Thursday, 24 December 2015

Training, at an extremely slow pace

Since my last post, I have logged less than 50 kilometres of cycling. As a measure of what distance I should log in my cycling schedule, it is a pittance.

During my last bike ride I can report on some good news, and some bad news, and more bad news but not necessarily in that order.

The good news is that, after having repeatedly cycled on the mildly challenging 12+ kilometre Muryaza roundabout route, I finally mustered the courage to raise the challenge slightly by resuming the 22+ kilometre Mwanza Highway junction route. This route involves a long downhill ride to the turnaround point and then an almost constant uphill ride all the way back to Butiama. 
Part of the scenery along the 22+-kilometre route.
In better times when I regularly cycled it was an easy route. Having lapsed into a long period without training, I discovered it was a huge challenge. That was the second piece of bad news.

The first piece of bad news is I broke my headphone MP3 player as I was about to begin my ride. Both earpieces had broken apart, but I could still play the music. I managed to hold the earpieces in their original positions and placed the headphones over my head and the inward tension held the broken pieces firmly over over my ears and I cycled off to the music of some of the best musicians that I acknowledge including this one.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Finally, the training is on for the January 2016 Mt Kilimanjaro climb

I finally managed to cycle some 8 kilometres a few days ago, beginning my preparations for climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in January 2015. Too late? It is not the Butiama to Dodoma trip by any stretch of the imagination, but much better than not training at all.

I cycled through part of what has been one of the easier routes on the several routes that I have used in the past. What I call the Butiama to Muryaza roundabout route takes me to the nearby village of Muryaza where I circle the only roundabout there and return to Butiama. It is a 10+ kilometre run, but I cut it short to about 8 kilometres because I stopped along the way to visit this elderly woman (also in photo, below).

Although I have not cycled for a long time, I felt I had a potent reserve of energy. I hope to clock at least 500 kilometres before I climb Kilimanjaro in January.

Related post:

Monday, 30 November 2015

How not to (and how to) train for climbing Kilimanjaro

I have yet to find a good way of preparing myself to tackle Mt. Kilimanjaro. I am due to climb Kilimanjaro again in January 2016 and I have not yet surprised myself by any drastic behavioural change in my training schedule. Avoiding what I have done, and concentrating on what I failed to do, should provide guidance to a better way of training for Kilimanjaro.

Cigarette smoking

Once in a while, I smoke a cigarette. That in itself is the worst thing for preparing to climb Kilimanjaro. The trouble begins when one cigarette becomes a few, and before long it becomes a whole packet. My cigarette craving normally lasts for a few weeks and I have always possessed the will-power to quit smoking. This time it took a little bit longer and stretched to a few months. Quitting became a formidable challenge.

Cigarette smoking and mountaineering is not a good combination. The higher one climbs the less oxygen is available in any single breadth, and I felt when breathing that I was gasping for enough oxygen at the height of my smoking spree - even without the endurance of mountain climbing.
Photo credit: Philippa Willits
One study reports that smoking at high altitudes can impair acclimatization, and if inadequate acclimatization produces mountain sickness then a pleasant trek could very well become a nightmare. Ideally, a climb should be enjoyed. It should not be an agonizing experience.

But I do not need findings of medical studies to realize that smoking has far more detrimental effects to the body than merely messing up an enjoyable climb.

If you need suggestions on how to quit smoking read this excellent article:

Length of training

I always suggest to first-time climbers to devote at least three months of training prior to climbing Kilimanjaro. I admit I find it easier to prescribe this "medicine" then to take some yourself. So, as has become my custom now, I have not devoted enough time to any serious training. I plan to begin within the next hour and I hope I will report back about that great leap of willpower in the next post.

Mountain biking only

I have concentrated most of my training around cycling on my mountain bike. From my experience, a three-part well-rounded training regime requires a combination of building:

  • lower body strength (the bike serves this), 
  • upper body strength exercises (I hardly do these), and 
  • a good dose of exercises that builds cardiovascular fitness (these I rarely do, although cycling provides some benefit)

My problem is that I travel regularly and it is only when at home that I can train on the bike. Professional trainers would offer the best advice to meet the objectives that I mention.

On Google Search one can find a lot of useful information on these three areas:
  • Lower body exercises
  • Upper body exercises
  • Cardiovascular exercises

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Excellent YouTube videos on selection of clothing and gear for climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

There is a great deal of valuable information on the Internet for those interested in learning how best to prepare for climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, ranging from training, diet, medication, and other relevant information.

