Friday, November 15, 2013


Wow -- today we hit the trails again and encountered "high" altitudes for the first time.  For sure there is a big difference between 12,600 feet and 15,000 feet in terms of "oxygen availability" -- a headache and shortness of breath were my constant companion today as we made our way from Shira 2 to Barranco Hut (12,930 feet) via Lava Tower (15,090 feet).

Our continued trek across Shira Plateau was just incredible today.  We were blessed by blue skies and clear air all the way today and the majestic peak of Kilimanjaro looked down on us the entire way.  I had my best night's sleep last night so it was good to be hiking with fresh legs and a clear mind and to really enjoy the beauty of this little corner of God's Creation.

One of the joys of being a part of a climb team is the stories and laughter enjoyed along the way and this happened especially more on this day as most of our trek to Lava Tower was relatively gentle.  Today I was christened "Kodak" by the rest of the team due to my constant shooting of pictures and falling behind the rest of the team due to my frequent stops to take pictures.

Speaking of frequent stops, one of the things we realize at high altitude with a team of six it seems like someone is always having the need to stop and pee, especially as more and more of us are getting on Diamox.

Being the only woman on a 6-person team I am sure is a unique experience for Annemieks.  Since we are in Day 4 of the Climb at this point, she has become pretty used to all of Shannon's body noises and full descriptions of such noises.  After a lot of thought, I came up with the nickname "Duchess" (haha - get the Dutch part) for this beautiful young lady of our team.  It never ceases to amaze us that she still manages to arise from her tent each morning with her hair well done and her makeup in place while the rest of us look like a bunch of pirates.  She has such a great smile and encouraging spirit to all of us.  She is a strong hiker For all of us men from Indiana, we have adopted her as a friend and our "kid" sister.

Lava Tower (Black Rock) in the Distance
We arrived at Lava Tower for a very late lunch today along with several hundred climbers and their team.  Yesterday we were told that they were no longer letting people climb the Tower due to recent accidents and my first thought was great disappointment as this is one of the reasons Shannon and I had chosen the Lemosho Route.  But having arrived at the Tower, we both agreed that neither of us would have had the energy to climb the Tower anyways...maybe next time (not!).

The descent from Lava Tower was definitely the most challenging stretch of climbing we have encountered yet on the Climb.  Between the steepness and the scree, we were all thankful we had our trekking poles to provide stability as snailed our way down several hundred feet of descent.

Descent from Lava Tower

Lava Tower From The Other Side

One of the developments of today has been the worsening condition of "Papa".  The dust from the last two days has really got into his respiratory system as well as he is feeling the full impact of the high altitude on his body.  I know as we trekked all day today there were many prayers lifted up for his well-being and his ability to continue the Climb with us.

The Most  Beautiful Campsite in the World
We finally pulled into Barranco Hut near 5 pm tonight.  What an incredible place this is...a camp tucked in a valley with the soaring Barranco Wall on one side and a range of rocks on the other and a cloud-filled valley at the other end.  We have all declared this "The Most Beautiful Campsite in the World" and it really is no exaggeration.

One of the greatest understatements of the Climb so far came from "Pig Pen" Steve Meier as we rolled into camp and saw the Barranco Wall for the first time -- "That doesn't look that steep" -- these were words he would quickly take back the next day as we made our way across it.

It was especially enjoyable to just sit and rest in all of this beauty.  The porters gave us another special greeting as we arrived to camp -- Hakuna Matata Kilimanjaro -- indeed, Don't Worry, Be Happy...

Friday, October 25, 2013


Woke up to an absolutely gorgeous morning at Shira 1 Camp this morning – crisp air, blue skies and towering Kili on the horizon.  After the up and down grind of yesterday, it was so nice to hit the pillow at about 8 pm and, besides getting up to pee 4 times last night, sleep soundly through the night.  Steve’s extra pair of earplugs were a real answer to prayer, too.  It got cold last night, but Steve’s method of sleeping with the mummy bag as an open quilt proved real useful.

Samba, Pig Pen and Papa Leading The Way
Today we changed from our originally planned route to go to Moir Hut and switched to Shira 2 Camp (12,630 feet).  No one could really explain why we changed, but at the end of the day we figured out it means for shorter hike time tomorrow, so we were all plenty happy about it.  After yesterday’s hike, I also made the decision to join Shannon as a member of “Team Diamox” with the hope of lessening some of the effects of the high altitude.  It was amazing to see the almost immediate impact it had on my peeing patterns, but I didn’t have as much headache today.

