Tag Archives: climbing

A Journey on Mont Blanc; One of the Worlds Deadliest Peaks

This is a guest post from a buddy of mine, Kyle, over at Black Crow Travel. Kyle joined me on Mt Elbrus just after this Mont Blanc trip. It’s a great write-up so sit back and let him take you on a journey through the Alps.

 

Naples to Chamonix

Leaving Naples, and some of the best pizza in my life, I landed in Geneva Switzerland with the intent of taking a bus to Chamonix (The jump off point for Mont Blanc).

The bus proved way easier to navigate than expected; the stand was right outside of the arrivals gate and could be booked at a moments notice (Cheaper if you get it online though). 

I used a company called Alpybus, but I’m sure any bus company would be fine. The ride was an easy 2 hours; through mountains,crazy bridges, and lots of wildlife.

 

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I arrived in Chamonix, now lost, looking for my Couch Surfing host (I was running out of money /Shocker!/ so I tried to save some by Couch Surfing). After begging several people to use their phones, and getting rejected multiple times (The french…), some cute french girl let me use hers.

Chamonix was such a cozy little town. The snow-capped surrounding mountains, the local shops, and a small river flowing through made it easy to fall in love; Which I believe is the case with many, there seems to be a lot of locals or returning seasonal enthusiasts.

Unfortunately, the couch surfing profile said “Please bring a sleeping bag, I have a small apartment” which I didn’t read… of course. But my host graciously let me stay anyway and we were off to a festival after.

For some reason, and I’m not complaining, every city I go to has a random festival going on at the same time of my arrival. And I know what people are thinking ‘so what? It’s Europe in the summer… there’s always a festival’. Okay true, but what about my poor wallet/liver?

The night was great. People dancing on the roofs, drinks, signing… However, the following morning was the start of my Ice Climbing course, so I took it ease. 

 

Pre-Climbing Course

Since I’ve only had limited experience with crampons, ice climbing, and assists up until this point, I decided to take a Climbing course.

My course was set up through the local climbing organization in Chamonix. The guides were all local, all full time, and not part of a ‘company’.

Side note: Mont Blanc has a horrible reputation for taking inexperienced climbers up difficult paths, regardless of weather conditions. The reason being the commercialization of the climb and the view of it being ‘easy’. Be very careful of any guide promising “you’ll make it” or unwilling to call off the climb. Avalanches, random roll-in storms, and rock slides are VERY common. Your life is always more important.

 

The first day was basic walking in crampons, self assists, general rope and ladder work. The whole day illustrated just how unprepared I was for the climb in general. I left my water at the place I was staying, forgot energy bars, no sunscreen, no mitts, or knowledge of the gear whatsoever.
Relief came from seeing just how much worse some of the others were; No boots, wearing jeans instead of climbing pants, extremely out of shape, or giving up before we even started.

 

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The day wrapped up with most of us needing to buy more gear from in town…. but the basics of Ice climbing were learned.

 

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Day 2 – Our partners were assigned. Since most of the people came with buddies, not many were left alone. All except Christian, the 65 y/o man who was absolutely struggling on day one, and who was now my partner.

Christian turned out to be a really cool guy. Not in shape for the climb, but really nice to talk to which accounts for a lot.

 

Side note: Climbing is, and will always be, a sport of dreamers. And while I encourage dreaming as much as anyone, it’s somewhat disturbing the lack of self-awareness some climbers have. To climb a mountain; you need to be in excellent physical shape, have excellent mental will-power, have knowledge of the climb and your equipment, and also get lucky. The recipe calls for all four.

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Day two didn’t account for anything special. The weather was too bad to climb on the highest level of the Aiguille du Midi, so we climbed the middle level. The day was more of a hike and further learning equipment. 

However, I was able to go to the highest level at the end of the day just for the purpose of acclimation. Our guide Peter (what I’ll call him for the sake of his privacy) and Christian already went down as I looked up to the cable car ascending into the void.

