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This is it… I think.

4.24.2012 | 0 Comments

Well, after some soul-searching and pondering I have decided that this blog will be taken off-line in short order. I love that it’s served as a record that people keep coming back to, but I think it’s time for me to move on and let this blog drift off into the internet sunset.

I’m so grateful for your support and comments/messages, and would love to see you come along with me as I tackle other new, weird things. Why, just click HERE and you’ll be well on your way!

And please, feel free to make a donation in support of Delta Hospice. They’re an amazing organization, and I’m proud to be associated with them in even the smallest of ways.

Thank you so very much

Robyn

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Funny thing, this ol’ Internet of ours

4.13.2012 | 3 Comments

So, once I returned home from my Kilimanjaro adventure, I took some time to re-acclimatize and get used to my North American ‘everything in excess’ surroundings again. I took some much needed “me” time, and then set about on another adventure of sorts: No More Mountains.

It was my shiny new blog about… well, this blog, I guess. (What a strange thing to do). All I knew is that I didn’t want to stop blogging, but I just didn’t feel that it was proper to continue with Climb for Hospice given that I had just, you know, Climbed for Hospice. So I went to work on creating a blog about a book about this blog.

It didn’t work. I did the best I could, then my brain said, “pffft, you can’t write!” and I listened. So I stopped writing. No More Mountains has been sitting quietly, patiently, hopefully for my return. Now I had TWO blogs that were sitting sentient. So, I did the only thing one can do in this situation… I started a new blog about the old blog and the old-new blog.

No, I totally didn’t do that.

In fact, I’ll be honest here, I tried to get rid of Climb For Hospice. I simply wasn’t using it anymore. But you know what? After a quick sniff around the stats, I saw that I have about 1000 hits A MONTH on this thing still! Crazy! Who knew?!

So now, as I ponder the next step, I wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU to all of you for stopping by and checking in. I love that there is a little time capsule of my adventure that people can access whenever they wish. Welcome, welcome, welcome!

We’ll chat soon…

Robyn

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Stepping Off…

10.01.2010 | 0 Comments

I’ve never been good at goodbye…

“When you come to the edge of all the light you have, and must take a step into the darkness of the unknown, believe that one of two things will happen to you: either there will be something solid for you to stand on, or, you will be taught how to fly”

The Darkness of The Unknown

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Aug 30, 2010 – Day Eight

9.28.2010 | 5 Comments

The laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaast day…

Mweka Camp to Marangu Hotel

Ali and I spent the night dreaming of home, showers and nachos. She cruelly called ‘shotgun’ on the shower back at the hotel, and needless to say, I wasn’t having any of that. I explained that we should resolve this in a mature fashion, given that we’ve just had a life-changing experience on this mountain. She agreed, and so we prepped for an all-out game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. However, just as the digital carnage was about to begin, in dawned on us that there was a bathtub AND a shower in the washroom back at the hotel. We both agreed that given the fact that we had no dignity, privacy or self-respect left, we would both be able to clean up at the same time. We devised a rock solid plan that would minimize exposure to one another, and then drifted happily to sleep to dream of soap, nail clippers, shampoo, towels, hot water, and no freaking tea!

And so, I present to you the FINAL team photo, and the one where I undoubtedly look the happiest I’ve been in days…

Just look at that fresh-faced gal! All ready to go and run down a mountain, onto a truck, and into a bath. I almost look relaxed!

It took us about three hours of knee-shattering, toe-destroying, hip-ratcheting trudging down from Mweka Camp to the final gate where the truck and porters were waiting. We waded through calf-high mud, endured Reggie’s foliage education lessons (ever tried to understand a Chagga man speaking Latin botanical phrases in English?), and lo and behold – we had our final reward:

We were thrilled to finally see The Beast That Brought us Here, as we now knew it as The Beast That Gets us Gone! We were ready to climb into the truck and go, but there were things to do yet – we had to get our certificates and sign out of the park. It was bittersweet, I can tell you that. Eight days ends here, with the signing of my name one final time. It would have been rather anticlimactic had we not been so bloody exhausted.

And so, finally, we piled into the truck and settled in for our hour-long drive back to the hotel. We were so thrilled at the prospect! We sat in relative silence as we reflected on the journey of the past week, and prepared for our reintroduction into society. We rumbled off, jerking and swaying on the rough, red road, looking left and right at the passing fields and brightly-dressed villagers. We were ready to go back now.

However…

Five minutes after we started the drive home, we rolled to a halt in a small village and were told to exit the truck. What the …?!  WHY?!  Don’t you know how disgustingly dirty and smelly we are!? I mean, I’m sure you DO, but really, we’d like to go back to Marangu now. What could you POSSIBLY be stopping us for!? How cruel is this!? You bast… oh.

