In just over one month, Gary Wang, my dad and I will arrive in Tanzania. Not for a safari like most tourists, but to climb Africa’s highest mountain, the Kilimanjaro. Today I faxed all documents to the organizer and now there is no way back anymore. That feels pretty good actually, until now we were not completely sure if we would be able to get all documents together on time and whether it would work with flights and work arrangements. But suddenly everything started to fall into place and we now know that we’ll be on a plane to Africa in a few weeks time.
The plan is to reach the 5895-meter summit of Kilimanjaro on June 3, at about 6 AM. Most people climb the last and most difficult part during the night, because then the snow is frozen and it’s easier to move forward. We will arrive in Tanzania only 6 days before that, so we won’t have much time to acclimatize. From what I understand there are two main problems. First the temperature difference, because you start off on the equator in the middle of the tropics at temperatures far above 30 degrees Celcius and at the top you can encounter temperatures of -25 degrees Celcius.
A much more dangerous problem is the high altitude. From last year’s trip in Tibet we know that above 4500 meters it gets very very difficult to move forward and your brain starts to function more slowly, especially if you did not spend enough time to get your body used to less oxygen. Because we do not have much time to acclimatize, the high altitude will likely be our biggest enemy. We’ll see, last year we made it on our mountain bikes to Mount Everest base camp (at 5200 meters), so we should have the will power to climb to the top of this mountain as well. But I also know that if mountain sickness hits, I will not be foolish enough to risk my life and I will go down immediately.
A lesser problem is to get in shape on time. None of us really trained much so far specifically for this, but we are probably all in a decent shape. On Sunday I ran a relaxed 10.7 kilometers on the treadmill in one hour without feeling tired, Tuesday I jogged 30 minutes at an incline of 8.5 – 10%, followed by a slower walk at an incline of 15%. That also went quite well, although I felt my muscles. And just now I decided to walk up to my apartment, which is located on the 37th floor. That also went quite good actually. The next weeks I will mainly do long slow runs in the gym, and I plan to do a lot of stair climbing. This weekend we will be in Moganshan, where I will have the opportunity to test my new hiking boots for the first time. That will likely be the only time that I can train on a real mountain as well.
Another part of the preparation is that I will cut back as much as possible on my alcohol intake. Not a big deal, because I normally don’t drink much during the week anyway. But the problem is that I do have a couple of good parties ahead of me: among others this weekend the Tudou Film Festival at Moganshan, and (even more worrying) the weekend before going to Tanzania the INSEAD ball at the Chateau de Fontainebleau in France…
I look very much forward to this exciting new challenge, very different from last year’s bike ride but also with a lot of similarities. It’s great to combine hard work with even harder physical challenges. It gives me a kick to to see if I can physically and mentally reach the goals I set for myself. And it certainly fits one of my life’s motto’s: Always try to live your life to the fullest!
Picture (creative commons): Rob Parkin