Kili (Big), Cacti (Medium), Climber (Small)
Today we continued our trek across the Shira Plateau – more rocks, but less ridges and less dust.  There was still enough dust for Steve to earn the nickname “Pig Pen” as we all learned that following him in our trail line was the dustiest position of all.  The weather was beautiful today – still hiking in shorts and just added an extra top layer today.  But the equatorial sun was hot and intense today – even with lots of SPF 50 on, most of us got burned today.  The tops of Steve’s hands got extremely toasted. 

Today was Shannon’s turn to bring up the rear as the effects of high altitude caused him some sickness and headache and overall fatigue.  As we made our way across the plateau, we encountered a new biosphere that included lots of tall cacti-lik trees and low vegetation.  Today’s “trail talk” included lots of discussion about business, investment strategies, worship and faith – just having time to talk about things like this makes the Climb that much more of a rewarding life experience.

Shira 2 Camp Below From Acclimatization Hike
The idea that I was going to be able to blog and post during the Climb has proven to be false – although we seem to get 4-bar reception in some places, there isn’t any ability to connect for internet service.  After a lunch of spaghetti bolognaise and mountain mystery meat, we rolled in to Shira 2 Camp (Shira Hut) at about 2 pm.  We were all feeling good enough we went out for an hour-long acclimatization hike to live out the mantra: “climb high, sleep low.”

We continue to enjoy the “green tent” comforts of Douglas’s great soups, Gaston’s great service and introduction of Nuclear Jam (of the bright red variety).  Tonight we had hot dogs for the first time and was good to see Shannon regained his appetite and was dividing the last dog into sixths to parcel it out to those with more appetite.

Climb Kili Team

Moon Setting on Shira 2 Camp

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Dust, dust and more dust…this is what we experienced as we made our way from Big Tree Camp to Shira 1 Camp (11,500 feet) on our first full day of hiking.  We are climbing during the high dry season in Tanzania, so one of the resulting conditions is the trails are very dry and with literally hundreds of people tromping on them, there is a steady trail of dust streaming along the Lemosho route.

The Shira Moorland
Our route today took us out of the rain forest and into the giant heather moorland zone that is a remarkably different biosphere.  The trail has steepened significantly and the day is basically going up and down hills of 300 to 500 feet while crossing small creeks at the bottom.  We were blessed with another day of beautiful blue skies and the panoramic views from the ridge tops were truly breathtaking (as was the climbing to get to them!).

Headache and exhaustion were my constant hiking companions today.  Hill up, hill down, hill up, hill down…this repeated course was really tough today.  I brought up the rear of the pack today and I was thankful for Alex being back there with our guide Mexon as they were a source of encouragement to me as I struggled with the effects of the high altitude for the first time today.  Today Alex was the second member of our Climb team to get his moniker…Papa.  At sixty years old, he is full of wisdom and life experience that we all enjoy hearing about as he has lived and traveled all over the world and been a CEO and leader of various companies.  One of the things I enjoyed most of the day was being an eavesdropper in the discussion he and Mexon had throughout the day on the plants, geology, mineralogy and other aspects of the land we plodded through today.

Up and Down the Shira Ridge(s)
Did I mention up and down hills today???  One thing we learned today as we climbed up and over the Shira Ridge is that it is not “a ridge” – it is “series of ridges” that must be crossed to finally get to the top of “the Ridge” and then to finally arrive at Shira 1 Camp below.  Today we experienced a great sense of team building and camaraderie as we hiked for about 6 hours together.  Today, John also received his Climb nickname…One Liner.  Throughout the day, John was constantly singing songs…or should I say at least the first line of a song.  It was up to all of us to add the second and third lines of the songs that One Liner started and proved to be a great way for us to pass time on the trail together.

Our First Glimpse of Kili
Today we had our first sighting of Mt. Kilimanjaro as we arose over Shira Ridge…and one word came to mind to all of us: Intimidating.  While we were still several miles from the mountain, the sheer magnitude of this mountain was truly intimidating to think that in just five days we would be on top of its snow-capped top.  Kili arises as a giant mass out of the plain of Africa and we could just begin to see that this wasn’t going to be a simple stroll up the mountain.  At 12,000 feet, some of us were already experiencing the effects of high altitude (headache, loss of appetite)…and we still had 7,000 more feet to climb.

