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!




8.10.2010 | 9 Comments

I’m getting lots of emails and messages as Aug 12th comes ever nearer. It’s so frigging cool. People I know and love, people I’ve never met, people wishing me well, people asking me for advice, people telling me that I’m their “hero”. I never thought that this would happen.

I started this blog on January 1st as a way to invite people into my journey, and it has turned out far better than I could have thought. I get messages from all over the world! No kidding! I love it. LOVE IT! So, if you’re reading this, and haven’t ever written to me, please feel free to do so today. I’ve got a couple days on Canadian soil, and would love to have your messages in my heart when I trip the blue fantastic.

I’ve been getting requests about my itinerary, and so thought I’d repost it here today.

My climb starts on Aug 23rd, and we will be taking the Lemosho/Shira route that will take us eight days. I will summit on the 7th day (that’s right, I WILL SUMMIT), and then be back at the hotel for a final night on the 30th of August. It kinda’ goes like this…

Aug 23: Drive to Lemosho Glades and hike to Mti Mkubwa forest camp.
Aug 24: Hike to Shira One camp.
Aug 25: Hike to Shira Two camp.
Aug 26: Hike to Barranco camp.
Aug 27: Hike to Karanga Valley camp.
Aug 28: Hike to Barafu camp.
Aug 29: Hike to the summit and descend to Mweka or Millennium camp.
Aug 30: Complete the descent to Mweka gate and drive back to Marangu.

Shira 2 camp

So, please feel free to follow along. The time change is pretty big, so be prepared to do a little math if you want to know exactly where I am at what time. Ok, so it’s 10:03am on Tuesday, Aug 10th right now, and so that means that it’s 8:03pm on Tuesday, Aug 10th in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  Got it? I’ll be 10 hours ahead of you all in Ladner. On Summit Day, we are woken up at about midnight, then climb, climb, climb until we reach the peak at about 6am Tanzania time – that would be about 8pm Ladner time on the 28th.  So send your good vibes our way, ok? Thanks!

Now… onto my last To-Do list before I go…

Two more sleeps.



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…



Hot in The City Tonight

7.09.2010 | 0 Comments

Yesterday I went to Vancouver to meet my good friend Eran for lunch. I took transit in and, as is now my habit, I hopped off at the first stop after the bridge, and walked the rest of the way into the city. It usually takes about 90 minutes or so to get where I need to go after I ditch the train.

I’ve been doing this to help prepare myself for the fact that in 5 weeks I will be walking EVERYWHERE, and in 6 weeks I will be walking up A MOUNTAIN.

The thing about yesterday’s walk is that it was about a bazgillion* degrees outside, and the sidewalks were little convection ovens. Not to rehash it, but really, if I were a cannibal, yesterday would have been totally awesome, because all my food would have come pre-cooked.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanyway, I slogged through the heat (and LOVED it), and felt my fingers go all fat and tingly with edema. The sweat was rolling off of me (Although I am a woman, I do not “glow”. I sweat like a drunken sailor in a whore house…. ew… ok, that may have been inappropriate. And quite a disturbing visual), and the sun was turning my once pasty-white skin into a gorgeous shade of sickly red.

However, as I was walking along (read: running from tree shade pool to tree shade pool), I realized that it was just about as hot as it is going to be in Africa, but I’ll be slogging up a frikken’ mountain. In hiking boots. With Ali swearing at me and throwing rocks at my sweltering head.

But the upside is that I’ll be walking towards, you know, a freaking GLACIER. So there’s that.

I love this Vancouver weather. You won’t hear me complaining about the heat! I’m a warm-weather kind of gal, and it makes me happy when I’m warm tapas for cannibals.

Bring it on, Kilimanjaro!

*Bazgillion may or may not be an actual number


You GO, Girl!

7.05.2010 | 0 Comments

…and then there’s THIS.


Elk Mountain and the Fog of Doom

7.02.2010 | 5 Comments

Yesterday Chris and I took my brother’s advice and decided to climb up Elk Mountain. Why I trust my brother for advice is beyond me. I mean, the guy used to beat me up when we were kids, why on earth would I think that he would suggest something in my best interest? I really should know better.

The hike up Elk Mtn is actually quite nice. You start off in forest,

And you go up.

And up,

And up, and up, and up… until you get horrendously tired and want to NOT go up anymore.

You joyously summit in about 2 hours,

Enjoy the amazing view (when the fog allows),

You smooch,

And you have some lunch under a tree.

And then you decide that you should keep going about 45 minutes more to reach Thurston Peak. It’s a GORGEOUS walk there, with very little ascending. Just walking along in a beautiful, silent forest… shhhh…

It will stop you in your tracks and simply awe you.

And you come out of the forest to be stopped by… snow.

Yep, snow.

However, we managed to crunch and slush our way through it, and man, was it ever worth it… on to the summit!

