Tuesday, May 3, 2016

8 Things I Learned From Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

  • Maria Popo President of a Tech Company. Founder of a Non-Profit. Leader of the Unnervingly Brilliant.
I recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the seven summits and the highest peak in Africa at 19,341 feet. Here are my post-climb observations.
8. Climbing one of the seven summits makes you “skinny.” I wanted to be sure I could physically make it to the top of the mountain and survive the experience, so I became a running, spinning, kickboxing, weightlifting fool for at least eight weeks before the climb. I lost over ten pounds finally becoming my version of skinny.
7. Climbing one of the seven summits makes you cool. You’re cool if you do something that seems slightly stupid and physically difficult, so upon my return I posted photos of the trek. The unanimous feedback was that I am incredibly impressive and inspirational!
6. Skinny and cool lasts less than six weeks. The weight is now back. My social media friends have since moved on to the slightly stupid and physically difficult challenge of a friend who ate 12 hot dogs in one sitting.
5. Enjoy the journey. My experience climbing Kilimanjaro was undoubtedly different from everyone else. While we were hiking, I was almost never smiling, usually deep in thought. It could have seemed that I hated the trek or was sick. I wasn’t feeling any of those things. I was just working hard to get my ass up the mountain. If I could rewind time, I’d work on being more engaged in every moment as it was happening.
4. The adventure was even better AFTER the trip. Although energized when we finally reached the summit, I appreciate the experience so much more now as I reflect back. The photos and videos are reminders of what I accomplished that I didn’t fully recognize during the trek itself.
3. You forget about being perfect when in survival mode (and you should do this more often). On day 5 of the climb we ascended Barranco Wall, a 1000 ft. vertical climb up and down. As we traversed the wall, the head guide kept assisting me. At first I wondered why he was helping ME. Was I not I good enough? Too slow? Not strong enough? My thoughts changed quickly. After just a couple minutes of busting my butt stepping straight up over rocks, I clutched his helping hand with gratitude much to the happiness of my fatiguing muscles. It didn’t matter how I scrambled to the top of the rock wall. The goal was to get up there! In that moment, I didn’t care what others thought of my need for help and the reality is they didn’t think anything of it. They were happy to see me successful.
2. Motivation comes from unexpected sources. Before this trip, I had never hiked up mountains or slept in tents. I embraced the trek as a fit person with a good chance of making it due to a 7-day approach and being accustomed to the altitude in Denver. When we started the climb, it was clear that the others were more experienced. They felt comfortable in their hiking boots. They were faster and more agile. Instead of feeling lifted by their ease and confidence, I wondered why I even attempted the trip. The second day, it was the other least experienced hiker that motivated me through her own self-questioning but steadfast determination. Plus, she told ME that I motivated HER! Therefore, failure was not an option for either of us. Through mutual encouragement including that of our guides and fellow hikers, we made it to the top. Moral of the story: You don’t have to be the best to inspire others. You inspire them through your understanding, authenticity, laughter and collaboration towards the common goal.
1. The people were the BEST part of the adventure. The main reason I accepted the Kili challenge was because two extraordinary women invited me. Laurel Werner had climbed Kilimanjaro the previous year with her family. Laurel was so moved by the experience that she created the Kilimanjaro Technology Foundation to support rural African communities in Tanzania. You can find the KiliTech website HERE. Next was Nomi Bergman, President of Bright House Networks, which is currently being sold to Charter Communications in a deal valued over $10 billion. Nomi is well known in the cable industry for her operations, technology and leadership savvy. How could I possibly say no to such an unbelievable journey with such fantastic women?
It gets even better. The remaining three trekkers that we met on the trip were, Ann Oppenheim, Bob Hand and Christina Lane, each one incredibly funny and special. Plus our team of guides, porters and kitchen support were genuinely caring people. Head guide and master motivator was Onesphory Mtui. Thanks to all of these people our entire adventure was wrapped in laughter and joy.
Yes, we made it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro together. It was a life experience I’ll never forget. Thomson Safaris was our tour company and made sure we were prepared, safe and comfortable as possible. For those that are interested in what the trek was like, HERE is a video pieced together by Nomi’s daughter, Dori. We’re grateful to her for taking the time to create it. Enjoy!