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On this level (Around 13,000 ft), you could start to feel the first signs of attitude sickness, signs I came to recognize from Kilimanjaro a year before. Before going down, I ran up and down the stairs a bit to help get ready.

 

Funny side story: On the lift down, I was eating candy that I bought in town when, this random Asian lady (The lift is a major tourist attraction as well) started starring at me and the candy. Completely amazed by it. So I offered her some candy… of course, why not? She ate it and joyfully thanked me for letting her try it.

As I left the lift and started into town, She flagged me down and gave me this:

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Asparagus Biscuits

Day 3 – Our final day of training before going to the actual mountain.

Today the weather was perfect and we were able to climb the Aiguille du Midi on the highest level.

Stepping out from the platform was one of the most magnificent things I’ve ever seen.

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It was like watching an imax movie, where everything looked too glorious to be real. I remember stopping so long that I choked up the rope, pulling and annoying the others. This moment may have justified the entire trip.

The day was an easy 8 mile loop of mostly flat altitude training. We descended into the valley, walked around, and then came back up. We saw the avalanche prone areas some guides try to lead their clients up. It was easy to understand how so many people could die on this mountain. This observation was only further solidified the next day when climbing the scree on Mont Blanc.

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At the end of the day, Christian and I grabbed drinks then knocked off early to prepared for tomorrow’s climb.

 

Mont Blanc

We started the day from the “Normal route”. Originally, we were climbing a different route, but there was an avalanche warning in place for it (Common on Mont Blanc).

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The ‘normal route’ started with a splendid train ride up the various cliffs and to the Nid D’ Aigle, the end of the line. The valley below was lush with the colors of summer and stretched on as far as one could see.

The resulting climb was mostly dirt and grass until around the 2,500 meter point, when we finally hit snow. From there we traversed over to the ‘main scree’ which would take us up to the Gouter hut.

The climb and scree in general was a total bitch. Again, I can see why people die on this mountain.

At one point we were crossing a gap between two screes (To those who don’t know, a ‘Scree’ is basically a climb with tons of annoying loose rocks… photo below.). The rocks from higher elevations would FLY down the valley at speeds greater than cars on a highway. This was caused from melting ice, people walking on them higher up, or just random chance.

The advice was, “I’ll tell you when to cross but keep looking up… If you see a rock, dodge it”…. Thanks man! I’m good now!

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So I clipped on (Unhooked from our team rope and hooked onto a fixed line), took a deep breathe, and ran full speed across the divide. It was early enough in the day that most of the rocks were still frozen, but I’m told that crossing in the afternoon becomes an extreme hazard. This statement was reinforced by the memorial plaques following the crossing, dedicated to the people who didn’t “just dodge” the falling rocks.

After crossing, we had another 4 hours of knee crushing scree climbing left. The climb seemed infinite, to which I associate the endless stairs from Mario 64… You see the top, but never reach it. We were further delayed by Christian’s struggling and by our extreme caution when climbing the rocks. A loose rock up here, could mean a dead person down there… So we took our time.

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Scree climbing with the Gouter hut in the background.

Lifetimes later, we arrived at one of the coolest places on Earth. The Gouter hut was something you find on Instagram, not in real life.

The hut was sleeping on clouds and served surprisingly great food. Though the joys were overshadowed by the struggles I knew I’d face tomorrow: Summit day.

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Summit Day

We were to wake up at 2am for a quick breakfast, and then it would be around 3 hours up and 2 back down. I didn’t get much sleep, and arrived at breakfast early. Anticipation is bad for nerves and for sleep.

At breakfast, I learned that Christian backed out of his summit bid. A storm came in last minute (shocker) and Peter advised him of the now elevated difficulty in the bid. Christian decided to back out to give me a better shot at making it, since he knew he’d slow me down. He even lent me his Ski poles to help.

I couldn’t get over hearing this. For a climber; to give up a summit bid is never easy. Heartbreaking even. But to give up your bid, that you fought for… all so that other could have a better chance of making it… Man… talk about motivation. No chance was I letting some little storm stop me now.

