The idea of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro came out of a gathering with my college buddies last year in Tahoe. At that point I looked at the whole process of getting ready physically and mentally as part of the journey. None of us had any previous mountaineering experience beyond day hikes and a few camping trips years ago. But Kili is a manageable climb that doesn’t require ropes, ladders or technical skills. It just requires that you keep going up – to the thin air of 19,341 feet which is the highest point in Africa.
Altitude is probably the biggest challenge and there isn’t much that can be done to prepare for that. Altitude sickness can affect anyone regardless of fitness level, including one person from our party who had to go back down early. But I also knew that it would be a lot of time on my feet 0n uneven terrain with a pack in unpredictable weather. So to prepare as much as I could, I joined CrossFit to add strength, range of motion and stamina that I wasn’t getting from the road cycling that I’d been doing for years.
One memory from the climb stands out. After five days of climbing, on the morning of the push to the summit, we started at midnight to get there at the optimal time shortly after sunrise. We were on an extremely steep section, in the pitch dark, grinding up a seemingly endless number of switchbacks for about 3,000 feet of elevation gain. It seemed like it would never end. I remember at that time channeling my WOD survival mentality to just keep moving, and giving myself a little cheer at every switchback with a push to the next one. Mental toughness!! Eventually we were at the top.
So thank you to BJ and all of the coaches for pushing me along, especially when I was recovering from a fractured ankle in the spring and having to modify everything. I just needed to keep moving to get to the top. And I plan to keep involved in CrossFit because the muscle development and resiliency it gave me could come in handy for the next life challenge!