We added to the cairn…

*ahem*… we added to the cairn…

And happily made our way back down. It’s about two hours of descending, so if you’ve got bad knees, it’s going to take a while. But we were happy to be getting off the peak, as it was cold. Very cold. So cold, I couldn’t even get my fingers moving well enough to send my brother an expletive-laden text message. So yes, we were happy to get out of the icy fog.

See? Happy.

We had made the decision earlier on that we would stop at Dairy Queen after we had finished the climb. This made the decsending go that much smoother. It was all going so well, as we walked along in the forest, holding hands, laughing, listening to the birds. When just up ahead I see a tiny black nose come around the bend! Yay! Forest animals! However, when the tiny black nose turned out to be attached to a waddling black and white skunk, I wasn’t so happy. I believe the sentence I uttered went something like, “Awwwww… look at thAAAAAAAAGH!”

See now, Chris told me that in order to get the skunk to leave us alone, we had to yell at it, but not move toward it. That would be sure to scare the skunk away. I must tell you, it’s kind of funny having someone yelling behind you, as you’re running through the forest trying to avoid a now-charging skunk that does NOT like being yelled at. Those things can MOVE, man!

However, after we got back on the trail and stopped running, we could laugh about it.

We finally reached the car after our 5-hour hike, and joyously took our shoes off. You really must love someone to sit in an enclosed space with them while being newly-shoeless after a 5-hour hike. We just wanted Dairy Queen, man. Stinky hiking feet be dammed! Gimmie a Blizard!

So yes, Elk Mountain was a very good hike, and decently strenuous. I highly recommend it. Especially if you have someone to sappily smooch at the summit.


A Hitch in Time

7.01.2010 | 1 Comment

One of my favourite authors is Christopher Hitchens. He’s just put out his memoir Hitch 22, and I’m really looking forward to reading it.  He’s doing a book tour right now, and I went to his website to see if his tour swings my way at all. Sadly, I came across this… *sigh*

I first read Hitch’s work in Vanity Fair magazine. I loved him immediately. He is SUCH an asshole. No holds barred, straight up, in your face, jerk. I appreciated his candor and wit-wrapped intelligence. His barbed honesty being at once refreshing and shocking.

In December 2009, I had a small Letter to The Editor published in Vanity Fair, and when the magazine arrived in my mailbox, the first thing I did was to see if Hitch had an article in that particular edition (he didn’t), because the thought of being “published” in the same periodical as Hitch was just mind-blowing to me. I mean, they like Hitch! That means that if they like ME, then my writing is in the same league as Hitch’s, right? RIGHT??

…yah, I know. I just had a nice delusional moment there.

Anyway, on this rainy Canada Day I’d like to wish you well, Mr. Hitchens.  To my favourite water boarded, made-over, bravely incendiary, unapologetic Atheist author and realist… speedy recovery, sir.

I’m off to hike a mountain…


Worst. Mantra. EVER.

6.28.2010 | 0 Comments

I know! I know! You don’t have to say it. I know.

I wasn’t anywhere near a computer yesterday, so the blog was not done. That was the first time since I started this whole adventure! And it really did bother me all day. I promise you this, the next time you’ll see this blog skip a day is when I’m on  a plane to Amsterdam, making my way to Dar es Salaam. Well, unless I manage to get a phone with email capabilities.

Nervous, nervous, nervous. By the time I get to Day One I’m going to be a blubbering basket case, and they probably won’t let me on the plane. How’s that for disappointment, eh? Working this hard, doing all this panning and prep, only to be turned away at security because I’m all pale, sweaty and shaking.

I’m not a terrorist, I swear! I just have to go to a foreign country and *shudder* camp for a week.

My god, ma’am! Why didn’t you say so?! Stewardess, bump this poor soul up to First Class, and give her all the booze she can handle!  Captain… fly as slow as you possibly can. It’s going to be ok, ma’am… it’s going to be alright.

I gotta’ go hiking this week. Maybe on Thursday or something. My brother and sister-in-law keep telling me to go to Elk Mountain and then do the Mt. Thurston trail. I’m thinking that may very well be a good idea. Because, you know, I’mnotreadyI’mnotreadyI’mnotreadyI’mnotreadyI’mnotready’imnotreadyI’mnotreadyI’mnotreadyI’mnotready…


Mt. Finlayson with the Himalaya Freaks

6.15.2010 | 0 Comments

Yesterday I had an adventure!

I took the ferry over to Victoria to visit with my brother Todd and his lovely girlfriend Becky. As regular readers of this blog will know, Todd and Becky just returned from 6 weeks of hiking through Tibet and Nepal, where they were able to take a 19-day trek to Everest Base Camp. So of course I thought that hiking up a small mountain on the island with the two of them would be a fantastic idea. Either I need to stop drinking so much, or I need to start drinking far more.

I packed a small bag, threw on my hiking boots, draped myself in all things Arcteryx and was promptly whisked off to the ferry terminal (thanks mom!). The really great thing about taking the ferry is the fact that for $13 you can take a (2-hour) cruise that doesn’t assault your sensibilities by forcing you to listen to steel drums for extended periods of time, or watch horrified as Mr. Creosote waddles up to the buffet line for his 4th helping of lard-covered fat sticks. However, I do not recommend taking this delightful mini-cruise if you have an allergy to patchouli, or if you have an allergy to being in ocean-going close confines with unruly children.


