Kilimanjaro: Lemosho Route

Many people may not realize there are 7 different routes up to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Lemosho has been rated the most beautiful, and most successful route with about 98% success in an Uhuru Peak summit from this route. It is also the longest which gives more time for acclimatization which is why more people are so successful in summiting. The Lemosho route is typically climbed in either 7 or 8 days.

On July 18, 2019 I completed my first of the Seven Summits! I arrived to Moshi, Tanzania with an 8-day itinerary for the mountain which ended up being 7 because I’m a bad-ass. Before even leaving for Africa, I kept asking myself why I signed up for the longest climb when physically, because of my experience at altitude and the amount I have trained this year, I could have totally done the shortest route, but nevertheless, I was climbing Lemosho, and was and ready to go.

Day 0Materuni Waterfall

My cultural shock was little-to-none compared to Nepal. Maybe it is because I had already immersed myself in a 3rd world country once before, or maybe it’s also because my hotel in Moshi looked like a tropical island resort. Either way, I woke up ready for whatever adventure awaits. For my rest day in Moshi, I decided to check out the infamous Materuni Waterfall. It is a short hike from the Materuni Village. You are surrounded by tropical plants and trees that grow incredibly in the fertile volcanic soil. Coffee plants, Banana, Avocado, Mango, and Pineapple trees all surround the trail as you begin. The trail is fairly flat and only takes about 45min to an hour to get to the falls. With overcast conditions in the rain forest, you feel like you are on a tropical island rather than a giant mountain. The falls are gorgeous and continue to make you feel like you are in a tropical paradise. On the return you have the option of the “coffee experience” where you pick your own fresh beans, grind them by hand and drink your handmade espresso. I do not like coffee so I opted out of this adventure but overall, Materuni is a MUST see if you have spare time in your trip.

DAY 1- Lemosho Gate to Big Tree Camp (9,000′)

We started the morning by driving from Moshi town to the Londerossi Gate (not Lemosho). Londerossi is where the registration office is and we ate lunch there as well. I made some friends from the other camps that I would continue to see sporadically during the climb, and we all headed out and down towards the Lemosho Gate entrance. Finally time to start hiking! all of the camp and gate signs give estimated times of travel to the next camp. It was estimating 4 hours for a short 7km to the Big Tree Camp. It barely took me 2 hours to get there. Many guides stress going “pole-pole” which means “slowly-slowly” and it will be very slow going if you are in a large group. But it was just me so I got to set the pace! A couple other girls were supposed to be with me but they switched to the September climb. I found that in July, it is busy season but not quite peak busy season, so there were a lot of tiny groups of 1-3 people, but only a few massive groups. I would pass a majority of these larger groups on the way up since it was just me. I saw a bunch Colobus Monkeys in the rain forest on the way to camp, and could hear them chatting and hopping between trees; super cool to see out in the wild. I did not sign up to do a safari after the trek so this is the extent in wildlife I would get to see. We arrived at camp with plenty of time to spare. They feed you incredibly well to make sure you have enough calories for the mountain but I was convinced I was going to gain weight there was so much food! Day 1, easy. Done.

DAY 2- Big Tree Camp to Shira I and Shira II Camp (12,700′)

Today I skipped a camp because I am such a bad-ass. We started a little later than nearly all the other groups and I passed almost all of them on the way up to Shira I. Any of the groups that do Lemosho in 7 days instead of 8 usually skip Shira I camp. As I passed these groups, many of the other guides were asking if we were also skipping. Internally I was hoping but was almost afraid to ask if that was even a possibility. It wasn’t until we stopped at Shira I in time for lunch that my guide asked me if I wanted to and I was ecstatic to say yes. It was only 11am and there was no reason I needed to spend an extra night on the mountain at this point. I felt great, and wanted to keep going. So my 8-day climb now became a 7-day climb and we continued across the plateau and up to to Shira camp II. As for the hike itself, starting from Big Tree, it was very up and down for the first mile or so until leaving the rain forest into the Moraine vegetation zone. Once above the forest, the trail steepens as you follow a ridge up to the Shira plateau. The plateau is pretty flat between the camps I and II. Right before Shira II it steepens as you officially begin to climb up what is officially considered part of the Kibo (Kilimanjaro) Volcano.

FUN FACT: The Kilimanjaro mountain is made up of 3 volcanic cones: The Shira Caldera, Kibo (Uhuru Peak), and Mawenzi. By climbing the Lemosho route, you get to climb Shira and Kibo, and view Mawenzi from summit base camp!

Meru peak (left) and the Shira Caldera as viewed from about 14,000′

DAY 3- Shira II up to Lava Tower (15,000′) and down to Barranco Camp (13,000′)

A steady climb from camp II up to the Lava Tower warrants excellent views of the Shira Caldera below. the Lava Tower gets you up close and personal with the southwest side of the mountain. A quick stop for lunch and it’s all down hill from here. The decent to Barranco camp is decently steep in spots, so knees beware. You can see the camp below pretty immediately and just watch it get continuously closer on the decent. if the clouds haven’t rolled in, you should have a fantastic view of “The Breakfast Wall” that will be climbed the next morning. Many get intimidated by the near 800′ of climbing that is required first thing in the morning but don’t worry, it looks much worse than it is.

DAY 4- Barranco Camp up “The Breakfast Wall” (13,775′) and down to Karaga Camp (13,200′)

A roller coaster of emotions today on this climb almost perfectly reflect the roller coaster in altitude. I was feeling a little down when I woke up, missing my husband and was just kind of tired and cranky honestly. We start with the infamous Breakfast Wall. Which includes some mild scrambling. Non-climbers might be intimidated by this wall but don’t be. The trail is wide and well marked. There is only one “skinny” section nicknamed the “kissing rock” because you have to hug it to walk by, I did not feel the need to do so. It was still a wide enough path that I felt just fine. I never felt like I was straddling any crazy exposure, granted I have climbed much scarier climbs. After the scramble is over, you think you are nearing the top of the wall, but take my warning: there are like 5 false summits! think of it like a stack of books lined up shortest to tallest. you climb up the side of the short book and top out, but now you have to go up over the next ridge, and the next one, and the next one. I was legitimately getting pissed off. We finally top out for real and the views are incredible. You get a front-and-center view of Kili, and an ocean of clouds down below. I instantly felt better… for now. The way down to Karanga camp is mostly downhill, but it involves jumping one more ridge line as well as dropping into the Karanga Valley before climbing back up to the camp. The last steep pitch before Karanga is hands down the hottest, steepest pitch you will do the entire climb. I felt like it was steeper then the Breakfast Wall! Its about a 200′ climb straight up to camp. Not a fan. However, overall this hike is pretty quick. they estimate 4-5 hours for most groups; didn’t even take me 3. So after lunch, it is time for a nice relaxing chill. You can hike around nearby for more acclimatization, but my knee needed a break if it was going to be in tip top shape for the summit.

Day 5- Karanga Camp to Barafu Base Camp (15,250′)

It is customary for the guide companies to give you a songful introduction to the crew at some point on your trip. Most try to do it earlier in one of the first days on the mountain, in my case it got delayed until this morning because I had skipped a camp that second day which is when they originally wanted to do so. I actually liked it better waiting for today since it is the day before our summit attempt. It was the perfect encouragement and wish of luck to the summit I needed. After singing some songs we headed upwards. A steady incline at altitude, only took me about 2 1/2 hours to get to Barafu. A long time to rest and prep for the next day although my attempt to sleep early failed miserably, I felt good and ready for the summit attempt!

Day 6- SUMMIT! Uhuru Peak (19,341′) and down to Mweka Camp (10,000′)

We started at midnight. I felt pretty good and although we were going what felt like a snail’s pace, we were still passing massive groups. It is a long night as you crawl your way slowly up to the summit although it felt shorter than I thought it would. As we got closer and closer to Stella Point, the wind began to pick up and the cold from the early hours of the morning were freezing my Nalgenes. At just after 5am, we came up over the crest of Stella Point. it was still incredibly dark and the wind was coming off the crater. It was Brutal. Weather reports later indicated that it was a low of 17 degrees Fahrenheit at the summit, with winds up to 15 knots which makes for windchill well below zero. The pace is set and designed to summit by sunrise. However, because I was moving so quickly, we hit Stella point well before dawn and Uhuru Peak at 6am (sunrise wasn’t until 6:30). It was too cold to honestly enjoy much time on the summit, we spent maybe 5 minutes tops, snapping quick pictures in the dark and heading down the crater rim back to Stella point. The sun finally rose as we got there, and the long decent began down the way we came. The decent from the summit involves some glicading on volcanic ash and sand in spots. It only took maybe 2 hours to get back to base camp. After a quick break and some food, we continued down to Mweka camp. Initially the decent was fine, and then the rock steps began….. after passing the Millenium intermittent camp, the last 3 miles or so was all big rock steps and my poor knee made itself known. After a very, very long day, I plopped into my tent and slept like a log.

Sunrise on the glacier from just above Stella Point

Day 7- Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate (5,300′)

A much more gradual decent today, made my knee was thankful but my calves were definitely burning in the end. After 14,000′ of decent in 2 days, my legs were pretty done. It only took me about an hour and a half to descend 6 miles. It was foggy and rainy at the bottom and made for a cool, spooky atmosphere in the rain forest. After packing up the vehicles at the gate, we headed about 5 minutes down the road to where we would eat lunch and celebrate outside the souvenir shop. I was glad to be done. Tired, sweaty, and ready for a much needed shower!

Overall, I enjoyed Kilimanjaro. I kept catching myself comparing notes to my Nepal trek to EBC last year and felt like Kili was significantly easier than Nepal. Mentally I was also in a much stronger place and we all know that climbing something like this is always more mental than physical. Swahili is easier to learn than Nepali as well, I felt I took away more of the language, but unfortunately not as much culture as I would’ve hoped. Moshi town is fairly modernized so I would have loved to visit a village out in the grasslands, and meet tribesmen and I did not get to see anything of that nature. I definitely recommend knocking this one off your bucket list if you have interest in climbing Kili. I also recommend the Lemosho route. it shares much of the popular Machame route but I think is more picture-esque in the first few days before the trails merge.

What you REALLY need to pack for an expedition climb.

We all get them every time we sign up for a guided trip, “The Packing List”. And after some experience you get the hang of things but if this is your first trip like this, then read on because I am going to show you what ACTUALLY needs to be in your duffel conpared to what many standard gear-lists will tell you.

Why? What’s the difference?

Well, it depends.

Some companies have learned to list necessities and are pretty spot on, others give you a novel, despite the weight limit that will be required. It helps to just know what you ACTUALLY need and why vs what is reccomended add-ons, what is available for rent, whats optional luxuries, and what’s not nessisary so you can budget gear purchases and pack appropriately.

Weight Limits:

First off, all international airlines have a weight limit on bags and any guided expedition that has available porters will give you a 15kg (33lb) weight limit as well to protect the porters. You would be surprised how heavy your stuff can be. It all adds up fast! So one key thing to remember while packing: WEIGH YOUR BAGS!!!

Sidenote, weight limits can vary:

Take climbing packing vs a trek for example: a trek, anywhere in the world, can easilly be packed to under 15kg. But if you are headed to climb a technical peak, you have A LOT of gear. You can’t always physically fit everything into 15kg, especially if You are on the mountain for 2 months! You may need a down suit, climbing gear, etc etc. All you need to know for now is in a climbing expedition there will be multiple duffels to carry your stuff, but they still can’t weigh more than 15kgs each.

What to ACTUALLY pack:

This list is gonna start out with you basics for a trek because even if you add technical climbing, you are still going to have the same basic trekking gear. This list is a base that works for any trek, anywhere in the world.

