Thursday, 31 July 2014

How do you summon willpower to begin training?

As my next Kilimanjaro climb approaches (September 2014) I am confronting, yet again, the dilemma of breaking weeks of inertia and resuming my training schedule.

I can authoritatively say that I have perfected a method of effortlessly reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro without any training. Here's how: you trek as slowly as humanely possible and, in the process, consume so little energy every day that each time you wake up in the morning you have just about enough energy to take you to the next camp. And so on and so forth until you reach ths summit. However, I do not recommend this method to any novice climber; it takes a lot of experience to accomplish. Experience at doing nothing.

And yet for all that experience I still have not found an easy method of overcoming the inertia to train for the climb although I believe I may be just about to obtain a solution. I call it jumping into the deep end. If you jump into the deep end of a swimming pool you have to swim.

It works like this. You place yourself in a sitiuation where the only way out of it is to train. Three months after I cycled with Ross Methven from Butiama to Dodoma, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for the 8th time in September 2013, experiencing one of the easier climbs since I began in 2008. I was in relatively good shape.
Packed to go.
My jumping into the deep end involves traveling as far as time permits away from my base in Butiama and then cycling back. So, I hop on my bicycle from Mwanza tomorrow, cross to Ukerewe Island where I will spend two days of cycling and sight seeing and also to update itineraries for my cultural tourism activities, and then I head east to Bunda and catch the main highway to Musoma and return to Butiama, preferably in better shape.

How do you overcome the inertia to train?

Friday, 25 July 2014

Valuable lessons from the Mt. Kilimanjaro Uhuru Climb of 2011 (post 3 of 3)

6 December 2011
It is a lazy day spent on drying our wet clothes. We also followed suggestions from our guides and did an acclimatization hike, heading uphill for a few hundred metres.

The fast pace maintained yesterday by some of the climbers came with a price. I learnt this morning that one of the climbers was suffering from fatigue and the effects of high altitude. I also heard that one of the only two female climbers in our group was unwell throughout the day. I attribute both their predicaments to maintaining a fast pace, although the blame should fall on a young energetic guide who had more energy than experience and who felt short term gains (rushing to the next camp) was more important than the longer term goal of reaching the summit. I set and maintained my normal slow pace.
Panoramic view of part of Shira 2 camp
[Lesson 4: You don't improve your chances of reaching the summit by rushing up towards the summit. Most climbers increase their chances of reaching the summit by maintaining a slow and measured pace throughout the ascent. Guides that rush climbers towards the summit are rare, but they exist. If you are unfortunate to be led by one, demand that he/she slows down to a pace that you find comfortable.]

7 - 10 December 2011
I did not maintain a diary of the daily events after 6 December - which could be instructive of the challenge I experienced as we continued the ascent. Matters were made worse because I came to this climb without adequate training and while on past climbs I managed to reach the summit with inadequate training those climbs lacked the challenges that the Mt. Kilimanjaro Uhuru climb threw at us.
Kibo peak from Shira 2 camp, the morning of 7th December.
We continued our trek to Barranco camp on 7th December and, although I suggested a slower pace to those in a hurry to get to the next camp, my advice bounced off a rejuvenated group that had recouped lost energy from the two nights we spent at Shira 2 camp.

On 8th December we trekked from Barranco to Barafu, Mt. Kilimanjaro's base camp, having stopped at Karanga camp for lunch. We had a relatively short period of rest at Barafu before we began our midnight trek towards the summit.

All high altitude climbing is unforgiving to those who do not take precautions. In this regard, Kilimanjaro maintained that reputation. Some of those who had spent the past few days rushing from one camp to the next had exhausted their energies on reaching Barafu and chose to remain sleeping in their tents while the rest of us confronted the freezing temperatures above 4,800 metres.

