A Travellerspoint blog

A New Beginning

(Please be aware that I posted comments about the end of the trip – including the visit with the orphans - at the end of the last post … and you’ll also notice I’ve added pictures/video and updated the safari text, too)

I’ve been home for nearly a week now, sleeping a fair bit to recover. The busy life here compared to being in the mountains still seems somewhat overwhelming. It is amazing how you adapt to living in the moment on such a trek and how different everything seems from that perspective. Everything that you are doing, seeing, hearing, feeling at that exact moment is the only thing that matters. Whether it’s the tough trail ahead, concentrating on the boots in front of you with each and every step you take, the incredible sun rising over the clouds that you are looking down upon, or the unbelievable feeling of accomplishment upon reaching your goal. It is a wonderful feeling to be living in the moment like this. So much so that I’ve given myself “quiet time” in my daily schedule to do just that!

And, of course, only good can come of this - Yesterday I was reflecting on my trip, especially the climb, and had an “ah ha” moment I'd like to share. I found it interesting and quite ironic that I initially decided to climb this mountain as a way of overcoming some bigger challenges that I had over the past several months, only to be faced with this seemingly insurmountable challenge of getting up the mountain in the painful state that I was in. But somehow, I feel this was exactly where I needed to be (over the past few difficult months and on the climb) in order to find my strength and come out the other side having learned some valuable life lessons, feeling ready to tackle anything, and really redefining who I am. I mention this because maybe some of you reading this may be facing some tough challenges (maybe big or small) which seem particularly difficult at the moment … but maybe it really is exactly where you need to be for whatever reason in order to get to where you're going - to the top of a mountain or somewhere else altogether! Just something to think about.

And so this seems like an ending - A huge hug to everyone who helped along the way and made this possible ... and to those of you reading and sharing this adventure with me! Some people have asked me what my next climb will be. I have vowed to stay put in Vancouver for at least a little while … I really do need to give my business my full attention finally. So, knowing me, if I get a little antsy and want to take off again, I may need your help to ground me … at least for a few months!

Until the next adventure!

Posted by irinar 22:56 Comments (1)

Success ... But Hard Earned

On Jan 1st, 2011, I made it to the top of Africa, exhausted, ill, somewhat hallucinating, and struggling with the high altitude, Our group started with 23 and only 13 of us made it to the summit. This was by far the most challenging thing I have ever done. To me this was a much greater struggle than Everest for several reasons - We ascended to a higher altitude much quicker so we had less time to acclimatize, I was not feeling well at all, and we were sleeping on a cold hard ground - but with a huge challenge comes many lessons. This trek has been much less about reaching the top as it had been with my Everest trek. I knew I would get to the summit, perhaps because I am too stubborn to give up (even when I have good reason to do so). In fact, I had a number of team members tell me that they were surprised and inspired to see me continue on despite the challenges I faced to make it. As a result, this adventure has been more about the journey and the insights I had along the way and about those people that inspired me. So here is how it went ...

Day 1 was one of the hardest days of my life. A nasty bug had been passing through our group on safari consisting of fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. It hit me on this 1st day. As we began our 7 hour hike this day I was feeling the fever and the other symptoms began a couple of hours later. Just as I was feeling the worst I ever felt, the torrential rain started - apparently it was the most rain our guide had ever seen in over 200 treks up the mountain! For the next 4 hours I got drenched ... water sloshing in my boots, pants, jacket, everything soaked through. My feverish, sick body was just a shivering mess and I could barely walk. Someone put a hat on me, pressed gloves onto my freezing fingers, someone else took my pack and I was being hugged for warmth. I seriously don't know how I continued on like this for hours, but somehow I mustered everything I had to make it to camp, where I collapsed. That day I learned that I really don't give up easily, which is a good thing as some things certainly get better. There were definite times that day that I thought maybe the universe didn't want me to go up that mountain - maybe this and all the flight delays were a sign telling me to turn back. After this first day 3 others decided they had had enough. I could have, too, but somehow hung in there.

Warning signs at the entry gate ... it seems there were a few more reasons I should have turned back!

Warning signs at the entry gate ... it seems there were a few more reasons I should have turned back!

Day 2 went by in a blur ... I was still not feeling great but when someone asked how I was, I focused all my positive energy to reply I was "great" or, at least "getting better every moment." After this day we lost a further 6 team members.

