Gear.

Every time I walk into an REI, I feel like the most outdoorsy, adventurous bada$$ in the world. And when I walk out, $1000 poorer, the reality sets in and I realize that 1) I barely know what to do with all of this crap I just bought and 2) I would die in the wilderness as I likely lack all necessary survival skills. It’s amazing that so many people want to go out and experience the wilderness – yet we pay ridiculous amounts of money to have as many of the comforts of home as we can. Now, to be fair, we are idiots. So many of these over priced “comforts” keep dummies like me who lack basic survival skills – alive.

The company that is taking us safely to summit has provided a thorough packing list. For the past few months, I’ve been scouring the internet, reading reviews and trying to find the most reasonably priced, yet highest quality and best user reviewed this or that. The accumulation of gear is proving to cost about as much as the trek itself and I’m surprised that I haven’t come across a “Mount Kilimanjaro Bucket Listers Used (Once) Gear Trading Post.” I’m learning that climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is on A LOT of people’s bucket lists and each year about 25,000 attempt it. I can’t believe that all of these people go on to continue to climb mountains – so what are these folks doing with the $5,000 worth of gear that they purchased for Kili? The companies that guide people like me rent things like sleeping bags and trekking poles… why not everything else? They should open a massive warehouse in Moshi where you can rent (for a set fee) everything you need. From headlamps, to duffel bags, to balaclavas, to merino wool socks and underwear! And I know you’re probably thinking – “WOAH, used socks and underwear? Gross!” But you know what? I won’t be showering for EIGHT DAYS so at this point I’m quite content with the idea of being gross anyways. Luckily for me, I live in Chicago. So I can actually use merino socks and underwear and balaclavas again.

I came across a few packing videos on YouTube and they’ve been incredibly helpful. Who ARE these kind people that take the time to record and share something like that? It seems so silly – but I’m so incredibly grateful. It’s been very helpful to see how all of this stuff packs into a single duffel and somehow stays under 33 lbs. Additionally, it’s been incredible to watch videos of people trekking on the mountain, using their gear, and I’m always checking to see what styles/brands people are wearing.

But a crazy thing I noticed while watching these videos – is that the porters (the real bada$$es) are climbing the mountain, carrying MY stuff, and wearing flip flops?! I started reading more about the porters that risk their lives for your comfort. Many of them are impoverished Tanzanians that are unfairly paid for the dangerous and  strenuous work that they do. I will likely do a more in depth post about this later – but I did hear from someone that a good tip (along with $ of course) is to leave some of your gear with them. So it is my hope that THAT is why there isn’t a convenient online store where I can purchase one-time used gear from a fellow bucket lister. I hope that whatever gear those non-serious climbers do not plan to use again, that they are leaving it with the brave men that are what I’ve heard are the heart and soul of anyone’s Kili experience. It is crazy to me that I can spend $300 on a pair of hiking boots for a single, eight-day trip and yet someone that makes this climb several times a month is running in flip flops. Now, in fairness to myself, I am a hiker that will get great use out of said boots and I don’t know that any of my porters will fit comfortably in a women’s size 8. But I’m certainly making mental notes about the items that I plan to part with and pass along to someone that truly needs it.

I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts or recommendations on this topic! And if you’re interested in learning more about the efforts to provide a safer work experience for the porters of Kilimanjaro, you can check out this website: Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project – http://www.kiliporters.org/

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A new type of training!

Wow. Time flies. I feel like it was just yesterday that I announced my decision to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (September 2015). For the past several months, I’ve been doing various activities to improve my cardio: kickboxing, Zumba, a little P90 and of course hiking/walking. I recently met someone who has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and he had some great recommendations for me! One of the most important pieces of advise he gave was to stop doing high-risk activities that make me more susceptible to injury. He actually said that the best thing I could do was to continue to get on the treadmill, wearing my day pack, and just walk at a 15% grade for hours at about 1.5 mph. So I’m doing that… BUT… it’s sooo nice outside! Living in Chicago means I only get a couple of months of sunshine and warm weather. I began looking for additional activities that are low-risk, fun and outdoors…..

Kayaking… WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN MY WHOLE LIFE?! 