Ummm… ok… I feel like an ass now…

They made us lunch. The Marangu Hotel had arranged for lunch to be delivered to us on a humble, peaceful porch in a small, beautiful village. The lunch was really, REALLY good and we were so grateful and honoured. But my god we were ready to go home. The following photo fully sums up how Ali and I felt about this lunch:

We felt like such ungrateful jerks, but after eight days of camping and hiking, we just really wanted to get a move on. I do believe the sentence “eat quickly” was uttered more than once.

After lunch we threw ourselves back in the truck and rumbled off to cleanliness.

We arrived at the hotel, unfurled ourselves from the back seat, and limped quietly to our rooms. After struggling with the skeleton key, we finally opened the door, dropped our red-mudded boots, peeled off our sweaty packs, and wandered toward the bathroom. I rejoiced:

I spent an hour in the bath, scrubbing at my skin with two different bars of soap. I only got out of the bath because we had to meet up with our team of 17 one last time, but I promised myself that I would hop back into the tub as soon as we wrapped that up.

We found our team waiting for us at a long table, under a flowered archway. We gave them beer.

We gave them another beer.

They gave us certificates, sang us a couple of songs, we took some photos, and then… they were gone. 8 days with these 17 men, and after 1 hour, 2 beers and 3 photos… it ended.

From this:

To this:

8 months

263 blog posts

$12, 080 raised for Delta Hospice

2 life-long friends

8 days

19, 340 ft

1 summit.

And so, with clean hands, a clear heart, and honest pride, I said goodbye to Mt. Kilimanjaro and to Tanzania, Africa. To answer your question: no. I don’t think I’ll ever climb Mt. Kilimanjaro again. I’ll be back, I know, but I think Kili and I have had our time together. I can say goodbye to her…

…who I can’t say goodbye to is YOU.

What now? Where do I go from here? Without having to write to you each day, I’m feeling a little lost. That’s a big reason why it took me so long to write these final posts – because what happens when I’m done? For almost an entire year this blog and you readers have been the one consistent thing I had. And so saying goodbye is hard for me today… I can’t even see the screen through my tears, and that’s the honest truth.

I don’t know how to end this.

I need more time.

Maybe just one more day, ok?

Next time: Goodbye?

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Aug 29, 2010 – Day Seven

9.26.2010 | 0 Comments

Ladies and gentlemen…

The Final Kili Video Diary.

Next Time: Day Eight – Best. Bath. EVAR.

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Aug 29, 2010 – Day Seven

9.24.2010 | 0 Comments

Stella Point to Mweka Camp via Barafu

Let’s get off of this rock, shall we? I’ve left you hanging out up here long enough…

The  hike down takes about 1.5 hours, so it’s a heck of a lot faster than the hike up. However, it took me a little over three hours to get to the bottom because I kept stopping to try and convince my assistant guide to let me lay down and have a nap. Let me just remind you, I was not in the grandest of all head spaces at this point. No amount of begging, cojoling or bribing would get my guide to let me nap on the slope. What a jerk, eh? I mean, all I needed was 30minutes! I would meet him at the bottom! Sheesh… what a killjoy that guy was.

So…  I just want to say thank you to my assistant guide for NOT letting me nap on the mountain. That was a good call. You know, since I was looking to survive and all.

It was a long way down, and I was certainly happy to see the tent (do NOT repeat that to anyone, understand!?) at Barafu Camp again. I needed sleep. I crawled into my tent, and promptly took my daily dose of pills about seven hours too early. My brain was a mess. I was all over the place! I didn’t know what time it was, where I was, or how I was going to get moving again if/when my guide made me stand up.

We were allowed to sleep for an hour, and it was awesome. But we needed to get moving. We weren’t supposed to stay at Barafu Camp very long, so we had to get going ASAP. We were supposed to walk for about 4 hours down the mountain to Mweka Camp where we would stay the night. This is a loooooooooooooong day, dude.

I still hadn’t fully recovered from the climb, so the descent was hella slow. Painfully slow!  But my body simply would not move. I would take a handful of steps, then have to stop and lean on my walking stick. We had a love-hate relationship, that stick and I. It took us way too long to get to Mweka, but we eventually reached the camp (having painfully passed by a higher camp that we weren’t staying at. Dammit…) just in time for a quick dinner and, well…

Next Time: The Final Video Diary., and back to Marangu…

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Aug 29, 2010 – Day Seven

9.21.2010 | 2 Comments

Barafu to Summit – Part Two…

…Suddenly, when I turn back to say something to Ali (perhaps something like, “whose f*cking idea was this?!“), I see the thinnest, faintest shadow of pink along the black horizon. A shift in gray, as the sun finally begins to rise. Stunned, all I can do is point toward it, as though I am seeing an oncoming tidal wave. Ali turns and sees the slowly brightening sky – we’re almost there! We must be! I smile and say to Ali, “we’re going to summit!”, and she says, “I know!”  It was the best I had felt in days.

Renewed, I move on. Up still, toward the summit, I know with hours yet to go. But I can make it. I can do this!

Five steps later, I stop. I can’t do this.

But I have to. I absolutely have to. I can’t go back now! I can’t stop, I can’t quit! By my god, it’s still so far away…

The higher we go, the harder it gets yes, but something isn’t right. It shouldn’t be this difficult. I’m in good shape! I have decent cardio – what the hell is going on?! I’m totally exhausted, and I can’t take another step. Not one more. I can’t do it. I cannot do it. I’m finished. I look up and see Stella Point about 120 feet ahead, but I can’t make it. I can’t! It’s too far. I make a decision. Turning to Ali I say, “I’m done, Ali. I can’t finish this climb. I’m just so tired! You go – summit! I’ll see you back at camp…”

Ali simply says, “no.”

Nearly in tears I explain to her that I’m too tired, that my body is screaming for me to stop. My guide tells me to “have courage”, Ali and Christopher tell me that I can do this. I feel them surround me… I get scared. Something has shifted in my head, and I know that I’m in trouble. Something isn’t right at all…

I have become an 85 year old woman. It’s not my body that makes me feel this, it’s my brain. I’m starting to hallucinate (although I don’t it, of course), and I’m scared. I see myself hunched over, holding myself up on a bright, shining red walker. Ali and Christopher are trying to steal my walker! Then, there are policemen there, trying to get me to give a statement – I’m so scared! Am I going to be arrested?! I haven’t done anything wrong! I was just trying to get to the grocery store, and these two people have accosted me! I turn to Ali, “who are all these people?!” I ask in a panic. I just want them to leave me alone! I keep telling them to go to the summit. I know they want to, so maybe I can convince them to go, so that I can make my getaway as soon as their backs are turned. “Go to the summit! I’ll see you later!”

My guide, Reggie, grabs my left arm, and begins to take my weight on him. I have this flash of memory – before I left I had received emails and messages from people telling me that they had set their alarms to go off at the approximate time that I summit a mountain half a world away. I know I need to do this now, I know I can do this. I’m not alone at all. I shake loose from Reggie, turn to Ali at my right side and say, “please don’t let him drag me up this mountain. I’d never forgive myself”

Ali turns to Reggie and firmly says, “I’ll take her”. She grabs my right arm in hers and says, “we can do this. This mountain can be climbed three steps at a  time. I’ll count our steps, ok? One… two.. three…

One… two… three…

Stella Point gets closer.

One… two… three…

one… two… three…

And then, suddenly, there’s only one more step to make – the step where we crest the crater wall and summit the mountain. And, without conscious thought, Ali and I step up on Stella Point with the same foot, summiting at the exact same time.

We’re so tired.

More exhausted than we’ve ever been in our entire lives.

But we’re here… and it’s incredible!

I’ve made it!

However, Ali isn’t done yet!   YOU GO, GIRL!!!

I wasn’t permitted to continue, and was sent back down to Barafu with one of the assistant guides, but Ali and Christopher went on, and well… here’s the best thousand words I’ve never spoken:

Next Time: Part Three – Downdowndowndowndowndown…

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Aug 29th, 2010 – Day Seven

9.20.2010 | 1 Comment

Barafu to Summit – Part One…

This is the day that I’ve been dreaming of and dreading. The day when I work as hard as I can to get to the Highest Point in Africa. I know that it will be hard, but there’s such a reward at the end. I just hope I know what I’m doing.

Long past the time when I had actually enjoyed a morning cup of tea, Reggie came and offered me yet another. But this time it was 11:30 at night, and I had been dreading this particular cup of tea for about four days. I knew it was the last thing that my body would consider sustenance for about 12 hours.

I was also given half a dozen cookies, which I couldn’t eat due to my nervous stomach, that I shoved in the side pocket of my daypack for later. Aside from 4 litres of water, those cookies were the only things I would carry on my back, given that I was wearing every piece of clothing I had. In fact, I had slept in everything except my boots, so I was ready to go shortly after I was woken up.