By Day 3 I was back to my usual happy and optimistic self despite exhaustion and a sore body from sleeping on a cold hard ground. It was a long 10 hour day through fog and sleet but as we reached our camp, the sun began shining and the Burranco Wall and Mt. Kilimanjaro were an amazing site.

Trail on Day 3

Trail on Day 3


Day 3 trail ... beginning to look barren, a bit like Mars with flourescent algae on the rocks

Day 3 trail ... beginning to look barren, a bit like Mars with flourescent algae on the rocks

Smiles

Smiles

Approaching Camp on Day 3 - This scene appeared after a long day of fog ... quite alien looking but the Scenecio trees were amazing

Approaching Camp on Day 3 - This scene appeared after a long day of fog ... quite alien looking but the Scenecio trees were amazing


Day 3 Camp

Day 3 Camp

Sun Setting over the Barronco Wall

Sun Setting over the Barronco Wall

Day 4 saw us scrambling up the imposing Burranco Wall which was a really fun day.

Werner and I on the Barronco Wall

Werner and I on the Barronco Wall

Climbing the Barronco Wall 1

Climbing the Barronco Wall 1

Climbing the Barronco Wall 2

Climbing the Barronco Wall 2

Sun Setting at camp on Day 4

Sun Setting at camp on Day 4

Kilimanjaro on Day 4

Kilimanjaro on Day 4

Day 5 was a short 3 hour hike as that night was summit night. We got to camp, napped, had lunch, napped, dinner, napped, then woke up to start our summit attempt. The slower group began at 11pm and my "faster" group began at midnight for the 7 hour steep hike up to 5800+ meters.
Me above the clouds - Beginning Day 5

Me above the clouds - Beginning Day 5


The trail up to the ridge where we camp and begin our summit hike

The trail up to the ridge where we camp and begin our summit hike

I was feeling pretty good, except for a pesky cough that seemed to be getting worse every day. I later discovered it was a high altitude cough and that it would continue to worsen as I got higher since my body would not be able to heal itself at that elevation due to lack of oxygen.

About 2 hours into the night I was beginning to feel very uncomfortable and had to tell my group to continue on as I needed to break to catch my breath. You see, the cough was getting so bad that each time I coughed I ran out of breath and could not replenish, which was critical at 5000+ meters. I had a small panic attack as I was unable to breath which is why I told my group to go on ahead.

The next 5 hours were pretty excruciating. I had a guide with me the whole time who was wonderful, except that I was kind of hallucinating most of the way up and I thought he was someone else. Maybe I should have turned back, I don't know.

Just before sunrise I reached Stella Point, which is pretty much the top. I was in a world of pain and I burst into tears - as I heard many others did as well from all the built up emotions of making it up. I was so exhausted that I could have slept right there ... except my guide and group (who arrived only 10 minutes ahead of me) began the 45 minute hike to Uhuru, the highest point on the mountain. At this point I was feeling very ill from the altitude - exhausted, but unable to eat anything to get my energy back - the juice I had came straight up. I remember snapping a few photos before making my way down about 30 minutes later. As I came down, I finally began feeling better.

At Stella Point - Hurray! I'm not sure who took this photo or when with my own camera - I was in so much pain ... but somehow I'm smiling!

At Stella Point - Hurray! I'm not sure who took this photo or when with my own camera - I was in so much pain ... but somehow I'm smiling!


Sun Rising over the clouds on top of Kilimanjaro

Sun Rising over the clouds on top of Kilimanjaro


Sun rising over the mountains at the top

Sun rising over the mountains at the top

At the top ... with the glacier behind me

At the top ... with the glacier behind me


View from the top 1

View from the top 1


View from the top 2

View from the top 2


View from the top 3

View from the top 3

I later heard that many people really struggled that night. In fact, Werner said this was his 2nd hardest night ever on a climb ... this is a man who climbed all 7 summits - including Everest, McKinley, and Kilimanjaro twice before! He said his legs just wouldn't work - it goes to show that you can never really tell with altitude. We also heard that a porter died from pulmonary edema that night due to altitude. Scary stuff. I count my blessings to have reached the summit and returned and am now happy and healthy ... and really unsure if I would do it all over again ... except as time passes, my memories of that night seem less and less painful.