I recently discovered kayaking and can’t believe that I haven’t tried this sooner. I suppose it has to do with a couple of traumatic incidents with canoeing that has kept me away from the idea. It’s incredible for several reasons:

  1. Easy on the knees! While my legs are engaged, I’m not putting any additional strain on my knees – like all other activities typically do.
  2. Killer arm and core workout! A healthy back requires a strong core. And in order to carry a backpack uphill for 8 days I will certainly need both. I absolutely hate doing things like plank and crunches – but THIS I love! I don’t even realize that I’m working out my core until the next day when it’s a little sore.
  3. Incredible way to experience nature! So far, in just a couple of kayak trips in the same spot, I’ve seen countless types of gorgeous birds, muskrats, raccoons (I didn’t know they swam), deer, dragonflies and other Midwest critters! It makes me so excited for all of the plant and animal life that I will see in Tanzania.
  4. Wonderful for meditation! There’s nothing more peaceful than floating by yourself in the middle of a lagoon. No boat engine, no kids splashing around, no city noise. I know that walking for 8 days will require a level of inner peace – something I struggle with. I’m hoping that practicing my meditation skills in nature while kayaking will help me with this.
  5. It’s just so much FUN! There’s not much more to say about that.

I’m so thrilled that I’ve discovered a new way to train physically and mentally for this climb – which is now 2 months and 23 days away. If anyone else has any other suggestions for fun, low-risk training activities – please let me know!

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Momentum

As I write this, we are 3 months, 28 days, 10 hours and 47 minutes away from our climb. Each day it feels more and more “real.” We’ve begun our fundraising efforts and I’m so excited to report that we are at 25% of our goal. As momentum builds, we are reminded each day of how amazing our family and friends are. We wanted to take a moment to recognize those that have donated to our fundraiser thus far (as of 5/27). As a reminder, our trip is 100% self-funded. Which means, that 100% of the money you donate goes directly to YMCA World Service to help support the development of youth in Africa.

If you would like to join this list of amazing people and help us reach our goal of $19,341 (1 dollar = 1 foot of mountain climbed), click HERE!

Alan C. Hostrup
Andrea Vignali
Andy & JoAnn Calhoun
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous
Carmelita Gallo
Chad Nico Hiu
Cindy McDermott
Dave & Lisa Powell
Eric K. Mann
Erik Daubert
Gordie Echtenkamp
Grace Perez
Jim & Ulla Kauffman
Jim Pacey
Kristin & Steve Bell
Mommy Moon
Mr. John R. Kuras
Mr. Jorge A Perez
Natalie Norton
Papa Grisafe
Renata Ferrari
Richard Clegg
Ronny & Jen Pewitt
Sandra Morander
Sara Ryan
Scott Washburn
Steph Precourt
Suzanne & Frank Goswick
Terri Radcliff
The Holthaus Family
Tom Lowery

THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!

Perspective

The older I get – the more I value and seek perspective. In my life, a healthy dose of perspective can cure just about any bad mood, stressful day or case of the “poor me’s.” Over the weekend I began to really stress out about this climb. Noticing that the countdown app on my phone is now ticking at around the 6 month mark, I’ve started to stress about all of the details surrounding this climb and fundraiser.

“Am I strong enough for this?”
“Do I have the right gear?”
“Will I raise the full amount?” 
“Will I build a big enough team?” 
“Does anyone else even care about this or am I the only one?”

I went on two walks this weekend and instead of enjoying being outside in nature I was contemplating these things. Then today, with a little dose of perspective I came back to the WHY.

Mary, a colleague of mine – who I’d like to call a friend at this point – shared a story about a young man she met in South Africa who, at the age of 11, was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread. This young man’s situation was one in which life on the street was safer than life at home and he then spent a good chunk of his adolescence locked up simply because he was starving. Throughout his time in prison he endured unspeakable things, did unspeakable things and by the grace of God somehow made it out alive. Upon his release (and after repeatedly pleading for guidance from the prison staff), he was directed to the YMCA. It was there that this young man received a second shot at life and was able to not only turn his life around but become a role model for other young people in similar situations.  I feel like Mary could’ve broken out into tears at any moment in recalling this story and if she had then I would’ve easily stopped holding mine in. This young man left a mark on Mary… and now me.

I immediately felt that shot of perspective that I needed to pull me out of this stressed out state. And it’s stories of impact like these that remind me of why I do what I do and why I believe that we should celebrate the work that YMCAs across the globe are doing to strengthen community. These are the stories we should be sharing. These are the kinds of superheros we should be celebrating.