We rocketed out at 3am, ahead of everyone else. The storm, however, saw to our spry enthusiasm by punishing us gust after gust. Peter and I pushed forward, without breaking, till we reached the mid-way shelter. I didn’t take any photos of this shelter, as the weather didn’t allow for it. We hobbled into the little bomb shack for a quick break.

Cold started to seep into my now sweat soaked boats as winds battered the tiny metal cottage. Various luxuries found in the Gouter hut were not present in this small survival refuge. The thin metal door was haphazardly held shut by a bungee cord and bashed over and over again as the wind wailed on it.

There were two others in the hut with us, still sleeping from the night before. Not sure how they where so unfortunate to ended up in this shack, but we didn’t have time to ask. Cold was trickling back into our bones, and it was time again to move.

We left the shack in complete darkness as the winds continued to howl around us. Our bodies warmed back up as we contended the ice-covered bluffs for what seemed like hours and hours.

  • The only sound I heard, apart from the screeching squalls, was Peter’s voice singing with the winds, “Alle Kyle! We have to hurry!” “Alle Alle!’
  • The only breaks we took were mandatory. To let our lungs catch up to our bodies.
  • The only thing on my mind was Christian and not letting him down.

At 5:36am, we summited Mont Blanc.

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Unfortunately, the weather did not allow for very nice photos:

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But the storm broke on our way down and we were able to take better photos:

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It was amazing, with the sun now up, seeing others attempt what we just climbed. Talk about self-empowerment, if you’re ever doubting yourself… go climb a mountain.

The time back only took us around an hour.

We made it back to the Gouter hut so fast that breakfast was still being served.

I’ll never forget walking into the mess hall to see Christian’s disappointed face as he looked at his watch. He thought we turned around and gave up. 

After eating a 2nd breakfast, that wasn’t included in our stay, we headed back down the horrific scree from yesterday.

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The view was incredible. And I regret not taking the time to enjoy it more; but that 2nd breakfast I so greedily scarfed down, didn’t sit so well and I was now suffering.

There’s a lesson here somewhere

Racing down to stop at an out house was not a pleasant experience…But here’s some photos of the descent and looking back up.

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Around 14:00, we were back at the tram. The total climbing day was around 12 hours. From the tram we headed back to town, 2 hours more… and then right to sleep (I’m a liar, I didn’t go to sleep.. ).

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The next day I was back on the bus to Geneva, heading to Russia to Climb Mt. Elbrus.

 

Postface

While everything worked out for me, people do die on Mont Blanc. Many people take the mountain for granted; because it’s popular, because is not that high (15k ft), because they climb in the Himalayas, or whatever reason… But Mont Blanc is a dangerous climb: The falling debris, crowds, inexperienced climbers, and tour guides shoveling people up without any concerns for the weather or mountain conditions.

Some people in our group who climbed the Himalayas didn’t make it, one guy broke his ankle pretty badly. In our  ‘group’ (I did the bid with just my guide Peter, but on the first day we were all one big group) of 15, 8 made it.

Stories of people dying happen all the time.

It’s up to you to decide who to climb with. Though I would Highly recommend the local Chamonix climbing organization, since they’re not affiliated with any big name company and don’t particularly care if you “Make it” as long as you live. 

As far as enjoyment; I LOVED the Aiguille du Midi climb, but the ‘normal route’s scree was terrible. Not to mention I didn’t feel safe at all (with the rocks flying at me). Next time I would go a different route, or stick to a snowier mountain.

As far as difficulty; this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. Exponentially harder than Kilimanjaro (20k ft) or Elbrus (19k ft). The Slopes were far steeper, the weather was worse, the acclimation period is much shorter, and falling debris was the rule, not the exception (there’s debris on Kilimanjaro, but it’s rare).

 

The total number of fatalities is between 6,000-8,000* and is ranked as one of the worlds deadliest climbs. The climb is to be taken seriously or not done at all.   

 

South Island of New Zealand: Spectacular is the Only Way to Describe It

A post I wrote last year about my time spent in the land of the long white cloud..

