The Kilimanjaro Diary: Preamble – Some thoughts about what lies ahead

I should preface this entry by saying that I am writing it post-experience, but the experience is still so fresh in my mind that I have no problems writing about it even two weeks later. I am kinda glad I waited because details I overlooked before are now sharper in my mind.

Also, in this entry, there is no media (except for the picture of the mountain)…only text. The reason for that – besides not having pictures or video to show for it – is that this is meant to be reflective and not illustrative.

mt kilimanjaro

What started curiosity about climbing the mountain has changed to amazement to a certain level of apprehension. Up until arriving in Moshi, Tanzania on Sunday, 10 March 2013, Mount Kilimanjaro was abstract. It was something I had seen in movies, read about on the internet, browsed over in guidebooks, and talked about with others. It’s different to see the mountain in person. It’s at that point you think long and hard about how prepared you really are; that you hoped that you packed everything and in the right quantities; that you start to wonder about everything from a strategic perspective; and the summit. And a million other things all at once.

Honestly, in terms of preparedness, I was more than a bit worried. Having committed myself mentally to the trip in late-November (thanks to the massive research efforts of my Kili climbing buddy Christina!), that left me with about 10 weeks to train before my IBM Corporate Service Corps trip to Nigeria. And things were going along great! I dropped 10kg during those 10 weeks, was going to the gym 3-5 times a week, had a great mix of High-Intensity Interval Training (GRIT Strength!), pulse training (spinning…lots of spinning), and endurance (stair climbing and rowing). I felt pretty good about my chances!

And then there was Nigeria…

To be fair, the problem wasn’t the country per se. It was a bunch of smaller concerns which added up to a bigger one:

  • The gym at the hotel simply didn’t have the variety or quality of the equipment I needed;
  • The Nigerian diet is carb-heavy naturally (pounded yam and other starches are staple foods);
  • We didn’t have the level of freedom of movement I would have liked (e.g. my plan was in the absence of gym equipment to use what God gave me, legs and feet and go jogging instead);
  • The beer was too tasty for me to resist; and
  • I could have made a few better food choices over the month I was in Nigeria

I worked out at the gym a few times in Nigeria. I also even managed to lose 2kg over the course of the month thanks to exercises such as situps, ab crunches, burpees, and pushups. But I wasn’t looking to achieve weight loss – I was looking to increase physical strength and endurance and I hadn’t done that to the level that I wanted. So I was nervous.

So back to Tanzania.

I do what passes for logical and scientific calculations in my head over the course of the day. I peg my chances of reaching the summit at 85%. I am not concerned about my kit, or the logistics. I am not even concerned about my weight isolation. I am concerned about not having done enough cardio exercise to maximise my body’s efficient intake of oxygen (which gets thinner as we ascend). I am concerned about how quickly we ascend up the mountain and whether I will acclimitise properly despite the fact that I have Diamox (which helps, but is no guarantee).

I have thought of a million and one things. But ultimately I just decide that the best answer is to ‘Just Do It’ and then adapt long the way. I wouldn’t have signed up if I didn’t think I could do it. So despite all of the logic and scientific thought, I come to understand that the journey is also about faith. It’s about faith in myself, faith in my guide and his team, and faith in Christina.

Even in a group Kilimanjaro is a personal journey, but as I would come to learn, you can do almost anything with a little help, faith, and from your friends and supporters.

Most of you know how the story ends. But my “Kili Diary” is about the journey. And you’re welcome to follow along.


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