Jan 6 – Kilimanjaro Recap

My amazing adventure companions Julian Cook and Steven Newman have made several Facebook postings about summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro. First, let me clarify my place in this accomplishment.

On summit night, we started at 11pm, making our way up the initial steep path in the cold high altitude air. I sensed some occasional irregularity in my heartbeat, but wasn’t terribly alarmed as this happens occasionally ans is of no concern. After almost an hour, I still felt some “blips”–which means inconsistent blood/oxygen flow and diminished performance. I mentioned this to Jeff, aka super-experienced mountaineer. A few minutes later he asked, “Where did you say you kept your nitro?”

That did it. It’s not that there was a great risk, but that the risk factor had elevated. It wasn’t so much that it was bad, It just wasn’t ideal. In 2015, thanks to Matt Parkes, I got a second chance to live. I’ll not get a third. In a previous time I would have pushed on, common sense smothered by determination and ambition. Not this time. No summit is worth risking my life.

Before I left the U.S. I asked my son what he wanted me to bring from Africa and he said, “Just bring your ass back.” My ass is in Frankfurt Airport awaiting flight to U.S.

Kilimanjaro is an incredible mountain I got to love on for eight days, climbing to high camp at 15,300′. My teammates were incredible–such a privilege to spend an adventure with! Our guides and support staff were amazing! My special thanks to “Crazy Willie”. A highlight of my trip was dancing and singing with him at our second camp. I love love love the energy and rhythm of African music! I have so many memories I’ll treasure forever. It was so special to see my new friends achieve success and go to the roof of Africa. Who knows, maybe some other time I will as well.

Hakuna Matata

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Day 5 -New Years Day

 Day five is pretty much he same as days three and four — wet, rainy, cold and can’t see much of a view. When we reached camp today the sun actually came out for almost an hour, so my gloves mostly dried.

Experience has taught me to pack clothes and sleeping bags in plastic bags. Without dry clothes it would be impossible to summit this amazing mountain. And having the right gear is critical as well. Even after walking hours in monsoon-like rain, my body was totally dry. Thank goodness for Goretex!

We will reach high camp tomorrow and make a decision when to begin our final summit, considering weather. We may leave at midnight tomorrow night, or the following morning.

Photo is of me and “Crazy Willie”. He’s so awesome, and looks after me.

So excited to stand on the roof of Africa! (And also hot shower when we get back.)

Hakuna Matata

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Welcome to the Jungle!

 Our bus ride to the Kilimanjaro registration station took up most of the day. So by mid afternoon when we finally headed up, our group of eight were eager to get going. Having rained earlier in the day the trail was slippery, muddy, and steep. It is a rain forest after all.

The grooves in my boots were soon clogged with mud, so uphill traction just didn’t happen.  I slid and fell of course, as did most of us. My favorite trousers are wet and dirty. Oh well. It’s not terribly hot and surprisingly there’s no buggies. Our guides are awesome and love to answer questions as we make our way up our mountain.

Me: Is there anything out here that will eat me?
Guide: No.
Me: Are there scary snakes out here that will crawl into my tent tonight?
Guide: No.

So does he mean there’s no snakes or mean they won’t get into my tent? 

I have my own tent. At the hotel, Mohamed assumed it would be okay if I shared a tent with Jeff. We both explained while Ann Price and Jeff Price share the same last name, we are not a married couple.  I explained that we used to be married, but got divorced and are not on speaking terms. Therefore, we’re certainly not sharing a tent. Are we having fun yet?

I love sleeping outdoors. Cool night and jungle sounds, and by mid night, add surround sound snoring. We aren’t the only group, there’s likely 200 campers here.

Our second day (29th) has us higher and out of the rain forest. A couple of monkeys high in trees said goodbye!

We are all well, proceeding happy and eager to reach the roof of Africa in a few days.

Hakuna Matata!

ps to Beth–Julian says hello, he’s fine, having great time.

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I am in Africa!

 

That three of my boarding passes have different dates on them confirms it took a long time to get here. My strategy is always to nap enough along the way to keep be conscious and on my feet, then sustain the struggle to stay up until at least 8pm local time, which I did. A shower followed by ten hours’ sleep and bam — ready for breakfast and start of a new adventure the next day!

