Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ready to Climb

Obtaining the VISA from the Republic of Tanzania was rather simple. Fill out a form and mail my passport with a check to their embassy in Washington DC. Alpine Ascents recommends also sending a self addressed paid FEDEX envelope for next day return with tracking. I chose the two day return since it was half the price. My passport was processed quickly and returned within two weeks. No problem. So far, there had been no problems with preparations, training, or logistics for Kilimanjaro. Six of us would be flying Ethiopian Air and due to the itinerary, we would be arriving in Africa a day early and staying a day later than the rest of the team. Ethiopian had the best price and the fully refundable or changeable ticket was a nice bonus.

May and June were the final months to really crank up the training intensity. Long hikes at higher altitudes, trail running, long cycling bouts and lifting weights focusing on the muscles that especially need to be strong on the mountain. Backpack weight was also increased to 40-45 pounds for long carries and a few more nights stay at Camp Muir may help a little with acclimatization. Toward the end of June, I developed a much dreaded plantar fascitis from most likely running hills, sprints and most likely wearing sandals. I was worried the foot pain would be a problem on the mountain so I backed off the intense training and decided to wear my Sportiva mountaineering boots on Kilimanjaro. They are way too much boot for Kilimanjaro, but well worn and less likely to aggravate a sore plantar fascia.

The last chores to complete was left to the few weeks before leaving for Africa and included buying the recommended food items for the mountain as well as sorting and packing gear. If you look at the food, you would think I was headed out for a month in the backcountry or maybe opening up a snack stand. Food at altitude just doesn't appeal to most people, so you need a steady flow of calories from snacks you know you will eat. The brain and muscles must have some form of calories to keep the body moving and thinking. Chocolate, raisins, ginger, fruit wraps, peanut butter, caffeine injected jelly beans, powdered drink mix, hot chocolate, snickers and dried fruit was all neatly packed into a stuff sack. I figured if I didn't eat all the snacks, I would share with my teammates, guides or porters.

I think packing for a big adventure is more stressful than actually climbing the mountain. Training is focused and usually spent outdoors; a nice relief to organizing gear into little piles all over the house. However, a person can't train all the time so all free time was filled with 'To Do' lists that seemed endless requiring frequent trips to REI. Each new piece of gear was tested out in the elements, usually on my favorite training trek to Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier's south flank.

The last few days before leaving for Africa involved a daily procedure of reviewing the gear list, making more little piles, assessing what was needed, what could be left behind. We had a weight limit of 50 pounds. I managed to come in at 34 pounds that included 8 pounds of t-shirts that were donated by REI for the team. The day before departure, all items were strategically placed into the boundary bag. All electronic gear would go on as a carryon in my backpack and I planned to wear my boots to avoid any unforseen problems. Replacing such well worn boots in Africa would be impossible.

Psychologically I am ready to go. Really nine months of training and planning are done. I sent the family a copy of all my documents and intinerary. I am in the best shape ever. I know Kilimanjaro is a mile higher than Rainier but what does that really mean. Lots of thoughts swirling around. What if the boundary bag is lost? What did I forget? Can I do this? The flight leaves in a few hours, time to take a break and relax.

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