Shut up, Matt!

5.25.2010 | 3 Comments

My friend Matt takes great pleasure in trying to freak me out. Case in point:

I recently posted a wee blog about swimming and math (now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d say), wherein I attempt to calculate how long I would need to swim in order to replicate the physical exertion I will be expending as I climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Matt responds thus:

Swimming horizontally equals climbing vertically? That is most definitely some odd reasoning, Byn 🙂 More like: 19,340 ft divided by an average building storey at 12ft equals climbing 1612 sets of stairs.
Or going up the Empire State Building’s stairs about 15 times.


His recent response is reminiscent to my first Got Math post regarding the fact that the height of Kilimanjaro is approximately 6kms, to which Matt responded:
Six kilometres straight up?! It’s like doing The Chief 8½ times. Without a break!


I’m trying to fake myself out of how difficult this is going to be, but that pesky bugger keeps trying to bring me back to reality with all his fancy-schmancy math mumbo-jumbo! I mean really, it’s like he’s trying to prepare me or something. Trying to make sure that I know what I’m getting myself into. Trying to show me that it’ll be really, really difficult when all I want to do is trick myself into believing that this is going to be a relative stroll in a warm country. He’s trying to be all caring and friend-like!  What a total jerk.

Got Math?

5.23.2010 | 1 Comment

Ok, let’s see here…

*grabs calculator*

If the length of the ogling swimming pool is 25 metres, and Kili is 19, 340 feet…

*tappity tap tap*

… that means that Kili is 5895 metres, and so that’s going to be…

*tappity tap tap tap*

236 lengths of the pool… which divided by 2 is…

*tap tap*

188 LAPS of the pool.


SO! If it takes me about 60 seconds to do one lap of the pool, then all I need to do to simulate the amount of energy it will take to climb Kili is…

*tappity tap tap tap tap*

…swim for two solid hours.

Not a problem.

Now, where is my flowered swim cap and matching oxygen tank?



4.06.2010 | 0 Comments

You want to know what really scares me about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro? Sharing a tent.

“Sleeping is a problem for most high-altitude climbers due to a phenomenon known as Cheyne-Stokes breathing. While dozing, the climber breathes normally for a minute and then stops completely for thirty seconds. Suddenly, breathing resumes at an accelerated rate. One minute you sound out of breath, the next, dead. It is often more disconcerting for the tent mate than the sleeper.”



You’re Kidding, Right?

3.26.2010 | 0 Comments

You know sometimes, when you ask a question, and as it’s still hanging in the air your brain says to you, “perhaps you do not WANT the answer to this question…”, well…
Too late!
Me: Hey there Friend Who Climbed Kili Last Year!
FWCKLY: Well, hello Robyn!
Me: I have a question for you, FWCKLY
FWCKLY: Ask away!
Me: I’m buying some gear this weekend, and I was wondering what you brought when you climbed Kili last year, so I can use that as a guide!
FWCKLY: I’ll email you my packing list!
Me: Wonderful! How entirely generous and thoughtful of you, FWCKLY
… Time passes…
Me: Oh, looky here! It is that email from FWCKLY that I have been waiting for regarding what to pack for my own Kilimanjaro climb this August
*opens attachment*
sturdy hiking boots, liner sock plus heavier sock
25 to 30 liter daypack with hipbelt (waterproofed with a garbage bag)
sunglasses/ sunscreen / lip balm / sun hat
a camelback is great
hiking poles, warm hat, warm layer such as a fleece jacket
light gloves and overmitts
quick dry hiking pants, synthetic hiking shirt
Gore-Tex pants and jacket
toilet paper + bag to carry it out
personal medications, moleskin for blisters
camera (optional)
Me: Well that all seems to be in order! Golly, looks like I’m off to a good start! I’ve got the boots, the socks, the pack… yep got all that stuff, got my Camelback, mitts, jacket, pants, shirt – yep, yep, yep! Toilet paper, and … a … bag to… carry it…out…
Me: Oh, FWCKLY, it seems as though there is a small typo on your packing list. Funny thing, it seems to say that not only do I need to bring toilet paper, but that, hahaha, I need to also carry out the *ahem* used toilet paper as well. Now isn’t that a funny typo? Hahaha.
FWCKLY: Um, that’s not a typo. That’s a reality.
Me: …
*dials phone*
Hi there. Yeah, this is Robyn Thomson. I’d like to cancel my flight to Tanzania, please.

In The Shadow of Motivation

3.26.2010 | 0 Comments

Last night I was watching TV at my mom’s, when I saw that the Knowledge Network was going to be showing a documentary called In The Shadow of The Chief. It’s a film about the first ascent of the grand wall of the Stawamus Chief in Squamish, BC. A friend of mine from long ago is in the film, and as I had yet to actually see it, I decided to give it a glance.