For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Everest, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Kilimanjaro, CLICK HERE
Follow Charles Irion on Twitter HERE
Friend Charles Irion on Facebook HERE
Visit Charles Irion's YouTube channel HERE 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Bodies of world-class climber, cameraman may have been found 16 years later

Thursday, April 21, 2016

9 things no one ever tells you about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro is a climb of 19,340 feet through all kinds of terrain and vastly fluctuating temperatures.
Mt. Kilimanjaro is a climb of 19,340 feet through all kinds of terrain and vastly fluctuating temperatures. 

When my husband-to-be asked what I wanted to do for our honeymoon, I was stumped. I’m a travel editor. I’d traveled all over the world. We’d met in the Galapagos. How do you top that? Do you even try?

We both love adventure and the outdoors, and we wanted a once-in-a-lifetime trip that would leave us with a sense of accomplishment, not just a tan.

Then one night it hit me: “We’ll climb a mountain!” What better way to start a marriage than by scaling a high peak together? How symbolic. I paused and added, “What mountain can we climb without a lot of training or ropes?”
There are plenty of mountains where you can do that in the U.S.; Colorado alone is filled with them. But this was our honeymoon, and we wanted to get away, far away, to a land without cell service. All the way to Tanzania.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest and most recognizable mountain in Africa, fit the bill. It takes hikers through five different ecosystems – from rainforest to alpine desert to arctic snowcap – and climbing 19,340 feet to the top is one of the most empowering adventures you can experience without serious training.

About 35,000 people begin the climb each year. How many reach the summit is an elusive statistic.
We hooked up with the adventure travel company Intrepid, because it has a wide variety of dates for different climbs and a good track record for getting people to the top.

“Kili” climbs take anywhere from five to nine days, depending on your route and how much time you want to take to acclimate to the altitude. All tourists must register at the base and climb with a licensed guide. And at a cost of several thousand dollars, this isn’t something you do on a whim. This is one for the bucket list.

I researched the climb before we left, but there are things I know now that I wish I’d known before I got there. They would have made the climb easier, more enjoyable and less uncomfortable.

1. Kilimanjaro is hard work. The literature describes it as a walk, but just because you don't need special equipment doesn't mean it’s easy. Parts of the trail are very steep and feel like they go on forever. There are sections filled with 2-foot-high boulders that feel like a StairMaster on level 27.

2. Nothing on the mountain will kill you. Except lack of oxygen, which is why you need to acclimate to the altitude. But I wish I’d known we were safe during our first night in an A-frame hut at the Mandara camp. There is an animal that shrieks at night and sounds like it could tear you from limb to limb. It’s a harmless tree hyrax – no bigger than a cat – but I promise it will keep you from getting up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
3. Toilet paper is currency. I stole a large role of extra-soft toilet paper from the last hotel I stayed in when I was told, at the last minute, that we needed to carry our own TP. And because I had it, I was all of a sudden rich. People would trade candy bars, ibuprofen and, in one case, a delicious block of cheese just for something soft to wipe with. There are bathrooms – long drop toilets – at the camp on Kilimanjaro, but they aren’t stocked with any amenities, including toilet paper. By the way, the only place to go while you’re hiking is in the bushes, often with a crowd of tourists watching you and waving. Our Intrepid guide, Justaz Molel, described them as LWVs – Loos With a View. The problem was the view often went both ways.

4. Your sweat will freeze. And it’s gross. The temperatures reach over 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and sink to below zero at night, and it’s unlikely you’ll take a shower during the approximately six days you’ll be on the mountain. You may find a shower at one of the camps, but the water will be frigid. Better to remain dirty and very, very smelly.

5. It’s not always easy on a relationship. Many of the guides will laugh when you tell them you’re doing this on your honeymoon. While some couples find the climb empowering, others actually break up on the mountain. We heard that one honeymooning husband left his new wife alone on the mountain because the climb caused them to fight so much.

