Tag Archives: Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

Trick or treat? Our Climbing Kili for a Cause campaign wraps up on Oct. 31st

Before Blake and I went to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro I was invited to appear on Global TV in Calgary to talk about our trip and the reason we were doing it. I re-appeared on Global last weekend as a follow-up to the first interview, to talk about the actual climb (the highlights, the hardest part) and how much money we have raised for Renfrew Educational Services.

Mt. Kilimanjaro looks very far away on Day 2. When the clouds cleared we snapped this picture, our first good view of Kili’s iconic domed summit.

When you appear on TV (totally nervous, especially the first time), you wonder if anyone will watch and, if they do, whether you’ll get your message across successfully (e.g. will every person in Calgary donate money to Renfrew Educational Services?). There’s really no way to know, which is why it’s always nice to get viewer feedback. This e-mail (edited and excerpted, below) arrived in my in-box shortly after my appearance and made me feel like it’s all been worthwhile:

“I just saw your Global TV story, and was promted to write to you to say congratulations to both you and your husband for your efforts to help Renfrew Educational Services.

My daughter attended the main campus of Renfrew in the N.E. for two years, she too was special needs.  She suffered from a very rare neurological condition, which left her wheelchair bound and although she struggled with fine motor and gross motor skills she LOVED going to school on the bus everyday.  I agree with all you said, about the teachers, the aides and the support teams there for speech and other therapies…simply incredible people who helped her in so many ways. I will never forget all they did for her and for our family.

Sadly, she passed when she was just four and a half, but not many days go by where I don’t see a school bus and think of her joy and excitement of going to school each day.  I commend you for your efforts and just wanted to let you know how grateful many will be for your efforts which will be helpful to so many other families.”

Of course I know our fundraising campaign has been worthwhile and successful — we’ve raised $7,470, passing our goal! — but this e-mail still made me cry. I know it can be hard for parents of “typical” kids to understand how great a school like Renfrew is for “special” kids like my Bennett. So to hear it from someone who has been there, literally, really hit home.

Renfrew recently asked me to write a story for their semi-annual magazine about our Kili climb and fundraising campaign. I wrote:

“I think the short-term challenge of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro was small compared to the life-long mountain of challenges and obstacles that face parents raising children with special needs.

Making it to the top of Kili filled me with a feeling of, “I did it!” It was inspiring — it made me wonder what else I’m capable of doing. Raising Bennett? I now know, thanks in part to Renfrew, I can do this.”

My hope is that other families with children at Renfrew will feel like they can do it, that they’re not alone in a world that becomes harder to navigate when your child has special needs. And of course my other hope is that Renfrew will continue doing what it does best — helping kids soar — thanks to donations like those we received during our four-month-long campaign.

Our Climbing Kili for a Cause fundraising campaign officially wraps up on Oct. 31st, so if you’re feeling generous…

Thank you! Asante sana!

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My new mantra: Pole-pole

Before we even set foot in Tanzania, the materials mailed to me and my husband by our trekking company, Climb Kili, warned: “Your guides will set the pace and you may find it almost intolerably slow — bear with them it’s for a good reason.” In Swahili they say, “Pole-pole”  (pronounced polie-polie) and it means “Slowly, slowly.” It’s one of the secrets to helping hikers acclimatize as they gain elevation on Mt. Kilimanjaro — going slowly prevents over-exertion, keeps the heart rate down and helps the body retain water instead of panting it away.

The pace out of the gate was “pole-pole,” which means “intolerably slow” in Swahili.

Indeed, we set off on Day 1 walking at a speed that can only be described as slooooow moooootion. We cracked jokes like, “Hey, let’s stop and take a picture. Wait, never mind! It’s like I’m standing still!” Poor Evance, our pace-setting guide (whose Swahili nickname is actually Pole-pole), had probably heard it all before. (In fact, we were ambling along at such leisure he spent most of Day 2 trying to teach me useful Swahili phrases, such as “Haraka haraka haina baraka,” which means, “There’s is no blessing for going fast.” Got it.)

By Day 3 pole-pole was the new normal. No… Need… To… Rush… The phrase took on a life of its own and became applicable to a lot more than just the pace. Free of my iPhone, camera (Blake took way more pictures with his fancy Pentax) and unrelenting schedule dictated by life with children, I slowed down in a way I hadn’t for years. I let my mind wander as my measured steps transported me up Kili. At the time it felt meditative, and it was. In between thoughts about the kids back in Calgary, writing, life and travel, I noticed rocks and flowers and trees and birds, and always the snowy, domed peak of Kilimanjaro, looming closer by the day.