I love the beginning because although the itinerary of a trip is known, other twists will certainly take place. It’s the unknown, the spontaneity of life that excites me. And there is invariably self-revelation and discovery of what is within as well as what is in the world outside.

From the rooftop of our hotel in Mosul, we have a perfect view of this grand mountain called Kilimanjaro. It has stood here millions of years before the day I was born, but is new to me today. In that since, today is my Kilimanjaro birthday!

 

Namuna Matata–Annie

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Kilimanjaro – Tanzania, Africa

     ”Have you ever been south of the equator,” my son Rich asked last night. I haven’t. I’ve flown both east and west from the United States to Nepal–12 time zones away–to the other side of the planet! But I’ve never been anywhere in the southern hemisphere. So I ‘m a slacker.

     Last June, a friend of mine, Julian Cook (who I’ve met only via Facebook) invited me and another friend, Steven Newman, aka “The Worldwaker”, to join him on his 50th birthday adventure to climb Kilimanjaro. [Huh. Fifty. I wish!] So here we go. Steven and I leave the U.S. Sunday, Christmas day from Washington’s Dulles Airport on different flights. Julian leaves the 26th going directly to Addis Ababa. Steven goes to London, then Frankfort, but I go direct to Frankfort. Confused yet?

     With any luck, there will be a “harmonic convergence” of we Three Amigos in Addis Ababa, then onward we go to JRO, or Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania. Our actual climb begins December 28th. Most of you will be asleep since that is eight hours ahead of Eastern Time Zone. It’s okay, you don’t have to stay up for us, we’ll be all right.

     We’re taking the Lemosho route. It’s a total of eight days up and back, allowing for altitude adjustment. It’s a long way to the top because we start at almost sea level. First is rain forest climate, then we go through six more climate changes before we make the summit. Mt. Kilimanjaro is just south of the equator and it’s summer down there right now. But at 19,341 ft, we’ll experience frigid arctic tundra and temps in the teens.

But you can’t beat the view!

     I also updated the map on the home page of annieuphigh.com, if you care to see where we’re going. You can enlarge and move it around if you like. Clicking on the marker will show a few views of Mt.Kilimanjaro–it’s an awesome mountain–the highest on the African continent. And, it’s the world’s highest free standing mountain and is actually a volcano, but not active, though!

     During my last trip to Nepal I couldn’t blog much because the cord to the device that attaches to my satellite phone had mangled pins–it just wouldn’t connect to send data. I’ve replaced that, so I expect to be able to send updates on this trip, assuming I still have feeling in my fingers.

     Africa. Never been there. It’s always exciting to go someplace new and I feel really ready physically and mentally. Got my down puffy jacket, super thick socks, hat, layers, -20 sleeping bag. Oh yeah, I put Hakuna Matata on my iPod, and of course …  In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps to-night. Awinga wetta winga wetta ….

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Oct 21 – Elephant on the Trail

I first saw it heading out from Lukla–it was small. But by yesterday it was huge! You’ve heard the expression elephant in the room? Well, there’s an elephant on the trail. But what’s weird is I’m the only one who knows its there.

Other than Alun, our leader, no one in our group knows what happened to me at Renjo La last year. I’ve not said anything simply because I want to be normal, I want to be just another member of the group, not someone to be overly concerned about. I was afraid someone would needlessly think something was “wrong” when actually I might only have paused momentarily to just take in the view. Everyone gets a bit out of breath, but I was concerned people might read too much into what really is normal for everyone.

I knew when I got to the pass and to the rock I was propped against I’d become emotional. But I didn’t expect that since I arrived in Lukla a flood of memories would suddenly come rushing back. I find myself unexpectedly just zoning out again, and the crying comes. It’s not that something’s “wrong”, it’s just all so emotionally overwhelming.

After we deplaned in Lukla, I couldn’t help notice the helipad close by. I remembered we had landed there for a weather check. The pilot didn’t want to fly, but Matt insisted we go on, risking his own life, knowing it was critical to get me to a hospital.

When we did the climb up to the Everest View Hotel, I couldn’t help but remember that the last time I looked at Everest I was lying on the ground wondering if that might be the last thing I ever saw.

