Lessons learned on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Team World Vision – 10 start 10 arrive

On June 23rd, 10 of us with Team World Vision set out to conquer the mountain and change children’s lives. As I return I am keenly aware that, for many of us, the mountain conquered us and changed our lives forever. Here are some of the lessons I learned along the way…

preparation

If you have followed my blog you know I went probably over prepared. I was glad for my training and physical prep. And even though I over packed a little I was well prepared and glad I did. But it was the little things I learned to appreciate along the way. One of those things was my pee bottle. Yes my pee bottle. When you take Diamox (drug for acclimatization) you have a tendency to need to pee a lot. This is not fun 2 – 3 times in the middle of the night when it is cold out. So I rejoiced often in this. And even though others gave me a hard time about this, my tent mate was grateful when he found himself desperate one night.

Pole Pole (pole A – pole A)

Mt. Mawenzi

This phrase means slowly slowly. This became a valuable lesson for me in life. We from the west are all about getting there and getting there quickly. We say “hurry hurry”. What I discovered was that, not only can this bring failure in reaching the summit but it also causes you to miss the journey. As our guides would say “twin Danny” (let’s go) We would very slowly put one foot in front of the other and begin a turtles pace up the trail. It is at this pace that you are going slow enough to look around and appreciate the journey. So much of life is missed as we hurry along and in another similarity we are killing ourselves trying to arrive at the summits in life instead of simply enjoying the journey.

As we walked “pole pole” we were able to keep our heads up and look out over the clouds and appreciate what God has created for our enjoyment and not stumble along the way. I arrived at each camp with energy and a sense of achievement and wonder.

Success in Weakness

One of the great lessons for me was found in a contrast on the summit. 10 of us set out to conquer this mountain and 10 of us walked to the summit sign at Ahuru point, the highest point in Africa on the tallest free standing mountain in the world, together. We went as a team, we climbed as a team, we arrived at the summit as a team. However, we did not all succeed equally. I learned a great lesson as I came along side team mates who were puking along the trail. I was strong, had only a slight head ache, and made it to the top in my strength… But true success for me was seen in those on our team who made it to the summit in spite of their weakness. We all summited together but I have great admiration for those who pressed through their weakness and did not allow them to determine the outcome.

I have come to believe that the greatest success is success in weakness verses success in strength. It takes great strength of character to press through weakness.

Pride Takes A Fall

I also discovered that no matter how strong you may think you are the mountain can strip you of your pride. It wasn’t the journey to the top that took my pride. In fact I was pretty proud that I had energy at the top. It wasn’t until all “accomplishments” had been met by standing at the sign that I found myself in a weird place. It was the descent that ate my lunch. It seemed to never end. As I headed down the mountain, I found myself hungry and fatigued. I longed for camp and even though I could see it it seemed to never get closer. I found myself with a tear in my eye, my pride left on the side of the mountain, and the reality that I was totally emotionally defeated. My mind was beginning to remind me that even after I arrived at Kibo camp my journey was not over but that we would only stop long enough to take in some nourishment, pack our gear and hike several more hours down to the next camp where we would spend the night. As I entered Kibo camp I realized I was getting sick. I would have to hike the remainder of the evening out with extreme exhaustion and a severe sinus head cold that has lasted for over a week now. This day turned into a 20+ hour day of hiking and I left my pride on the mountain and skipped dinner at camp and went to bed sick. I found myself successfully defeated. I summitted the mountain but the journey is a round trip not one way. Success is only half accomplished at the summit.

Putting things in Perspective

Now as I sit at home and look through pictures I am quickly reminded of thrill of accomplishment and much of the difficulty is forgotten.  Yes there were times of difficulty and even suffering.  But as I look through the pics and the journey I was privileged to be a part of those times were worth it and an important part of the success of this journey in my life.  I am grateful for the difficulty for in it the beauty is magnified.

Rest of Pics can be seen on my face book page

Making a list and checking it only twice… NO WAY!

I am continuing to discover how out of control I am. I have probably checked my luggage for the hundredth time. Guess what, my camera is still where I put it and I still can’t be sure whether I am missing anything or not. However, even as I write this I am thinking, “where exactly did I put my camera”. I am a mess! So why do I continue to look in my bags? Why do I wonder about where things are? Am I just a freak or is it maybe simply nervous energy? I’m going to go with the nervous energy.

As I sit in Los Angeles tonight awaiting our 9:45 departure in the morning, besides checking bags, I am spending time thanking God for all the people in my life who have been a part of this journey. Some have been encourages, some prayer warriorers, some have forever changed a child’s life through sponsorship, some have helped with financial support, and some have picked up the baton and have helped others sponsor children.