The obvious:

  • Your 70-90L duffel
  • A 25-35L day pack
  • Trekking poles (even if you think you dont need them you want them. Downhill at the end a long trek is brutal on the legs and knees)
  • Good, broken in, hiking shoes
  • Multiple pairs of hiking socks (rule of thumb. 1 pair for every 2 days)
  • Liner socks (only IF you feel like you need them… I never use them.)
  • 1 pair thick wool or ski socks (for sleeping/summit)
  • 0┬░ sleeping bag (especially for high elevation camping)
  • Lightweight compactable Sleeping pad with R rating of 3 or higher (R rating is temperature compatibility)
  • Sunglasses (+glacier glasses if there is snow and going above 10,000′)
  • Water bottles (2, 32oz Nalgenes MINIMUM, bladders are useful too… Until they freeze)
  • Headlamp/extra batteries

Layers:

  • Underwear/bras (1 pair every day if trek is roughly a week or less, 1 pair for every 2 days if its longer. You can wash them and hang them to try on your backpack while hiking! Sounds wierd, is totally normal tho.)
  • 1 moisture wicking T-shirt
  • 1 pair trekking pants
  • 1 pair modest shorts (ONLY in hot regions and where cultrally appropriate. Examples: Kilimanjaro=ok, but Nepal=NO shorts!)
  • 1 long sleeve moisture-wicking layer
  • 1 long underwear top
  • 1 long underwear bottom
  • 1 fleece layer top
  • 1 fleece or sweatpant bottom
  • 1 puffy jacket
  • 1 winter coat with hood (down jacket is best if possible when climbing high, it can be rented in many areas of the world if your particular company requires it)
  • 1 rain shell or poncho

Sidenote, Why only 1 of each? You will wear the same thing every day. Sounds gross but saves space and weight. What I like to do is have one long sleeve as a hiking layer and then the long underwear and fleece become loungewear in camp. You can change out of your sweaty clothes and you are much warmer while hiking but you will be cold once you stop moving. On summit night I keep the long underwear on under my trekking pants combined with the winter coat and I am plenty warm.

For heads and hands:

  • Sun hat
  • Winter hat/beanie
  • Thin gloves
  • Waterproof Winter gloves
  • Balaclava or face mask (shield wind/dust)
  • 1-2 bandanas (multipurpose: snot catchers, face masking, sweat bands, wet cloths to cool hot heads, etc)

Accessories:

  • Gators (if theres snow)
  • Yak-traks or micro spikes (if minimal snow)
  • “Camp shoes” (comfy easy slip on and off)
  • Quickdry lightweight camp towel
  • Stuff sacks/dry bags to keep gear organized
  • 1 garbage bag (for stinky/dirty laundry! The plastic of the garbage bag will lock in odors so the rest of your stuff doesnt stink!)
  • Gallon sized ziploc for trash (food wrappers and TP. Pack it in, pack it out!)
  • Personal snacks and electrolyte gels or powder mixes (not optional, a MUST! Foreign food is hard on the stomach if you are new to it. Altitude kills your apetite. Having multiple snack favs to keep energy up makes a massive difference and electrolytes can help prevent altitude sickness!!!)
  • Toiletries: camp soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, deoderant
  • Toilet paper (thank me later)
  • Ladies, feminine products (altitude screws with your cycle. Just be prepared)
  • Water purification tablets (backpack filters wont kill everything. Always boil water First THEN purify it)
  • Sunscreen (SPF 30+ minimum)
  • Lip balm with spf
  • Insect repellent with DEET (various infectious diseases in rural parts of The world. Protect yourself. Your “organic lemon bug spray” wont work on these bugs. Unless you have a severe allergy, suck it up, use the deet. Its better than Malaria)
  • Basic first aid kit (bandaids, blister kit, tweezers, is plenty. Guides have full med kits)
  • Wet wipes (when you cant shower for 3 weeks, these will make you feel better)
  • Hand sanitizer!
  • Camera
  • Portable chargers/extra batteries (keep in sleeping bag at night or they will drain in the cold!

Important documents:

  • Passport
  • Travelers insurance paperwork
  • Visa paperwork
  • Immunization paperwork
  • Credit card for emergencies
  • Cash: depending on your trip depends on how much to bring. You will need to tip your guides, porters and cooks for each day of the trip. In Nepal you will be staying in teahouses where you can purchase snacks and bottled water. Suvenier shopping is in cash in most rural parts of the world. Cash economy. You are gonna need to look up what is appropriate for tips and math out the legnth of your stay and how much you expect to spend on suveniers and other things. I can’t tell you an exact number because everywhere is different. I pull out what I think will be too much just to be safe and I can put back whatever I dont spend when I get home.

Medications: (vary based on location)

  • Regular Percriptions
  • Diamox (for altitude)
  • Malarone (for Kilimanjaro, Africa in general, central America, and other at risk countries. This drug has least amount do side effects compared to other malaria meds)
  • An antibiotic (incase of travelers diarrhea. Specific drugs are required for specific regions)
  • Ibrpofen (your new best friend)
  • Pepto-bismol tablets (helps prevent travelers diarrhea. Take this first before it gets incapacitating then take antibiotic)
  • Dayquil/cough drops (cold air, bew germs, new people.. Your probably goning to get sick at some point)
  • Daily multivitamin (can help prevent sickness as well as provide nutrients that may be missing from eating trekking food.)

Luxury items: (really just optional comforts if you have room to fit them.

  • Journal
  • Card games
  • A Book
  • Earplugs (for sleeping… trust me.)

Climbing add-ons:

  • Mountaineering boots
  • Crampons
  • Harness
  • 5-6 slings
  • Jumar
  • 3-4 caribiners
  • Climbing helmet
  • Mountaineering axe
  • Snow pants
  • Down suit (if climbing in temps below 0┬░F)
  • Down mittens rated 0┬░
  • Warm waterproof Fingered gloves
  • Prussets

Climbing gear can be heavy so spread it out and dont pack it all in the same duffel. A lot of gear is provided for you such as tents, ropes and sometimes even backpacking stoves/fuel for high camps. Much of the gear can also be rented for a small fee. Check with your guide service for their “provided gear” list.