So, what could I have possibly learned from such an experience? As I mentioned, this really was about the journey. I truly feel that first day and the hard summit night were a blessing in disguise for a number of reasons. I now know how others felt on the Everest trek when I was on top of the world there. Of course, I learned a lot about myself and that I don't turn back easily - even when I have a good reason. This is is good as things always tend to work out for the best. I was glad to hear from some that because of this, I was an inspiration to them to keep going. Funny, because I felt my team was such a blessing to me - during this trek I realized how amazing and generous my team members were. The help and giving I experienced on Day 1 from others was just amazing. In fact, the entire trip felt that everyone had each other's back. I heard one team member ask another at one point, "What can I do for you?" I made a commitment to myself to use this more often with others when I get home and be of service to those around me. I heard others saying they have never been on such a trip where everyone was truly concerned for each other. I truly believe that this is because we are all with the same company and have each devoted time to our own personal growth and of being of service to others. It makes me proud to be part of such a group.

There are many other lessons I have learned along the way and I think they need a few days to process in my mind as my oxygen levels return to normal. I will post pictures and some more comments in several days when I get home.

Until then!

UPDATED JAN. 12th

Many of you asked what happened to the wedding that was meant to take place on top of Kilimanjaro? Well, unfortunately Werner had to send his bride-to-be back down on the third day as it was just pushing the limits too much. As it turned out, a wedding on top of Kili may not have worked out as smoothly as first thought anyways! So the day we got back from the trek, an unsuspecting Werner was told his wedding would take place in about 3 hours - Heshie had organized the staff at the hotel and invited people she had met over the past few days to attend. It was a beautiful ending to our trip to see these two amazing people joined – and my first Jewish wedding, too!

Jewish Wedding in Moshi

Jewish Wedding in Moshi


Me with the Bride and Groom

Me with the Bride and Groom

The following day (no time to rest at all!) 7 of us went to a hospital about 2 hours away where we were to meet the group of orphans. For those who don’t know, our group pulled together to take over a great deal of clothing and supplies for this particular orphanage. Personally, I would like to extend a huge thank you for those of you in Vancouver who helped fill the 50 pound suitcase that I was able to take over - and with such short notice! We went to the orphanage to help distribute some of the items. It was a little chaotic with so many children but every child left that day smiling, with a new item in hand. Afterwards, I was surrounded by a playful group of children who adored my camera – they were taking photos of themselves, of me, of each other, and bursting into laughter as they saw each photo … it was difficult to leave after this point - I was laughing too hard with them.

When we first arrived we walked into a large room where 150 children began singing for us – It was difficult to hold back tears as the words they were singing really got to me - “We are happy, mister, we are happy…” Reflecting on that day, I wondered how some people in our country can complain or be so negative when these children, whose lives are so much more difficult, can laugh and sing? It really puts everything into perspective.

Some of you may also recognize some of these items:
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P1040552


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P1040557


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P1040554

Posted by irinar 22:37 Comments (0)

In Between Safari and Kilimanjaro

Heading up in just 45 minutes!

Time has been very short and internet access nearly non-existent so far. I have just finished the safari and it was just as amazing as it sounds. So far, Africa has been very different than my experience in Nepal - especially the culture and people (I'll explain later). We've been bumping our way in a Landrover around the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Terangire, and Manyara parks - with wildebeast and zebras as far as the eye could see. We spotted pretty much every animal that lives here - lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, black rhino, water buffalo, giraffes, warthogs, and so many more! For some reason one of the images that really stuck with me was the sight of a large, weakened bird laying in the grass, with 2 large vultures standing right behind it, clearly waiting. Somehow it seemed respectful ... they were waiting after all.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints (I am leaving for the hike up Kilimanjaro in 45 minutes!) I will have to give you all a bigger rundown when I get back.

Wish me luck up the mountain - I will be sure to give you an update of how it went! I've heard that there is no internet access anywhere on the climb ... and apparently we are sleeping on the ground in tents - I don't know why I didn't realize this before! In Nepal we had a bench to sleep on after all. But all in all, I am excited and can't wait to let you all know how it goes!

Until the New Year!

UPDATED JAN 12th, 2011

Many have asked what the safari was like so I've just added a few comments about it below:

Safari Experience
I won`t say too much about this experience other than that it was absolutely spectacular. It is difficult to put into words the feeling arising from viewing the beauty of the landscape and witnessing these amazing animals in their natural home. I lost my voice one day on safari (it seems consistent with my experiences during the trek!) but it really was a blessing not having to say anything, just to experience the beauty around, just being there.

