Final Descent and Celebration, August 10 – Day 5

Holy hell, we are sore. It has to be from running down the dusty mountain without slipping! 

We hiked down to Mandara huts today, in the rainforest again, for a delicious lunch of homemade potato salad and sammies – best food in the world. Our guides were great – getting us to the summit was over, and they loosened up a bit. We used toilets that flushed at Mandara – yay! – then laid in the sun for a bit. No cloud cover there today. We hiked through the rainforest towards the park gates and just soaked in how gorgeous everything is. Many people do day hikes on Kili, which means you go to Mandara then come back down the same day. We saw an adorable British girl who said “Ughhh, how much farther is it?” We told her Mandara was near, but man did we enjoy that comment after getting to the summit 🙂

We got to the bottom, our guides had our diplomas made, then we drove to the hotel with them. We took two showers – one to get all the dirt and grit off, then one that felt like a real shower – and met our crew at 4pm for beers and celebration time. Safari beer is amazing; we will miss it most of all. Our crew sat in the sun since it was finally sunny and warm out, and we chatted with them. Protas taught us about his family and Tanzanian history. We talked about the fruit in Tanzania, and he mentioned how awesome apples were. They don’t have them, but sometimes they get to try them on the mountain if their groups bring them along. Well, good thing I had an apple in my bag from Qatar! I snuck away, got the apple, went to the bar, cut it up into about 15 pieces, and brought it out. Oh man, you have never seen a group of grown men so happy!! They LOVED this apple. All 8 of them shared it and just raved about it. I wish I would have known – I would have brought a lot more from Qatar with me (let’s just say customs was pretty light here so I didn’t have to worry about crazy fruit issues!).

Then, time for our diplomas! Protas gave us each our diploma and we all shook hands. Then the crew sang us the Kili climb song! See video. Protas is the one leading it. Then, time for tips and goodbyes. Saying goodbye to Michael and Protas was very very difficult. They made us get up that mountain and were so humble and great the entire time. Brad gave Michael my headlamp so he wouldn’t have to climb in the dark again. Then, our crew left. It’s still very sad to think about.

We packed our hiking stuff in a bag for Nick to take home with him – honestly, it’s so gross that I feel bad for Nick to even have it in his apartment! Charged some electronics, tried desperately to get phone signal to tell our parents about our engagement, then had beers with Nick. Looking forward to a good night’s sleep and getting up for safari tomorrow morning! Marangu was just wonderful, and we hate to leave :(…

-b&b

 
ImageImageImageImage
Image
 

Summit (and engagement) Day, August 9 – Day 4

It’s summit day, and we did it! We already told everyone in a previous post – so no nail biting necessary as you read about our trials and issues getting up the mountain…and sorry, this is a long one.

Our crew woke us up at 11:15 with tea and sugar cookies. Man, do they know what to feed you when. This was perfect right before the climb – quick sugar energy. At altitude, your body doesn’t really digest things (survival mode), so quick energy is best. Then, we put on all of our clothes, got out the headlamps, pumped each other up, and set off around midnight. I thought the dark would be scary, but it was beautiful. The stars are gorgeous!! Plus, it’s probably better that we can’t see how far we have to go. As we started to ascend, I saw three shooting stars. We’ll take that as a good sign.

The first part of the ascent was ok. We could see the headlamps of the other crews above us and below us, and we went pole pole. About 2 hours in, it got rough. That’s about the time Nick politely told me that we would not be looking at his watch anymore (which ended up being a good idea!). The landscape was sand and rock, so you slide a bit when you step up. When taking a break, you can’t really sit down because your body exerts so much energy when you stand again that it’s dangerous. You’re breathing hard, but don’t feel like you’re getting any oxygen. Just four hours left of this…:)

As we got closer, we started going more slowly and taking 5 small steps at a time before taking a break. Brad was really struggling with the altitude – it hit him worst of all. Michael, his guide, was phenomenal, even though Brad probably wanted to yell at him for making him keep climbing! It was freezing – below zero and with no sun at all to sort of warm you up, so if you stop and take a break, you are at serious risk of freezing to death. Poor guides had to force us to keep moving. Brad and I pushed each other up this mountain – the altitude wasn’t really affecting me terrible (no headache or breathing issues or nausea) so I kept trying to make sure Brad didn’t have some sort of edema. Honestly, your only focus at this point is survival. I read something later on that said “when you are climbing the summit, you belong to the mountain”. I can’t think of a better way to say it. Finally, I yelled (well, as much as I could) to Michael “how much longer”?? He said “about 5 minutes”. PHEW, best thing I’ve ever heard in my life. We climbed – at this point it’s huge boulders you are climbing through – and could start to see the sun coming up over Mawenzi. In Africa, because you’re on the equator, whenever the sun would come up or go down, it wasn’t a process. It comes up and brightens the sky in a few minutes; same with sunset. We were right on schedule.

