To The Roof of Africa!

8.12.2010 | 3 Comments

On January 1st, 2010 I started my journey with this blog entry:

I am going to climb a mountain. Well, I’m going to walk up one, anyway.

I haven’t done anything like this before. In fact, I can probably count the number of times I’ve gone hiking, and I know I haven’t been camping more than half a dozen times. Don’t get me wrong, I know what I’m getting into. I’ve watched videos about climbing this mountain. I’ve submitted questions about the climbing of this mountain to semi-popular websites. I have bought (although not yet read) books about this mountain. I feel about as prepared as someone who listens to a song on the radio and then starts hiring roadies to prepare for a world tour.

In August of 2010, I am going to fly to Tanzania, Africa and climb Mount Kilimanjaro as a way to raise money for the Delta Hospice. The Hospice holds a very special place in my heart, and it is my absolute honour to take on this journey to fund raise on their behalf. But this will be no simple journey. Oh no, this will be a flat-out epic.

Aside from the parent-induced membership in Brownies and Girl Guides, I have managed to avoid the outdoors quite sufficiently for about 30 years. I am the anti-camper. I do not like being cold. The sound of rain drops falling on a tent is nearly trauma-inducing. I would rather be in prison than a sleeping bag. (Some of you more astute readers may be able to pick up the subtle hints I am dropping in regards to my views on outdoor life). To climb Mount Kilimanjaro means that I will need to… oh, man… camp for 10 days.

And so, purely for your entertainment, I am going to allow you into my world as I train for this adventure. For the next seven months, I will allow parts of my life to become an open book, and permit you to laugh, cry and shake your head in total disbelief as I attempt to turn myself from Robyn the Indoor Princess, into Robyn the Sobbing Mess of Outdoorsy Semi-Competence.

And so it begins…

Bring it on, Kilimanjaro!

And today, on August 12th, 2010, I am boarding that flight to Tanzania, Africa knowing that $10,000 $11, 850 has been raised (so far!) for the Delta Hospice Society.

I hiked once, twice, three times and four, five times, six times, and seven

I trained

I attempted to camp

I ate, ate, ate, and ate, and ate, ate, and happily ate, and ate, and ate, shamefully ate, ate, ate and attempted to explain sarcasm, ate, and ate, and ate, and tried to avoid eating, and thought about what to eat, and ate.

I fundraised, and had help with fundraising

I was sponsored and sponsored again

I was humbled

I remembered.

This has been an incredible journey on the way to having an incredible journey. I learned a lot about myself in these past eight months, and I learned a great deal about the power of human nature and the strength of community kindness. This whole experience has left me awed. And I am grateful for it. Thank you for letting me share it all with you. This became such a personal blog, and I’ve met some very wonderful people because of it.

And so today, I leave this blog in the capable hands of Chris, who will update it as often as he hears from me. I’m not sure how or when I’ll be able to make contact, but please know that it’s a priority for me to be able to keep you posted.

I want to thank you all so very, very much for following me and for reading this blog. It means more to me than I could ever express to know that I’m carrying your support and kindness in my heart as I scale that mountain.

And guess what?

I’m crying.

And so it begins…

Bring it on, Kilimanjaro!



It’s Official…

7.11.2010 | 2 Comments

We’ve got the dates booked, the hotel booked, and the actual climb route (Lemosho) planned out. Now you can follow along from the comfort of your own home, while Ali, Amanda, Christopher and I trudge our way up the World’s Tallest Free-Standing, Equatorial Mountain.

Day 1 will be August 23rd…

Day 1:  Drive to Lemosho Glades and hike to Mti Mkubwa forest camp.

Day 2:  Hike to Shira One camp.

Day 3:  Hike to Shira Two camp.

Day 4:  Hike to Barranco camp.

Day 5:  Hike to Karanga Valley camp.

Day 6:  Hike to Barafu camp.

Day 7:  Hike to the summit and descend to Mweka or Millennium camp.

Day 8:  Complete the descent to Mweka gate and drive back to Marangu.

Countdown to Day 1:   43 days…



Tick tock tick tock…

6.24.2010 | 0 Comments

I get on the plane in 50 days.

I’m not ready.

Whenever I meet people I haven’t seen in a while, they inevitably ask me a variation of the following two questions:

1) How’s the training going?

2) Are you ready?

To which I usually answer with a variation of:

1) Great! I’m getting really excited!

