Sunday, December 14, 2014

Kili Trip Report

I finally have all the photos together from my fellow hikers but I can feel the memories of it already slipping away. I had planned on writing in a journal nightly, although once I crawled in my cold (often damp) sleeping bag at night I didn't feel much like writing.

Machame Gate

Day 1 was wet and there were credit card issues at the Machame entrance gate. Porters are scurrying across the parking lot organizing bags in heavy waterproof sacks. We start hiking at roughly 4. We spend 3 (4?) hours hiking in the dark arriving at camp at 9:30 pm.  The rain did not let up much for 3 days.

While that wasn't the most excellent introduction to Kili, the days to come were amazing. Barranco Wall was by far my favorite day, terrain wise.

Heading up to Barranco Wall. 
Note the loads the porters are carrying vs. my  day pack with Larabars and Camelback.

The summit was more beautiful than I had imagined. (I purposefully did not Google summit photos.) The below pic is not even the best of it, so I don't consider it a spoiler for other hikers. :)

While summit day was challenging, it was no worse than a single day hike of Mt. Whitney in my opinion because of the core work I had done. I wasn't sore the next day. I had seen a PT 3 weeks prior to departure for core stability work aimed at some back pain and IT band issues. Core is key. It's what saves you from serious injury when your legs are tired from an endurance hike or run.

Summit day, we were awoken at 11 pm, fed tea and biscuits at 11:30 pm. Our guides inform us that vomiting is normal but is best prevented my not eating right now. They also inform you that above about 14,500 ft your Camelbak will freeze and your remaining water will be (if any) from your water bottles in your bag. Fantastic news all around. We headed out 12:08 am -- 8 minutes later than our guides would have preferred, which they were very obvious about. Never mind that, because we got to Stella Point so quickly that we had to slow down our pace to arrive at summit just at sunrise. Arriving before sunrise and waiting around isn't much of any option since even if you're doing well guides won't let you mill about at the summit more than 10, maybe 15 minutes. It was pitch black when we reached Stella Point so we took a photo on the way down. 

Our guide, James, from Climb Kili is on the far left. The whole company/guide thing is somewhat of a farce. All the guides, asst guides, porters are largely just "contractors" and may work for several companies. All the staff we had was fantastic from the porters to the stomach engineer (cook) to the lead guide. James has hiked the mountain roughly 300 times; the man could have done burpees at the top for all he cared. "Easy peasy, lemon squeeze-y," as he liked to say. 

I didn't do any special training to prep for Kili. Nothing more than 5 miles worth of running at a time. I was actually feeling quite sick the 2 weeks prior to leaving so I didn't do any other workouts aside from PT 2 x week. Fortunately, this worked out for me. I was intensely stressed about not summiting.

If anyone else is completely anal, I've provided my packing list. Crossed out items are things I did not end up bringing. I wore every item I had on summit night minus 1 pair of hiking pants, and 1 sports bra. To be clear that does not include all socks; I wore *only* 1 sock liner and 2 pairs of socks. I rented a sleeping bag so I wouldn't have to haul mine the entire trip and most outfitters provide sleeping pads. If you're not a camper bring an extra sleeping pad; you're sleeping largely on volcanic rock so there's only so much porters can do to clear rocks.

Kili Packing List
Category Item
Bags North Face Base Camp (L) bag
  daypack (Osprey Tempest 20)
Gearsleeping bag

sleeping pad
  sleeping bag liner

trekking poles
Accessories hat
  fleece ear warmer
  glove liner
  light weight glove
  down mittens
  extra batteries
  baseball hat
  glasses (as back up)
Upper wicking t-shirt
wicking tank 
  l/s wool baselayer
  light fleece 1/2 zip
  (heavier) fleece jacket
  north face down coat 600
  patagonia rain jacket w. hood
rain poncho (2 - cheap ones)
2 sports bras
Lower 3 pr underwear
  wool baselayer pant
  convertible hiking pant
  reg. hiking pant
  winter running tights (under armor, kinda heavy)
  lulu pants (these were originally just for the plane but on summit night I added them over my baselayer!)
  rain pants
Feet hiking boots
  trail running shoes
  3-4 pairs socks
  2 pair sock liners
Misc 2 L camelback
  2 - 1 qt size alum. bottles
  spibelt (keep your tip money on you)
  eye drops (holy dust. even non-contact wearers may need these)
  lip balm w. SPF
  baby wipes
  gatorade mix
 airborne (for Kili cold)
  8 handwarmers (pretty useless!)
  quick dry towel
  ear plugs
  bug lotion
  luggage locks
  3 garbage bags
  2 stuff sacks
  binder clips (for drying laundry)

1/2 roll of tp
  12 pairs daily contacts
  hand sanitizer
  small mirror (for putting in my contacts)
  band aids
  pepto bismol
  athletic tape
allergy pills
  pocket knife
  baby powder
  sm duct tape roll (wind it around a pen cap. stuff breaks...)
  extra zip lock bags
Not necessary:

  • Every site I found regarding gear said you need a 3 L Camelbak for Kili. Not so in my opinion; the pace is such throughout the hike that you can easily refill your Camelback from your water bottles. I already had a 2 L so that's what I took. 
  • Also, by the time you want hand warmers, they're useless. They're useless weight on summit night. They're just absolutely worthless - the chemical reaction breaks down at that temp/altitude. Bring 2 water bottles and have your porters fill them with boiling water at night, stuff in sock, stuff in sleeping bag, put in ear plugs, proceed with blissful sleep. On summit night, don't break for more than like 30-60 seconds, you'll freeze. Wear 3 layers of gloves, avoid using poles if possible and keep your hands in your pockets.
  • Too many snacks. Unless you went with a really cheap company or have a really sensitive stomach. I had read from another Kili board to bring 2-3 Clif bars per day. OK, maybe if you are a huge guy but honestly, look at the itinerary - some days are only 3 miles. (Now if you go on safari after, you might need the extra snacks because you're trapped in a car all day or the monkeys stole your lunch nevermind.) I ate 1 caffeine GU chew packet on summit night and maybe 2-3 Larabars during the whole trip. There was so, so much food provided to us by our outfitter at meals. Even the guys in our group felt overwhelmed by the amount of food they expected us to eat. On day 2, our assistant guide said to us during lunch, "Your hopes and dreams rely on what you are doing right now." That is a straight up life #fact. And when all that's required of me at that moment is to eat, I oblige.

Retrospect: The only thing I wish I'd had was a slightly better camera...

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