There you have it! It may look like a really long list but don’t forget I added in all those notes, and I promiae you can succeed in meeting that under 15kg weight limit with everything on this list (minus the climbing add ons of course). I take it from personal experience.

I am currently packing for Kilimanjaro which I leave for in just a couple days! I have noticed how similar my list is compared to Nepal but I am packing less now that I know what I used and didn’t use, what I wish I had more of (snacks, all the snacks!), and since I’m not planning in a technical climb, I get to leave all the heavy climbing gear home which makes meeting the weight limit much easier.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for trip reports from Tanzania!

What I Learned About Myself in Nepal

Report from 7/7/18

There are dozens of articles out there on trekking to EBC, reguarding “do’s and don’ts”, “things I wish I knew”, etc.

The reality is, none of that can really prepare you for the experience itself. I myself, have been dreaming of the day I could finally see Everest since I was about 9 years old. I studied everything. read every article, every forum, every blog….. and there were still surprises.

First off, the reality:

It seems like everyone always says they wish they trained more. I thought so too, but physically I did really well. My body and legs felt very strong. I didn’t have any issues with altitude sickness, but breathing up high (especially with asthma) is incredibly difficult. The trick is to just find your pace, and stick to it. It’s OKAY to go slow!

Also, if this is you’re first trip to Asia, or a developing country, you are almost guaranteed to get sick. Be prepared to eat the same half a dozen “safe” dishes in every teahouse… I watched my trekking partner eat whatever he wanted with no issues, but he had much more travel experience than me and was living in Bangkok where he was used to the bacteria common in Asia. I on the other hand, got food poisoning 3 different times. I was able to pinpoint which foods where the most likely culprits and I avoided them the rest of the trip. I was trying to play it safe eating vegetarian up there, but cheese was a bad idea, even vegetables themselves can be a risk if not cooked or washed properly. If you are a first timer, stick to pasta dishes, oatmeal, ramen, rice dishes, popcorn, and dal bhat (a traditional dish of rice and lentil soup). You will get incredibly tired of eating the same thing for 2 weeks, but it is the safest option.

Another piece of advice I once read about was to take multivitamins with you to make up for the lack of nutrients. I felt like this was helpful and I think this strategy also helped keep me from catching the “khumbu cough”.

This was my first time out of the country. I went from 1st world luxuries in the US, to the vastly different world of Nepal. My first night in Kathmandu was complete culture shock, and took some getting used to. (Read more about when I first arrived in Kathmandu┬áhere.)┬áThere were a lot of emotional ups and downs on this trip. I learned a lot about myself on this trip… particularly things I didn’t expect.

I learned that dreams take more work than initially planned. It took me a lot longer to finally get a chance to trek to EBC than I wanted but in reality, I would not have been ready before now. This was step one in my complete dream to climb the Seven Summits. But when I finally got to see the Himalayas in person, that felt absolutely daunting. I began to realize how glorified, and “easy” documentaries and movies make Everest look. Everest is HUGE!! The mountain is scary, dark, and looming. The reality of the darkness this mountain carries really begins to sink in once finally seeing it in person. SO much death, pain, misery, and despair. Out of those who summit and live, many go through a personal hell to achieve that goal. They come home 30+lbs lighter, sun damage on their face, and may even lose a few fingers or toes to frostbite.

During my time in Nepal, I experienced only a small fraction of this and it was a lot harder than I expected. I lost close to 15lbs in total just in the 2 weeks I was in the mountains due to both traveler’s diarrhea and hiking 5-6 hours a day. Despite putting on sunscreen nearly every hour, I still maintained a pretty severe sunburn on my face. And on days I felt sick and exhausted, separation anxiety kicked in. As a kid, I spent a month each year at a summer camp in Colorado, happy to get away from my family and never had a problem with homesickness. This time I was leaving behind a husband, who is my rock in everything. Not being able to contact him when I was having a hard time was incredibly difficult. I began to really wonder if Everest and the rest of the Seven Summits was what I really wanted. It would mean spending money on years of training and climbing, surviving miserable trips full of pain, and discomfort, all for just one shot at the summit…. is it really worth all that trouble? Do I care enough? The answer is yes, however it is going to be A LOT harder than I expected… And honestly I’m a bit terrified.

On a bit of a lighter note, there is a special feeling and spiritual connection that has developed over the years for me when it comes to climbing high peaks; the Himalayas were no exception. I have known for years that I always felt closer to my deceased sister in the mountains, but being alone in the Himalayas gave me a much larger perspective on the matter.

On the summit of Kala Patthar with a photo of my sister Brooke

My favorite day of the entire trek was not the day we climbed Kala Patthar or went to EBC, it was the day we trekked from Dingboche to Lobuche. We had 360 degree views of the mountains that surrounded us, and we visited the Sherpa Memorial field. The mountains were the most beautiful I had ever seen, and I could feel how the memorial field was a very sacred place on the mountain. This was the day I could really feel that connection, but that wasn’t the only one. There were a lot of moments throughout the trek where I felt like I was really able to be myself in a spiritual way which was something I had been craving for a long time.

Growing up in a religious family brought up a lot of issues over the years. I felt like I couldn’t be myself. I felt like I was being forced into living expectations I couldn’t possibly live up to. Fear caused me to unfortunately hide how I felt for years, which contributed to depression, and my eating disorder after high school. I never really had the chance to come into my own until I was able to work through many of those issues through therapy and I began to look inside myself to figure out what I even believed in.

This trip really helped me cement some core beliefs on my spiritual side that had been lost nearly my entire life. I believe that personal spirituality, and your personal relationship with God (or whatever you believe) is far more important than the religion itself. A belief I personally feel like has been lost in many common religions today. This is not to bash on anyone that belongs to a religion and practices regularly, there is nothing wrong with that! There are a lot of genuine people that are members of a church. However, I have personally found a lot of hypocrisy in religion growing up, and I know I am not the only one who has felt this way. Religion is made up of people. People are human. Nobody is perfect. Therefore, no matter the religion, you can always find flaws. This is why your personal relationship with God is the most important. Being responsible for your actions, holding yourself accountable, no matter what they are, and just working on being a better person all the time is the best thing you can do, with religion in your life or not.