My personal goal was 100 children. The final numbers are not in and I won’t know for sure until I return, but if we are not over the goal we are very close. Think about that. There are at least 100 real children’s lives that will be forever changed. They have a new hope and a future that they would not have had had it not been for you! THANK YOU! This is the reason we are climbing this mountain, for the kids.

Put yourself in the position of a parent of one of these children for a moment. How do you feel about those who sponsored your son or daughter? What would you like to say to that sponsor? Now let those word and feelings of gratitude resonate within you because there are mothers and fathers tonight who are filled with gratitude for YOU!

Well, looks like my bags are right where I left them. I wonder if anybody took anything out while I was writing? Maybe I should check? Now where did I put my camera? See you in a couple of weeks.

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Rongai Route Itinerary – Follow our journey to the top of Africa

For those of you who would like to journey along with us up Mt Kilimanjaro, here is our itinerary.  We are taking the Rongai Route which is the only route that approaches the mountain from the North and retains a sense of untouched wilderness.  It starts just south of the Kenya-Tanzania border and passes through farmland and forest, past Alpine moorland to the beautiful summit cone at 19,340 feet above sea level.  There are magnificent views throughout , glaciers and ice cliffs of the summit, and across the East African plains far below.

The Rongai route is one of the less traveled routes.  We will bond as a team on the way up and then descend the Marangu route, the most popular trail, and interact with the world on the way down.  Here is where we will be…

Day 1 (Saturday/Sunday June 23/24) – fly from LAX to Dubai to Nairobi then a puddle jumper to Kilimanjaro Airport. – Total travel time approximately 22 hours.

Day 2 (Monday June 25) early breakfast, briefing and then drive to Rongai gate to meet guides and porters.  After formalities a 2-3 hour hike to the fist cave where we will camp at Simba Camp. (9,300 feet). This will take us through the cultivation area of the mountain, where you can see how local farmers tend to their land on the slopes.

Day 3 (Tuesday June 26) Early morning begin trekking out past the second cave and on to the third cave.  This will be about a 7-8 hour day.  The climb will be relatively difficult, taking us through forest and well into the moorland.  We will overnight at Kikelelwa camp (11,811 feet).

Day 4 (Wednesday June 27) We will set out for Mawenzi Tarn Hut, which should take approximately 7 hours.  We will overnight at Mawenzi Tarn Hut, elevation 14,160.

Day 5 (Thursday June 28) This will be a shorter day so that we can get to bed early in preparation for a middle of the night assault on the summit.  We will take about 4-5 hours to hike to Kibo hut, elevation 15,430.

Day 6 (Friday June 29) We will be wakened around midnight to begin a 5 hour hike on heavy scree to Gillman’s point, approximately 19,000 feet.  Using headlamps to see we will hike in the dark while the ground is frozen making it easier to ascend this steep section.  As we reach the crater rim, the sun should be rising to display Africa in all its glory beneath us.  The views will be spectacular and it makes the entire journey  worth every step… (so I’m told). From here we will continue on up another 1-2 hours around the crater rim to Uhuru Peak, (19,340 feet).  After a few photos at the summit and an short time of worship and prayer for our sponsored children, we will begin our steady descent to Kibo hut for a rest and some nourishment, then continue to Horombo Hut for overnight at 12,205 feet.  That is 4,000 feet up and 7,000 feet down on this one day.

Day 7 (Saturday June 30)  After breakfast we will descend to Marangu Gate, (6,046 feet) with sore feet and memories that will last a lifetime.  We will then be transferred to the Keys Hotel for a well needed shower and an evening of celebration by the swimming pool.  The Keys hotel is a modern tourist hotel located in the small town of Moshi offering good views of the mountain we just climbed.

Day 8 (Sunday July 1) We will depart from the Keys Hotel after breakfast and head to Arusha town to be dropped off at our next hotel from where we will visit the World Vision projects and meet our children.

Days 9-12 (Monday-Thursday July 2-5) we will spend time interacting with children, meeting World Vision Staff, touring water sites and gaining inside into how important our sponsorship is to the hope and future of these precious people.

Day 13-14 (Friday-Saturday July 6-7) Depart Kilimanjaro Airport to Nairobi to Dubai to LAX, arriving in Los Angeles at approximately 2:15 pm on Saturday July 7. I will probably overnight with my cousin in LA pretty close to sea level.

Day 15 (Sunday July 8) Depart LA for a 5 hour drive to Phoenix where it will probably be beyond “Africa hot”, but home sweet home!

Well, Bags are packed and I have taken my first Malaria Pill.  It is almost time to go.