2) I’m gettin’ there!

What I’d like to answer with is:

1) Awful. I feel like I’ll never do enough training, and I’ve gotten lazy and complacent, underestimating the mountain and totally overestimating my physical prowess. I don’t know the exact start date of my climb, and I’m petrified of having to crap into a bucket that some poor ill-paid porter has to lug up a mountain and back. My cardio sucks, my leg strength blows donkey nuts, and the thought of multiple nights of high-altitude camping makes me crazy. I may die before I reach the summit.

2) Nope. Not ready at all. In fact, the thought of getting on the plane is enough to make me want to vomit and convulse with fear and apprehension. I’m going broke, I don’t have solid plans in place, and I’m afraid that I’m going to get robbed and beaten while wandering the streets of Zanzibar. I may die before I reach base camp. But hey, thanks for asking!

So much to do, in so little time, and I’m wasting precious moments worrying about how much I have to do in such a little amount of time.

50 days.


This One Goes out to The One I Love

6.12.2010 | 2 Comments

Showering and I are quite close friends, and I enjoy the relationship that I have with hot water, soap and whatever form of poufy soap-application instrument is at hand in said shower. Bathing and I are also in a fantastic relationship, and I can honestly say that I’ve been in love with bathing for many, many years. I’m not ashamed to admit that to you.

It’s difficult for me when I have days when I’m not spending time with showering and/or bathing. I have visceral reactions when the poufy soap-application instrument and I don’t spend an adequate amount of time together. Even if shampoo and I take a break from each other every so often, I know that poufy soap-application instrument will be there for me. Reliable pouf – I adore you so. You make me happy, and you make me feel fantastic when you help transform me from forest-rolled sasquatch into shiny, squeaky clean girl.

I also love dental floss, toilet paper, Q-Tips, deodorant, and nail clippers. We all live together under one roof, and we all get along really well. We never fight (although sometimes dental floss really pisses me off). The reciprocal relationship I have with hygiene supplies brings me so very much joy. I rescue it from the supermarket shelves, and it returns the favour by being totally awesome. I like our relationship. I plan to continue it for many years to come.

My name is Robyn, and I’m a proud hygiene polygamist.

I look out for hygiene – I’ve got its back. It’s my job to ensure that it is always safely out of harm’s way, and far from its mortal enemy: camping. I’ve been quite successful in this undertaking, and I feel that I’ve done my best to keep the soft, precious, important hygiene away from the evil ruinous mass that is camping.

But there have been times when I have failed. When I have strayed, and brought the wrath of camping upon the unsuspecting hygiene. It’s a gruesome fight.

I… I don’t want to talk about it. Although I will say one thing: crying just makes camping stronger – it laughingly feeds off the tears of the broken, shattered hygiene, as it lay writhing on the ground, desperate to be whole again.

F*cking camping.

Needless to say, I know I’ve got a fight on my hands soon. One where I know that hygiene will be completely obliterated, and camping will dance victorious on the grave of clean. Knowing this, I still must go. I am preparing myself to lose this battle, and it pains me. Oh, it wounds me deeply!

However, I know the genocidal campaign won’t last forever – there will be an end to this tragedy. But the seven days that it will take for this war to play itself out will be ugly. And those that come behind me will be able to watch the devastation, and follow the progress of this destruction, as one follows the path of a snail.

Oh Seven Days on Kili, how I fear thee!

But oh, 45-minute shower on Day Eight how I anticipate our alliance! It will be you that will take on the Herculean task of destroying the loathsome camping once and for all! And although I may be haunted by the memories, I know, Day Eight Shower, that my time with you will help heal those wounds.

*places hands over heart*

Day Eight Shower… You complete me.

It’s going to be a good day, indeed.


Team Lug Nut – Steady as She Goes

5.24.2010 | 2 Comments

So, Ali and I left the city yesterday to enjoy some time in nature. Ali had told me about this great campsite she knew of in Brackendale that was right by the river, so I agreed to jam the car full of camping stuff, and pick her up at 9am.

Good morning! Ready to go, Ali?


And so, into the woods we go. After a wrong turn here and an “I don’t remember this” statement or two, we were finally on our way down the World’s Longest Backwoods Road which was rife with pot holes and death-wish squirrels. Ali realized that she had to make a work-related phone call, so I turned down the stereo so that she could book flights for someone and seethe in relative silence.