One thing I really loved about Nepal is that it is an incredibly spiritual country. You can find every type of person on the religious spectrum, such as monks praying at the stupas, non-practicing, and everything in between. But no matter who they are, everyone is nice, helpful and genuine. This has a lot to do with the Buddhist belief in Karma, but more than that, it is their culture and it was probably the most real place I have ever been in a spiritual sense. Simply put, people just want to help, and are trying to be good, whether they are Bhuddist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, or something else. This is how everyone should be, this is how our would should be, and this was the best thing to learn about myself on my trek to EBC.

TRIP REPORT: Everest Base Camp (17,600′)/ Kala Patthar (18,519′)

Report from 6/20/18

Here it is!

I planned to get this out sooner, but I got home to find out I had caught a head cold  from the guy sitting next to me on one of my connections home and have also been struggling with the jet lag pretty bad. I have been pretty miserable the last few days. But without further ado, here is my trip report of my Everest Base Camp Trek!

First, I shall answer a question which may have arisen for those who frequent my blog and may have noticed a “typo” in the title. Yes, I was supposed to climb Island Peak as well. Originally, this trip had 2 parts: trek to EBC, and climb Island Peak (Imja Tse) at 6189m (20,305′). Long story short, Island Peak did not happen, but that will be explained.

Most of what is written below is actually fragments from my travel journal. This is strictly just the trekking portion of our trip. I am not going to spend time on talking about my day in Singapore, or when I first arrived in Kathmandu because I have already discussed them but if you missed it, you can click the links to read about them! So to begin, we are going to start with our first day in the Himalayas:

DAY 1: LUKLA TO PHAKDING- 2,860m (9,380′) to 2,610m (8,560′)- 5/30/18

The morning started out in Kathmandu, misty and cool from rain the night before. Monsoon season is near, as we are at the tail end of may, and reports of many Everest climbers and crew had been stuck in Lukla for almost a week due to flights not being able to access the mountain. We head to the airport, hoping and praying skies are finally clear enough for us to get there. We are scheduled on the first flight out at 6am. We arrive, weigh our bags, and wait in the domestic terminal at Tribhuvan Airport for news, any news. Before we know it, we are on a little shuttle to take us to our small propeller plane, we board and we are off! On the plane, I had a giant smile on my face I could not erase, and tears coming to my eyes. Hazy skies make it difficult to see the tall mountains in the distance, but soon, we can see a hazy peak out the window of the plane, standing well above all others off in the distance. It’s Everest!

Landing in Lukla, at the world’s most dangerous airport, was not as terrifying as I anticipated. We had a very smooth landing, and was off the plane an instant later. Immediately we could already see Nupla, standing at 5,885m (19,303′), dominating the background. I nearly cried. I could not believe I was finally here! By a fun coincidence, my tent-mate from Rainier happened to be in Lukla at the same time! After catching up with her, we headed off. We have a small group. Gadul is our local guide and I am accompanied by one other, Juan from Bolivia, who is currently living in Thailand. The road to Phakding was downhill, and quick. We passed dozens of rocks, prayer wheels, stupas, and memorials covered in Sanskrit writings from the Monks of the monasteries. I learned that all of these sacred monuments bust be passed on the left, or in a clockwise direction out of respect. These are the most peaceful mountains I have ever been to. Bells and chimes from prayer wheels ring, and chants in the distance can be heard from the Monks up the hill. The spirit of this land is something I have wanted to experience for years. I was in disbelief of the awe and wonder around me. Within a short 2 1/2  hours, we arrived in Phakding, got settled into our first teahouse lodge and enjoyed some downtime.

DAY 2: PHAKDING TO NAMCHE BAZZAR- 2,610m (8,560′) to  3,440m (11,283′)- 5/31/18

Day 2 was long, steep, and hot. The trail was very up and down, and there were stairs, so many stairs!!! I started the morning off feeling pretty good! As we started walking I could hear birds that sounded just like the Mockingjay from the Hunger Games. We passed plenty of porters bringing down stuff from base camp now that the season is over and I began to realize something; many of these young boys looks just like my high schoolers! When people think “Sherpa” there is a stereotype that comes to mind. A short man, wearing flip flops, smoking cigarettes, while hiking with up to 100 kilos on his back with a head strap used for balance. While this is seen sometimes, the reality is most porters are young teenagers. Some are wearing skinny jeans, Adidas, a flat rimmed baseball cap, and playing music on their phone while they walk. I asked Gadul how young some of the porters typically start and he said some can be as young as 14, working weekends while they’re not in school.

We stopped for lunch about 2 hours into our hike in a village called Monjo, where the official entrance to the National Park is located. We crossed 6 bridges on the way to Namche. The last bridge is known as the high bridge. you hike up a steep hill to get there, as it’s suspended around 100 meters in the air. The last 2 hours of the climb is up a steep cliff side. It was extremely slow going, especially in the hot sun. It did not help that whatever I ate for lunch was beginning to not sit well. By the time we got to Namche I was pretty wiped out and my stomach was killing me. I had a difficult time eating dinner because I was so nauseous, and then it hit me in the middle of the night… my first bout of traveler’s diarrhea. I knew it was not altitude sickness because of the simple fact that I had been training above 10,000′ for months. Plus, I had altitude sickness once before, this was different. I could nearly pinpoint that the goat cheese on my potatoes at lunch was the most likely culprit.

DAY 3: REST DAY IN NAMCHE- 6/1/18

After a “fun” morning in the bathroom, I joined everyone for breakfast where I tried to force down some oatmeal. The initial plan was to hike up to Khumjung, a town at 3780m (12,398′), but we woke up to heavy rain and clouds in the area. (I was pretty thankful for that) A few hours later, Juan knocked on my door to announce they were going to head up for a short walk now that the weather was clearing. After spending the morning lying in the fetal position, and taking some antacid medicine, I decided to join them to at least get out and stem some boredom.