Todd and Becky thought it would be fun to go for a hike with me while telling me all about their trip. I completely agreed, and was so very excited to see them both. Although they certainly had some incredible stories to relate, it was their little pearls of travel wisdom that most intrigued me. We talked food, water, altitude, how to tie your boots for ascent vs. descent, and the effective layering of clothing. I must say this, as mature as I am, and as open as I am to learning new things, hearing about the number of times my older brother changed his underwear while trekking in Tibet was really not high on my list of ideal conversation topics*. And do NOT get me started on the Bowel-Movement Rating System…

The hike up Mt. Finlayson is really quite beautiful. Todd and Becky set a decent pace, and I didn’t feel as though I were struggling too much. At one point I started to get frustrated that I wasn’t keeping up with them very well, but I had to remind myself that the two of them had just spent a good deal of time hanging out where pro mountaineers go to challenge themselves. I had to give my ego a bit of a slap, and it helped.

So, after an hour or so of some scrambly, craggy, trail jaunting, we reached the summit of Mt. Finlayson. We were very proud.

Of course, as I was rasping for breath, wondering how internal organs could be on fire, Todd and Becky seemed somewhat less effected…

I like to call this photo, “Meh.”  I mean really, these two just hung out with lamas in Tibet last week. Climbing the mighty Mt. Finny at a whopping 1375 ft (a mere 17,965 ft shorter than Kili), I could understand that they may have been just slightly underwhelmed.

Regardless, the were both incredibly gracious hosts, sharing their stories, imparting their wisdom, giving me potato chips carrots and celery on the drive up, and treating me to  beer and nachos a healthy dinner before taking me to the ferry terminal.

It was a good hike, and a great day in fantastic company. Both Todd and Becky gave me a lot to think about, and I had my eyes opened again to the fact that I need to get out there and get active, right now. I am so not ready to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, and as I wheezed and burned up a hill whose height is 14 times less than that of Kili, that certainly became perfectly clear.

On the upside, I was certainly well educated on the most important items to bring on my climb that will ensure a mentally successful trip: wet wipes, Snickers bars, and apparently a lot less underwear than I thought was necessary.

*note to self: buy Todd some new underwear for Christmas. Also, buy Becky Hazmat gloves for laundry day*


Scrounges and Brothers

5.31.2010 | 2 Comments

Ladner May Days was in town this weekend, and although I missed out on it for the most part, my dogs Jenn and Luna seemed to really enjoy themselves with all the wonder that the Fair has to offer. This is my impression of what was going through my dogs’ brains as we walked through the park this morning…

Tree, tree, dirt – HOTDOG!? Score! Grass, grass, I know that dog, dirt, tree – NACHOS! With CHEESE! Dirt, dirt – MINI DONUT! Tree, grass – FRENCH FRIES! Dirt – HAMBURGER BUN?! This is AWESOME!

In an attempt to steer them away from all edible, rain-soaked and disgusting things, I walked them through town. Along the parade route…

Plant, flower, sidewalk, plant – CANDY!! Paper bag, plastic cup – CANDY!! Plant, plant – CANDY!! Dirt, weeds, plant – CANDY!!

Needless to say, our 40-minute walk took about 2 hours. In the rain.  Stupid greedy dogs.

Aaaaaaaaaaanyway… Ali and I went back to hike the Brother’s Creek trail yesterday, and we had a lovely time. That really is a great trail, but it’s a bit short. It’s supposed to take 4 hours, but it takes us about 2.5 hours. We have decided to do it twice next time around. Well, that’s what we’ve decided now… given that we’ve forgotten about:


(yes, that’s water cascading down those steps)

However, it really is a beautiful and unique spot. Check out this weird pond we saw:

Cool, eh? Oh! And what about the big, honkin’ trees? Those are cool, too!

And then there are the weird, wonderful, wooly animals!

Ok, so it’s not the best photo, but still… it was a totally bizarre dog. Like a basset hound crossed with a yellow lab. Odd little bugger. Cute, but odd.

And of course, there is the view from between the trees…

It’s a great hike. Not too strenuous, and we did a whole lot better this time around than when we first attempted it. Oh, and no Nazi tree this time! It had been hacked up, splintered and rotted to within an inch of its life. Crazy what a difference 4 months can make in the forest.

And so, we finished our hike, and headed for home. We soon saw that the Lion’s Gate Bridge was at a crawl. We weren’t opposed to sitting in traffic, but as we discussed it, we realized that we shouldn’t sit in traffic because… ummm… all that idling would be bad for the environment. We needed to step up and do our part to keep the planet green! Proudly, we made the decision to turn off before the bridge and to do something for the good of mankind…

Muuuuuuuch better…

Happy beering hiking!


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.