As we left Namche Bazaar yesterday, a helicopter landed next to our trail, at the top of a ridge. The name on the side, the coloring, was familiar. Dawa Sherpa, our sirdar (trek manager) told me he remembered the name as well. Shortly after I arrived, Dawa came to me and said it was he last year who had the oxygen mask. And it was he who had heated water for a bottle to put under my sleeping blanket to stop my shivering. Dawa had helped lift and carry me to the helicopter.

Just being here again, walking trails, seeing grand high peaks, feeling so physically strong again brings tears. I am so fortunate. I am so grateful to so many people who have helped me experience this again.

I can’t ignore the elephant anymore. If I’m going to lose it emotionally, better to explain now. So today, at afternoon tea, I told my story. These wonderful Brits–they are the best group ever! They listened with genuine caring and support.

And they absolutely expect a round of drinks–on me–once across Renjo La and settled in at our Gokyo lodge! I’d be happy to do that!

Posted in 2016 Three Peaks Three Passes | 4 Comments

October 19 – Lukla and High Points Beyond

The excitement of seeing giant peaks on the flight to Lukla never lessens. Our pilot made a perfect landing (quite necessary) on what from a distance appears to be an impossibly tiny line, high on the mountainside. After a cup of hot tea, we walked down what is now for me a familiar trail. We spent our first night (Monday) in Phakding.

We are a group of ten–nine animated, talkative, fun Brits and one American, me! Our leader Alun Richardson is awesome. When I privately said to him, “Do you have any idea how incredibly happy I am to be here again?” He just smiled with understanding and gave me a quick hug. Thank you, Alun. And Steven bought me a Snickers at lunch. (He’s my new best friend ..)

On Tuesday we made the long, hard climb to Namche Bazaar in good time–a steady slow pace always helps as the trail is quite steep. The new higher bridge just before the climboffers a great view of the Dudh Khosi (Milk River) far below. The bridge sways a bit so it’s sometimes hard to keep balance, but never fear, the chain link sides keep you from falling off!

I was completely surprised last night while at dinner to see across the room, three friends from my Kyajo Ri group a year ago–Evelyn, Rory, and Pablo. In a moment’s recognition, they ran over to embrace me, clearly amazed and delighted I was well and fit enough to return to Renjo La! Another friend, Pema Sherpa, our sirdar last year is also here. When I went to see him in the kitchen, he squealed, “Annie!!!” and hugged me several times. How fortunate am I to have so many wonderful people in my life!

Today, Wednesday morning, day three, we walked up another steep slope to the Everest View Hotel. It was a bit cloudy when we arrived, but nevertheless, Everest was visible, though a bit shy about giving us a full view. What a terrific day this was!

Tomorrow we are off to Thame, a stunning picturesque village surrounded by magnificent snowy Himalaya peaks.

Wifi in guest houses is poor, so I’ll write an update when I can. I discovered the connector cord from my satellite phone to wifi device has damaged pins. :( (((

Also as an update, I did meet with Dr. Om, the cardiologist who cared for me a year ago at Grande Int’l Hospital. We talked about my recovery for quite some time, then he asked permission to do an echocardiogram to check my heart–no charge, of course! After I return to Kathmandu, he and I will do. TV session regarding post-heart event issues, as a public service. Seems I’m a good example to promote “life goes on” after heart event.

I am filled with such joy to be walking among these grand mountains, through deep valleys, and beautiful rivers. Thank you, Jagged Globe, and always Matt.

And as always, thank you for reading. Namaste

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Return to Renjo La

    Beautiful Renjo La – this 17,677′ pass is my favorite place in all of Nepal! It was here, in 2012 that I first saw Mt. Everest, crowned with an amazing lenticular cloud, surrounded by more giant peaks Lohtse, Cho Oyo, Nuptse, and Makalu. I was overcome by the emotion of awe and wonderment — I felt a sense of rapture, of divinity. How could there be ten thousand endless shades of blue? How could the sky be so flawless?

     I returned to Renjo La in 2013. This time, the ground was snowier, and as I made final slow steps to the pass, I felt the sting of bitter cold air on my face. But after that final step, I turned and stood spellbound, gazing at the magnificence. Then these golden streaks in the sky, like arms reaching from the sun millions of miles away, found my cheeks and touched them with  soothing warmth, as if to welcome me to that high place.

     But a year ago Renjo La was so very different.