A Great Cloud Of Witnesses

Yesterday I made the statement, in my preparations I have discovered how valuable others are who have journeyed before us.  It has been absolutely amazing to me the people I have met as I have begun this journey toward “the roof of Africa”.

I have had divine encounters on airplanes with people like, Lisa Roberts who taught me to give everyone an opportunity to change a life and thanked me for her new “son” that she sponsored at 20,000 feet, and Kendra Gibson-Gegelman and her family who inspired me to share my story and to keep my eyes open for divine encounters in strange places.

On Southwest Airlines you will meet people like Dr. Ben Bobrow who is an amazing medical professional who also climbs mountains.  He not only shared his great wisdom with me on the airplane but our families have now met as they sponsored two children for their children and allowed me the privilege of using whatever I needed from his climbing gear.

On Facebook you will meet African guides like Robin Mountain who, although he is not a Kili guide, has summited Kili 3 times and was full of wisdom and great advice.  The same day I met Robin on line I met Rachael Hall who that day was posting a picture she had just taken from the top of Kili. Rachael, Robin, and Ben have all climbed kili and are all filled with wisdom and knowledge that has helped to alleviate stress and concern.  Conversations with them have also inspired, encouraged, and given me a sense of confidence and added excitement as we set out for the mountain.

I have discovered that I am surrounded by a Great Cloud of Witnesses that have stories and adventures that I can learn from and hang onto that will assist me in getting to the top of Africa. I have also discovered that they don’t have to have climbed Kili to be a witness that can aid me in my climb.  For example through blogging I have met Lesley Carter who writes about Bucket List stuff and has been a huge inspiration to me encouraging me to not sit back and let life pass me by but to live it fully and make a difference in the process.

Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Those who have gone before us on the journey up a physical mountain are of great value.  But so are those who have gone before us and successfully navigated the spiritual mountains of life.  The question is will we encounter them and learn from them and allow them to move us to higher hights and greater depths spiritually.

What I have discovered is we fail to have divine encounters with those who have gone before us because we don’t live looking for them and live expecting them.  Possibly because we sit on the airplanes of life with our headphones on and our eyes shut instead of looking and listening for an opportunity to encounter God in and through the person sitting next to us.

When was the last time you read Hebrews 11 and 12 and listened to those who have gone before you.  Who will you meet today with eyes and ears wide open for how God might use you in their life and them in yours?

Let’s go climb a mountain, enjoy the journey and

change a life.

Preparation – am I over thinking it?

Well, we are now in the final countdown.  We are only days away. In 4 days I will drive out of the drive way and head to Los Angeles to meet some of the Kili team members before boarding a long flight to Dubai.

The living room floor is covered with clothes, pack back, duffel bags, boots, hiking gear, water bottles, first aid supplies, toilet paper and MUCH more.  Yes toilet paper.  I think I now have everything purchased with the exception of some personal snack items that I will want for the flight and the trail and a soccer ball for Petro.

Am I prepared?  I have trained hard physically.  I have drained the bank account on gear and equipment.  I have checked the list at least 15 times.  I have tried on gear to make sure the combinations of layering works well and I can walk… At one point I began to wonder as I started to look and feel like the boy in A Christmas story.

                    

Am I over thinking it? Probably.  But I have never journeyed down a path like this before.  I have never climbed a mountain 19,300 feet high.  I have never hiked through 5 climate zones in 5 days. I want to be ready.

Great things in life require preparation.  Preparation is not always easy.  This has actually be kind of stressful.  At one point, probably as I was taking out the plastic again, I said, “I thought this was supposed to be fun.”  Don’t misunderstand me.  It has been fun.  The preparation has also been challenging and a learning experience.  I have learned much about my self as I have been preparing.

I have learned that I…

  • Second guess myself a lot
  • Am cheap – I want the best but don’t want to pay for it.
  • Need and value the wisdom of those who have gone before me.
  • Am a visionary who often times gets overwhelmed by the details.

Am I prepared… we will know in a few short days.

Let’s Climb!

19,340 feet… It gets cold on the summit of mount Kilimanjaro.  I know that.  I have the facts.  Rongai route approximately 50 miles up and down.  Elevation gain approximately 13,000 feet.  Altitude sickness can kill you. 6 days… 4 up 2 down.  5 climate zones… Gonna get hot,  gonna get wet, gonna get cold…  The mountain is in Tanzania Africa.  Malaria, Yellow fever etc.  I have read all about it and know most of the facts.

I have read the packing lists, and there are a lot of them and many different ones. (part of the problem)  It is amazing how much head knowledge we can have about something and still be overwhelmed by the unknown.