Sipping Tea and Feeling Small
As we sat at camp and enjoyed a well-earned rest in our camp chairs, puff coats and toques, another word came to my mind: Majesty.  As we sat there with our green tea cups with this colossal mountain in the distance, I gained just a small sense of what it’s going to be like when I meet God and encounter His Majesty.  In the presence of this mountain, I was feeling very, very small in the presence of something that was very, very big.  Awe and reverence filled my heart…and provided just a small glimpse and preview of what it’s going to be like when I meet my Creator face-to-face for the first time.

It was pretty cool today as we rolled into camp that all the porters were there to greet us with the “Hakuna Matata Kilimanjaro” song.  We especially enjoyed their dancing and seeing the smiling face and unique dance of our waiter, Gaston.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


What a great start of the Climb we had today…and a great finish with a “candlelight dinner” in our dining tent.  Popcorn, zucchini soup, tilapia, potatoes and vegetable stew at 9,020 feet at Mti Mkubwa (Big Tree) Camp…we all think it would be more appropriately called Big Dust Camp because it is thick.

The day started with a 6:30 wakeup call and a nice breakfast at the SG Resort Hotel followed by a climb brief and then packed into our Land Cruiser at 8:30.  I couldn’t find my headlamp in my bag, so I ended up renting one for $25 – now that’s a Tanzania highway robbery!  But when we got to camp tonight, I ended up finding it in the bottom of my bag.
The Hoosier Climb To End Poverty Team

After taking off at 8:30, we drove about 60 minutes until we stopped at the “last supermarket until Kili” supermarket to load up on bottled water and wet wipes.  Then it was on for another 90 minutes until we arrived at the Londoros Gate (7,380 feet) for check in – us and about 120 other climbers and their porter teams. 

One thing I have learned in my five years of travel to Africa is that “efficiency” and “Africa” are two words that are rarely used together in a sentence.  This was ever so apparent at the porter weigh-in as each porter team weighed in.  Assisted by a power tyrant in a green uniform and a big stick, porters pulled ugali out, put toilet paper in and adjusted their bags to meet the 50 pound weight limit.  We were there for about two hours and you could sense the mounting frustrations of all of us as we stood around and watched this crazy process.

Weigh In At Londoros Gate
When we finally pulled out at 2:30, we were all glad to be in the Land Cruiser and on the move again.  The remaining drive took just one hour as we meandered along a dusty, dusty road.  At times the road was just a narrow slot between a left and right bank several feet tall.  At times we were precariously tilted as the Land Cruiser negotiated deep ruts and loose soil.

We finally reached the “end of the road” and were glad to get out and get hiking at last.  With our daypacks loaded, trekking poles set and feet restless with anticipation, it was so nice to finally take our first step on our journey to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Our first day’s hike was just over 2 hours and we gained about 1,000 feet during this short climb.  Most of this time we spent in a rain forest canopy with blue skies peeking through leaves of the old growth forest that surrounded us. 

First Leg of the Lemosho Route
We saw a few monkeys during this leg, but probably what was most memorable about this leg was the nicknaming of our first team member – “Pee Pee” Shannon Jones.  True to the warning labels on the Diamox he had started taking the night before, our climbing buddy was constantly stopping along the trail to relieve himself…and at each stop “Pee Pee” would usually give us a play-by-play of how things went.  Poor Annemieks eyes were opened of what it was going to be like to be on this great adventure with four American men.

Arriving at "Big Tree" Camp
As a first day, I don’t think we could have asked for it to go any better.  Everyone was feeling good, our camp set up and evening was beautiful, and we really enjoyed getting to know Alex and “Mieks” better.  We presented them with their own “Climb Kili toques” and Mieks was especially gracious in accepting us and Shannon with all of his bodily noises.  Sleeping would prove to be a challenge with fifty to sixty tents set up in very close quarters – a symphony of snoring was on tap as many weary climbers bedded down for the first night.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Well, we made it from Indianapolis (IND) to Detroit to Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro (JRO) and were just a little worse for wear...20 hours on airplanes takes its toll on 51-year old legs.