6. You need to slow down. Your guides want you to go “pole pole” – Swahili for “slow.” It’s in their best interest, because you’ll give them good reviews if you make it to the top and avoid altitude sickness. But other members of your group may have a different definition of slow. When you start a climb, there is intense peer pressure to “stay with the group.” Our group was composed of very active, very adventurous Australians, and trying to keep up with them made me weep on our first day. I also felt like the mountain passed me by. I hardly remembered anything except staring at my feet, willing them to go faster as my breath grew more ragged. On our second day, one of our guides saw how much I was hurting, grabbed my shoulders and said, “Pole, pole.” While the rest of the group sped ahead, I slowed down. Not only did I feel better, but I noticed things like glacial streams rushing over boulders, chameleons hiding in the branches and butterflies as big as your hand with perfect white polka dots.

7. There are a lot of senior citizens on the mountain. This is either inspiring or, if you are huffing and puffing your way up, incredibly demoralizing. I chose to feel empowered. “Look, honey,” I said to my husband. “If we stay quite fit we can do this again in 30 years.” I didn’t get a response.

8. It is one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever be. So much of the literature talks about the physical aspect of the climb, about pushing yourself to your limits. It talks about the gorgeous view from Uhuru, the summit of Kibo peak. But what we don’t hear enough is that the entire climb is beautiful and other-worldly. So many climbers were so focused on Uhuru, they hardly noticed Mwenzi, the craggy second peak of Kilimanjaro that looms ominously over climbers, since it is near-impossible to climb. They don’t frolic through the willowy elephant grass or take the extra hour to look at some of the clearest night skies in the world.
9. You can be in the best shape of your life and fail to reach the summit. Altitude sickness is an equal opportunity bully. You may be able to run marathons, but the vomiting, nausea and sometimes hallucinations can knock you out well before you reach 19,000 feet. My husband and I are youngish and in good shape. I run almost every day and he goes rock climbing twice a week. Still, altitude sickness was not our friend. We had to bail at 16,000 feet with headaches and nausea worse than any hangover. My husband imagined he saw fish flopping on rocks in the alpine desert. We had to go down or risk serious illness.

Would knowing these tips have somehow changed that? Maybe. Would I do the climb again, knowing we wouldn’t make it to the very, very top? Absolutely.

For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Everest, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Kilimanjaro, CLICK HERE
Follow Charles Irion on Twitter HERE
Friend Charles Irion on Facebook HERE
Visit Charles Irion's YouTube channel HERE 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

For the love of reading they scaled tallest peak

Staff Reporter /Sharjah
Rashid Al Kous holds the flag of the Knowledge without Borders and a '1001 Titles' logo at the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, which is located at a height of 5,895 metres in Africa.
(Supplied photo)

Reading initiative flag hoisted at Mt Kilimanjaro

AdTech Ad
A team from the Knowledge without Borders (KWB) has raised a flag of the organisation and a '1001 Titles' logo at the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The event took place following a five-day trip undertaken by the team with Shaikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Corporation, and Mohammed Khalaf, Director of Sharjah TV and Radio.

Rashid Al Kous, General Manager of Knowledge without Borders who raised the flag, said: "I am extremely proud of Sharjah's achievements in supporting education, knowledge and culture under the directives of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. I wanted to express my feelings in a symbolic fashion. The raising of the 'Knowledge without Borders' flag and '1001 Titles' logo reveals that we have achieved success at the highest level. It represents our commitment to continue elevating standards."

Located in Northeast Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro has a height of 5,895 metres. It consists of three volcanic cones; Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira, and is the closest snow-mountain to the equator. Mount Kilimanjaro is part of the Kilimanjaro National Park, which is included in the World Heritage List by Unesco World Heritage Centre.

Knowledge without Borders was launched as an initiative by Dr Shaikh Sultan and is supervised and supported by Shaikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Head of the Organising Committee of Knowledge Without Borders. The initiative aims to establish reading as a noble habit in every household in the UAE. It encourages the establishment of home libraries and aspires to supply these libraries with the best reading material across a variety of genres suitable for the family.