 Why am I climbing this mountain? Because I can. Because for whatever reason I was born into a life where I didn’t have to steal loaves of bread…I just had to beat my sister to it (kidding Kristin). I was lucky enough to have a loving home, access to education, role models and the kind of opportunity that some people in this world couldn’t even dream of because they don’t even know it exists. And no matter what I’m dealing with – it pales in comparison to others that aren’t as fortunate.

Yes. Climbing this mountain is a personal endeavor and I’m grateful to have the ability to do something this extravagant with my vacation time. But my hope is that by dedicating this climb to the YMCA programs that are saving lives, like the young man I just described, I can bring more meaning to it. I’m not just climbing for me anymore. With every foot I climb – all 19,341 of them – I will be thinking of all the young people who will be given hope, opportunity and a shot at a future as a result of the awareness and funds raised.

I will end with my favorite photo from last weekend’s walk through Caldwell Woods. A reminder that beyond the darkness there is light. Or that light has the power to cut through the dark. Or something profound… I’m not a poet. High five to the person that can come up with a much better caption for this photo than the two lame ones I just wrote.  tre.jpg

Day 1 “Simulation”

My goal was to have simulated each day of the climb at some point prior to going. Now, obviously there is no way for me to actually simulate the experience. I live in the Midwest – Chicago specifically. There is no altitude here and everything is very flat. BUT – I’m hoping to at least put in the hours of walking. So according to the breakdown of my route, day 1 is about 3-4 hours of walking a total of 6km (3.7 miles). Yesterday was a gorgeous day by Chicago in February standards. It was about 48 degrees and sunny. I drove out to the Skokie Lagoons which is roughly 5.9 miles of paved trail. It’s actually not ideal in that much of it runs directly alongside I-94 and at times can be heavily congested with bicyclists. But it’s familiar, has parking and feels somewhat safe. So for a single female – will do just fine. For a gorgeous Saturday morning/afternoon it was actually quite empty. I walked the 4 miles in about 3 hours. Very leisurely pace and stopped in a few areas to enjoy the scenery. I used my altitude training mask for the first hour and eventually became annoyed with the sound of my own breathing. I talked to my mom for the remainder of the time and it flew by.

I technically put in the time and the mileage to “simulate” day 1 but I know that walking through the Skokie Lagoons is nowhere near what the actual experience of day 1 on Kilimanjaro will be like…even with this goofy training mask.

 

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Skokie Lagoons 2/27/16
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Skokie Lagoons 2/27/16

“Are you crazy?!”

…is what I thought people’s reactions would be when I began announcing that I would be climbing the tallest mountain in Africa.

Apparently, my friends and family have come to believe that I can and will do just about anything I put my mind to. It was their reactions – without hesitation- that made me start to believe in myself as well.

The first person I contacted was my cousin Athalie. A fellow adventurer and lover of all things Africa, Athalie was instantly on board. I’m paraphrasing but this is essentially how the conversation (via text) went:

Linsea: I’m climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Wanna come?
Athalie: ABSOLUTELY! I’m in.

That was the moment that this dream became a reality. Knowing that I would have someone with me to share the experience made the impossible seem totally doable.

Next I ran the idea by my friends Sami and Kathy. They too were instantly on board. I wasn’t entirely surprised. These two are pretty much up for anything. That’s why I love them.

The most important person to me though, is my Mommy Moon. I know that my Mom would probably prefer that I not fly halfway across the globe and attempt to climb a very tall mountain. But I also know that my Mom always supports me – no matter what. When I had a bit of a breakdown prior to turning 30 and spontaneously decided that I would travel SOLO to Central and South America my Mom actually came with me to Barnes and Nobles and helped me look through travel books. I know that she was nervous/concerned…what parent wouldn’t be? But she has always allowed me to choose my own paths in life. Her support of me climbing Kilimanjaro was re-confirmed when all of my Christmas and birthday gifts were Kili gear!

And this is why I’m the luckiest person in the world. And this is why I feel confident enough to make this journey. Because I have friends and family that believe in me (even when I don’t) and support me. Always. Period.

Over the past few months, I’ve trickled the news to other people and pretty much everyone has been fully supportive and excited for me. It’s funny…I got way more push back and flack when I decided to be vegan for 90 days. All of this to say, I don’t think that I need the support of others to follow through with anything (I’m stubborn like that). But having it certainly makes the process so much more enjoyable and I know that in those final hours on summit day when every part of my body wants to shut down – knowing that I have support with me and at home is going to make it that much easier to push through.