I recall summoning all my physical and mental resources as I trekked through the night towards Stella Point. located at the edge of the crater rim. After resting for a while at Stella Point I had decided to turn back, but Benjamin and Maurice, the filmmakers who were filming the documentary The Teachers' Country in which I was featured, urged me to continue towards the summit. It was important I reach the summit because the script was based on my arriving at the summit.

I went only half way from Stella Point and then felt I did not have the energy to reach the summit and also trek down to Mweka Camp. I was the only one in the group who knew that reaching the summit was less than half the distance we would cover before we slipped into our sleeping bags that evening.

I had another disincentive (call it an excuse): before this climb I already had reached the summit four times. If I could pick an excuse, I would say that it was the first year I was attempting to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro twice and within less than three months of the previous climb.

[Lesson 5: Unless you maintain an uninterrupted training program or are on the Seven Summits Challenge, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro twice in a year should probably be attempted after at least six months of a previous climb]
On the final day, at Mweka camp, it is all smiles for those who reached the summit and those who did not. I, on the left, thought that Deo, on the right, and her colleague would not reach the summit. They did.
But I am also aware that this last lesson cannot be valid for everyone. One lasting lesson that I have learnt from my multiple Kilimanjaro climbs is that you cannot make accurate predictions on who within a group will reach the summit.

Related post:

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Valuable lessons from the Mt. Kilimanjaro Uhuru Climb of 2011 (post 2 of 3)

5 December 2011
Yesterday Yahoo told me we are on a 7-day hike, not the 8-day hike that I normally take. That is not good news as it meant we would hike past Shira 1 camp today and would proceed to camp at Shira 2. The news would get worse in the evening.

I trekked between Mti Mkubwa and Shira 2 camps during my first climb in 2008 and recall that section being extremely challenging. Today, it lived up to its reputation. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that when I showed up for breakfast some of the other climbers had eaten more than their share and, consequently, I and a few other climbers hiked throughout the day on half-empty stomachs.

[Lesson 3: If you hike with a large group of first-time climbers it is extremely important to observe that taking a second portion before each has had enough could endanger someone else's well-being. Hiking on Mt. Kilimanjaro on half rations is dangerous.]

I felt most of the climbers were in relatively good shape because they have maintained a fast pace that, at times, I could not keep up with. some of them even walked ahead of the guides.
The climbers included Maurice Houcni and Benjamin Leers from Germany.
Like yesterday, there were light rains through most of the day.

As usual, I was one of the last trekkers walking behind the group with Innocent from Arusha and Eugene Gassana. We reached the camp at 2100hrs where we learnt the rest of today's bad news. A ranger told us that, because of the extreme weather conditions, 15 porters had either become ill or had dropped what they were carrying and absconded, returning to Moshi. Consequently, most of the supplies arrived late and some of the climbers' bags were missing.

Because of these delays, a guide said "We will have to spend an extra night at Shira 2 to allow the outfitter time to replace the 15 porters that had left."

[Lesson 4: When selecting an outfitter it is important to select one that has the capacity to resolve unexpected problems that may arise. Normally, an unusually cheap quotation should be an indicator that the outfitter has limited resources to resolve problems that may arise.]

The significance of loosing another day raised further critical challenges. While under the altered plan we would hike from Shira 2 to Barranco camp as I do on the 8-day hike, the hike from Barranco would take us past Karanga (where I camp on the 8-day hike) and on to Barafu where we would take a short rest for a few hours before leaving for the summit.

I had never done this before and I knew it would not be easy.

Next post: We rest

Related posts:

Friday, 11 July 2014

Mt. Kilimanjaro in June

There was little snow cover on Mt. Kilimanjaro in late June when I took this photo during a flight to Nairobi.

I embark on another Kilimanjaro charity climb in early September 2014 on the Machame route, considered one of the more challenging routes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. I will provide details of the beneficiary when plans are finalized.
Among the climbers on the September climb will be Ross Methven, who in 2013 I had the privilege to accompany on the Tanzanian leg of his charity cycle ride from Edinburgh, Scotland, to Cape Town, South Africa.