Before we left for the Londrossi Gate seven days ago, we sat down for a pre-climb briefing with one of the owners of the Marangu Hotel. When it came to giving us the run-down on the final ascent, he explained that his rule is “one, two, three, four, five”: one pair of boots, two pairs of socks, three layers on the legs, four layers on the core, and finally toque, sunglasses, headlamp, balaclava, and of course, sunscreen. When it came to clothing, I was certainly ready. I was certainly confident that I was ready, anyway.  I think.

My stomach was already moving with nerves, but I was heavy-footed and scared. Although I was excited, I also knew that my performance over the last six days was less than stellar, and that this final assault was going to be so very, very difficult. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to be at home, in my bed, with a good book and no tea.

I looked up into the dark of midnight and saw the stars. Millions upon millions of stars, looking down on me and promising to be something that I could focus on for the next 5-6 hours. I looked toward the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro,  and saw a line of slowly moving light, the headlamps of 100 climbers, showing the way to the top. I hated them.

We’re ready to go.

Packed tight in layers and “anxietment”, we click on our headlamps, grab our hiking poles, and we start climbing. Slowly, inching, painfully we ascend. 45 seconds into the climb, I get a hard dose of reality as I realize that I am completely unprepared, and totally scared. What the hell am I doing here!?


The trick to the final ascent is to find a rhythm, and to keep your steps as smooth as possible so as to avoid wasting energy. I would gently sway my body back and forth as I climbed, my steps keeping time with my breathing. This would work for a short time, and then we would come across a flat section of rock that we had to navigate, and that totally threw my rhythm off. I’d have to start again. Again, and again, and again. I became frustrated early on, and that didn’t bode well for the upcoming hours.

I had been reading all about the ‘Scree Slope’ that had to be climbed on the ascent day, and I dreaded it. We were currently walking on loose gravel and volcanic ash, and that was hard enough! But I knew I had to save energy for the scree slope, so that I could tackle it with full strength.

Pro tip: always, ALWAYS double-check your sources and your definitions. The loose gravel and volcanic ash that we were on WAS the scree slope, but I wouldn’t figure that out until I reached the crater wall. My definition of scree was NOT the same as the definition of scree that I had been researching for eight months.

This was terrible. The climb was killing me! I couldn’t believe how difficult it was, and how tired I already had become. My body began to shut down. I was counting my steps and realizing that I could take fewer and fewer before I had to take a break. I was holding my team up. I was humiliated. I wanted to sit down and cry, and let them go on ahead while I beat myself up with shame and disappointment. This was not altitude sickness, it was attitude sickness. I carried on, despite the fact that I was so terribly embarrassed and ashamed with myself. I had been told that this is a psychological climb more than a physical one, and even though my body was drained slowly with each step, I knew that it may very well be my thoughts that kept me from succeeding. Something had to change, and it had to change fast.

I knew that we were scheduled to arrive at Stella Point at sunrise, and so scanning the night sky for the merest hint of light was simultaneously driving me forward, and driving me insane. “If I could just see light, I’d know that I was getting close!” I would stop, turn to look behind me, and be simply sick when it remained dark. I began to hate the stars.

Slowly, pathetically, I climbed. Up, up, up… step after step after step, hopes dashed by the seemingly endless ‘false summits’ we kept seeing. What we thought was a ridge was merely a rise that showed us miles of trail beyond it. It was truly devastating at times. But we kept on. We had to. The summit was up there somewhere.

Wasn’t it?

Next Time: I see the Light!

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Aug 28, 2010 – Day Six

9.18.2010 | 0 Comments

Karanga Hut to Barafu Camp

And then there were three…

Last night Steve and Amanda made the decision to stop their climb and head back down to Marangu. For 5 days we have been hiking, and its been pretty fun… but we all knew that this day was coming: Day Six, where we hike 6 hours to Barafu Camp, climb into our tents to sleep, then are woken up at 11:30pm to prepare for our start-at-midnight summit attempt. This day does NOT seem fun. So, Steve and Amanda said to themselves, ‘we’ve been enjoying this trip up until now, so why would we want to put ourselves through two days of NOT having fun?‘… and so they wisely chose to go the opposite direction that we were going today. Their decision to head DOWN the mountain was something that I played over and over in my head for the next two days that I was continuing UP the mountain. Good call, you two, good call.

And so, Christopher, Ali and I set off to Barafu Camp. Visually, this was the weirdest freakin’ day, man. We hiked through the mists of endless plains of loose, gray shale. And it was eerily quiet. All that could be heard over your own breathing was the ‘tink-tink-clack’ of the moving shale as we stepped on it, cracking it beneath our weary feet. It very much felt like we were the only people on  Earth Mars.  I’d certainly never seen an environment like that… It was, well, kind of spooky actually.

It was all very, very quiet.

