I am taking a short break from a demanding schedule this week completing a client paper and wrapping up my final few days in the north to reflect on my upcoming trip to Tanzania. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, it’s been a challenge to stay on track with my workout schedule due to a few unexpected “logistics”. I’ve also had to resolve myself to the fact that I am unlikely to get in some high altitude climbs as I’d hoped in preparation for Kilimanjaro. Overall, though, I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do and plan to push myself further over the next 90 days that remain until my departure.
I did, however, read a fellow climber’s experience in tackling Kilimanjaro and it immediately propelled me back to my own moments tackling altitude sickness on an Everest Base Camp trek in January 2008. I have great admiration for the Climb 4 Cord initiative (#climb4cord) under Canadian Blood Services and Jaime Stein (@jaimestein) in accomplishing an amazing feat and fundraising goal in memory of his father. His struggle up the mountain reminded me of my own challenge.
On my Everest trek, I had to stop and let the climbing team proceed without me for two days while I rested and wrestled with the decision to either continue up the mountain, await the team’s return after their ascent or proceed down the mountain on my own, defeated. The trekking company had already used every option to assist me. I had been in the portable oxygen chamber twice. A third time would have meant immediate evacuation.
I had been given The Secret that Christmas and willed myself to remember the passages and gain inspiration from the book. I spent much of that time resting on a bench underneath Sir Edmund Hillary’s picture in a tearoom at Namsche Bazaar. It gave me strength while the owner of the tearoom placed more dried yak dung in the potbellied stove to keep me warm. I was completely dehydrated from being sick to my stomach through the night and dealing with dysentery for days. It was difficult keeping any fluids down and, even if I could, water held little appeal. I have a vague memory of a fellow trekker supporting my weak body as I retched into the pail through the night while the trek leader held my hair away from my face.
I know the smell of the burning yak dung made me more noxious but, at the same time, I welcomed the heat as it was unusually cold then and my body was drained. I could only nod weakly as the leader, trekkers, porters and sherpas left me behind with my decision. Amazingly – even to myself – I managed with the help of a porter and sherpa (and Sprite purchased along the way) to catch up with my group two days later at night. I ended up collapsing into the leader’s tent that night as there has not been one set up for me. Clearly I had not been expected. However, the mountain had not succeeded: after a considerable struggle, I still made it to Base Camp.
So I can easily relate to Jaime’s story and wonder what Kilimanjaro may have in store for me. I am stronger and more able now than when I pursued Everest in early 2008. I am up for the challenge….
Here is the link to Jaime’s inspirational blog entry entitled “The most mentally draining day of my life”.
My hat’s off to you, Jaime.