Given that we’re driving into the middle of Upper Cougar Crotch (as my mother likes to call any sort of wilderness-related destination), the fact that Ali lost cell reception wasn’t all that surprising. We drove on for a few minutes more until BLAM! I hit The World’s Largest Pot Hole dead-on and my front tire blew out.


That’s ok! We’ll just call BCAA… Oooooh, right. That no-cell-phone-reception thing. Well, looks like it’s up to us now. Hey tire… you, me… bring it on.  Awwwwwww, yeeeeah…

Now, for those that know me, you will recall that I have two rather large dog crates in the back of my car. Which, of course, are tied down with enough rope and bungee cord to create excitement in certain sections of the population. I’m not sure, but I believe a photo of my securely-tied dog crates was the feature picture on last month

Aaaaaaaaanyway… While Ali grabbed the “How to Change a Tire” book from the glove compartment, I set out to find a way to remove the spare tire from under the dog crates, without actually having to remove the dog crates.

Let me tell you this: changing a tire isn’t all that tough, but it does take some strength.  And a little bit of rhythm.

You kind of get a rhythm going when you’re jacking a car up, so I was really in the groove for a while there. But then Ali wanted to play, so being the generous friend that I am, I gave her a shot at it, too.

Jenn is not amused.  At all.  “Hurry up, Lady!”

And so, after completing the tire change, Ali and I were really quite proud of ourselves. After a well-deserved high-five, we posed for a photo with our conquered prey.  ALL HAIL TEAM LUG NUT!!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand then we drove back into Squamish and went to the Canadian Tire, crossing our fingers that it was actually open on a Sunday morning. Don’t forget the Tire of Doom! Buckle up for safety!

Now, I will admit it: I was scared to drive on that little tire, and the fact that it is referred to as a “donut” didn’t do much for my confidence. I put on the 4-way flashers and drove about 40km/hr back up The World’s Longest Backwoods Road toward civilization. 4 hours later (kidding!)… we reached Canadian Tire safely, and as I walked in the three people at the service counter stopped their conversation and just sort of stared at me. Looking down, I realized that I was probably the dirtiest I had been since childhood. Apparently this is not a good look for me. The nice lady at the desk said they were “booked solid” that day, but that she would squeeze me in ASAP. Ali and I went to grab a coffee and by the time we got back, the car was ready! …sort of.

Turns out that the rim was shot, and so they couldn’t put a new tire on. I would have to drive home on the donut. “Ummm… is that safe?”, I ask. The lady looked at me and said, “No. Not at all”, then handed me back my keys.

And so, I now have to drive from Squamish to Ladner, down the Sea-to-Sky hwy, in the rain, on a donut.

“Well, better put the 4-ways on”, says Ali, and away we went…

I white-knuckled it home, dreading that the donut would blow at any minute, and send the car careening off a cliff. In my head I had decided that should the donut fail on me, I would try my best to swerve left, so as to ensure that Ali would have a good chance at walking away from any accident. Was I nervous? Nooooooooooooooooo…

(Yep. Those are bite marks on my hand, as I kept chewing on myself to keep from screaming.)

However, we FINALLY made it home (after a few stops where I simply had to pull over and relax for a moment), and when we made it through the Deas Tunnel, both Ali and I took our first real breath since we changed the damn tire however many hours ago. Then we started laughing. Then we realized that we suck at camping.

Or, do we?

Yep, that’s right – we went back to my place, lit a pathetic fire in the fire pit on my balcony, ate some terrible hot dogs, and chowed on the Worst S’mores Ever. We finally got to experience camping after all…




I’m so Camp.

5.22.2010 | 2 Comments

In my world, there are two types of camping: Car Camping and NOT Car Camping

Car Camping involves jamming your vehicle with as much stuff as possible to make your camping trip not the least bit like camping. Some of my favourite items that I have seen when I drive by camp sites stuffed full of Car Campers are: Mini fridges, bbqs, stoves, fold-up chairs, Taj Mahal tent-like structures (which are usually connected to other large tents under a complicated series of tarps), showers, kegs of beer, fold-up cots, air mattresses large enough to be recognized by the U.N., and gazebos. Yes, gazebos. All of this is brought to ensure that the camper does not get dirty, wet, uncomfortable, unhappy, or exposed to any sort of outdoor element whatsoever.

Why do these people even go camping at all?!