Masai Tribe
On one of the days we visited a Masai village. The Masai tribe’s traditions are the best preserved in Africa. It was difficult to get my head around their way of life, though. The village consists of one or more families. They are polygamous and one man generally has multiple wives – the number of wives depending on how wealthy they are, defined as how many cattle they own, as it generally costs 10 cattle for 1 wife. Once married, the bride is responsible for building the hut. But before you men think this is all a great way to live, here are some other interesting facts. As a rite of passage, the boys are circumcised at age 14. The entire tribe also subsists on a diet of blood, milk, and meat – obtaining about 4 liters of blood from each cattle a year without killing them. Definitely not for me … not vegetarian-friendly!

Masai Dancing

Masai Dancing


Masai Huts

Masai Huts

Scenery with Hippos

Scenery with Hippos


Lioness

Lioness


Lounging Lioness

Lounging Lioness


Mother-Baby

Mother-Baby


Watch out!

Watch out!


Apparently they're one of the most dangerous animals!

Apparently they're one of the most dangerous animals!


Peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo


This reminds me of the Far Side Comics

This reminds me of the Far Side Comics


Giraffe

Giraffe

I love the part in this video when the truck stops and the zebra on the left is just staring right at us!

Posted by irinar 20:45 Comments (0)

And So It Begins

From Seattle

This is a story of my adventure through Africa and, ultimately, my climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro (the highest free standing mountain in the world at a very high 5,895m!). I am not quite experiencing the stellar beginning I had in mind, though, as I am currently stranded in Seattle - most likely for several days, due to snow storms in Amsterdam where I stopover! I should also mention that I am writing this without having slept for a long time! But, anyhow, supposing I will be on my way eventually ...

Many of you followed my Everest Base Camp blog and hopefully enjoyed what it took to get there. Well this time, if you want to join me and learn about this region of Africa, see some amazing photos, or just want to see how I fare with limited oxygen, you are welcome to join me through this blog!

Some of you know my story ... how I began my passion for climbing mountains less than one year ago when I said "yes" to the opportunity to trek to Everest Base Camp. I made this decision without any prior hiking or mountaineering experience (but was surrounded by some of the most inspirational people you will ever meet).

So, if just last May I pushed myself to the limits to get to 5,450 meters - why on earth would I want to do it again? And so soon? And go even higher?! Let me explain.

Trekking to Base Camp last May was definately a life changing experience. In fact, my mind was still blissfully "in the mountains" so to speak for months after. However, those who know me will remember that I had an exceptionally challenging summer for a number of reasons. I laugh about it now to think how impossible it is for so many things to go wrong within a 2-month period! (If you don't know, feel free to ask me sometime and we can laugh about misfortune together!) Prior to this I had some very big goals that I was working towards. However, after such a challenging summer, I decided that I would put some of my huge goals on temporary hold for a few months and just focus on me. Well, this only worked for about 1 week before I realized how depressing it was to not have any goals! I remembered how exhilarated I felt in the run up to Everest and I decided that this was just the type of commitment and dedication I needed. So I began my training regime little by little and here I am now ... a few months older, fitter, and with a new passion for snowshoeing, and ready for this next challenge! In the meantime, I've posted some photos below of a couple of training hikes (which also gives me the chance to brag about how beautiful Vancouver is!)

So, just a brief overview:

What am I doing in Africa? I'll be on Safari first, followed by the climb, and finishing with a couple of days helping at an orphanage.
Who am I here with? I'm solo from Vancouver until I meet my group in Tanzania. Our group is lead by the one and only Werner Berger, the oldest Westerner to summit Everest, just short of 70!
Any Unexpected Surprises? Well, hopefully not the African bugs burrowing under your skin type of surprise! Hopefully there will be lions, tigers, rhinos, etc. And there will be a wedding at the summit (yes, Werner at 70+!),

Also, I promise my posts will not be so lengthy in future - especially as oxygen levels decrease and I can no longer focus for long periods of time!

Until next time!

St. Marks Peak

St. Marks Peak


Seymour - 2nd Peak

Seymour - 2nd Peak

Posted by irinar 09:04 Comments (0)

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