We reach Gilman’s point at the top of the mountain (Uhuru is the tallest peak, but Gilman’s is on the top of the crater rim, so you’ve still “climbed” if you make it there) and enjoyed tea. How did our crew bring hot tea with them?? They were wonderful. Took a few pictures and prepared to head up to Uhuru since the hardest part was done…and you can still easily freeze to death here…

Then, Brad reached in to his backpack, pulled out a gorgeous ring, and proposed. It was short and sweet – perfect since we still couldn’t breath! We made it up this mountain because of each other :). Our guides LOVED it. Nick got a picture that he’ll share later. We celebrated for about 10 seconds, then headed to Uhuru.

So, Gilman’s to Uhuru was supposed to be easier. Not the case. Still 1.5 hours around the crater rim. It’s gorgeous – sun’s out and you can see the clouds forever – but it’s a tough hike. This is when we thought Brad would need to turn around and go back down. The altitude was at it’s worst. Michael pushed him along…and Nick and Protas were way ahead at this point :). We knew Brad could do it, but he felt so weak. 

Then, the vomit monster visited Brad and he threw up. A lot. Michael goes “Good. Vomit makes you stronger”. And it was true! He felt great afterwards. We headed up to Uhuru and made it right on schedule – behind a group of people with a VERY large cross. I have no idea how they climbed with that.

We took pictures at the top, celebrated, and looked at the most beautiful view we’ve ever seen. You can see Mawenzi, tops of clouds, glaciers, the volcanic crater, and way down to the towns. We had reached the roof of Africa. The engagement high certainly helped :).

Don’t discount the fact that we still had to climb down and make it to Horombo – 7,000 feet below. Michael knew Brad didn’t feel well, so he grabbed him and forced him to run down the summit. Dust was flying everywhere, but he got Brad down safely to Kibo in an hour! I feel bad for yelling “watch out for the ACL tear!!” Man, Michael is amazing. He also climbed without a headlamp. OMG. We arrived at Kibo, our crew dusted us off, we took a short nap and had lunch. Reapplied sunscreen since the sun is blazing up there, then headed to Horombo. Pole pole – but oh man did we want to go not pole pole so we could get to Horombo and sleep! Many people back at Kibo had not made it to the top, sadly.

We made it to Horombo around 4pm, after seeing our British friends hiking up to Kibo! So, we’ve been hiking for 16 hours at this point! We cleaned up, ate a delicious dinner, and met a cute french couple on their honeymoon! They found out we were engaged and celebrated with us. A perfect engagement celebration with some wonderful strangers :). Then, time for bed at 7pm. The most amazing day of our lives – other climbers, push through. Trust your guides – it’s worth it!

Sidenote – sleep with your camera batteries in your sleeping bag. Nick’s died at Gilman’s!! Luckily mine worked and I had a disposable just in case. But batteries hate cold.

Tomorrow we get to the bottom. Also – best place in the world to get engaged? Top of Kili.
-b&b

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

 

 

Climb to Kibo huts, August 8 – Day 3

Today is a nerve-wracking day. We have a 6 hour climb to Kibo huts, this time through a high-altitude desert, then try to sleep for a few hours before our summit begins. We left behind the groups we had come to know (they stay at Horombo for an extra day of acclimation before going to Kibo) and headed up the mountain. For this route, you can take the upper or lower. Upper is harder, but better views. You also gain altitude quicker. We chose this one – hoping for a couple of extra hours of acclimation before the summit. 

The landscape changed almost right away in to a desert. Annnnnd…we finally saw the peak of Kili! Its pretty far up there…and we were already at 12,500 feet. The peak quickly went away behind some clouds, but we finally got a glimpse of what was ahead. Until now, the groups we were with had been joking that the whole climb was a scam :). Guess it’s real!

The upper route to Kibo huts goes across what’s called the saddle. Kilimanjaro actually has two peaks – Kibo (the snow covered one that everyone climbs and is the tallest) and Mawenzi (pretty scary- very high with lots of peaks. Looks like a gothic structure). The saddle connects the two peaks, so once we reached the saddle, we really hiked at the same altitude for about 3 hours. No one climbs Mawenzi – it’s illegal. There’s a good picture of this in a previous post with Brad and Nick next to a drawing of Kili. The saddle is obvious then.

Climbing was fine today – none of us have had any altitude issues (besides REALLY bad sleep – we sleep a few hours, then wake up for about 3 hours, then back to sleep) so all went well. We ate lunch on the saddle, and several birds decided to show up. These were huge crows. Many of you know that I hate birds – they terrify me to no end. These were my worst nightmare. We’re hoping it’s not a bad omen, like the black cat we saw when we arrived in Africa! The other weird thing about the saddle is that you can see Kibo huts from about 3 hours away. It’s a moonscape up there – dry and you can see forever. Luckily Desmond warned us of this, otherwise we would have been pretty annoyed. To keep busy, I started counting my steps. Then, I picked a rock in the distance and guessed how many steps until I got to it. Got pretty good by the end! I’m sure that’s a talent I’ll never use again. Brad enjoyed trying to make me lose count.

At Kibo, which is basically a cinderblock bunkhouse where people sleep in the same room for a few hours, there isn’t water and the bathroom situation is just terrible. The porters carry water up from Horombo. Amazing – we still had our hot water and tea! Since Kibo is 15,000 feet, we started being able to feel the altitude here. This would be the place I’d like to spend time to acclimate, but the water situation doesn’t allow that.

Dinner was pasta and sauce, then we went to bed around 7 with plans to be up at 11 to get ready for the summit. It’s becoming real – luckily the summit path is hiding behind the clouds so we can’t see what’s in store for us! 

Weird thing – we have to pee all night up here. That also impacts sleep. You’re drinking about 3-4 liters of water each day, and in altitude your body stores that water. So at night, you finally process it and pee all the time. It’s annoying because it’s FREEZING out. Climbers – be ready for that. It happens to everyone.

Alright, time for bed. We saw a guy with an Everest patch on his coat today, so we are intimidated :). He helped me take the picture of Mawenzi below (between the clouds).

-b&b

ImageImageImageImage

ImageImageImage

Climb to Horombo Huts, August 7 – Day 2

Day 2 of our hike started out quite nicely. Our porters woke us up at 6:30 with tea, teacups, sugar, and milk, as well as buckets of hot water for us to wash up with. It’s pretty cold, especially since we are in the clouds, so the hot water is an awesome treat. These guys are the best. Breakfast at 7 consisted of toast, jellies and peanut butter, omelets, pancakes, and fruits. Sidenote – the oranges here are green! We started calling them greens just for fun. 

At 8, it was time to head out. The hike was 6 hours today, and we said goodbye to the rainforest after about an hour. The next landscape is alpine – shorter trees and foliage, some very interesting other trees, and grasses. Much drier than below, but still in the clouds all day so no good views of anything yet. We hiked about 4 hours, enjoyed lunch and hot tea courtesy of our crew (seriously – how do they keep this tea hot and carry it around for so long!?), met two nice British girls who terrified us about trying to summit in 5 days, and then were on our merry way to Horombo huts. I’m getting pretty nervous about us making it – after our lunch chat with the British girls, we saw three unconscious people being taken down the mountain in stretchers. The thing with Kili is that you can be in perfect shape (not that we are!) but you can never guess who the altitude will hit. Risks include pulmonary and cerebral edemas – fluid filling the lungs and/or brain.

We got to Horombo, and enjoyed hot water and tea again. The huts were the same as Mandara – four bunks and the camp had a dining hall. After our snack, Nick, Brad and I played bocce ball with our backpacking bocce set (very light so you can carry it easily). Horombo is 12,500 ft above sea level, so we figured a little bit of moving around would help the acclimation process, plus there’s really nothing else to do! The porters enjoyed watching us play this weird game as well. No sight of the mountain still…

At dinner, we met a large group of British students and their chaperones that were climbing in 6 days. They were great – we loved talking with them. Also, dinner just keeps getting better. The other groups have all been jealous of our meals!

We met our first American today. He came up to us, saw Nick wearing a ski cap with the Green Bay Packers logo on it and called him Brett Favre. Interesting…it’s like he missed the fact that that was years ago. Then he grilled us for the price of oil, gas, and stock market info. We had no clue (and asking people who travel for work and rarely get gas is not a good group to ask this question of!)…oh man. 