I share, below, YouTube videos on selecting appropriate clothing and gear for a climb.

Larry Garber has produced this guide in four parts, all of them quite informative. The ones I have not posted, part 3 and 4, are also on YouTube.

Slideshow: An 85-year-old grandmother climbs Kilimanjaro

It proves my point that climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro has more to do with mental than physical endurance. Anne Lorimore may also have set a world record for the oldest person to have reached the summit.

I have seen a lot of physically built-up individuals, mostly men, who have succumbed to the challenge of reaching Africa's highest peak, at 5,895m above mean sea level.


From her explanation after completing her climb, she had one other compelling reason not to fail. She was also raising money for a charity. I have always combined my climbs with raising money for charity and each time a particularly physically challenging part of the mountain drained my energy and filled my mind with suggestions to quit, I focused on why I was there and the funds that I was raising for a cause. And I trudged on until I reached the summit.

I failed to reach the summit once, and I recall I wasn't raising funds for charity on that particular climb.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The effects of alcohol on training

This blog is not only about my Mt. Kilimanjaro climbs, but also, suggestions on how best to get to the summit and that includes proper training. I have learnt that alcohol and training - and ensuring that one reaches the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro without effort - do not mix.
Photo credit: kilo2kili
Here are a few reasons you should not drink when training to climb a mountain such as Kilimanjaro:

1. Alcohol serves no useful purpose to a healthy body. There are less positive factors than negative ones. The effects of alcohol remain in the body for a while and all these affect better performance of the body. Climbing mountains requires maximum performance.
2. Drinking strains your kidneys because water in your body is directed into your kidneys to metabolize the alcohol.
3. Your mental capacity is limited by the presence of alcohol in the body. The brain receives less glycogen and your general alertness is reduced - a factor that inhibits your training.

I used a few facts on the deleterious effects of alcohol from this source: 

but there are numerous other links you can read:

There are some benefits to consuming alcohol but, in general, the negatives effects outweigh the positive ones.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Vitali Maembe is the latest member of the Kilimnjaro Club

The Kilimanjaro Club lists people I know who have scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro, including those who join me every year on the annual Mwalimu Nyerere/Mt. Kilimanjaro Charity Climb and those who join me for my non-charity climbs.
There were only two of us on my ninth Mt. Kilimanjaro climb. The other person was musician and activist Vitali Maembe. It was a unique climb; he carried his guitar along and on several occasions, despite the challenges of high altitude, found the strength to open his guitar case and entertain other climbers and guides and porters with his songs.

Vitali is best understood when he speaks for himself. Here's a sampling.

He is the 15th member of the Kilimanjaro Club.

If you want to join this club, join the next climb.

Point Reached*
Summit Date
Madaraka Nyerere
Uhuru Peak
24th August 2008
Le Huyhn
Uhuru Peak
25th August 2008
Markus Geiger
Uhuru Peak
Gerald Hando
Uhuru Peak
6 October 2009
Notburga Maskini
Stella Point
6 October 2009
Uhuru Peak
13 December 2010
Jaffar Amin
Uhuru Peak
13 December 2010
William Rutta
Uhuru Peak
10 December 2010
Mary Kalikawe
Uhuru Peak
10 December 2010
Steve Kamau
Uhuru Peak
26 September 2011
Jim Becket
Uhuru Peak
26 September 2011
Andrea Wobmann
Uhuru Peak
26 September 2011
Zulfa Fadhili
Uhuru Peak
26 September 2011
Jim Whitney
Uhuru Peak
26 September 2011
Vitali Maembe
Uhuru Peak
12 September 2014

*A climber is awarded a certificate for reaching one of three elevations: Uhuru Peak (5,895 AMSL), Stella Point (5,745 AMSL), or Gillman's Point (5,685 AMSL).

Related posts:

Join the Kilimanjaro climb in January 2016

The details of the 2016 Tanzania Development Support Kilimanjaro Charity Climb are now set.

The purpose of the climb is to raise $50,000 to build the computer lab wing of the Madaraka Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center. This facility will serve 10,000 children and 100 primary and secondary teachers in the Bukwaya region. The computer labs will connect these children and their families to the global community with high speed internet connections and computer literacy training. The money you raise in this climb will change their lives forever, helping them out of poverty and into healthier, longer, more satisfying lives.