After about 3 hours, we reached our final high camp: Barafu…

Two Tired Girls at Barafu Camp

Not exactly the most hospitable place

But certainly one of great and awing beauty when the clouds permitted us a brief look

After we arrived, we had some lunch (by FAR the best lunch of the trip! HUGE grilled cheese sandwiches, hot soup, and CAAAAAAKE!!), then went to our tents to nap until it was time to be woken up for dinner. (If we weren’t feeling so horrendously inhuman, we may very well have felt like cats).

The Last Supper:

And so, off to bed one last time. From this point on, no matter what happens in my life, these were the final hours before I summitted Mt. Kilimanjaro. Nothing would ever take that away from me, and life would never be the same.

Next time: Day Seven – To the Summit

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Aug 27, 2010 – Day Five

9.16.2010 | 0 Comments

Barranco Camp – Karanga Hut (at 13, 235 ft)

See this?

This is the Barranco Wall.  We have to go around it, remember?

Here it is again, but from a different view:

And one more time:

Actually, have another look.  A closer look.

See those little white dots on the photo? Those tiny little things that kind of look like high up plant-life? Yah, that would be the line of porters. They mark the trail where we have to go.

Seriously.

Each morning I have a look out yonder beyond the “comfort” of my tent to see if I can spot the line of porters already on their way to the next camp, so that I can see where we’ll be going. This morning was no different. I woke up this morning and looked at the Barranco Wall through the clouds. I looked to the right of the Barranco Wall, as I had assumed that’s where we would be going. The clouds parted briefly, I had a look. I scanned, saw no porters.

Huh. Strange.

Then, just as I was turning to walk to the mess tent for breakfast I saw it – a nearly imperceptible line of men, hulking their way up a nearly sheer wall. “No way“, I thought to myself, “that can’t be right“. I called to Ali, who was wrestling with her boots in the tent. “Dude, you’d better get out here!”

Ali came out of the tent and I pointed to the Barranco Wall… the clouds had once again obscured the view. She couldn’t see anything. I tried to explain to her what I saw, and, as would be expected, she thought that I was a total freaking liar who was just trying to ruin her day. I swore up and down that I saw our route go UP the Barranco Wall, not around it.

Then, the clouds parted again.

A stunned, scared quiet fell over us both, broken 15 seconds later by Ali’s succinct summation of the view: “Holy. Shit.”

Alright team, up and over!

And no bitching, please – these guys gotta’ climb this wall like this:

Amazing. I have NO IDEA how they do what they do. Kili porters are seriously underrated, overworked, and above par. Following their lead was a little tough until you get it into your head that they are simply not like other human beings. On about Day Two you realize that the porters are in a class all their own, and trying to compare yourself to them is kind of life comparing apples to, oh I don’t know, let’s say  neuroanatomical textbook illustrations.

The thing with climbing the Barranco Wall is this: it was so much freakin’ FUN! Seriously! We’re all scrambling and laughing, trying not to fall off a big cliff and die a horrible, painful death… seriously, it was the best time! Well, maybe for those of us who aren’t a big fan of heights it was a tad less entertaining, but all in all we had a great time. And our reward at the top? Unimaginable…

So, after taking a break to gawk at the World’s Most Beautiful Place (so far…), we pressed on to Karanga Hut. We hiked for four straight hours, going up, down, around, up, up, up, up, and a little bit of up, and we gained… 158 FT!? That’s it?! Are you freaking kidding me!?  Stupid mountain.

The end of the hike was hard for me. Really hard. I was NOT doing well, and I was getting frustrated at how my body was reacting. At the beginning of the day Reggie had approached me and told me that if I’m not doing well when we get to Karanga Hut, then he’d make me stop there. Needless to say, that was adding some stress, and just added to my anger regarding my physical condition. Life sucked for me at the end of the day, that’s for sure.

However, Karanga Hut is a beautiful camp, but our tents are becoming more and more tricky to sleep in, as we’re slanting away down a mountain, and sliding out of our sleeping bags mid-dream. The funny thing is that toilet situation is… changing. The “bathrooms” are becoming, ummm… doorless… and the holes in the “bathroom” floor are becoming strangely smaller. In fact, we can confirm that the hole in the floor of the “bathroom” at Karanga Hut was about the size of an iPhone.  And that’s all I’ll say about that.

But hey, if you gotta’ pee in a doorless pseudo-bathroom, you really can’t beat this view, eh?

And so, at the end of the day. Ali and I got together and had a chat about how it went. Now, it may be tricky, but see if you can tell if the altitude is affecting us at all…

At Karanga Hut

Next time: And Then there Were Three… Karanga Hut to Barafu Camp

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