Safe in Kathmandu

All of the dreamteam are safe and doing well at our hotel in Kathmandu.  Been well fed and have a beautiful garden out back to relax in.

Our flight to start the trek was cancelled this morning but the plan is to start tomorrow.

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Bags are Packed!

Finished packing my bags and should be ready to get on the plane tomorrow morning.

A big thank you to all my friends and family that have donated to help support the Ottawa School Breakfast Program.
http://dreammountains.com/dreamteam/jeff-wilson-2015/

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I’ll post updates when I can, but won’t have access to the internet much over the next few weeks.

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The Next Adventure

In April I’m heading off on another adventure, this time to Everest Base Camp. I’m climbing with an awesome group from Dream Mountains. As part of the climb I’m raising $5000 for the Ottawa School Breakfast Program which provides a healthy breakfast to over 13,000 local children to start their school day off right. Show your support for this amazing charity (and me) by making a donation.

http://dreammountains.com/dreamteam/jeff-wilson-2015/

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Ngorongoro Crater

After the climb to relax for a few days I went to the Ngorongoro crater a few hours west of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It is not far from the Serengeti. The crater was a volcano that collapsed and is now full of wildlife. There were hundreds of Wildebeests, Zebras, Gazelles as well as quite a few Cape Buffalo, Warthogs, and Elephants. The landscape is quite open with only a small forest that has a troop of baboons.

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Kilimanjaro Time Lapse

On the second acclimatization day I started a time lapse at 6:25 to 8:25. Here is the result so far. I still need to do some work since it flickers a bit.

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Kilimanjaro Day 7-9

Day 7
Karanga Valley Camp to Barafu Camp
4050m to 4650m

This was a relatively short day of hiking. It took only around 3 hours to get to Barafu camp. The first half of the hike was mostly uphill before leveling off most of the way to camp. The terrain looked like a martian landscape with loose rock and not much else around. I managed to see the peak when the clouds finally parted. For once it looked within reach.

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While eating dinner a blizzard rolled in. While eating and trying to not have the tent collapse in, we did final preparations for the summit attempt that night. Heading back to my tent to get some sleep after dinner there was about 2 inches of snow covering the tent. With my gear all set out ready I caught a bit of sleep before heading to the mess tent at 11pm to meet up with my summit group.

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Day 8
Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp
4650m to 5895m to 3000m

The team was split into 4 groups with 7 climbers each. I was in the first group that was leaving at 11:30 pm and the other groups would follow with 30 mins between each of us. One of the people in my group injured his back and wasn’t able to start the climb. After meeting in the mess tent at 11 and getting fully dressed, checking gear 6 of us headed out with 2 guides. It was ~ -15C and the blizzard was still dumping snow down with winds peaking at ~60mph. For 7 hours we slowly made our way up through snow a couple feet deep at times. This was one of the biggest physical challenges of the climb. At times it felt like you’d take one step forward then slide two back in the snow. At times I started to question why I had not only volunteered for this torture, but had paid money. Can’t clearly remember what time the snow finally stopped but the sun decided to greet us just after reaching Stella Point on the crater rim. It was probably the most incredible sunrise I’ve ever seen.

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While taking a couple quick photos at the sign for Stella Point the second group caught up with us. A few people almost stopped at Stella Point but with the sun coming up it helped push them to continue. The sign at Uhuru Peak was visible across the crater. It looked so close and was only 200m higher in altitude. The next hour is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. With the thin air it was quite hard to breathe. Simply putting one foot in front of the other was a challenge. My back started to hurt but I pressed through it getting encouragement from my fellow climbers. After probably just over an hour I finally reached the summit after a total of around 8 hours hiking. Getting to Stella Point was probably ~80% physical/20% mental, while from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak it was the opposite. It’s hard to describe what I was feeling, a combination of exhilaration and total mental/physical exhaustion. Getting some photos with the sign and taking a number of pictures for other people I had to start heading down. I wish I had taken a few more pictures to really remember the view but with the low oxygen keeping on my feet was almost challenging enough to remember to do.

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On the way back to Stella Point I stopped for a couple pictures of the glaciers off to the side of the peak.

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Getting back down the slope from Stella Point to Barafu Camp was challenging. Heading up in the dark I didn’t see much of the terrain. It was quite steep with loose rock and snow. Sliding in the snow and rock almost skiing at times was quite hard. Every 10-15 minutes I’d have to stop to catch my breath and relax. As I got lower and lower in altitude I could feel my energy returning. It took almost 4 hours to return to camp.

Back at camp I managed a short nap before lunch. After lunch and packing up camp we headed down to the Mweka Camp. The hike took just over 3 hours with the last half following a rocky path.

Day 9
Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate
3000m to 1700m

The final day of hiking was probably the easiest. The short 2.5 hour hike through the rainforest was a welcome sight after the previous day. Along the trail there were a number of monkeys jumping from tree to tree. Once at the gate we all signed into the log book. In the clearing behind the ranger station chairs and tables were setup for us with a snack and drinks. We had some beers and pop while thanking the guides for taking us through this journey safely.