The summit looks so far away from the Shira Plateau on Day 2. How will we ever get there going pole-pole?

Mostly though I was in the moment, agog over the spectacular scenery, and thinking about the people around me: the tireless porters, the guides who had climbed the mountain over 100 times between them, and our fellow trekkers who, like us, had chosen to spend a week of their life climbing to the highest point in Africa. I enjoyed and relished each day on Kilimanjaro, instead of looking ahead only to the night of our summit hike. As our lead guide Good Luck repeatedly coached us during our before-bed briefing about the next day, “Don’t think about the summit. Hakuna matata (no problem).”

Good Luck took this picture for me at sunrise right after we summited. I didn’t dare remove my gloves!

Well, it was always there, waiting, and we knew where the hike was leading (and that it might be a problem for some because of the altitude), but the pole-pole philosophy was huge in terms of helping us enjoy the journey. Below are some other key elements to our success and enjoyment.

1. Poles (the other pole-pole). I used to scoff at European hikers toting poles. But they really are knee-savers on the downhill, and I credit them with getting me down Kili — we descended some 12,000 feet in two days. Plus, I think they helped tone my triceps.

Our group strikes a pole pose.

2. Gaiters. Well, not really (they did keep my legs remarkably dust-free. And warm), but I did go on about them daily: “I really love my gaiters!” I just embraced my inner hiking dork to the max. That includes the sun hat.

Behold! Gaiter-clad hikers. I wore mine every day, religiously.

3. The porters. These guys were amazing. Even though we left camp before them every morning, they soon passed us on the trail carrying heavy loads (up to 60 lbs) that included our gear, sleeping tents, dining tent, food, table, chairs and the chemical toilet. They did not go pole-pole and when we arrived in camp in the afternoon our tents were set up with the duffles waiting inside.

Our porters ascend through the forest on Day 2 carrying heavy loads.

4. The guides. We had one lead guide and three assistant guides between six clients. Evance (a.k.a. Pole-pole) set the pace, while Good Luck, Francis and Godbless brought up the rear. They also observed us constantly, and asked us how we were doing: “Jambo Lisa?” After so many trips up Kili, the guides probably knew by Day 3 if we would make it. Did I mention they even carried our day packs during the summit push?

Good Luck, a.k.a. Mr. 100 Percent, rests on the trail.

5. The group. Blake and I met our fellow hikers on Day 1. You never know how the group dynamic will be — after all, you’ll be eating every meal with these people for eight days! Fortunately, we had a good group: four men from the U.S. who made great hiking company. As a bonus they thought our jokes were actually funny! We were all in it together from Day 1 and supported one another across the Shira Plateau, over the Barranco Wall, and through the cold night as we pole-polied to the summit.

Our group, minus Jeff and Alan (who were taking summit pictures and missed the group photo memo), poses by the summit sign.

Taken all together, we made it to the top. Kilimanjaro? Hakuna matata!

We made it! (Kilimanjaro? Hakuna Matata!)

I write this from Arusha, Tanzania with the exciting news that Blake and I made it to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania!

We made it! Woot!

No words can describe the craziness of hiking five hours uphill in the dark, with a small circle of headlamp illuminating the steep, rocky path, nor the excitement of reaching Stella Point and knowing that the summit awaited just a 45 minute walk farther. When we reached the top (6:15 a.m., Sept. 21st) I was  so happy and elated I almost cried (but I think my tears would have frozen from the wind chill!). It was beautiful! And such a hard slog, for a worthy cause (latest tally: $7,070 raised for Renfrew Educational Services!)

I credit our amazing guides from Climb Kili with helping us get acclimatized and make it to the top. Truly an amazing journey. Asante sana!

Jambo, jambo bwana

Habari gani

Nzuri sana

Wageni, mwakari bishwa

Kilimanjaro, hakuna matata!

Mt. Kilimanjaro? Bring it on!

If I’m not ready to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro by now, I’d say it’s too late. Blake and I leave tomorrow to fly 14,000 kilometres around the world to Tanzania. The morning after we arrive we begin an eight-day trek that will take us to the top of Africa’s tallest mountain.

Striking a pose at Lake Agnes, above Lake Louise. Kili? Bring it on!

We’re climbing Kili to celebrate 15 years of marriage and also to raise money for our son Bennett’s special needs school. So far we’ve raised $6,895 (thanks everyone!), surpassing our goal of $5,895 (5,895 is the height of the Mt. Kilimanjaro in metres).