    October 25, 2015, I remember a voice, leaning close and saying “When the helicopter comes, we will carry you. You will want to help, but you are to do nothing. Let us do all the work.” I could see my reflection in metallic blue shiny lenses of the lady’s glasses, so it seemed like was two of me. Both of me had my white beanie on. Both of me had an oxygen mask covering my face. Where am I? Why am I lying on the ground?

     I felt so tired and wanted to drift back into sleep. No, NO! You can’t do that — you’ll go to the black place again where you can’t breathe! Matt said you have to breathe and he’ll yell at you again if you don’t breathe!

     Rocky ground was all around me. I saw a big snowy mountain in the distance that had a spindrift plume trailing eastward off the summit – Mt. Everest! Then I remembered where I was. I remembered what happened. And I was terrified. I might die here terrified.

     Matt Parkes, expedition leader for Jagged Globe, managed the crisis of my sudden cardiac arrest event perfectly and flew with me in the heli to Kathmandu. The next day flew back to the Everest region to lead the difficult expedition up Kyajo Ri. I was a patient at Grande Hospital, where Dr. Om, performed procedures to insert three stents in damaged coronary arteries. Upon discharge, Dr. Om made me promise I would visit him when I returned to Nepal to go climbing again. My prognosis was that good!

    I am keeping my promise, and will see Dr. Om in two weeks. We will meet at a Kathmandu TV station where he wants to interview me about my experience, then discuss the importance and effectiveness of CPR. I am so eager to see him and thank him again for his excellent care of me.

     The Jagged Globe company has welcomed me back (“you’ve had ‘maintenance’ done”) to join their trip through the Everest region, crossing three passes–the first being Renjo La, but this time from the opposite direction. We’ll also go to Everest Base Camp, which I’ve never seen. There is a map of all this here on the Home Page of AnnieUpHigh.com–just click on the markers and you can see photos of where we will go.

     This past year I’ve been fortunate to have an excellent cardiologist, Dr. Decker, as  well as a wonderful exercise physiologist–Mark Patterson–my medical “coach” to help me return to all things mountain I love. I feel great–I want to feel the awe and wonderment of the Renjo La once more. Will you go with me again, dear readers? Things might get a bit emotional when I get to the rock I was propped up against, but I promise to avoid all that other drama this time. Really.

     After the three-week journey through the Himalayas, I’ll return to Her Farm of course! Wonderful things are happening in Mankhu Village and I’m excited to share with you what these amazing women are doing: the new road, the new community center, and the new volunteer house in Kathmandu, just to name a few The current crop of adorable cute kids are growing up quite nicely, too!

     On my way to Nepal? I’ll fly to London, arriving Monday Oct. 10 to visit with my friend Susan, fellow trekker from the 2012 Great Himalaya Trail adventure. We will take a train north to Sheffield the next day where I’ll stop at the Jagged Globe office to thank all the wonderful folks there who’ve helped me so much.

     And I will see Matt — the reason my heart is beating, the reason I can hug my family, the reason I can experience life’s joy, the reason my feet stand on Colorado 14ers, the reason I can return to Nepal and see the beautiful Renjo La.

Posted in 2016 Three Peaks Three Passes | 2 Comments

Nov 19 – Reflection

I told Namunaa I would walk down the mountain to town and get a bus back to Kathmandu. The road is so bad and is just too much wear and tear on the truck. Besides, with the fuel shortage, petrol is $3.50 a liter black market. Government distribution is cheaper, but means a 3-4 day wait in line to get just four liters. My two gear bags were put on a motorcycle and driven down ahead of us. I wanted to walk–it’s only three miles. Namunaa said she and Usha would walk with me and make sure I got a bus okay.

I went to the upper house to say goodbye to the kids. Little Barsa repeated “I love you” back to me and kissed my cheek. Our silly, fun Australian volunteers made me laugh when they broke out singing “So long, farewell, auf wiedersen goodbye …” My sisters have given me a place to heal, to rest, to cry, to feel cared for, to be alone, to teach me how to make mo mo’s, or to just let me be whatever I need to be. I am forever grateful.

I’d been wearing sandals since I got to Her Farm, but today I put my hiking boots on. When I hoisted my backpack and clipped it around my waist, I just stood there and let the sensation of it being a part of me again sink in. Then as I walked past the main house window, I saw my reflection. Wow, that’s me, with my pack on. I look normal. That’s really me?