Oh, I LOVE camping!” Sure you do.  “I love getting back to nature!” Yes, I’m sure you can really enjoy all that nature has to offer while reclining on your inflatable love seat, watching your portable TV while drinking wine (from a glass) under your walled-in gazebo. It must be beautiful for you out there.

Car Camping is not camping. It’s not even ‘roughing it’. It’s essentially outdoor slumming.

I do not like Car Camping (I don’t like camping at all, really), because I think it’s all a lie. You cram the car full of enough outdoor stuff to make it feel as though you’re going to be inside. Sure it’s all fun and games to get drunk and roast marshmallows before bed, but when you wake up, YOU’RE STILL CAMPING. That’s not fair! If I’m going to be inside, I want to be INSIDE!

Car Camping is the cock-tease of outdoor pursuits.

That brings us to the second type of camping: Not Car Camping.

Not Car Camping is where you cram your backpack full of all the things you think you’ll need in order to hike to the middle of nowhere and sleep outside without dying, getting hypothermia, being eaten by a wild boar, breaking a leg, losing a toe, or starving to death.

Sometimes you have a tent. Most times you don’t. You need the room in your backpack that a tent takes up, so you sacrifice your “comfort” for a Bivy sack*, and then cram more pasta and oatmeal into your pack.

Thankfully some genius created the compression sack, and this really helps to maximize space while maximizing “comfort”. You can squish a whole lot of useful crap into these compression sacks, and still have room left over for more pasta and oatmeal.

Of course you need a stove (a small one). And pots. Thankfully some genius created the Alpine Pot Set with lids that double as plates. And one simply cannot Not Car Camp without the ever important spork. Now you’re set for a hearty meal of pasta. Or oatmeal.

You also have to pack in your own water. Of course on a multi-day trip, it’s simply not possible to carry that much water, so you need either iodine tabs (and the saving grace of Gatorade powder), or a purifier.

You also need to pack your own toilet paper. In AND out. Don’t worry, I won’t link a photo to that. However, I’m sure if you’re really keen on seeing that there are multiple websites that cater specifically to that. But make sure you know how to clear your browser history before you venture into that world, mkay?

As I have said before, I am the anti-camper. However, I would much rather Not Car Camp than Car Camp. If I’m Not Car Camping, at least I know what to expect: this is going to suck donkey nuts. However, if I am Car Camping, I get all confused: Ahhhh, the indoors… wait… this isn’t my condo! My bed is comfy, and my slippers are here, but… but… WHERE THE HELL IS MY TOILET!?

Sadly, I am going Car Camping this weekend. I was looking forward to Not Car Camping, but Car Camping won over. But I’m still going to bring my spork, (because I believe in peaceful protest). And so, I’m off to Canadian Tire to pick up an air pump, a precast hot dog roasting stick, and a portable satellite dish. Wish me luck – you’ll be sure to have a very entertaining blog to read upon my return.

*Note: the linked Bivy Sack was labeled as “Deluxe Bivy”. Niiiiiiiiiiice.


Oh, Brother…

5.18.2010 | 1 Comment

My younger brother Cameron is in the Air Cadets, and when he heard of my trip to Kili he wanted to help. Being a younger brother, his version of “help” is basically torturing me solely for his own amusement.


I think Cam has taken a particular interest in my Protein Bar Taste Test, and most likely because he can see how it tortures me so, and just how rotten tasting some of these bars have been. My abused stomach causes him much delight, I am sure.

Cam is a good kid though, really he is. He’s got a great imagination, and has a very wonderful sense of compassion. So when he found a way to help me out, he went above and beyond.

This is what Cam has given me…

What is in this bag, you ask?


Yes, those are what you think they are – MREs. That stands for “Meal, Ready-To-Eat”, and they are the rations given to armed forces personnel. Cam thought that it would be oh-so-amusing for me to use some of these things on my hike up Kili. Why? Because they’re disgusting, that’s why. Thanks Cam.

So, I rooted through the bag, and look what I found!

A new contender for my on-going, not-fun-anymore Protein Bar Taste Test!

What else have we got in here? Hmmmm…. let’s see…

Ok. Looks normal enough…

No problems there…


Oh, geez…


For some reason, this frightens me most of all. Well, until I looked at the drinks…

I have a feeling that the ingredients and product descriptions were very carefully worded, specifically to avoid lawsuits.

What in the WORLD am I going to do with this stuff?! EAT IT!? Pfffft… not bloody likely!

…OK! OK! I’ll eat it!  But this is just for Cam’s sake, because I know that HE has to eat this stuff from time to time, or else he’ll starve. From the looks of some of the “nutritional” ingredients and product descriptions, I’m thinking I’d choose starvation.

SO… I am going to take these MREs camping this weekend! That’s right, it’ll be me, Ali, Black Tusk, and a backpack laden with this horrendous, horrendous “food”. I have no idea what to expect (aside from some seriously amusing photos of my reactions when I eat this stuff… and most likely some sort of immodium-necessitated issue), but what the heck. Why not, right?

But before I decided to throw caution to the wind (and my taste buds into the great beyond), I figured that I needed to ask Cam for advice. This is the answer he gave me:  “always have lots and lots and lots of water when you eat those things! belch!!! with the jam, try to warm it up or something or else it just comes out like jello. oh and close your eyes when you eat the meals and try to imagine what the real food would taste like if you had it.”

Gotta’ love that kid, eh?

Thanks Cam!!  xo



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.


3.26.2010 | 0 Comments

Last night I was invited to my friend Keith’s home to watch the David Breashears 2002 documentary called To The Roof of Africa. It’s an IMAX film about a group of people climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, and Keith thought it would be good for me to see it. Since it’s a much nicer title than the previous David Breashears movie I saw, I agreed to go. I mean, if the film were called “Kilimanjaro – IN THE DEATH ZONE”, I may very well have reconsidered his kind invitation.

And so I took a journey up Kilimanjaro, while sitting on a comfortable couch with a glass of Banrock Station merlot in hand. Not bad, really! At one point Keith’s wife Joan let me know that if I just pushed a little button on the side of the sofa, a little leg rest would pop up. I thought this was just too decadent, so I politely declined the offer. Besides, knowing me, I’d probably spill my wine.

The film was only 40 minutes long, but my was it ever beautiful. I was both inspired and petrified, as I alternately marveled at the scenery and cringed at the effort those climbers were undertaking. However, through the entire film I was thinking to myself, “I can do this!”

Of course, I was also thinking, “oh, crap. That looks really, really hard… but I can do this., that’s really kind of muddy in that section, and… hey!! IS THAT A SPIDER?! Oh god. I can do this. I can do this. ARE THOSE TENTS?! Oh dear God… where’s the shower? I’m not seeing a shower! WHERE’S THE SHOWER?! I can do this. I can do this. Breeeeeeathe, breeeeeeeathe…. be calm, breeeeeathe…”

I was grateful when Keith offered to refresh my drained wine glass.

This is not going to be an easy climb. I get that. But I do have a feeling that whether I summit this mountain or not, this adventure will change my life forever.

I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.


Why I don’t ‘Do’ Camping

1.17.2010 | 3 Comments

I was supposed to go camping this weekend, but unfortunately, it just didn’t happen. I did, however pull all my (unused) camping gear out of storage. Of course I’m too afraid to actually open the boxes and go through it all because I am *sure* there are at least 72 big, fat, hairy, angry, heart-stopping, fast-moving, building-jumping, super-sonic, radioactive, big-fanged, growling, snarky spiders-with-a-penchant-for-Robyn-Tasting-Flesh in there. So I will gladly keep the lids closed until I have someone here who has a lesser fear and/or bigger, heavier shoes.

However, I do have to open the boxes before Tuesday because that is when the Delta Cable camera crew will be coming by to film me going through the camping gear. My reaction to seeing a spider is something I’d really rather NOT have caught on film, thanks. I’ve just got to be brave. Or maybe drunk. Or quite possibly both.

Stupid scary British Columbia spiders! I hate them! HATE THEM! Well, at least there aren’t any spiders in Africa! *whew*

…hmmm, you know, maybe I’d better double check just to be sure…

*Googles “Africa Spider”*

Let’s see, let’s see… here we go! First article up is from National Geographic… and what does it say here…

“African Spider Craves Human Blood, Scientists Find”

What? That’s not right. That can’t be right… can it? Maybe I should just stop while I’m ahead. Maybe I should just walk away from the computer and NOT let my curiosity get the best of me. Yeah, that’s a good plan. A really good plan. Yep, just going to get up and walk away… right now… here I go… really…

*Do NOT do a Google Image Search, do NOT do a Google Image Search, do NOT do a Googl…*