Talk about motivating!

In May of 1961, two young men (Jim Baldwin and Ed Cooper) looked up at the nearly 2300 ft of towering rock face of the “unclimbable” Chief and said to themselves, “let’s do it!”. While everyone else said they were crazy to put their lives at risk, they knew that they were doing something monumental and historic.

Their equpiment was less than ideal; having shoes that were full of holes and devoid of grip, an insufficient supply of ropes and bolts, and having no map to guide them nor any route to follow. To make matters worse, while they were on The Wall one day, some heartless knob decided to root through Ed and Jim’s tent at base camp, and stole their supplies and money ($8.00).

However… Ed and Jim had the support of the town, (that still thought the two boys were lunatics), and without that support, the climb could never have been done. They were supplied with new shoes, ropes, bolts, custom-made pitons, and food. After two weeks, their climb had become a massive media spectacle, bringing their story to others who offered assistance in any way.

It took them about a month to finally summit (a climb that can be done in less than one day now), battling intense heat on their backs, crippling cold granite under their finger tips, swarms of grateful mosquitos, and fearless scavenging rats. At one point during their final push to the top, they ran out of water and had to resort to sucking on moss for hydration (funny note: the media at the time reported that Jim and Ed were “sucking on moths” for hydration). But they did it. They did it!

As I look at my own journey compared to Ed and Jim’s, I marvel at their determination and cringe at my own silly fears. I have the best equipment, the greatest guides and porters, and am essentially going on a very long walk up a well-traveled mountain. I’ll be inoculated, sun-screened, hydrated, and camping in luxury. And, like Ed and Jim, I have my good friend with me, and the support of my community. I find it all entirely thought-provoking. And so, as I contemplate, ruminate and think, think, think, I guess I can really only come up with one thing to say about all this…

“Let’s do it!”.


WRF!? (Getting to knooooooow me…)

3.02.2010 | 0 Comments

Weird Robyn Facts

I was born “in the caul”. According to myth, this is a sign of good luck, and apparently I am destined for greatness. I am also immune to drowning, have a fairy accompanying me wherever I go, have the power to read palms, and can see into the future. It is also a sign that I may become a vampire.

I had my collar bone broken when I was a kid after SOMEONE tossed me under a spinning merry-go-round. Of course, I had just smacked that someone in the face with a tree branch, so I guess I got what I deserved. Sorry Steven.

I foster Border Collies for the That’ll Do Border Collie Rescue. Errr… well, I did. I keep adopting my foster dogs, so I kind of ran out of room. (But if YOU want to foster Border Collies, click HERE for more info) .

I cannot even THINK about the movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron without tearing up. A “friend” of mine used to sneakily play the trailer just to see me cry. I CAN’T HELP IT! That poor horse… all tied up… and… and… *sniff*… oh god. I am really, really hoping that when I go on a safari in Tanzania that I don’t witness a lion mauling a zebra or something.

You know that sound when you remove the lid from a piece of unglazed pottery? Yah, I hate that sound. A lot. You know what kind of sounds like that? Walking on scree. Thaaaaat’s right. I get to climb an Unglazed Pottery sounding scree slope on Kili.



WKF?! (2)

2.24.2010 | 0 Comments


Weird Kili Facts

-The ice cap at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro is about 200 feet thick!

-Kili is also known as Ngaje Nga, meaning “House of God”

-In 1952 the movie The Snows of Kilimanjaro was made – based on the Ernest Hemingway short story of the same name. However, the only thing Hemingway liked about the movie was “Ava Gardner, (and) the Hyena”.

-Kilimanjaro supports five major eco-zones: rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert and glaciers.

-The bronze plaque at the summit of Kili reads: We, the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle and put it on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, which would shine beyond our borders, giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate, and dignity where before there was only humiliation.


5 Great Things about Ladner:

2.05.2010 | 0 Comments

1) The ever-changing window displays at Bryan’s Bookstore

2) People you pass on the street happily greet you with a smile and a ‘good morning!’, even at 6am

3) The number of businesses that put dog-water bowls out front of their stores

4) Hearing the coyotes howl and the owls hoot in Harbour Park late at night, while I am standing on the other side of the river

5) The fact that my dog can happily follow behind a trotting miniature pony in the Trenant Park parking lot at 9:30 on a Thursday night.


LBA and the VMs

1.28.2010 | 0 Comments

This morning I went to the Ladner Legion.

Not exactly a place I’d normally find myself at 8am on a weekday (or any day, actually) but there I was. I was there to speak to the members of the Ladner Business Association (LBA)about my Kili climb, in the hopes that I could count on them to help raise awareness and/or funds to help me reach my goal of $10,000 for Delta Hospice.

They seemed like a nice group of people with good humour and an obvious camaraderie. I felt pretty comfortable there, and was looking forward to getting up and saying my bit. Thankfully I saw a familiar face when I walked in, as Michael from Open Space Yoga (my generous sponsor!) was there and invited me to sit at his table. Just before I was about to go up and speak, Michael asked if I was nervous. Actually, I wasn’t at all. I told Michael that since I’ve done the Vagina Monologues, I can pretty much do anything.

Ok, so maybe some of you don’t know that about me: for five years I acted in and/or co-directed The Vagina Monologues for charity. Each February/March Eve Ensler (the VM Author) allows the play to be performed without the users having to pay the copyright fee (it’s referred to as V-Day). However, the caveat is that all money raised through the production must go to local organizations helping to stop violence against women.

A worthy cause! So, given my penchant for quirky fundraising ideas, I thought it would be an interesting form of annual charity work. And so, since 2003, I have helped raise approximately $75,000 for local women’s charities in the Vancouver and Tri-Cities areas. I am extremely proud of that, and I love the fact that I was able to assist in raising that amount, while having fun at the same time!

So, the bar for my Kilimanjaro climb has been set high in my mind. My goal to raise $10,000 for Hospice will be acheived, that much I know. But hopefully with the help of the LBA, I can exceed that goal, and in the process invite an entire community to join me in having fun while doing so.

And I won’t even make any of you say the word “vagina”.


Always Look On The Bright Side Of Death…

1.27.2010 | 0 Comments

This morning I am going to attend the Memorial Service of a lovely man who I sat Vigil for recently. This particular gentleman (I’ll call him Gent) was in a palliative state for many days, almost defying all odds. This can be a stressful, painful time for family and friends, as they simply want to see their loved one pass away peacefully.

Gent’s wife was at his bedside day and night, ready to be there for him in his last moments. Days passed. Nights passed. Weeks passed, but still she sat. She talked with him, read to him, listened to music with him; she brushed his hair, held his hand, and kissed his forehead. They had been married for over 40 years.

Gent held on. We began to wonder what it is that could be keeping him from taking that last step through the door. All the children came in to say goodbye, all the grandchildren did, too. Friends came over, the Priest came in and administered last rites, but after many days, Gent was still not ready to leave this world.

It is believed that, to a certain degree, a palliative person can “choose” when to die. I can honestly say that I have seen this on a number of occasions. The thing is, one must remember that it is the dying person’s choice, and no one can rush them. Gent was making that abundantly clear!

His beautiful wife talked with him and told him that he was going to be ok. She told him that she was going to be ok. She told him the children and grandchildren were going to really like having him watch over them forever. She told him that they would never forget about him. She told him that there was nothing to be afraid of. Gent listened. For days.

In my experience, humour at moments like these can be a tricky, tricky thing. One has to be able to gauge the others in the room before cracking a joke that may be considered offensive in such a situation. However, Gent’s wife is a woman of great, dark humour and at one point she stood up, looked at Gent, threw up her hands and said, “This is so like you! You’re so stubborn!” then she ran her fingers through her hair and let out an exasperated growl. And then she laughed.

She and I then sat in Gent’s room and began to wonder aloud why he was taking such a long time to make the decision to die. She had run through every conceivable scenario with him, and now she was finding the humour in the fact that he was hanging on. “He’s in the boarding lounge, but he’s not getting on the plane!” she said. We wondered if the plane was being de-iced.

I had been relatively silent until this time, wondering just how far a humourous comment could go… I took the chance: “I think that maybe the TSA has taken over at the Pearly Gates, and Gent is stuck in the security line. Have we checked his pocket for metals?”

Gent’s wife absolutely lost it, and she and I both started to snort with laughter and were doubled-over with tears in our eyes as the scenarios for why Gent was still with us came pouring out of us. Gent’s wife joked that he was just toying with us all and had “one foot over the line, and was dancing back and forth, playing a game with us”. Gent’s wife knew that Gent was laughing, too, as he had a good sense of humour, and would certainly have appreciated the tension realease.

And then, after we were all but exhausted, we stopped laughing. The room went quiet once again. We listened to Gent’s easy, gentle breathing, and stood there looking at him with our arms around each others’ shoulders. And Gent’s wife said, “You know what I think it is? The earthquake in Haiti has created a pretty big backlog at The Gates, and being that gentleman that he is, he’s simply stepping aside to allow the women and children to go in first”

And that was that. That’s exactly what it was. It just made sense, really.

And so, after hugging one another, I stepped out of the room and left Gent’s wife to sit with him in silence one more time. He stayed with us for many more days after that, but when he finally did make the decision to ‘step into the line’, his wife was by his side, and had gently encouraged him not to be scared. It was a quiet, peaceful moment between two people who shared a great love for one another.

And for me, it was a great honour to have been a small part of such a huge moment.

Godspeed, Gent.