It’s hillier here than I thought it would be. The driveway from my studio door to the gate is 1.3 miles and it gains 697 feet, with a 32.3% grade at its steepest point. That’s not as steep as the trail to Pyramid near our house in Phoenix, but it’s steep enough that there were days I didn’t want to do it.
Most days I did it.
In 27 days I ran 90 miles with a total elevation gain of 20,631 feet.
The trail running was pretty spectacular too, but it was harder to get in many miles without backtracking. So I did most of my running up the driveway to Bear Gulch Road and out to 35. Stunning views.
At this time next week we will be arriving in Amsterdam, and then 2 days after that we’ll be arriving in Arusha, Tanzania. Our fearless guide Kapanya Kitaba has sent us several emails asking us when we are going to stop exercising. He says we need to conserve our energy for the hike. But we have had this Humphrey’s summit planned for some time as a celebration of John’s 45th birthday, so John, Cindy, Larry and I all went up and climbed the highest peak in Arizona. Sorry Kapanya! From now on you are the boss.
Cindy and Larry rented a house out on Hidden Hollow Road, in between downtown Flagstaff and the trailhead, and we all had a lovely evening there Friday night. At around 7:15 Saturday our dogsitter Jean-Paul came to the door. He’s the boyfriend of a former student of mine who is now attending graduate school at Northern Arizona. This brave man stayed with our 5 dogs for almost 8 hours while we drove to the mountain, hiked up & down, then drove home. Jean-Paul gets the true award for stamina today.
The Humphrey’s hike starts at 9,221 and covers just over 10 miles with 5573 elevation gain and 5576 loss. The Humphrey’s summit is 12,633, which is only about 7000 feet lower then the Kilimanjaro summit. But since John and I came from Phoenix, which is about 1300 feet, our total elevation change in less than 12 hours was over 13,000 feet. I’m glad we won’t have to do that again! We’ll have a lot more time to acclimatize while we’re in Africa.
The hike to the saddle was a steep but beautifully wooded walk in the woods. Once we hit the saddle we had some lunch. What a beautiful spot for a picnic.
As soon as we started the 1 mile ascent to the summit, though, we were greeted with brutal winds. The trail was also very crowded, which made for lots of stopping to let people navigate up and down the trail.
After a few false summits, we made it to the top. It was pretty crowded up there but we managed to get some shots of the great views.
So now all that’s left to do is descend! The descent was even windier and more crowded.
After about 7 hours on the mountain we were back to the trailhead. What a wonderful hike with great friends. Hard to believe we’ll start our Kilimanjaro trek in less than 2 weeks.
If you have spent any time with me in the last 4 months, you have already heard me gush about how much I enjoy working out at The Bar Fitness every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6 am.
In January our neighbors Kaylee and Brian invited John and me to try a workout there so one morning we all piled into Brian’s truck and headed over. We walked into the gym and our trainer Ryan greeted us and encouraged us to “look alive, 6 am.” Friends Ross and Daradee were there to cheer us up as well. Between the 6 of us we produced plenty of sweat and I can say I became hooked on the challenge, the camaraderie, and the results.
The workouts involve a warm-up of 2-3 laps around the block. Then Ryan shows the group of 20 brave souls the 10 exercises we will complete in 2 or 3 rotations. These pictures show us doing Marine Rope Jumping Jacks, Treadmill Sprints, Tire Jumps, The Sled, Spin Bike Sprints, and Kettle Bell Swings. Not pictured were some planks Ryan threw in just because he loves us.
Cindy started going to Ryan’s small group training classes, and soon Larry started joining her. Here’s a pic of the Kili crew with our trusted torturer Ryan. Thanks for Raising the Bar on our Kili training, Ryan. We’ll raise a toast to you from the summit.
We’re getting so close to departure. There are times I feel like we’ve done so much to prepare that when the time comes I might forget to go. This is close to my last packing run-through. I’m very happy with the way my gear has come together. I’m underweight and even have room for a few luxury items. This first picture shows 3 items that will not go on the trek: slippers, big camera bag, and the small duffle I’ll leave behind at the hotel. Everything else goes on the trek: the big duffle, the day pack, the trekking poles, the sun hat and glasses, soft camera cover and helmet.
In the next picture, the two red bags are for safari, Amsterdam and Zanzibar and do not go on the trek. The rest packs into the big duffle. Here’s what we have from left to right.