Before I start, I’ll admit I’m one of the first to give the Kiwis a bit of shit. Beside their ridiculous accents, their religious like infatuation with rugby and their reputation for romance with the population of local sheep, they also flood into Australia by the planeload, annoying us while bragging of how good things were comparably ‘back home’.

I always took this with a grain of salt, the last time I visited, being 8 years old, I don’t really remember a lot of detail. Having just spent a few weeks over here and with a greater appreciation of the world at large I can honestly say, begrudgingly, they do have a lot to brag about. I will use a few highlights of my trip to show you why..

 

The highlights of my trip

 

Hiking

New Zealand has a reputation for world class hiking tracks and when you get here, it’ easy to see why. The scenery is pretty special and the diversity of landscape offered not only on the different tracks, but on different New_Zealands_South_Islandsections of an individual track, is quite unique. One of the 3 most famous, theAbel Tasman was right on my doorstep and I would have been a fool if I didn’t take advantage.

Although summer is the preferred period for most trampers (and for good reason, winter is bloody cold..), I put on my woollen socks and enjoyed having the track basically to myself. I still met  few people along the way, including a French couple I helped cross a river at 5am in the morning (low tide) and a couple of German backpackers, one of which knew of Perth due to there having been ‘a Malaysian plane crash’ near the city.. I think we’ll be stuck with that one for a while.

The track itself is well maintained, even in winter, and winds over and around a hilly coastline consisting of golden sand beaches and crystal clear waters. There is accommodation in the form of serviced huts every 10km

Very cozy..

or so where you can lay your head for a small fee, or if you’re a little sneaky like me, for free. I spent just over 2 days on the track, walking from Marahau to Totaranui and although it can be achieved quicker, it’s worth slowing down and enjoying it.

 

The other hike I did on this trip was called the Tablelands circuit, running up and behind the Mount Arthur range overlooking Motueka. Personally, due to the novelty factor of having practically the whole track covered in snow, I enjoyed this even more than the Abel Tasman. This is where New Zealands diversity truly comes into play. Less than 50km from the sunkissed coastline I experienced in the Abel Tasman a few days before, I was transported to a scene which could well be at home in the Artic Tundra. At the far end of my walk, I was balls deep in snow for a good couple of kms and that pure whiteness is all that could be spotted within eyesight (bar the Salisbury Hut, with the best view I’ve ever woken up to in my life..)DSCN0145

 

 

Skydiving

Something that has been near the top of my busketlist for a long time now (as I’m sure is the case with most busketlists) I finally took the plunge and got it done. The Deadat30 mindset has held me accountable to a lot of self-made promises over the last 6 months and this is a prime example.

I won’t go into much detail as I think the only way you can understand what its like jumping out of a perfectly well functioning plane at 14,000 feet is to actually do it yourself. I’ll admit I wasn’t actually nervous on the way up but the minute we left the plane, I entered a state of shock which I only really snapped out of after the shoot had been pulled.

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Mountain Climbing

Given the challenge I have set myself, this was the perfect opportunity to get a bit of practice and build some fitness from my Kilimanjaro climb later this year. There is a reason some of the worlds best climbers hail from the South Island of New Zealand, there are literally mountains everywhere.. Although not as high as many places in the world, they are pretty treacherous, every year taking the lives of those who attempt to tackle them ill-prepared.

As I was climbing solo and was lacking in ice-capped mountaineering experience, I stuck to some of the easier climbs around where I was staying, spending 6 hours on Mount Campbell on my first day and tackling Mt Lodestone as a finale to the Tablelands circuit hike. Both presented unique experiences for me, Mt Campbell being the first time I’d ever climbed in snow, snow falling for the top few hundred metres, Mt Lodstone being steep and full of ice, making it pretty bloody hard at some points.

Not much traction here..

 

Fishing

I did three types of fishing on this trip, the good old rod and reel setup, a small net used to target the infamous whitebait and shellfish hunting on the coastlines rocky outcrops.