JRO is an interesting little airport.  747s and Airbus's flying in from all over the world to a little asphalt strip in the middle of the African plain.  About the only people on the planes are climbers and safari people -- the safari people seemed a lot more relaxed than all of us "climbers" -- if that's what you can call us since most of us have never climbed a mountain in our life.  Nothing fancy -- they roll up stairs to every jet and you unload yourself on to the tarmac and escort yourself in to "International Arrivals".

On our flight from Amsterdam to JRO I met our Dutch climbing pair, a father and daughter duo, that Climb Kili had put on our climb team.  We had traded emails with Alex and Annemieks deBonth prior to the trip and they seemed like a good match for us...little did I know we would become soul mates with them over the next 8 days.

Baggage claim and immigration were about what I expected at 8:30 at night in the middle of nowhere in Africa -- 6 officers to process a planeload of 400 travelers.  At $100 a  pop for a Tanzanian visa, it only confirmed for me the importance of tourism to the nation and people of Tanzania.

Outside of Arrivals it was a sea of clipboards and smiling faces -- each expedition group looking for their weary travelers to whisk them away to their hotels in Moshi or Arusha where most would be staying.  We were glad to find our Climb Kili driver Samson and, about an hour later, we were on our way to Arusha with our duffel bags strapped on the roof and our portable baptistry safely aboard!

Lobby of the SG Resort
The road to Arusha from JRP was pleasantly paved past...something we wouldn't see again for 8 days.  It was reassuring as we drove up to the SG Resort Hotel (Trip Advisor #19 of 34 Arusha Hotels, Average Rating 3.5) to know that we would be sleeping behind tall walls, barb wire and with security guards.

What was even more pleasant than the paved roads were the warm showers and cold Tuskers that greeted us that night at the hotel.  Just like the paved roads, we wouldn't see these two comforts again until we arrived back again at the hotel 8 days later.

With a little assistance from a single Ambien and a couple of Tuskers, it didn't take long for me to fall asleep after two days of travel.  Steve, my roommate (tent mate) for the Climb was introduced to my exceptional ability to saw logs while I sleep...something he would grow very accustomed to over the next week.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Day 0 – Thursday

Well, the day finally arrived after 3 years of planning and thinking about it and months of preparation….Climb Kili Day 0!

Sitting on a KLM flight next to my new friend Dinish from Hamiltion, CA as we jet our way to Amsterdam from Detroit on the second leg of our travel to Kilimanjaro (JRO).  Dinish is on leg 1 of going to Mumbai to go to his homeland.  He and I and a couple of hundred other pilgrims on the way to Amsterdam, many of us just passerbyers to our final destinations somewhere in the world….His, Mumbai…Mine, Kilimanjaro, the Rooftop of Africa.

Steve, John, Ned and Shannon
My fellow sojourners are up in rows 21 and 23: Shannon, Steve and John.  Four great men who God has seen fit to intersect the paths of our lives for this awesome life adventure…the Climb To End Poverty.  What a truly awesome blessing it is to be able to do this with four friends and have people supporting us as we raise money for the Jubilee Village Project.

As the flight attendant walks through and passed our “Refresh Yourself” hot towels, I’m thinking that in about 5 or 6 days after being on the mountain, I may really be wishing for such an attendant to walk by us on the mountain and ask if we want a hot towel.  Same goes with the glass of red wine I’m sipping…although we might want to be breaking out champagne if we are successful in reaching the summit of Kili on September 20.  For sure the two coney dogs and large Mountain Dew that I ate in the Detroit airport are the last American comfort foods that I am going to eat for some time now.

It is exhilarating to know and not know what lies before us…comforts and certainty behind…rocks, thin air and uncertainty ahead.

Lord, thank you for blessing me and the boys for being able to do this.  For the great health that makes it even possible.  For a wife that allows me with a smile to follow my passions and dreams.  For resources to pay the bills…and most of all for friends to not climb alone.  God, you are so good to me.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


One of the ongoing discussions we've had as a Climb team is whether to take Diamox as a preventive medicine to lessen the effects of altitude sickness. I haven't yet decided, but I did go ahead and had a script filled to have the option open.

Needless to say the pharma companies are pretty pleased with this Climb. Here is my narcotic lineup that ill be scaling Kili with me: