Thursday, February 21, 2013

Not enough oxygen for that.

While climbing Kilimanjaro on the Western Breach Route, the hardest day of the climb was from Arrow Camp to Crater Camp.  I remember being down at Arrow Camp looking up the steep rock where we were going and saying, "Yeah, I don't see any way up that I'm okay with..."

Most of the camping spots before this were empty except for our group, but at Arrow Camp lots of crews were merging from different routes, so there were tents and people all over the place.  I remember waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of a man loudly puking outside of his tent.  I unzipped the tent and looked out to see that it was a man that Stace and I had talked to the evening before.  I wonder if he made it to the summit?  The level of altitude at Arrow camp and above is seriously nothing to mess around with...Throughout the entire trip, we had a porter named Roger whose entire job was to stay not far from us and carry the Hyper Chamber Gamow bag.  This is the bag that's used if you have issues such as pulmonary edema or cerebral edema and have to be rushed off the mountain.  They inflate this bag, throw you in it, and carry you off the mountain.  The oxygen inside the bag is like sea level and it can save your life.  At the hotel before we started the climb, we actually met a man who had to be saved from pulmonary edema while he was at Crater Camp.

So we got up early in the morning in the freezing cold and started our ascent to Crater Camp.  And then from Crater Camp it would only be a couple more hours to the summit.  The goal was to camp at Crater Camp, and then summit the following day.  We knew that once we started on this route, there was no turning back as it was too steep to take you back down.  You had to get to the top.  My first memory was how cold it seemed to take at least an hour for me to feel my feet.  The climb was a winding, switchback sort of walking up the side of the slope. There were a couple places where they roped us in for safety, but I distinctly remember thinking "Why here?"  It seemed there were several places prior to being roped in that I was in serious danger too  - but without ropes for safety.... 
I remember it was so steep and we could see so far down that it took me about 4-5 hours before I could look down the side of the mountain.  We would stop and I would sit and stare at my boots.  I told Hatch she had to take pics for me b/c I just couldn't look. I had no idea until this moment in time, that I was this afraid of heights...yeah, a great way to find out huh?  Once I did look, the tents a couple thousand feet down at Arrow Camp were the size of my pinky nail. 

So we were going from about 16,000 to 18,370 ft.  that day, and all in all it took us about 10 hours.  You can't help thinking hours into this gruelling day that they advertised this online as "a walk in the park"...and it makes you kinda angry...

We would stop periodically for rests.  They took our oxygen saturation at various times during this day to make sure we weren't in serious danger, or dying, or something.  Stace was nauseous most of the day from the altitude.  We were both exhausted from climbing for so long.  Ed from Canada wasn't a very steady hiker and he kept slipping...he was hiking in front of me so I kept thinking that if he went down he was taking me with him... There was nowhere to go to the bathroom, so I literally had to ask everyone to turn around so that I could pee right there.  And then I moved a foot or two over and ate my lunch.  It's rough folks...

At one point during a break, Stacy turned around and looked at me and said something to the effect of, "I just need to cry."  At which point I totally agreed, and the two of us sat there and started bawling.  Not serious, mature, silent tears, but total and complete girl crying...
It felt kinda good - as crying usually does...until our guide Francis cut into our therapy session and in a stern tone said words I'll never, ever forget...

"Damas (sisters), you MUST stop crying.....there is not enough oxygen for that."

Wow - talk about a mood killer.  And do you know how hard it is to stop crying once you have fully given in to it?  But we wanted to die less than we wanted to cry so we sucked it up and stopped.  Can't even have a good cry on Kili when you need to... 

Ten hours after we started the climb that day, we finally made it to Crater Camp at 18,370.  Gorgeous blue glaciers and a volcano crater steaming with sulfer awaited us...but was a rough road there.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ode to Kilimanjaro - Jackleboo

I haven't written any posts yet about my climb up Kilimanjaro.  Quite the adventure...and what stories I have to tell... I think today I'll just focus on one tonight - dear Jackleboo.

Background:  In the summer of  2005, I went to Africa.  Since I was going to be in Africa I decided I might as well climb Kilimanjaro while I was at it.  I have this dear friend named Stacy who is about as crazy as me...and decided to fly to Tanzania to meet me for the climb.  (love you forever for this Stace!)  There is, of course, way more to all of what I just said, but for now I'll leave it at that.

Story #1  - Jackleboo
Stace and I climbed up the mountain with Ed from Canada and 19 porters and guides.  Lots of fellas were with us - some spoke English, some didn't.  We had a sweet man who would bring our food to the dining tent for each meal.  He had a huge smile and a kind face, but didn't seem to speak much English.  Toward the beginning of the trip, I asked Stacy what his name was, and she said something to the effect of "Jackleboo."  Well I was certainly puzzled by that as it's not a name you typically hear (even in Africa), but figured "what do we know" and proceeded to call him Jackleboo all week.  After all, one of our guide's names was "Honest".  When you consider that, how different is Jackleboo really?

We were around Jackleboo a lot.  He would come by in the morning and yell to our tent that it was time to get up.  He brought our food each evening to the dining tent.  I still hear myself saying "Thank you Mr. Jackleboo."  "How are you doing Mr. Jackleboo?"  "Dinner was wonderful, Mr. Jackleboo." 

all week long...

Sweet Jackleboo...I still remember the last night on the mountain -  I was crying with Stacy in the tent about how bad we smelled - our clothes, our tent, everything.  We had dirt crammed under every single fingernail.  We had stopped brushing our teeth days back.  We had lost all sense of decency...and sweet Jackleboo came by and gave Stace and I a warm bowl of water for us to soak our hands in...  I can still remember us laying with our torsos out of the tent with our hands in that warm water.  Gosh I wish I could thank him now for that.

At any rate, that evening we had our final dinner on the mountain with our guides.  Jackleboo was serving the dinner as usual.  Our head guide, Francis, was listing out the porters who had helped all week so that we could give a tip at the end of the trip.  He wrote everyone's name and their job for the week.  I looked at the paper.  You can imagine my suprise when I read the words "Server - Jacob".  WHAT?!?!  JACOB...but our server is Jackleboo??  I still remember looking at Stacy across the table and saying - "His name is Jacob!?"  She of course responded with something to the effect of "I swear I asked him and he said Jacaboo!" Which was also a suprise to me as I thought she had said Jackleboo earlier in the week.  And all of the sudden, it sounded so clear to me - Jacob with a Swahili accent totally does sound like Jacaboo. 
Well JACOB came back into the tent and we looked at him sheepishly and said "You're not Jackleboo?"  And he got a BIG huge smile and shook his head no....
"You're Jacob?"  And he got a BIG huge smile and shook his head yes....and this is where the apologies started.

Jackleboo - your kindness and your smile is not forgotten...and wherever you are... thank you for your graciousness to these two American dingalings  :)

More Kili stories to come.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Only Love Remains by J.J. Heller


Scenes of you come rushing through
You are breaking me down
So break me into pieces
That will grow in the ground
I know that I deserve to die
For the murder in my heart
So be gentle with me Jesus
As you tear me apart

Please kill the liar
Kill the thief in me
You know that I am tired of their cruelty
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains

You burn away the ropes that bind
And hold me to the earth
The fire only leaves behind whatever is of worth
I begin to see reality
For the first time in my life
I know that I’m a shadow
But I’m dancing in your light

Teach me to be humble
Call me from the grave
Show me how to walk with you upon the waves
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains