Monday, March 02, 2015

Back From Kilimanjaro!

After a two-week absence, I returned home from Africa this past weekend, and have been trying desperately to shake both a nasty cough and persistent jet lag. That said, the trip was an excellent one,  that culminated with a successful summit of the Kilimanjaro a week ago. You'll be hearing a lot more about this trip in the days ahead, but for now just know that it was an amazing experience in large part because of my friends at Tusker Trail, the biggest operator on Kili that clearly demonstrated why they are the best option for climbing the mountain.

It should be noted that this was my second go around on Kilimanjaro, and while I have nothing bad to say about the previous company I climbed with, Tusker was head and shoulders above the competition. There were a number of small touches that set Tusker apart from the crowd, including twice-daily medical checks to ensure that the team was in top form, and some of the best food you could ever ask for while on a high-altitude trek. It's no secret that loss of appetite is one of the major side effects of hiking in the mountains, but thanks to consistently delicious, and surprisingly complex, meals, it was definitely a lot easier to take in the calories you need to push your way up to the summit.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of Tusker's first ever Climb for Valor, which was used as a fundraising effort for the Duskin & Stephens Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to creating scholarships for the children of fallen U.S. servicemen that have served in the special forces. On the climb I joined two active-duty soldiers who suffered wounds while serving their country, as well as three widows who lost their husbands in the line of duty as well. Hearing their individual stories only magnified my perception of these very brave men and women, realizing that each of them has sacrificed a great deal for their country.

The climb itself was a magnificent one. We began along the Lemosho Route, but veered along the seldom visited Northern Circuit, giving us some spectacular views of Kilimanjaro, while acclimatizing for attitude. We also spent a night camping in the volcano's crater at 18,500 feet (5638 meters), another spot that isn't visited all too often. Before proceeding down, we also made a quick visit to the Kili Ash Pits, a place that very few climbers ever see at all.

The climb wasn't without incident. We had two members become sick due to attitude and had to be helicoptered off the mountain. I'll fill in more details on that story as well, but suffice as to say don't believe everything you read about Kili being an "easy" mountain to climb. Any time you go up to high altitude you run the risk of acquiring altitude sickness, and in this case it was dangerous enough that we had to evacuated these two individuals as quickly as possible. Thankfully, every member of the team was given evacuation insurance from Ripcord Travel Protection, which ended up coming in very handy.

In the days ahead, I'll be sharing more stories from the climb, offering tips for those considering a visit to Kilimanjaro themselves, while giving personal insights from my two expeditions to the mountain. Kill was also a testing ground for plenty of great gear as well, so I'll also have some new products to review too. For now though, I'll be settling back into the routine and getting back to regular updates from the world of adventure. Hopefully every one of you had a few adventures of their own while I was away.


Chris S. said...

I've only climbed Meru and not Kili, but even there I was feeling a little lightheaded as we approached 15,000' on summit day. I highly recommend Meru as an acclimatization climb (my friend and I were the only ones in our group not continuing to Kili).

Ann Still said...

Climbed Kilimanjaro with my husband and 16 year old son in 2013. Had the best time of our lives. No sickness. Took the Diamox religiously. It worked. Love Tusker.