We didn’t have a great deal of success with traditional line fishing, hooking mostly pesky sand sharks on the day we went out. To be fair it was the wrong season, summer producing bountiful numbers of snapper around the top of the south island.

The town I was staying in predominantly, Motueka, gets a pretty serious case of whitebait fever when the season rolls around in New_zealand_whitebaitmid-August, giving me a prime view of the obsession over these little bastards. I say bastards because they are hard, very hard, to catch.. Not only are they nearly invisible in the water, they’ll swim right into the mouth of your net then freak out and take off again, leaving some very frustrated Kiwis. We did manage to snag about 2 cupfuls of them which were dispatched to the frying pan with egg and salt. There’s a unique flavor to them, not as strong as regular fish but still with that distinctive taste. Not bad at all.

Finally came the shellfish hunting, the region I was in containing mussels, a couple of varieties of oysters and the unique to New Zealand paua. I encountered a pretty unique occurrence in that the moon was the closest it had been to that part of the Earth since 1930. As such, the tides were going through some radical swings and when we chose to target mussels, the water was basically as low as it would go. This allowed us to check under some otherwise submerged rocks and crevasses which normally would have required getting very wet.. We pulled out about 50 green-lipped mussels which provided a quality feed at very reasonable prices!

 

 

Exploring

Like mountains, caves are literally everywhere in the South Island, indicators being displayed all over in the form of sinkholes and large holes in the Earth appearing at random. A few weeks before I arrived, a woman and her friend were walking around the hillsides when one of them suddenly disappeared 6 meters into the ground. Luckily she was ok and they managed to get her out safely.

I visited the Ngarua cave up at Takaka, containing stalactites & stalagmites 10’s of millions of years old as well as Moa fossils 25,000 years in the making (an extinct New Zealand bird, the biggest the world has known). It’s pretty crazy seeing the remains of these creatures of a bygone era and made me feel like a curious kid again as the guide rolled through his list of facts.

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In the same vicinity is Harwoods Hole, thought to be the deepest natural drop in the southern hemisphere. It’s about an hours to get to the site and it’s surprisingly open.. no barricades or fences to prevent you from getting too close, not that you could accidentally stumble into the 357 metre drop, its pretty well blocked off with large boulders. I made full use of those boulders and avoided getting too close to the edge. There’s a strange magnetism that feels like it’s drawing you in as you get closer, quite an unsettling feeling.

 

Hospitality

Despite giving the Kiwis a lot of shit, most of what I say is in good natured jest and its certainly reciprocated. At the end of the day, there are a good bunch of people over here and they will always help you out when they can. Although I didn’t personally try it, a number of travelers I spoke to hitchhiked everywhere and remarked that New Zealand as one of the best places in the world to do it. If you’re ever so inclined to head to the South Island, check out Motueka, a little character town on the doorstep of the Abel Tasman and with plenty of places worth checking out in the surrounding region. I highly recommend Motueka Backpackers for a place to stay, right in the heart of town. Most importantly get out and enjoy nature. There are few better places to do it.

Climbing Quandry Peak

After scrolling through my Instagram feed a couple of months ago, viewing pic after spectacular pic of the magnificence that is Colorado State, I decided I had to witness it with my own eyes. I booked a ticket post haste and 2 months later, I was sitting on a flight from Perth to L.A (Actually Perth-Sydney-Auckland-L.A), in gleeful anticipation of what was to come. Not only was I going to going to be immersed in the beautiful landscape of Colorado, a bucket list destination for years, I was meeting up with an amazing girl who I couldn’t stop thinking about. Yeh, it was a long flight.

After spending a couple of days in L.A with a mate from previous Cambodian escapades, I was back at LAX, Colorado bound. On the flight into Denver, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the window overlooking the spectacular terrain we were flying over. I may have actually been drooling slightly, a combination of nature-lust and sleep-deprived delirium. I met up with the gorgeous girl previously mentioned and we hired a car at the airport, crashing in Denver for the night. We were ready to head West in the a.m.

Cruising over to Breckenridge in the morning, we were greeted over the first ridge by large timber estates perched atop the rolling landscape. These were mingled amongst pretty pine and grand oak trees. Prime real estate in anyone’s book. Then it started snowing… Neither of us had ever driven in the snow before so a bit of excitement kicked in as usually the case with fresh experiences.

Climbing Quandry Peak

A photo I nicked off colorado.com to show how gorgeous Breckenridge really is. This is from winter but the conditions were the same when we were there.

First trip in ‘Breck’ was up to the beautiful Hanging Lakes which only took a couple of hours return and was pretty crowded the whole way. The highlight for me was having a ‘shower’ under an ice cold waterfall at the top. Cold is a pretty decent understatement, that shit was bone-chilling.

The next day I passed up an amazing opportunity to go white water rafting to climb one of Colorados infamous ‘14ers’, mountains reaching above 14,000’ (4,240m for those of us who use the correct form of measurement). Even though the weather was sketchy at best, it was what I came to Colorado to do, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. I chose the East route on Quandry Peak as my target due to it’s relatively straightforward path and lack of technical challenges.

Calling in at a local outdoor recreation store the morning of the climb, I picked up a pair of snow-shoes, what I was informed to be a necessary piece of equipment with conditions as they were ( As you can see, I was well prepared..) It was mid-May but the snow had lasted and hung around, falling well passed the traditional ski season. Unusual weather patterns appeared to be a common trend on this trip, Hollywood Boulevard was flooded and Texas also had a combination of deadly floods and a tornado upon my arrival.

I was dropped off at the base of Quandry mid-morning and off I went ( This is really not recommended as an early start tends to avoid the storms that develop later in the day). There were a couple of people in the carpark strolling around but otherwise I was completely alone on the mountain for the entire duration. I guess that’s not a good sign for what’s considered a fairly popular hike. Luckily there was a fairly well snow-packed path leading up the first half and I was able to follow at least some form of tracks right up to the top.

30 odd minutes into the hike it started snowing and didn’t really let up until well into the descent. It wasn’t overly heavy but combined with the wind which kicked up beyond the tree line, it made for a chilly journey. When I did reach the the treeline, I was confronted with a fairly ominous looking scene. The neighbouring peaks to the south were veiled in dark cloud and it wouldn’t be too long before Quandry too, was engulfed.

Pretty sure this was up close to the top when the white-out started kicking in. Great views as you can see..

Pretty sure this was up close to the top when the white-out started kicking in. Great views as you can see..

Pushing on, I and managed to reach the top around 2 1/2 hours after starting. By this time the cloud had well and truly rolled in and the top portion of the mountain was in the midst of a pretty decent white-out. I’d heard plenty about this phenomenon before (mostly advice to avoid them at all costs) and I was a little giddy to have another new experience under the belt. That lasted until I realised, I could hardly see my feet.

It was hard to follow any of the tracks I left on the ascent so I was left to blindly stumble down, hoping I was going in the right direction. Luckily the Eastern route on Quandry is a fairly gentle slope void of any cliffs or drop-offs, so I was fairly safe in that regard. I still wanted to avoid getting completely lost however, as I had no inkling where I was or where any other roads or paths lead that surrounded the mountain. Not much luck in that regard..

There was a small ridge which kind of bisected the mountains upper slopes as shown in the photo below. I came up the right side and managed to traverse back down the left. (Took this photo on the way up, couldn’t see a thing on the way down)

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I managed to get down off the ridge and was back to having vision of the world surrounding me. Realising I was off path but thinking I might stumble back across it at some point, I reached the tree-line again and found some ski-tracks I thought would lead me to where I wanted to go. Wrong. They took off in another direction entirely, by which time I was so lost, I kept following them anyway, hoping they’d eventually lead to a road or the start of a different route.

The problem was, nobody had been walking this way so there was no snow-pack. It was also early afternoon, meaning the snow was getting all soft and slushy. Excellent hiking conditions. It really is terrible stuff snow. It gets you all excited and joyful when you first see it again, but it doesn’t take long for reality to set in and to remember what a bastard of a substance it really is.