Alright, time for bed. Tomorrow is a big day – hike up to Kibo huts at around 15,000 feet, sleep for a couple of hours, then start our summit at midnight. Perhaps we will see this mountain?? 🙂

-b&b

Image

ImageImageImage

Climb to Mandara Huts on August 6 – Day 1

Note – written on paper in Africa and transcribed later in an interesting Hungarian laundromat…

Today is the big day we’ve been anticipating for months – we officially will begin climbing the world’s tallest freestanding mountain! We woke up to the wonderful staff at the hotel bringing us yummy Tanzanian coffee with raw sugar (the good stuff, not the white processed stuff). This hotel is just top notch. Then, breakfast time (another big production) including all fresh foods, juices, and eggs made to order. After last minute prep and a nice shower (our last for five days), Desmond introduced us to our crew. We have 8 people helping us up the mountain – a cook, cook’s assistant, 3 porters to carry our stuff and all supplies we need (they carried everything on their heads!), and 3 guides so that we each had our own guide. Our guides, Protas, Michael, and Isidori, are brothers and have each climbed Kili at least 50 times – Isidori has done it about 120 times. We feel like we are in good hands.

When packing – our fancy backpacks were not what we ended up sending up the mountain. Since the porters carry things on their heads, they preferred our duffles. Good lesson learned for others considering the climb. More blog posts on other lessons learned soon because we have some good experience now!

We drove to the entrance to the Marangu route on the mountain – we start off at about 6,200 feet above sea level today and climb to around 9,000 feet at the Mandara huts. The hotel gave us great, homemade walking sticks that are pretty helpful and much more rustic than the fancy ski poles we’ve seen people walking around with! We like ours much better. Our hike today was through the rainforest, so it’s muddy and damp. But the scenery is beautiful; everything is so green and lush. 

Walking pace was excruciatingly slow. We were warned about this (go “pole pole”, meaningly slowly slowly in Swahili) but this is like a snail’s pace! Our guides know what they are doing, but part of us just wants to run up to the huts. 

Once we made it to the huts, it was time for hot tea and biscuits, served by our wonderful crew along with hot water for us to wash our faces and hands, then a hike around crater near our hut. Its so cloudy here, and we are literally in the clouds right now, so the views were poor – apparently you can usually see Kenya from the crater. Not to mention we still haven’t even seen Kili, and we are climbing it! It’s above the clouds somewhere. You’ll see the cloud cover in the pix below. During our crater hike, we saw monkeys. Holy cow, we were not prepared for that. I though nothing was really alive on the mountain for some reason :). After the hike, dinner time. The food here is so amazingly good – always have tea or hot chocolate (for Nick), some sort of starter course, and the main dishes are really good. Lots of stews and curried veggies and rice. All the climbers eat together in a dining hall, so we got to meet a few various groups. No other Americans yet, lots of Swedes and British groups.

Our hut has four beds in it – I got the top bunk! We set up camp, faked a shower using our shower wipes we brought, and hit the sack. Tomorrow we climb 3,500 feet to Horombo huts. I asked Michael if we’d see the mountain tomorrow – he said “maybe” with a clever smile. Sounds like Kili hiding behind the clouds is a common thing…
-b&b

ImageImageImageImageImageImage

 

Arrival in Africa – August 5

Note – our blog posts from Africa were written on paper and transcribed (when we finally got wifi!) at a later date. Thanks to Brad’s wonderful sister for making us an incredible journal to use along the way! The most thoughtful gift ever.

We made it to Africa! After a marathon of travel that included a bus ride to Chicago, a 13 hour flight to Doha, Qatar, a 9 hour layover in Qatar (in a swanky airport lounge without alcohol because of Ramadan), and 8 hour flight to the Kilimanjaro airport, and 2 ambiens each, we are here! We got our visas at JRO customs, then our hotel shuttle picked us up for the 1.5 hour right to Marangu Hotel. Along our drive, we saw lots of stuff, including:
– HUGE turkeys

– Goats
– Cows
– Pubs
 
Not the animals we were expecting in Africa, but I’m sure we’ll see more as time progresses.
 
Lots of folks have asked about the really long flight from Chicago to Doha. It went very well. Qatar is really a stand out airline – great food, comfy seats, lighting that’s subdued and wakes you up gradually, very nice employees, care packages with pillow/blanket/sleeping mask/ear plugs/socks/toothbrush, and some interesting television/movie choices :). I would fly them again in a second – it was really great. And the Doha airport was equally impressive. We were very happy that we went with them; I would take this route again in a second. Doha was hot as hades though – you stepped off the plane and felt like someone was suffocating you with a hot, wet blanket. Luckily, we were outside for about 15 seconds total.
 