For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Everest, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Kilimanjaro, CLICK HERE
Follow Charles Irion on Twitter HERE
Friend Charles Irion on Facebook HERE
Visit Charles Irion's YouTube channel HERE 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Hyderabad girl becomes youngest Everest guide

Updated Mar 15, 2016, 10:33 am IST
At 14, Hyderabadi mountaineer Jaahnavi Sriperambuduru is the youngest Indian guide at the Everest Base Camp.
Jaahnavi Sriperambuduru
 Jaahnavi Sriperambuduru
Hyderabad’s Jaahnavi Sriperambuduru, who aims to become the youngest girl to scale the Seven Summits, has broken many records.

Now the 14-year-old mountaineer has set another record by becoming the youngest Indian guide at the Everest Base Camp (17,598 ft). “I have also created a new record as a guide by escorting a 10-year-old girl and her mother to the base camp successfully,” she says.

“Guiding to the Everest Base camp is not an easy task when your clients are beginners, first timers or are very young. As a guide, you must be very calm and look into the safety of the clients in any situation,” says Jaahnavi adding, We must maintain the same pace as the client and make them comfortable.”

Jaahnavi decided to condition herself before attempting scaling Mt Everest in April. She has earlier scaled Mt Kilimanjaro (19,341 ft), Mt Elbrus (18,510 ft) and Mt Kosciuszko (7,310 ft).
“I wanted to get myself conditioned before attempting scaling Mt Everest. I decided on April since it’s less expensive, as no one is coming ahead to support me,” she says.

Talking about the training she had to go through, Jaahnavi says, “As a guide you should also be a qualified mountaineer. Royal Nepal Holidays helped me last year to understand the role of a guide and trained me in basics with my chief trainer Kajee Sherpa, who has been with me since my Stok Kangri climb. I still need to learn a lot and get trained for different terrains and expeditions in the course of time.”

It’s not easy to be a guide and the challenges are many. Jaahnavi lists a few. “The challenges you face may differ from client to client and trip to trip. When we have experienced trekkers, they understand the terrain and the climatic condition, but when you have beginners, we sometimes end up explaining the same thing numerous times. First of all, we need to understand that an adventure trip is not a fun trip and we may not get all the facilities we expect. At the same time, we have to put ourselves in their shoes and support them. As this was my first experience as a guide to Mt Everest Base Camp, I had to take many precautions.”

After Jaahnavi completes the Mt Everest expedition, she will take up a new role as a guide for pilgrims travelling to Kailash Mansarovar from the next season.

For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Everest, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Kilimanjaro, CLICK HERE
Follow Charles Irion on Twitter HERE
Friend Charles Irion on Facebook HERE
Visit Charles Irion's YouTube channel HERE 

Monday, February 1, 2016

On road to Mt. Everest

Everest base camp, as seen from Kala Pattar. PHOTOS BY AUTHOR
Ever since George Mallory’s expeditions in the early 1920s and Edmund Hillary-Tensing Norgay’s successful summit in 1953, Mount Everest has captivated thousands of passionate mountaineers. While climbing Everest still remains an impossible dream for most, trekking to the Everest base camp has become an achievable goal.

Everest base cEver since George Mallory’s expeditions in the early 1920s and Edmund Hillary-Tensing Norgay’s successful summit in 1953, Mount Everest has captivated thousands of passionate mountaineers. While climbing Everest still remains an impossible dream for most, trekking to the Everest base camp has become an achievable goal. amp (EBC) trek is a feat that involves 10 days of arduous journey on foot, covering a distance of about 60 km one way, starting at 9,350 ft and reaching an impressive altitude of 17,598 ft.

We set off with high spirits from Bengaluru and our first halt was at Thamel, a popular and colourful tourist hub with its narrow alleys bustling with mountaineers, trekkers buying and renting gears for their expeditions.

Trek to EBC technically starts from Lukla, a small town in the Khumbu region. Flight from Katmandu to Lukla takes about 40 mins before the highly-skilled pilot lands the small aircraft on one of the most dangerous runways in the world, a small single landing strip that ends at a cliff with a fall of 9,300 ft !

Alpine efforts
The way up from Lukla to Everest base camp trails through the gorge of turquoise Dudh Kosi, a glacial runoff that originates from the high altitudes of Everest, surrounded by lush green Rhododendron forests giving way to more alpine land as we go higher.

Further, the path traverses through glacial moraines and the foothills of snow-clad peaks, offering spellbinding views all along the route, making it the grandest walk in the Himalayan region.

We spent the first night in Phakding, a small settlement. Heading up the picturesque trail next morning, we walked past several other trekkers, porters and yaks carrying supplies to the settlements higher up in the region. We crossed Dudh Kosi over a high-raised suspension bridge, famously called the Hillary Bridge, beyond which the path is a steep ascent, and finally a lengthy flight of stairs leads us to the capital of Sherpas, a market hub — Namche Bazaar — at 11,290 ft.

Having missed the first view of Mt Everest enroute to Namche the previous day due to cloudy weather, we anxiously walked up to the view point first thing in the morning, and there it was! The most eagerly-awaited moment — first glimpse of Mt Everest, peeking from behind the formidable 27,940 ft Lothse, the fourth highest peak in the world.

However, the best view of Mt Everest on this route is from top of Kala Pattar, which is at an elevation of 18,200 ft. On the other hand, it was love at first glimpse of Ama Dablam, a popular peak in Everest region, which is by far the most beautiful one and dominates the eastern sky throughout the trek to EBC.

With our body slowly getting used to the altitude the following day, we set out to the serene settlement of Thengboche. Cloudy evening masked the panoramic view of mountains that surround the largest Bhuddhist monastery in Kumbhu at 12,700 ft. As night fell, we retired to our room in the tea house with hot water bottles to keep us warm inside the sleeping bag.

The next four days we pass through the settlements of Pangboche, Dingboche and Lobuche, gaining altitude as we walk through the mountainous terrain, soaking in the changing landscapes. On the way there are memorials of several climbers who lost their lives in various Everest expeditions. Tired and exhausted due to thin air at higher altitudes, we pushed ourselves slowly and steadily towards Gorak Shep at 16,942 ft, just before the EBC. There is a sense of achievement at the end of each day when you lie down shivering in the tea houses reminiscing the adventurous journey.

Most tea houses have a common dining hall and small rooms with plywood walls offering little protection from cold temperatures at night. Though rudimentary, these tea houses offer good food topped with the warmth of Nepali households. We spent the evenings huddled around a heated fireplace in the common area playing card games while getting to know people from different parts of the globe.

Our guide, also a sherpa and a commendable three-time Everest summiteer, gave us a glimpse into the sherpa culture. Sherpas are a friendly and hard-working community without whom the whole mountaineering adventure in the Everest region would be a tough ordeal.

Gorak Shep to EBC is a two to three hour trek on a hilly terrain next to the vast glacial moraine. Most trekkers also go up to Kala Pattar, which resembles a big black dune situated close to Gorak Shep. Kala Pattar is the highest point one can reach without a climbing permit.

Standing at the Everest base camp at an incredible altitude of 17,598 ft in the looming presence of Mt Everest, the feeling is nothing short of euphoria! I wondered what it takes to get to the top of the world and my admiration for the more daring climbers only deepened. I found myself marvelling at the panorama of mountains in complete silence, forgetting for a while how exhausted I was or how desperately I had earlier wanted to get back to civilisation. As you turn around to start the descent, you are filled with a personal sense of achievement, but bear in mind you have only completed half the journey. It is another four to five days of descent to Lukla from where you fly back to the comforts of Katmandu hotel, and then it’s party time!

For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Everest, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Kilimanjaro, CLICK HERE
Follow Charles Irion on Twitter HERE
Friend Charles Irion on Facebook HERE
Visit Charles Irion's YouTube channel HERE 

Monday, January 4, 2016

More than a mountaineer

Himalayan News Service
National Geographic selects adventurers from different parts of the globe every year as the Adventurers of the Year. Selection is based on a person’s extraordinary achievement in exploration, adventure sports, conservation, or humanitarianism. And calling Sherpa Akita “one of Nepal’s rising stars in climbing immersed herself in earthquake relief efforts, showing her courage both on and off the mountain” National Geographic chose her as one of the 10 Adventurers of the Year 2016. Among these nominees, one will be chosen as the winner of People’s Choice. For that you will need to vote for Sherpa Akita everyday through January 31, 2016. You can go to the link below and vote for her: http://adventure.nationalgeographic.com/…/vote/pasang-lhamu/
Pasang Lhamu Sherpa
Courtesy: Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita

There was a thunderous sound and she saw clouds of powder falling towards them. They ran in the house for safety. This was on April 25, when the earthquake was shaking the nation and mountain guide and mountaineering instructor Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita was with her clients and friends at Gorak Shep — a small settlement near Mt Everest.

As the shaking calmed a bit, she assembled a small team and set off towards Everest Base Camp (some two hours from Gorak Shep), “to help others stuck by the avalanche” triggered by the quake.
On her way, she met injured climbers and trekkers returning from the Base Camp, they warned her of the dangers ahead. “Of course, the way to Base Camp is not easy. On top of that continuous aftershocks would confuse us, whether to go ahead or return,” recalls Sherpa Akita, who summited Mt Everest in 2007. She is also the summiteer of Mt K2 “regarded as the world’s difficult mountain to climb”.
Suddenly the “bigger aftershock” jolted them at 3:00 pm. “The mountain exploded again” and some of her friends returned leaving only five of them, but they kept going. What made the 30-year-old continue her mission was her belief. “I trusted God would save me because I was going up for good work.”

The injured and dead had been already evacuated by the time they reached the Base Camp, which “had turned into a war zone”. Nothing much left to do, “we collected sleeping bags, mattresses, tents, and other things scattered everywhere and returned”, to Gorak Shep.

The next day she arrived Kathmandu and “it was worse here”. Many people died in the quake. And she like most Nepalis stayed under the tent. Though she had “quite comfortable” place to stay, she was not in peace. So, she told her husband, “We could have died in the earthquake but we are safe, we are safe to help others.”

Pasang Lhamu Sherpa Akita, who is in the mountaineering profession for the last 13 years, was once again ready to show the same courage she had shown in the world’s highest peak. She thus went to Bhaktapur “to help in rescue efforts”. She also volunteered in Patan area. During this time, one of her friends from abroad offered her help with $500. This money expanded her horizon. She went to Sindhupalchowk, another quake-hit district, with her husband carrying some tarps.

She posted her works on Facebook, and more friends offered to help. Thanks to this, her relief work was able to focus on foods too — pulse, sugar, salt, beaten rice among others — in other areas like Nuwakot, Dhading, and Gorkha. Along with immediate relief, they also made an elderly home at Laprak, a village in Gorkha destroyed by the earthquake.

While she continued her support to the villages by conducting health camps, especially in Salyantar, and following-up on their situation, she wanted to do more. Therefore, her priority became girls’ education. To help girls from poor family background for education and those who have lost their parent(s) during the earthquake, she headed to the Ama Dablam Mountain in November this year.
It was when she was “in the mountains I got to know that I had been nominated as one of the 10 Adventures of the Year by National Geographic”. She hadn’t expected to be nominated as “there are not many women in this field in Nepal, especially in the guiding sector. But I had been chosen as the adventurer of the year”. That is why she is happy, “It is an opportunity to introduce Nepal to the world while promoting Nepali women in the tourism industry.”

For more information about the Summit Murder Mystery series, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Everest, CLICK HERE 
To order your copy of Murder on Kilimanjaro, CLICK HERE
Follow Charles Irion on Twitter HERE
Friend Charles Irion on Facebook HERE
Visit Charles Irion's YouTube channel HERE