In the past three months during “training” I’ve taken nearly 1-million steps, walked 700 kilometres and trekked up the equivalent of 3,545 flights of stairs. On my best day I ascended 3,900 feet (1,188 metres), basically the elevation between our final camp on Kili and the summit. I’ve also had sore muscles, an on-again/off-again achy knee (currently ache-free, woot!) and exactly one blister (from a pair of fashion shoes, not my Raichle hikers).

Training for this trip has been highly motivating. I’ve been keen to walk more, climb more and hike more. Blake and I have done some amazing day hikes on our own and with the kids and it’s helped me rediscover the beauty of the Canadian Rockies.

Here’s the highlight reel…

Best View: Lake Louise from the top of the Big Beehive. Sept. 8, 2012. It was actually hot at Lake Louise.

From this height (2,270 metres), Lake Louise is, in a word, stunning. Or as my friend commented, “Bombay Sapphire blue.”

Most Rewarding: the Polar Peak loop, which included a ridge walk and navigating a rocky outcrop with a cable. We even saw a boy moose! Aug., 5, 2012.

The view from up where they blast avalanches all winter = sublime. And it was a beautiful 30C day too — with no wind!

Best for Kids: Tamarack Trail at Island Lake. It has enough elevation gain for adults, with cool distractions for kiddos (a stream, a rockslide and a view). Aug. 6, 2012.

Rockslide!

Most Rewarding: Mt. Fernie. Its 1,188 metres of elevation (322 flights of stairs!) kicked my soft behind. I was sore for four days after, but it jump-started my muscle memory. June 30, 2012.

Our first summit of the summer. Yes, I really like that hiking outfit!

The climb up Kili and views from the top will be completely different than those above. I can hardly wait!

We reached our fundraising goal! Now, let’s go higher!

I am thrilled to let everyone know that Blake and I have reached our goal of raising $5,895 for Renfrew Educational Services! Thanks to everyone who’s donated and to all who have been so supportive of our cause — we couldn’t have done it without you.

Bennett won’t be there, but I hope he and his sister will be proud. I know they’ll be excited to see our pictures.

There’s still a month left until we start our climb … who knows how much more we can raise? Maybe $1 for every foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro ($19,341)?? Dare to dream!

Climbing Kili for a Cause: Update

It’s been a month since we launched our fundraising effort for our son Bennett’s integrated special needs school. To date we have raised $3,775 for Renfrew Educational Services in advance of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in September.

Summit success on a Mt. Fernie training hike.

We have been wowed by all the support and we are on track to meet our goal ($5,895, or $1 for every metre of mountain from sea level to the summit). And, I am going to be on Global TV in Calgary to talk about the climb and the cause this morning (at 8:24 a.m.), so please tune in!

Over the past four weeks I have clocked 152 miles (350,000 steps) on my Fitbit, hiked to the top of Mt. Fernie in Fernie, B.C., dragged the children on a mud hike and spent more money than I thought was possible on outdoor gear at Mountain Equipment Co-op. I have yet to tackle the steps at Scotchman’s Hill but they are next on my hit list (Fitbit will be thrilled).

We are so keen to train for Kili, we dragged the children on a “mud hike.”

This training odyssey has not only helped me feel more prepared to tackle Kili in seven weeks, it’s led me to discover some great hikes for kids in or near Calgary — look for write-ups in future posts.

Tomorrow I fly to San Antonio, Texas with Bennett for the annual Chromosome 18 Registry & Research Society conference. I’m looking forward to finding out more about our son’s genetic condition (18q-), learning about the latest research and meeting other families with kids like Bennett. Everyone will have a different tale and I’m looking forward to hearing their stories, and sharing our journey with B.

Climbing Kili for a cause

By now many of you know Blake and I are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro for our 15th anniversary and also in support of Bennett’s special needs preschool, Renfrew Educational Services. Read my blog page all about The Climb and The Cause.

We hiked the Inca Trail in 1999. Success! We’ll gain another mile in elevation getting to the top of Kili.

As you probably also know, Kili is a tough climb. It’s not technical so much as really, really high, so it’s the altitude that poses the biggest risk of one (or both) of us not making it to the top.

We’ve both hiked a lot in the Canadian Rockies, but not as much at high altitude. To prepare for the climb we are doing lots of day hikes and trying to walk at least 10,000 steps a day, including tons of stairs. From what I’ve heard about Kili though, no matter how much you prepare, a lot of the climb is mental — believing you can do it and pushing through the hard bits.

If you’ve done the climb or other high altitude treks and have any tips we’d love to hear them. We’d also love your support! We are trying to raise $5,895 to go toward our son’s school — I think knowing we’d reached our fundraising goal would help inspire us on the summit push. Onward and upward!