Back to Africa. We arrived at Marangu hotel, and were immediately welcomed with open arms. After a lunch of fish and chips and bottled water (that was $11 total), we started packing our day packs and bags for our climb. Dora, who works at the hotel, came by our room to inspect our stuff for the climb and to fill in anything we might have forgotten. Very nice. Then, Nick showed up! The party officially began…
 
Around 5PM, we had our briefing session with the hotel owner, Desmond. He was very reassuring- talked about what we would experience with altitude, what to expect, and was just very matter of fact but encouraging. At this point, everyone has terrified us by telling us that doing the climb in 5 days is risky, so hearing from him was helpful! We are doing the Marangu route, which has huts to stay in along the way, and sounds like most folks use 6 days to do this due to altitude acclimation. Brad and I are taking altitude medicine (diamox) which makes your hands and feet SUPER tingly, but will hopefully help. Desmond agrees with using diamox, and he knows what’s up
 
Off to bed – we start our climb tomorrow morning with an easy day. Only 3 hours through the rainforest and we end up at 9,000 feet. Low compared to Kili’s peak (Uhuru peak)!
 
-b&b
ImageImageImageImageImage
 
 
 
 

Announcement from Africa

Hi family and friends,

Well, updating our blog in Africa did not go as planned…cut off electricity, limited internet, and dial up modems are not on our side. More to come when we get to Budapest, including updates from our climb, safari, and Amani school! Africa has been absolutely amazing…the thought of leaving tomorrow is rough. Good thing we have a bottle of South African wine and a delicious dinner ahead with Nick to prolong the experience!

All that being said, we wanted to make sure to share some news from the great country of Tanzania. Last Friday morning (at sunrise), after a very grueling 4,000 foot climb that tested us mentally and physicially more than anything else in our lives, Brad dropped to a knee on top of Mt Kilimanjaro and proposed. You’re looking at the future Brad and Brooke Logan!! We couldn’t revel in our post-engagement glory for too long at the top (it was negative 20 degrees and our guides let us know that we would literally freeze to death if we didn’t keep moving) but we are certainly celebrating for the rest of the trip! More to come. Ladies – don’t worry, I didn’t let negative 20 degree temps keep me from taking my glove off to put the ring on! A girl has to be a girl, even after days of not showering…

Much love to all,

-b&b 

We made it!

Greetings from a hotel with beds, running water, and wifi! Aaahhh… 

 
More to come on our climb, including day by day details, but in the meantime we have an announcement. At midnight on Thursday night, Brad, Nick, and I started our final ascent to the top of Kili. We had 4,000 feet left, and it was the most difficult thing – physically and mentally – that any of us have done. But, we did it! As of 6:30 am, with about a third of the oxygen that we normally get, we climbed to the crater rim and watched the sun rise over Africa. Then, up to the tallest peak at 8am. It was the most amazing thing in the world. More to come (our iPad charger no longer works!) in the next few days. We have some great stories to share ;). 
 
In other news, Madeleine The Cat is doing great with Auntie Jenny. We hope that she’ll come home with us when we get back! (Well, Brooke hopes…Brad appears on the fence). 🙂
 
Thankful for your love and support (esp to our parents),
b&b

Final countdown

This is it – one hour and counting until we take off. We are in O’Hare at our gate, looking at a VERY large airplane that will take us halfway around the world. It’s becoming more real.

A lot of people have asked us how today has been. I’d give it a solid “weird” rating. I crammed in about an hour of emails, then shut down my computer for a month. Weird. Went to the bank to get cash to pay for our climb (yes, we have to pay in cash!). Packed. Cleaned out everything somewhat perishible in the apartment. It didn’t seem real until Jenny (Brad’s sister) came up to pick us up to take us to the Chicago bus. Then, an overwhemling surge of different feelings. Good thing for Brad – we dropped Madeleine the Cat off yesterday. If we did that today, there would have been a lot more sobbing!

Then, we got on the bus and now we are just excited. Anxious and excited! In a week, we will be at the base of Kilimanjaro after our summit! So many fun things ahead.

Last night, we spent our last night in Madison in the best way – celebrating our friends Tim and Alison’s wedding. So fun! See picture below. Great way to unwind before the trip.

Image

Well, now is the time to sign off. See you on the flip side (of the world!) 

To our amazing families, especially our parents, we love you more than you know! Can’t wait to build memories to share with you for years to come!

-b&b

Image