We walked up to the Sagarmatha Visitor Center, (Sagarmatha is the Nepali name for Everest) and toured around enjoying the Tenzing Norgay Memorial statue (the real MVP), as well as the various boards and displays inside the visitor center. On a sunny day, you can see Everest from this point, however, because of the clouds, we couldn’t see anything. As the clouds were beginning to move and disperse slightly, we decided to hang out on top of that hill to wait and see if the clouds would part enough to see Everest. After about 10 minutes of waiting, we could finally see Lhotse peering from behind the clouds, and moments later, Everest. I literally cried. I had been waiting for this moment for so long. to finally see Everest in person! I realized this was no longer a dream, but totally real. Despite being unbelievably sick, I had a rush of adrenaline.

DAY 4: NAMCHE TO DEBOCHE- 3,440m (11,283′) to 3,820m (12,529′)- 6/2/18

Feeling slightly better the next morning, We set off on our way to what was originally going to be Tengboche. We hiked down a steep hill to the small village of Phunke Tenga near the river, then back up another steep hill to Tengboche and the Tengboche Monastery. We toured the grounds, taking in the beautiful artwork inside the monastery. I absolutely LOVED the detail and the colors. It was very warm and inviting. I only wish we had been there for a Puja ceremony. That would have been incredible to see.

Then came time to find our lodge. Due to the fact that we were trekking in “off season”. Many teahouses close as families head to Kathmandu for the summer. The teahouse we meant to stay in was closed, so we hiked down into the rhododendron forest to the small village of Deboche. The bright colors of the flowers were incredible! Pinks, yellows, and white, colored the trees and the ground.

DAY 5: DEBOCHE TO DINGBOCHE- 3,820m (12,529′) to 4,410m (14,464′)- 6/3/18

We woke up to a beautiful view of Ama Dablam as well as Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse. The hike was fairly gentle in incline compared to the steep hills I had been climbing before. What was predicted to be a 5-6 hour hike, we did in 4 1/2! At this point in time, I was officially the highest I have ever been. at 14, 464′ I was higher than any peak in Colorado, higher than Mount Rainier, and almost as high as Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States at 14,505′. But, it didn’t feel like I was over 14,000′. I was acclimatizing very well and my stomach was improving.

DAY 6: DINGBOCHE TO LOBUCHE (My favorite day)- 4,410m (14,464′) to 4,910m (16,104′)- 6/4/18

Words cannot describe the awe, beauty, and spiritual nature of what I had seen this day… I like to think that I have a very good eye for pictures, especially outdoors, and I still don’t think I did it any justice. I came here, not only to reach a lifelong goal, but to also go on a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts and this day fulfilled a big part of that spiritual side.

To start, we climbed up the tundra hills above Dingboche. The clouds parted and we had 360 degree views of the Himalayan peaks that surrounded us. I am officially convinced that Ama Dablam is the most beautiful mountain in the world. Everest may the the highest, but it’s not “pretty”. Ama Dablam was stunningly gorgeous. I literally stopped and told myself “don’t sit down or you will never leave.” We took our time in those hills taking dozens of photos. The clouds sweeping by below us added an element like we really were in heaven. I have never seen anything more beautiful in my life.

After a quick lunch in Tulkla, we climbed a steep rocky hill to the Sherpa Memorial field where tombstones and stupas of climbers who died on Everest and other nearby peaks cover the hillside to remember those who have fallen. The spirit of this mountain is unreal. You could really feel how sacred of a place this had become.

Walking onward, the view opened up to the Khumbu region where Pumori dominated the view, Nuptse stood out infront of Everest, and You could see over the ridge into Tibet where Changtse is visible at 7,543m (24,747′). (You can literally see China!)

DAY 7: LOBUCHE TO GORAK SHEP AND EVEREST BASE CAMP!- 4,910m (16,104′) to 5,140m (16,859′) and 5,464m (17,600′)- 6/5/18

My lungs were definitely beginning to feel the lack of oxygen but my body felt like a freaking amazon warrior! Hung out at base camp for over an hour, playing around in the glacier and I was amazed at how well I felt. From Lobuche, we walked along a fairly flat path to Lobuche Pass which led to the surprisingly intense Changri Glacier crossing. Navigating the crazy rocks was all over the place. Finally, we made it to Gorak Shep, where we would be spending the night.

 After a quick cup of tea and dropping off our bags, we continued onward to Base Camp. Nuptse dominated our views and it was massive. The tip of Everest’s summit was peering out behind it, and below it all was the Khumbu Glacier. A mix of rocks and ice, like nothing I had ever seen before. We could hear shifting, creaking, and cracking as if the mountain was alive, trying to speak.

When we arrived at EBC, it was like a playground of ice and rock. Climbing season is over so it was completely empty and there were no tents left, but I can imagine sleeping on the wet rocks and having the ice and water constantly moving beneath you. How do you sleep?! The Khumbu Icefall is MASSIVE. in photos, movies, and documentaries don’t show how steep it really is.

After Playing in the glacier, we headed back to Gorak Shep to rest, and get some sleep before our early morning ahead of us.

DAY 8: KALA PATTHAR SUMMIT AND BACK TO DINGBOCHE- 5,644m (18,519′)- 6/6/18

The morning started out very cloudy and socked in. We started climbing Kala Patthar at 5am from Gorak Shep. I hit a wall pretty early into my climb. It was incredibly steep and the lack of oxygen was finally catching up with me in the sense that I would begin to feel a sense of panic whenever I had trouble catching my breath. I would have to stop, calm down, and let my breathing regulate. Part of me wanted to turn back on multiple occasions because of the crappy weather. I didn’t want to make it to the summit and not be able to see the view. But I kept pushing and near the end, I was having to take nearly 10 breaths for every step I took. 

Luckily, during the last 20 meters or so to the summit, all of the sudden the clouds began to open up and I managed to see an amazing view of Everest, Nuptse, and the Khumbu Glacier just long enough for a few photos before the clouds closed back in on us. I was exhausted, and out of breath but glad I completed my goal. I had finally seen Everest and Base Camp, and that’s when it began to sink in that I didn’t think that I had it in me for another summit. Island Peak was a bonus, an add-on to my original goal and at this point, I felt like I bit off more than I could chew with my first trip to the Himalayas. I was exhausted, hungry, homesick, and really just kind of done at this point of the trip. I no longer had the desire or even felt the need to climb Island Peak anymore. However, we were headed in that direction anyway, so I kept it in the back of my mind, and was still open to the possibility. After Kala Patthar, we ate breakfast at Gorak Shep then headed all the way back down to Dingboche. A long day for sure, but it was nice to breathe the thicker air.

DAY 9: DINGBOCHE TO CHUKKUNG- 4,410m (14,464′) to 4,730m (15,514′) 6/7/18

My second bout of food poisoning began this morning. I woke up feeling a little nauseous, had trouble eating breakfast, but not thinking much of it initially. but as we began our ascent to Chukkung, it hit me like a wall. I thought I was gonna puke. Was it the vegetables in the spring rolls I had for dinner? or the hot chocolate I had before bed? Either way, I was back to boring foods… Despite wanting to throw up with every step, The hike to Chukkung was pretty short. I spent the rest of the day in bed, trying to let my stomach subside, and then it was time to make a decision. The next day we were supposed to head to Island Peak Base Camp, but I had the option of staying behind while Juan and Gadul joined another guide to make a summit attempt. I felt weak, burned out, sick enough that it seemed like the right decision.

DAY 10-11: WAITING IN CHUKKUNG- 6/8-9/18

The boys left at around 9:30am for base camp which was actually fairly late. We spent the morning waiting out heavy rain before they decided to leave. My stomach was still a mess, and I was still struggling to force down any food. Entertaining myself all day was a struggle, and by the time I went to bed, the doubt began to creep in… “Should I have just gone and tried? Am I giving up?” I had to remind myself how sick and weak I really had become. Even Gadul mentioned he could tell I had lost a lot of weight, and was worried. There is no way I would’ve been able to endure a 16 hour high altitude climb in the condition I was in. By morning the next day, I could FINALLY see Island Peak. towering 5,000 feet above me was a giant wall of ice. I confirmed with myself, there was absolutely no way. Reports from Gadul and Juan talked about waist deep snow from the night before and hidden crevasses EVERYWHERE under the snow. Due to the late season conditions, melting was causing the route to be extremely unsafe, especially near the end so they turned around about 200 meters or so from the summit.

DAY 12-16: DOWN WE GO- 6/10-14/18

The downward crawl had long days. Both Juan and I reminisced on foods we missed back home and miles seemed stretched as our tired legs headed back down from Chukkung to Deboche, Deboche to Namche, and Namche to Lukla. We then spent the next 3 days in Lukla due to weather. We were scheduled to fly out on the 13th, but no planes came at all that morning. We then booked new tickets for the next day in a second attempt however, weather closed in quickly and before our plane was scheduled to take us back to Kathmandu.

I was scheduled to fly home the next day, and after checking the weather for Friday, it was safe to assume no flights would come the next morning so we looked at our second option: paying $500/person to fly on a helicopter. We decided to go for it, and even that was an anxious waiting game as clouds were even to thick for the helicopter much of the day. They were finally able to land to pick us up and take us back to Kathmandu. It was worth it.

Overall, I loved Nepal. I loved the culture, the people, the mountains, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It had it’s ups and downs, but for a first trip to the Himalayas I felt like it was a successful endeavor. I hope you enjoyed my long winded report. I know it was a lot to read through. But be sure to stay tuned here in the near future as I have a few other posts about my trip to Nepal in the works.

7 Tips for Expedition Preparation

No matter what your adventure, planning is important. However, when you are planning an expedition, it becomes critical! You have an ever changing to-do list, physical training, as well as other logistics to keep in mind.

Here are some tips you need to know to make sure you are checking off all the important preparation tasks for a big trip!

Step 1: (The Obvious) Book your trip!

Once you decide what you would like to do, book your trip before doing ANYTHING else, including booking your flight. Depending on your expedition will depend on availability of dates as well as available guide companies to book through. DO NOT just book the first company you look at. compare prices, compare dates, compare reviews, compare summit success rates, and most importantly, compare safety standards for crew and clientele. Some have the money and are willing to pay for the best of the best, which is great! However, others (including myself) have to think about budget and getting the best possible experience for the best available price.

For me personally, my first priority was climbing local. Not only does it support their local economy to climb local when you can, but you get a much more in-depth cultural experience learning about the country and culture! My second priority was safety, and third was price. These are all things to keep in mind when choosing who to book your expedition with. Below are just a couple of my personal favorites:

  • Third Rock Adventures: Local Nepali guide company recommended by Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor, Travel Channel, New York Times, and more. Local guides fluent in English, great safety standards, cheaper than western guide companies, and all the money you spend supports the struggling Nepali economy.┬á
  • Eco-Africa Climbing: The best local agency in Tanzania. They pride themselves on ethical porter treatment, ensuring they all make a living wage (even before tips). They will teach you Swahili and ensure a safe climb up Kilimanjaro! Safaris are also available.
  • Summit Climb: Founded by famous climber and guide Dan Mazur. Variety of charity treks available, experienced guides, most affordable Everest climbing from a western company, wide variety of larger expeditions and climbs, well organized.

Step 2: Book your flight!

Once you book your trip, wait until you make your first payment and receive a confirmation email with all needed info regarding your expedition before booking your flight. Everyone always talks about how there are key windows to book the cheapest flight. This is more true for nationwide flights more-so than international flights. International flights tend to book much more quickly and have their ideal price window between 4-6 months in advance depending on the time of year. The trick is to start monitoring and follow flight prices as soon as you book your trip, and once everything is confirmed, then book your flight. There are now a variety of flight apps to help track prices and some work better than others. Google Flights is always a good start, however I found Hopper and Skyscanner found much cheaper flights. 

Step 3: Training Schedule

Planning out a training schedule for workouts is critical. It is important to map out when and how you are going to workout and train. This will be ever changing however. Life happens. You may find you were more out of shape than you thought and it may take longer to re-establish a base line of fitness, or you may get sick and be out of commission for a week or two, or maybe you are just so exhausted from work you aren’t getting to train as much as you would like. Whatever happens, set and establish fitness goals at the beginning and just try to get as close to them as possible. You may get lucky and be able to stay on track, but if not, you have a guideline to help get you there.

Step 4: To-Do lists everywhere!

Start simple, and add things as needed. When you first book your trip there are a few essential things that need to go on your list, but other random things may come up as you get closer. here are some things to make sure get done:

  • Order new passport (if needed)
  • Purchase Travel Insurance
  • Purchase Emergency Evacuation insurance
  • Ensure your health insurance is current
  • Set a doctor appointment to get a physical, (most guide companies require a doctor to clear you for a major expedition and will require a form to be filled out by your doctor)
  • Have your doctor write you a prescription for Diamox (for altitude sickness) and antibiotics (for emergencies)
  • Receive any immunizations needed for the country you are traveling to.
  • Shop for any needed supplies or equipment
  • Call bank before you leave to let them know you will be out of the country

Step 5: Faux Pack

At some point you will need to make sure all your gear fits in your duffel right?  This is also a good opportunity to double check your equipment list to make sure you have everything you need. It is recommended to do a packing trial about a month or so before you leave. If you are missing gear, it is good to give yourself the time to shop for it. Another good reason for this is weight limits. Not only do airlines have weight limits for luggage but porters do too. There are laws in place to protect porters safety and health to ensure they are not carrying too much weight. Many well established guide companies respect these laws as well as their porters and are strict about weight limits. This can get tricky when you are hauling a bunch of heavy climbing gear. When you pack, take only what you need. Don’t bring a bunch of extras, and pick one outfit to hike/climb in with various layers, and one outfit to lounge in. There are ways to launder clothes at high altitude if you really need to, but most just deal with the stink!

Step 6: (the most important) Mental Preparation

Mind will win over body every time. If you aren’t confident in yourself or your abilities, don’t expect success when you arrive at your destination. Your mental health is going to be more important than your physical preparedness. Preparing your mind will look different for every person depending on where you are at to begin with. Some seek out therapy to work through fears and doubts, however some can simply meditate on their goals. There are a variety of things you can do to mentally prepare yourself but this one I can’t give advice on specifically because it is something where you will need to just decide what works best for you. 

Step 7: Farewell!

This is another thing where you decide what you would like to do! Some want a party, some love to spend a final evening with family and friends, others maybe do something more interpersonal. Whatever you choose, it is important to surround yourself with those who support you! Cheers and Good Luck!

Solo Trekking

Finding myself in the woods.

Report from 10/7/15

Over the summer, I struggled through some life bumps in the road. After 6 years in therapy, I was finally getting to the bottom of my deepest darkest inner demons that had resulted in my depression as a teen, and my eating disorder during adolescence. This was that stuff no one ever wants to look at, let alone work on. As the school year began to close in on me, I decided I desperately needed some alone time in the mountains and not just a hike by myself, but an overnight trek into a quiet place where I could decompress, de-stress, and get in touch with that nature-linked spiritual side. I had hiked alone plenty sure, but I had never slept out in the wild alone. It was sure to be an interesting night.

Life delayed my solo trip for a few weeks, but once school started I knew I needed to make it happen before my brain felt like it was going to explode. A few weeks ago in mid-September, I embarked on my night alone in the wild. I picked a beautiful spot, in the saddle between Devil’s Castle and Sugarloaf Peak Utah; a saddle between two peaks that I had been curious about camping in for years.

I made it to the saddle just after sunset. The hike itself only took me two hours, but I had a much later start than I had hoped that day. I pitched my tent in a small wind shelter built out of slate, cooked my food, and went to lay down in my tent.

That night was NOT a quiet as I hoped…. The weather forecast was calm and clear, but just after dusk the wind picked up. Sleeping at 11,000 feet, I knew there was a chance of wind, but the normal wind pattern for this area of Utah has southerly and westerly winds which the shelter was built to block out. What I encountered were winds from the North winds which would blow into the doorway opening of the shelter and swirl around in my small little nook. My tent was SO LOUD, and the wind didn’t die down until after midnight. I felt myself digressing to my childhood ways of hiding under my sleeping bag from the wind as I slept alone, on a mountain, in the wind. At around 2am I was awoken by howling in the night. The saddle I was located on straddled 2 valleys with great acoustics and full of wildlife. I could hear the howling and laughter of coyotes but I couldn’t tell which valley the sound came from or how far away they were. I continued to hide in my sleeping bag wishing for the sun to come up. It was a new moon, and with a thin layer of cloud cover, the night was dark and empty. I had never felt more alone in my life. Not a star in the sky, no one to comfort me but myself. It was a test of strength of mind and a test of self.

I woke up the next morning just before the sun rose. It was calm, cool and the most refreshing feeling in the world (despite my lack of sleep). Every dark, lonely feeling from the night before was immediately washed away with the sun’s morning rays. I sat on the ridge overlooking the Albion Basin below me. The Autumn colors were glowing at first light and I felt that indescribable feeling of awe as I watched the sunrise. After about a half hour of just enjoying the view, I decided to greet the sun in the best way I could think of that had been inspired by a wandering friend… ­čśë

Something about that moment was awe-inspiring. (I don’t know what it is, but if you have never gotten naked in nature, I highly recommend it.) You feel completely free in every way imaginable. No worries, no stress, nothing to constrict you both mentally and physically. You really can embrace the world around you and truly become one with nature.

After my hippie moment, I finished off my morning by trekking up Sugarloaf Peak. It was a short hike from my campsite and it was a great way to finish off my experience. I had climbed these mountains countless times over and over but had never seen them quite like this. It was exactly what I needed and left me feeling rejuvenated for everything that was still in front of me. The greatest lesson learned in the whole experience was that despite whatever darkness or challenges you may come across in your life, you can make it through it and will be greeted with light on the other side.

~Sometimes you just have to get out there and get lost in the world~