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The Partners In Climb team is in full preparation mode for our upcoming climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. In my previous article I shared with you the purpose of this climb and how we hope to affect the world. In this piece we will be looking at how preparations for the trip have gone thus far and what we have left to do. We have engaged in trip planning, mental preparations, and physical conditioning as well as familiarizing ourselves with the mountain itself and the risks involved in attempting the summit. Let’s dive right in.

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Trip Planning

Often times with any endeavor the first step is always the hardest. It’s best to just take the leap and go for it. Here’s what we’ve learned so far and how it might relate to you and y our trip planning.

  • Selecting and organizing team members: You will spend 24-7 with these folks, make sure your trip won’t end with all of you killing each other.
  • Securing plane tickets: We used a mixture of frequent flyer miles and old fashioned money to purchase our tickets. Shop around and don’t be afraid of long layovers, part of the adventure is the journey getting there.
  • Choosing an expedition group and putting down deposits: Again, shop around with this. We ended up talking with half a dozen places before we settled on Climbing Kilimanjaro, a South African based company with local offices in Moshi.
  • Route selection: There are six traditional routes on Kilimanjaro all with benefits and detractors. Find which one fits as many of the things you and your team wants. We went with Lemosho for the solitude, difficulty, and opportunity for camping the entire climb.
  • Visas, shots, meds: Tanzania visas can be acquired upon arrival ($100 for US citizens). Check the CDC for recommended vaccines for Tanzania and consult your doctor for medication needs. Malaria pills are a must.
  • Gear: This will depend on the amount of gear you start with. Our group is full of campers and backpackers so the need for new gear was low. But hey, there isn’t a better excuse to buy some new and exciting gear than climbing a mountain! At the very least a warm sleeping bag, good boots, and a down coat would be the bare necessities.

Preparations for our trip continue but it seems to be a waiting game at this point. February 6th 2014, the day we depart, seems like a lifetime away but there is still much to do. I have found that in this time, the calm before the adventure, there is so much to learn about myself and about the impact this trip will have on me and, potentially, on many others.

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Mental Preparations

I believe that one of the most important aspects to international travel, especially in fragile locations, it to enter into the culture and landscape gracefully and with humility and understanding. To mentally prepare for our journey not only on Kilimanjaro, but within the surrounds places we must be aware of our impact on these places. There are simple things we have chosen to do to aid in this. Here’s what we have chosen to focus on:

  • Make an attempt to learn some of the local language, even if it is just a simple greeting and how to say “thank you.”
  • Familiarize ourselves with any specific cultural customs that will make the people we interact with know we respect and care for their way of life. For example, it is good to refrain from comparing the cost of things in Tanzania to how much they cost at home.
  • Be prepared and open to trying all manner of local food. It is a sign of respect to try everything and makes for some memorable meals.
  • Reading books and stories from those who have gone before us is a great way to create a visual representation of a place or task you have never done.

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Whether we like it or not, our simple presence in a place can have a profound effect, either negative or positive, on the people and the land. The time we will get to spend and our chance to do something of impact to care for the wild places we love is short. The understanding of that limited opportunity to affect the world makes the significance of the purpose to this climb even more powerful. Partners In Climb is about accepting the responsibility to care for the wild places of the world and the people who call them home. Our goal to garner support for this project is a huge part of the preparations for this climb and a piece I share with all of you.

In addition to the cultural impact we can make, the impact on ourselves will be important as well. Mountains and wild places represent a spiritual aspect of life and what it means to be a human being to me. There are few places in the world that invoke a sense of something greater or something bigger than myself than truly wild environments. A big part of my mental prep work for this climb is preparing myself to live each moment on the mountain. To allow myself to be affected by its grandeur and moved by the significance of a place that was here long before humans and will be here long after we are all gone. I want to be reminded of how truly small I am next to the magnificence of nature and the majesty of the universe. I hope to come face to face with the realization of my own mortality and that my time on this Earth is short and that my chance to impact this world is over so fast.

Physical Preparations

Our group is comprised of people who are used to long days on the trail and cold nights in the mountains so our training had to be especially challenging. The biggest part of this groundwork is, of course, training hikes and climbs. Add to this regular physical training as well as altitude sickness education and altitude hiking skills and we have a solid foundation to ensure we all make it to the summit. My training program breaks down like this:

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Training Hikes/Climbs

  • Over the summer worked up to doing 15-20 mile day hikes with 5000+ feet of gain once a month
  • Trained on hikes such as Tuck and Robin Lakes, Enchantment Lakes, High Divide/ 7 Lakes Basin, as well as local trainers like Mt. Si and Mailbox Peak
  • Continue to hike 4-8 miles with at least 1500 feet of gain once a week through the Winter including snowshoe hikes when possible Daily Workout Routine
  • Bicycle riding 15 miles per day (I commute to work on my bike)
  • 3-5 mile runs twice per week
  • Weight Training twice per week
  • Agility Training twice per week: Comprised of plyometrics, calisthenics, and leg-muscle exercises to increase fast twitch muscle strength.
  • Core Training three times per week: Comprised of different ab exercises like crunches, leg lifts, and weighted sit-ups.

This routine is aimed to increase agility, build leg and body muscle strength, and increase cardiovascular endurance to combat the decreased oxygen environment and long, steep hiking days. Being physically strong will help ensure we can endure the altitude and environment and increase our chances of reaching the summit.

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In an effort to prepare as much as possible we have educated ourselves on the effects of altitude on the human body. Symptoms of altitude sickness can range from headache and nausea to disorientation, extreme fatigue and also HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) and HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) which can be life threatening. Understanding how to spot the symptoms of altitude sickness in each other and what to do once it happens will be invaluable on the mountain.

In addition, learning some techniques to alleviate as much of the effects of the altitude have also been good to learn. A few tips when hiking at altitude are:

  1. Take deep, long breaths to bring as much oxygen into the body as possible
  2. Adopt an exaggerated slow pace while hiking even if it feels too slow
  3. Keep your steps short and closer together than normal
  4. Maintain an even and controlled rhythm to conserve energy and breath

I am confident that with these preparations we will be in peak physical condition to tackle all the challenges Kilimanjaro will undoubtedly throw at us on this adventure. Failing to reach to summit should not be due to our inability to make the journey.

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Not one of the aspects of my preparation is more important or valuable than another. It is going to challenge all parts of me, mind, body, and spirit. Just as is the case with anything that is truly valuable in life, the experience I will have will not come without effort and challenge. I intend to place my boots in the footprints of every person who has walked this path before me. To truly comprehend not only the physical magnitude of Kilimanjaro, but the spiritual and cultural significance it holds with the people who are blessed to live in its shadow. From my experiences in other parts of the world, I know that what I learn from this journey will far outweigh anything I can give back to it, but that will not stop me from trying.

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