This dawned on me when I was attempting to purchase all my equipment.  Obviously I am on a TIGHT budget and am trying to figure out what I have in my closet already that “will work”.  If I had all sorts of money I could read the list and just get all the “recommended” brands and items.  Of course every recommended item is the top of the line and WAY outside my budget.

Enter the overwhelmed feeling with the unknown.  What I am discovering is that there is a big difference in head knowledge and experience.  I can read the facts about Altitude sickness but the reality is I have never experienced high altitude hiking.  I can read about the temperatures on the mountain at midnight at 14 thousand feet but I have never experienced 0 to -15 with my current sleeping bag or my clothing.

Will this outer shell, these two fleece jackets one light and one heavier and this thermal base layer work or do I need a $300.00 parka.  I have even talked to people at REI and am still overwhelmed by the unknown.  I have the factual knowledge about the mountain but I lack the practical experience to have the confidence that my gear is right.

However, if I had an experienced guide in my life who was simply providing me with the perfect gear I would not question his or its ability to do the job required to reach the summit and my overwhelmed feeling would shift to something else… probably my physical ability.. which I am responsible for not a guide or outfitter.

This has made me think about other areas of my life…   I can have all the knowledge about the Bible and God and Jesus.  I can sit in church week after week after week and gain more facts and knowledge about the word of God and God’s call for me to go and make disciples.  But I am overwhelmed as soon as I walk out the door due to lack of experience in the application of that knowledge and the use of the equipping I have received and am compelled to go get more knowledge.

However, we have the perfect experienced guide who has provided and equipped us with the perfect gear and everything we need for the mission we have been challenged with.  

I don’t need more knowledge about the mountain.  I need to put my clothes on and climb.  I need to test my boots.  I need to try on the gear and then I need to trust it and go stand on the roof of Africa.

I must say, even writing this down doesn’t remove the elements of fear and uncertainty.  Those will only disappear in the act of climbing.  However, Im compelled by the mission to climb.  The mission is more compelling in my life than the fear of the unknown.  

What unknowns out there are overwhelming you and keeping you from stepping out?  

What keeps you from climbing your Kilimanjaro?  

Chances are they will only disappear in the act of climbing?    

Im having to figure out my gear… Spiritually we have the perfect outfitter who has equipped us with everything we need to fulfill the mission to which he has called us.

Put on what you know, take your equipment that God has provided for you (it is guaranteed to be top of the line perfect for your mission) and Go make disciples.

Let’s Climb!

What is your Kilimanjaro?

SUCCESS – When does it occur

In John Bowlings book, “Making the Climb”, he states, “more than 60% of those who attempt this climb have to turn back. Only a few stand at the summit and look down on the clouds that shelter the vast plains. Soon I will see if I have what it takes to reach the top of the mountain. Either way, it will be all right. I DO NOT HESITATE FOR FEAR OF FAILURE! To make the attempt is to succeed already.

In a conversation with a medical dr on a plane (see blog coincidence or divine encounter) I was talking about how bad I wanted to summit on Kili. He looked at me and said, “no you don’t”. I was a little taken back and said, “that is why I’m climbing, of course I do.” Then he said some profound words, “then you will miss it”. “miss what I enquired”. “the journey” he said. “if you are so focused on submitting you will not have eyes to see what is all around you.” He began to tell me about all the major mountains he has climbed and when he changed his views on submitting. He helped me see that this climb was never about submitting anyway but about the journey and the joy of the journey and the personal growth and life change along the way.

It was just before he boarded the flight and this conversation began that I had read Bowlings words and now realized that I succeeded the day I took my first step. Success isn’t the final step but the first step. Many people miss a successful journey because they never take the first step. The first step isn’t the first step toward success but first step of success. Success is a journey of one success step after another and if in each of those steps we learn, grow, impact the world around us, enjoy the vistas and take another step we have been successful even if we don’t reach the summit.  I also wonder how many people have unsuccessfully stood on top of Kili having missed so much along the way.

But you say, “the summit is the goal and the reason for the climb.” and now I would say, “no Petro and the approximately 70 other children I have helped to sponsor was the reason for the climb and all that God wanted to teach me along the way.” If it ended today and I never boarded the plane for Africa, I would certainly be sad, heart broken and disappointed, but it would have been worth taking that first step. And if I get part way up the mountain and realize that I can’t go on, it will be disappointing but NOT a failure. I have already successfully conquered mount Kilimanjaro. Not by my picture on the summit because fear of failure did not stop me from taking that first step.

I wonder how many mountains win because we are afraid to simply take the first step.

What is your Kilimanjaro?