Just a quick note to let everyone know that I’m home, safe and sound, from Africa. I had a wonderful time and have a lot to share. I appreciate all the kind words and thoughts while I was away and I intend to crank things back up here soon once I get over the jetlag and climb out from all the work waiting for me.
Just so I don’t keep everyone in suspense, I’ll let everyone know right now that I did not summit on Kili, but not because I wasn’t ready physically. My training was good, and I was strong on the mountain. I had the right gear and equipment, and the altitude had nearly no effect on me. So what kept me from reaching the summit? The altitude did have one effect on me that I hadn’t thought of nor could have preapred for, and that was the complete lack of sleep while on the mountain.
The first night we camped at about 10,200 feet or so, and I was able to get about 1 1/2 to maybe 2 hours of sleep. This was following 28 hours of travel to Tanzania the days before and about four hours of sleep before we started the climb. As the days progressed, I got less and less sleep, generally only in the 1/2 hour per night area, and the day before summit day, I got none at all. The result, was that after five days of trekking the mountain, and probably a combined 7 or 8 hours of sleep over a week, I was literally exhausted when I reached basecamp the night before the summit attempt.
At that point, I made the decision to not go for the summit, as it was 6 to 7 hours up, plust another 2 to 3 back down, followed by a short rest, and another 4 hours further down after that. In the condition I was in, that didn’t seem like a smart option to me at the time. While I was disappointed, I still feel like I made the right choice, as I feared that I would become even more exhausted should I push myself to the limit, and with a whole week of Safari ahead, I didn’t want to end up sick or worse.
Fortunately, upon returning to lower altitudes, I began to sleep fine once more, and soon caught up on my sleep, but of course by then, my chances for the summit were gone and I had to settle for being satisfied with the wonderful trekking on the mountain, without the summit. Colm, my climbing partner from Ireland, did go for the summit, and was successful in his attempt. He said it was the hardest thing he had ever done, and this is coming from a person who runs three and a half hour marathons. He knew what kind of shape I was in due to my lack of sleep, and thought that I had made the right choice as well.
In the days ahead, I’ll be blogging on the whole experience in more detail, offering my thoughts on the climb and the lessons I learned while on the mountain. The first lesson is an easy one though. Were I to do things over, I think I would have scheduled a free day between my travels and the start of the cliimb. It would have helped me to rest up a bit, and work on the jetlag some, before starting up Kilimanjaro. Looking back, that may have helped some, although it’s unlikely it would have made a difference in my ability to sleep on the mountain. The only thing that would have helped would have been more acclimatization and possibly a slower route to the top.
Fortunately, I don’t feel like I have “unfinished business” with Kili. The trekking was still wonderful, I had a great time, made several new friends, and still count the trip as a success, even without the summit. Hopefully in my future blog posts on the subject I can convey that, and more about the experience.
Finally, I’d like to thank Duma Explorer for such a great experience both on Kili and on Safari. They were very professional, well organized, and prepared us well for what to expect. If you’re thinking of visiting Tanzania for a climb or safari of your own, I can’t recommend them enough. Plus, they are a locally owned company, meaning that when you use them, you’re not only employing Tanzanians, the money is actually staying in the country itself and not going back to the U.S. or U.K. Something to think about in todays competitive travel environment.
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