably would have only needed minimal snacks even if I was eating normally (cooked breakfast, 3 course lunch and 3 course dinner every day!). They were good as a morale boost, on summit night it was nice to have some sweets every time we stopped and I saved my favourite ones until then however for the rest of the week I hardly touched the massive amount of food I took. If I went again I would take a few packets of sweets and 3 protein bars at the most. This will vary per person though on how you eat at home.

Electronics - We only used the camera. I took my Ipod and never used it, we both also took our phones mainly as back up in case the camera died but didn't use them either. We took 2 spare camera batteries too as we had heard the cold can cause batteries to die. We put our electrical items in our sleeping bags at night though and it was fine so we didn't need them.

Gaiters - I wore them on summit night but didn't think they really did anything, although my Salopettes had sort of in built gaiters too. Tom didn't wear his at all.

Ear plugs - We slept well, I used ear plugs briefly on the first night but found them uncomfortable.

Loo roll - We took a roll of toilet paper each and only used it for drying the bottom of our tent when it got rained on, I would alternate one of these rolls for some packs of nice tissues for noses. There was a toilet tent in camp with loo roll, so we weren't going to use a whole roll each as well over 5 days!

Cosmetics - There was talc and vaseline on our kit list which we all brought but were a bit mystified as to why. We only used the vaseline afterwards for chapped noses after summit night. We didn't use the talc, some people did on their feet or after a wash on their bodies but only because they brought it. I also took a small pot of moisturiser  in case of chapped skin on my face, which I didn't use as I had after sun.

Cards, a book, ipod etc - We didn't need any evening entertainment as our team was very sociable and we played charades, sang, talked etc in the mess tent most nights. Also you will be tired and going to bed early, so don't need too much entertainment for the down time.

Hope that's helpful to someone I read a few similar posts before I went and found it useful to compare what others had taken and found useful or not.

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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Kili done!

We climbed Kilimanjaro last week.
Still can't get my head around the fact that we have actually done it. It was the hardest but best thing I have ever done.
I'll do some more in detail posts on kit, best/worst bits, guides porters and tips for anyone maybe considering going or just more interested in the details, but here's a short round up on what happened.

We flew out to Tanzania on 3/10/14 and arrived on 4/10/14 tired and ready for a nights sleep at a hotel. As usually independent travellers it was interesting to be corralled in with a big group, but we went with the flow. After a briefing and kit check we had some free time to chat to the rest of our group (23 including the leader and doctor). The next morning we were up early and onto the bus, finally on the way! We waited for some time at the gate, waiting for all the bags to be weighed and the paperwork filled out.
Day 1. Finally, around 11am I think, we were on the way. Day one was pretty good, getting to know everyone in the group as well as the guides. We walked through the forest and it was steep but not too challenging. We had a pretty lively night at the first campsite, machame camp, with games, singing and dancing, and a headlamp rave. Nobody had any altitude effects too bad yet, we were at 2800m.
Day 2 was harder, both terrain wise and because I started getting some altitude sickness. The terrain was rocky and steep with a lot of clambering, we gained a lot in height that day and got to 3800m that night camping at Shira camp. The sickness came over me pretty fast, I started off feeling ok then after one steep ascent suddenly felt sick, sleepy and dizzy. This didn't go away on resting and I just wanted to lie down. We got to camp for lunchtime though so I had plenty of time to lie down and try (unsuccessfully) to eat and not throw up.
Day 3. After a good nights sleep at Shira camp and some diamox and anti sickness tablets I felt better the next day, ready for lava tower. This is the highest we would go before summit night, we left Shira camp at 3800m, got to lava tower at 4600m for lunch (where I felt surprisingly ok, having felt rough the whole way up I just magically got over it at some point!) then went back down to 3900m at Barranco camp. This was a hard day, not helped by wet weather and the tents being wet when we got to camp. The team pulled together though and helped each other out. I'll write a post about our amazing team and how it helped us to have such a cohesive and motivating team, it'll be a soppy one guys be warned!

Day 4. We got up early, and after a rather breathless rendition of happy birthday and a hokey cokey to warm up we were off to climb barranco wall. A few people in our team had found looking at the wall all evening intimidating, being climbers we were looking forward to it! Although it was easier that we are used to (it's a scramble not a climb) the altitude effects made it hard, Tom climbs grade 6C's and is breaking into 7's but even he got our of breath going up Barranco! I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest at one point. After a photo break at the top we were then off on an undulating up and down through Karanga Valley to Barafu Camp at 4600m. We ate then off to bed early as we had to be up at 12 for the summit.
Summit Night. This came around fast, we were merrily dancing around the morning before, now we were all eating breakfast at 11pm and offering to share out hand warmers and sweets. This was it. We were off. It was 6 hours of walking in the dark up a steep slope, in the cold, with wind. However, it was a full moon and a clear night, we could see Moshi illuminated below us, and the snake of headlamps going to to the summit. Every stop I tried to soak in the beauty, but to be honest it's a bit of a blur. I remember people being sick (one memorable quote was 'Ed's puking everywhere so we're having a 10 minute break') and people turning back, but our team carried on. We tried to sing and chat like we had on previous days but it was decidedly lacklustre for a while then petered out and we just marched on. But at the breaks we tried to motivate each other, we talked about how the sun would be up soon, and offered sweets and snacks around, or even just gave someone a pat on the back and said 'well done'. Raymond our guide dragged me up a few points, and carried my bag, and kept me smiling at breaks. These guys are incredible. When we heard the sun would be up in half an hour we got quite excited, then once it did come up we basked in it like reptiles!
Reaching Stella point seemed the longest part, you can see it for so long but it takes forever to get there. Then it's a little longer to the peak, not a challenging walk but I didn't want to go...we did though. Tom cried, I cried, everyone cried at some point that day I think. We wandered about a bit dazed at the summit.

It's a bit of a scrum at the top to get a photo by the sign, so we muscled in and then started the long descent down. Do not underestimate this part, the descent from the summit back to Barafu took hours,  my toes were in so much pain that I cried (I have never cried so much in the space of 5 days). Tom fell over a few times. Then it was lunch then another 2 hours down to Millennium camp where we all felt better, it's 3900m still though. We had dinner, then all went off to bed pretty much straight after. Tom and I slept for 10 hours!
Last day. We had the tipping ceremony, and a last dance on the mountain, then it was off down to the bottom. It was a loooong downhill, but we were in high spirits (although mine ran out about an hour from the end when the pain in my feet was almost bringing me to tears, typing this I still cannot feel my toes properly). I had a minor cry when I saw the sign for Mweka gate (not a full on sob just a little tear and a thank you prayer!). We had some Kili beers, champagne, a last hokey cokey and a laugh (we were a loud group!)...then off on the bus.

I'll write a bit more in detail once I organise my thoughts on it, I'd like to write something about the guides and porters, and altitude, and some tips for girls specifically, and on what I took away from this. It will take me a while to get it all down, and it's so hard to describe unless you've been there what it was like....and I don't think I'll be able to accurately describe the 'A Team' we went with :)
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