The glass is old, a bit smeared, so I began to see my reflected image was actually foggy and a bit distorted. No, that’s me right now. I’m mostly there, but I’m not quite in focus yet.

Sometimes I just zone out and I’m back on the mountain. Sometimes I suddenly remember some detail and can’t figure out where it belongs or even if it happened at all. Matt let me know he would send me a copy of his final written report to Jagged Globe, so I can put everything that happened in place. “After all, it’s your story …” My story? Matt, it’s your story too, and I need to know what that is just as much. It’s how I can finally “get off the mountain”.

The intensity of the incident at Renjo La (the same yet separate for Matt and me) means it’s not so simple to just move on. For me, at least there are triggers that put me back there, like every time I type in my iPad security code. That’s the last thing I did before I blacked out. Tonight walking back to the hotel after eating, I zoned out and was unaware I’d walked past the entrance until I realized nothing looked familiar. And I was crying. I backtracked for fifteen minutes. We’re both strong-minded individuals, and we surely will move on. The memory will never completely go away, though, I actually wouldn’t want it to–some very positive things happened from this.

On some level, A part of me will forever be at that flat area just below the pass. I won’t be alone, though–because a part of Matt will always be there, too. And I won’t be lying on the ground with an oxygen mask on, and Matt won’t be pacing the ground with a satellite phone to his ear trying to get a helicopter eta. We’ll be sitting on some big rock, having a cup of black tea. We’ll be looking at Mt. Everest and Makalu to the east, and I’ll be listening to Matt tell me about the times he climbed them.

Yesterday the power (and wifi) was out most of the day. As it got dark, we first world people got out our headlamps. Luckily for Her Farm women and children, they have solar lamps! It was so gratifying to see these lights bobbing about the courtyard. Fifty of them were donated last spring by my friends Jeff and Cindy from Wimberly, TX. If you’d like to have or give one (Christmas gift?), check out survival frog.com. Thank you Jeff and Cindy!

USA, here I come! As always, thank you for reading.

Posted in 2015 Return to Nepal | 4 Comments

Nov 15 – Presents

I felt like Oprah (“You get some earphones, and you get earphones, and you get earphones ….”). When I had asked Sunita MacLennan last April what could be useful to the women and two young men who manage Her Farm, right away she said, “Some good earphones.” Today seemed the perfect time to hand them out–they all had worked so tirelessly to arrange a joyous Tihar festival for us all. I explained to them how proud Scott, Sunita, and I and all the hundreds of others who read about them are, who respect and admire them so much. The women and brothers of Her Farm – we are truly amazed by your accomplishments here. Thank you!

I had other presents to give as well. Evie is the 12-year-old granddaughter of my high school classmate Linda Spence Bowers. Linda and Evie had sent a bracelet gift to Segun, who was absolutely delighted to receive it. Evie also wrote a letter to Segun, and after we read it, Segun ran out to show her friends. Some of you may remember that Segun wrote a blogpost for me last April about the earthquake experience here. What circumstances brought Segun to Her Farm, I do not know. What matters is that Her Farm has given future. She has health care, food, shelter, education options, and plenty support and love from all the sisters here. Segun’s written and spoken English is remarkable. We are so proud of her.

Two other high school friends Karen North and Conni Skinner provided a big assortment of nail polishes, hair ribbons, and bubble gum, and sparkly bangles. Namunaa handed most of out, but saved a bit for later. Everyone is happy to have something new. Everyone shares, everyone is happy for each other. That’s what family is all about!

As for me? I think I got the best present of all. As day’s end came, I walked a bit beyond the front courtyard to watch the evening sky. That two little sisters were walking on either side of me, their tiny fingers curled around my pinky finger, made my evening all the more special.

Thank you Aunt Nancy, Rita, Linda, Jeff, Karen, Conni, and Sherry for your generous help. Her Farm practices what they preach in that they earn a lot of what they need and are self-sustaining through the Mountain Fund volunteer program and by producing their own food. The sisters are caring for more women with mental issues now as well. However, There are projects, like fixing the road, and securing a more viable water source (needed due to earthquake) that require more financial support. For this, we depend on generous donors. For more information, please check out MountainFund.org. Thank you.

Namaste

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