Hand & foot warmers
Bug repellant & sunscreen
First Aid Kit
Camp Towel, Flashlight, batteries, bandanas.
4 hiking outfits
5 cozy layers: silks, wools, lightweight, heavyweight, and ultraweight
Rain Pants & Rain Jacket
-20 degree sleeping bag
Now it’s time for a big fitness push: plenty of training, good eating, and sleeping well. I also just checked out 8 more books about Kilimanjaro from the library. I’m really getting excited about our trip.
May is by far my favorite month in Phoenix. The Jacaranda are full and purple. The Lady Banks Rose and Citrus Trees still smell sweet. My Tomatoes go so crazy I start to feel I won’t be able to eat them all or even give them all away. The mornings stay crisp: in the 60’s, while the afternoons peak in the high 80’s or low 90’s. It’s like living in San Diego, except we can afford it.
So it’s hard at just this moment to think about going to Africa. I wake up in my comfortable bed, snuggle the Vizslas as they wiggle their morning greetings. I go down and pour a cup of coffee and take it out into my garden to check on my beets and carrots, my peppers and squash, my petunias and snapdragons. The air feels lovely and cool. The grackles are grackling and the mourning doves give an occasional oo-OO-oo oo.
Penny in the Maters
I turn over in my mind the various reactions people have had when I describe our trip. “Are you afraid?” to “It will change your life.” to “I hope you don’t lose any fingers or toes.” And sure I have my own fears. But the biggest fear is lack of comfort. I look forward to the camping. Seven nights under the stars will be lovely. But I’m most afraid of the cold temperatures and the difficulty breathing at altitude. We’ll be sleeping at over 18,000 feet.
The trip is now 5 weeks away. We have only a few more items to get from REI, a few more packing run-throughs to make sure all our gear is in order. We’ll ramp up the training, of course, with more hiking, weight-lifting, track workouts to improve anaerobic conditioning, and yoga to keep us injury free. It feels impossible that we could do anything to prepare in just 35 days that we haven’t already started.
But here’s one thing. I think above all I’ll try to learn that I carry comfort with me. That comfort is not attached to my soft bed, or my dogs, or my garden, or the temperature, or any of my things. I’ll try to learn that comfort is being happy where I am no matter the circumstances.
Six weeks from today we’ll be on our way. We’ve been ramping up the preparations: lots of weight lifting, hiking, and shopping. We’ll be getting our shots on Monday. It’s starting to feel like we’re really going to go to Africa.
Today we met with Glenn Schulke from GoSolarLife to discuss portable solar options for our trek. John and I will be charging several devices: a Garmin 305, a Garmin 305 xt, an iPhone, an iPad, Nikon lithium batteries, and Canon lithium batteries.
Glenn left us several products to test out, including:
With 70 days to go until the start of the Kilimanjaro climb, we’ve done a lot of work to get ready for the big trip. We’ve ordered massive amounts of gear including cold weather clothes and sleeping bags. We’ve lifted major weight at The Bar Fitness in Ahwatukee with our friends Kaylee and Brian. We’ve hiked all over the beautiful trails of South Mountain. We’ve booked flights and lodging for the travel not included with our Climb and Safari package. We’ve renewed passports and taken steps to get visas and vaccinations. We’ve lined up the house sitter and updated all of our documents. We’ve also been reading lots of guidebooks and blogs, and talking to others about their experiences with the hike.
In the coming 70 days there’s still a lot to do, most importantly, getting in the best physical shape possible for the challenges of the mountain. The 3 toughest days on the mountain are going to be:
Day 6, when we take 7 to 9 hours to move 2 miles and 2,397 feet up the Western Breach.
Day 7, when we take 1 to 2 hours to climb 841 vertical feet in 1 mile to the summit at 19,341, then descend 6 miles in 9,041 vertical feet in 6 to 8 hours (oh my knees are killing me just thinking about it)!
Day 8, when we will take 7 to 9 hours to hike 6 miles in 4,722 vertical feet down the rest of the mountain.
My favorite training hike on South Mountain is a 7.4 mile loop that takes about 3 hours. It starts at 1329 feet, tops out at 2550, and offers a net gain of 1450 and a net loss of 1450. Seems I might need to start doing that twice a day. I envy our hiking pals Rich and Lisa who live in Denver, since they have access to some serious elevation. I think we’ll try to get some Humphries hikes in this May so we can challenge ourselves.