After the 2 hour drive back to the hotel at Moshi the afternoon was spent relaxing. After dinner all the guides arrived and we were each presented with a certificate for either making it to Uhuru Peak or Stella Point. Of the group of 29 climbers, 24 made it up to Uhuru Peak and 4 had turned around at Stella Point.

Final Thoughts
This mountain is quite a challenge and I’d have to say anyone who says it’s easy likely doesn’t completely remember the summit night. I made sure to take notes knowing that the high altitude can cause a bit of memory loss. I’m really glad that I took this trip and met some incredible people that really helped me get to the top. I’d like to thank Shawn Dawson our team leader for all his guidance and help training as well as the 27 other climbers that made this an unforgettable trip. Also I’m not sure I could have done this without the family and friends back home supporting me with words of encouragement and donations to Dreams Take Flight. As part of this climb I was able to raise over $2500.

Photos from the trip are here.

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Kilimanjaro Day 4-6

This post is long overdue. Been to busy since I got back.

The middle three days is mostly a traversal around the mountain going up in altitude before returning lower to sleep.

Day 4
Shira Camp to Lava Tower to Barranco Camp
3840m to 4600m to 4000m

The first half of the day was a long uphill towards the Lava Tower. Most of the terrain was rocky with boulders that slowly got smaller in size the higher we went. Following one of my favorite lunches of the trip (deep fried peanut butter & banana sandwiches) we hit the high point for the altitude for the day. We stopped at the lava tower to get some pictures of this amazing pillar before continuing the long trek down to the next camp.

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On the way down to camp there were some large cactus like trees as well as only sparse plants. After crossing a couple streams we finally arrived at the Barranco camp just before dark after hiking for almost 10 hours total. Most people were completely exhausted and I had trouble staying awake long enough to eat dinner before crashing for the night.

Day 5
Barranco Camp to Karanga Valley Camp
4000m to 4050m

After waking up in the morning I got my first view of the Barranco Wall. This steep wall a few hundred metres high loomed over the camp. After the usual breakfast we headed towards this challenge.

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To get up the wall it was a combination of rock climbing, as well as zig zagging back and forth. There were quite a few narrow spots including the well known ‘kissing wall’. The group stopped for pictures at the top before heading through a couple small valleys on the way to the next camp.

Day 6
Karanga Valley Camp
4050m
Acclimatization Day

I woke up early in the morning (6:20) and setup my camera facing the summit. I started a time lapse and let it run taking around 1800 pictures over the next two hours. Soon I hope to get it put together into a video which I’ll share. Most of the day was spent relaxing playing cards. Early afternoon 4 of us went on a short hike up the ridge above camp for about 90 minutes.

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Kilimanjaro Day 1-3

Day 1
Machame Gate to Machame Camp
Altitude 1930m to 2980m

The Machame gate was a hour drive from Moshi and it is the start of the trail up Kilimanjaro. Starting at just short of 2000m it isn’t too noticeable but the guides keep the group going at a slow pace. The terrain was mostly rainforest which just before camp transitioned to much shorter trees. In total we walked 10.4km in 6.5 hours. It only rained for a couple short spurts, but otherwise it was hot and humid in the rainforest. As we closed in at camp I could notice the thinner air. Once at camp it was hard to remember to walk slow. A simple walk to the bathroom at a normal pace would leave me out of breath. The motto of the mountain is ‘Pole Pole’ which means slowly.

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Day 2
Machame Camp to Shira Camp
Altitude 2980m to 3840m

We were told that this day would be uphill and it didn’t disappoint. The first half of the day felt like it was straight up. After breakfast the trail was steep leading up a ridge line for a while. When the clouds cleared the view was spectacular. As the day went on clouds rolled in and enveloped the trail. In the early afternoon it rained a little bit but otherwise was nice for hiking. There was one narrow part of the trail that was a bit of a challenge. After lunch on the trail it flattened out and was much easier the rest of the way to the second camp. I noticed a slight headache from the altitude. In total we hiked 5km in just under 8 hours. The rainforest transitioned fully into heather with shorter bushes and very few trees.

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Day 3
Shira Camp
Altitude 3840m
Acclimatization Day

This day was a rest day to acclimatize to the altitude. My headache from the previous day was gone after waking up. I passed the day by playing cards and going on an acclimatization hike for just over an hour. When starting out on the hike I was surprised that my heart rate was at 65 bpm. This was good as it meant I was adjusting to the altitude. In the evening I setup my camera and took a few shots of the stars.

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Successful Summit

On Tuesday morning I made it to the top of Kilimanjaro. More to follow when I have time in the next few days.

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Sunrise at Stella Point on the way to Uhuru Peak.

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Adventure begins

In less than an hour the group of 29 will be getting on the buses to start the climb.

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