It was a constant battle getting back down the mountain. I was potholing every step, often falling waist deep into the white slushy goodness. Several times I had to reach down and pull my snowshoe out by hand, it having been lodged a metre or more under the surface. Yes I was wearing snowshoes, that’s how soft it was. Luckily there were a few small trees I could use to pull myself out with, I have no idea how I would’ve actually managed otherwise.

The ski tracks eventually led me back down to the start of the route I came up on and I wearily walked out onto the road to wave down a passing car. The descent had taken me just as long as it had to get up originally. A nice old lady picked me up and after a very enthused rant on the Amish, dropped me straight off at a local watering hole. That proceeded to be a very messy night.

 

Kilimanjaro: Journey to the Roof of Africa

 

 

The roof of Africa, the highest freestanding mountain in the world and most importantly for me, a member of the Seven Summits. Enough has been written about Mount Kilimanjaro that there is not a whole lot more for me to add. Ever since the first ascent in 1889, it has become a popular addition to bucket lists the world over, including a gallivanting leopard that took a one-way trip to the summit ridge immortalised in Hemingway’s Snows of Kilimanjaro.

Without doubt the most popular and probably the easiest of the Seven Summits – bar Australia’s own Mount Kosciuszko – it was a great way for me to kick off this project and get acquainted with the effects of high altitude.

Day 4 on Kilimanjaro- with my guide Charles. Superstar and legit nutter. The approach to the base of the mountain. Hit alpine desert and rose around 500 vertical metres to basecamp, known as Kibo Hut. Last stop before the summit

Day 4 on Kilimanjaro- with my guide Charles. Superstar and legit nutter. The approach to the base of the mountain. Hit alpine desert and rose around 500 vertical metres to basecamp, known as Kibo Hut. Last stop before the summit

 

The 13-hour summit day was a physical test, particularly above 5,000 metres where the pace was reduced to that of a drunken sloth.

Otherwise, it was a fairly relaxed journey up the six-day Rongai Route, one I’d highly recommend if you want to avoid crowds. Our party had that entire side of the mountain to ourselves.

Despite being an incredible experience and what many label as “life-changing”, it honestly doesn’t make for the most exciting read.

Days consist predominantly of hour after hour slowly ascending the dormant beast, eating, followed by a long sleep. The environment and the scenery are what make the journey and words won’t allow me to adequately convey what really has to he experienced in person.

The mountains rise straight out of the surrounding plains, containing no other noticable protusions in sight. It truly is a natural wonder how it came to form the way it did.

As you start the climb, you are surrounded by lush green forest, perhaps making the acquaintance of a blue monkey, buffalo or baboon.

Whilst ascending, you pass through three more climatic zones before reaching “Arctic” at the summit crater.

If you are thinking of tackling “Kili” I think there are three key areas that will determine whether you succeed in summiting or not.

Day 3 on Kilimanjaro- the campsite. Another confortable day, around 3 hours total. Gained near 600m elevation. Good chance for a rest under the shadow of Mawenzi.

Day 3 on Kilimanjaro- the campsite. Another confortable day, around 3 hours total. Gained near 600m elevation. Good chance for a rest under the shadow of Mawenzi.

Without question the most important is your mental state. As the guides will tell you, believe you will have what it takes to reach the summit and  don’t stop until you do. No matter how you are feeling, keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will get there.

Secondly is pre-climb preparation, particularly physical training. If you don’t have the time to cycle the length of Vietnam prior to your trip like I  did, you’ll need to train.

Focus on leg strength and high intensity interval training to improve lung efficiency. Ensure you have the adequate gear and equipment, extra  energy bars/snacks, water storage and essentials such as sunscreen and headlamp. Your guide service should go through all this with you prior to  commencing the climb.

Finally is your self-preservation on the mountain. Walk slowly (“pole, pole”), eat and drink as much as possible (at least four litres of water a day)  and ensure you take care of your body. Use plenty of sunscreen in the thinner atmosphere, get as much sleep as possible (take earplugs) and look  after your feet.