The co-leaders of the 2016 Kili Climb are Mr. Madaraka Nyerere and Prof. Kurt Thurmaier. They led the successful 2012 TDS Kili Climb that raised over $33,000 to start building the Library and Community Resource Center (LCRC) in Nyegina.
Right after an early breakfast on Monday, January 24th, we will head to the Kilimanjaro Park Gate to begin our adventure to 19, 241 feet at Uhuru (Freedom) Peak! We will summit the highest peak in Africa on Saturday morning, January 30th

If you are interested in joining this charity climb, please get in touch.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Vitali Maembe joins the CDEA Kilimanjaro Climb 2014 (post 10 of 10)

On my latest Mt. Kilimanjaro climb I trekked on the Machame route for the first time. I was accompanied by musician/activist Vitali Maembe.

Here’s the tenth post of my blog log of the climb

Thursday 12 September 2014
Vitali changed the last-day rule on Mt. Kilimanjaro. Normally, it's the team of guides and porters who sing for the climbers. But today it was Vitali who sang for the guides and porters and his punchy lyrics were well-received. Yahoo said earlier: we listen to the porters (sing) everyday; it is better that you sing today.

After we descended to Moshi, I met a seasoned guide who at the top of the Barranco wall had posed with Vitali's guitar. I repeated to him my worry that Uhuru Peak (officially at 5,895m above mean sea level) is not the highest point on Mt. Kilimanjaro. I felt that a point further east appeared much higher. He said he would take measurements on his next climb.
Vitali plays one of his songs at the top of the Barranco wall.
Another guide said he thinks Bismarck Rock, just minutes before reaching Uhuru Peak from Stella Point, is actually higher. He said he raised the matter with the Kilimanjaro Park authorities and has been told [something I also theorized myself] that when Hans Meyer established the current position as being the highest on Kilimanjaro, there was almost full glacial cover of Kibo and that could have indeed been the highest point.

Then the glaciers shrank and Bismarck Rock was exposed and has become the higher point.

Another point made by the Park authorities, he said, is that there is little space to accommodate a large group of climbers congregating at the same time on Bismarck Rock. The current "peak" is flat and wide enough to accommodate a large group of people at the same time.

Related post:

Friday, 3 July 2015

Vitali Maembe joins the CDEA Kilimanjaro climb 2014 (post 9 of 10)

On my latest Mt. Kilimanjaro climb I trekked on the Machame route for the first time. I was accompanied by musician/activist Vitali Maembe.

Here’s the ninth post of my blog log of the climb

Thursday 11 September 2014
As we began our trek towards the summit, Yahoo predicted we would leave behind most of the climbers who had walked ahead of us.

Vitali faced tremendous challenges walking throughout the night. I would have suggested that he turn back at 0200hrs but Yahoo kept on pushing him and agreeing only to a fraction of Vitali's frequent demands to rest along the way.

I, on the other hand, experienced challanges of my own; my body has yet to get accustomed to frequent stops during the final night to the summit. Each time I resume walking after these stops, my heart pace surges and I feel under intense pressure for several minutes before stabilizing at a rate I can handle.

The only solution I have to avoid this burden is to tell Yahoo at some point that I would walk ahead. During the September 2011 climb I sneaked through in the cover of darkness behind an approaching group of climbers, unnoticed by members of my group. But Yahoo has consistently argued against splitting the group saying it demoralises those left behind. He has a valid point. Tonight, rather than walk ahead, I stayed with the team as we struggled with our individual burdens throughout the night. Daybreak came before we reached Stella Point.

I constantly reminded myself that I have to reach the summit, not wanting to face the prospect of failing to reach the summit as in December 2011.

At Uhuru Peak, I could not find my camera, which I later discovered, after we descended to Barafu camp, in one of my several jacket pockets.

Yahoo later told me that most of the guides who were observing our slow pace during the climb had predicted we would not reach the summit. Kilimanjaro does not run out of surprises.
On the way to Mweka camp with Kibo peak in the background, from L-R, assistant guide Stephen, Yahoo, and Vitali Maembe.
We reached Barafu camp at 1330hrs and after a lunch break headed to Mweka camp where we arrived after 2130hrs. It was a long day.

Next: Vitali plays his guitar again

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