Friday, October 30, 2009

Alive and Well

Just a quick post to say we made it back to Brisbane alive and well. It's been a challenge getting back into routine after such an action packed month so I'm quite behind on the blog, as I've been told!

I'm working on a few posts (with many pictures) from the trip that should be up soon. The tricky part is sorting through all the photos and getting the numbers down to a "reasonable" amount. The combined camera total was over 2600 photos. That makes for a long and difficult "best of the best" process!

Thanks again for all of your comments and emails, I really appreciated every one of them!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Success on Kili!

On Saturday October 10th at approximately 7:30am, after a very long/cold/dark night, we made it to the top Uhuru peak, the highest of the three peaks of the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and the highest point in Africa!

My leg was never a problem, this model of Mike seems to be built for climbing. It was a lot to ask, 6 gruelling days to the top, each more challenging than the last, and 2 days down, but it held up well under the stress. Lisa fought through days of altitude sickness and soldiered on, half exhausted and running on fumes by the time we reached the summit.

We're still in Africa and time is limited before we head off to the Serengeti today so I'll write a more detailed account later, but I thought I'd quickly post our success!

There'll be no living with me now!

Juma (assistant guide), Lisa, Mike, Mgeta (head guide)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

35 Days of Legadon

Today is the first day of Legadon. What is Legadon you ask? Allow me to explain!

The term "Legadon" (LegIsGone sounded too ghoulish) came about when I realized that I couldn't title this post "One Year Later" due to the fact that I have two big events to reflect on, 35 days apart. A single day just wouldn't do it justice which is the same reason I celebrate a "birthday week".

For me, the period between my accident (October 7th) and my last surgery (November 11th) has taken on a sort of "holy" symbolism, like Ramadan or Lent. As I understand it, those periods are meant to be a time of self-reflection, endurance and sacrifice resulting in a greater devotion to what's important in life.

Ramadan is approximately one lunar month long and Lent is a strict 40 days. Legadon is 35 days long.

During my first Legadon, I endured fear, intense pain and great sadness. I felt great joy and trepidation for the future. I learned humility and gained an appreciation for what's really important in life.

This Legadon, I will be experiencing much of the same as we continue our climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. With any luck, today we will climb to 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and begin to experience the effects of extreme altitude before descending back down to 12,950 feet (3,947 meters).

Yep, nearly a year has passed but it still seems like yesterday. Life took an unexpected turn from normal that day and landed me in a very new situation, but in many ways, life has never been better.

Things got a bit more complex but if not for the events of that day, I would have missed out on meeting some very special people and reconnecting with friends and family.

A wise man said to me once: it's amazing how even in the most "unlucky" of moments you can feel really lucky. Well put.

One thing's for sure, if it wasn't for that day, I would have needed a different title for this blog. It would just be weird otherwise!

Note: This post was pre-written and pre-scheduled to be published before I left, so unfortunately I will be unable to respond to your comments at this time. I'll respond when I return!

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Shining Mountain

Wednesday marks the first anniversary of my accident.

To mark the occasion properly, this morning we began our seven day ascent up Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Africa, Earth, Orion Arm, Gould Belt, Milky Way Galaxy.

Kilimanjaro means "shining" or "glittering" mountain in Swahili and is one of the world's so-called "Seven Summits" of mountaineering, referring to the highest peak on each continent. The summit stands nearly 6km above the surface of the earth and its snowy peak is an equatorial anomaly.

We have chosen to take the Machame route as our guide up the mountain. The route takes 7 days but has a greater chance of success as there is more time to acclimatize to the extreme altitude. We travel with an experienced guide and a slammin' camera.

I've been told varying statistics of people who actually make it to the top ranging from 1 in 10 on the low end to 5 in 8 on the upper end. Some of the fittest people in the world are air-lifted off the mountain each day due to the effects of altitude sickness. It's impossible to predict based on age, sex or even physical condition.

I desperately want to make it to the top of course, but I'm keeping my expectations in check. It's about the journey and the experience, not the summit. This is about marking how far I've come from that hospital bed, not ending up in another one. I'll be making daily assessments of my condition and won't do anything to put us in jeopardy.

The plan, if all goes well, is to make our summit attempt on October 10th (day 6). We'll begin the strenuous 17 hour trek to 19,340 feet or 5,895 meters, starting out from the Barafu summit base camp just after midnight. The temperature should be around -23 degrees Celsius (-10 F) and we'll do the majority of the steep climb in the dark.

It will also be my first attempt to walk in snow on a prosthetic leg, but hey I'm Canadian, it's in my blood.

With me I have a list of names of every person who has helped me through this last year: my friends, my family, my support network, etc, right down to "Wally, the friendly dude who sold me my hiking boots". When the going gets really tough, I'm going to read that list to keep me going, assuming I'm not insane from oxygen deprivation.

I honestly don't know how we'll do, but I hope to have the courage to keep plodding along when things get really tough. I'm going to take it one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.

I'm prepared for whatever comes, but if they take me off this mountain, it won't be for lack of will, I can promise you that.

Note: This post was pre-written and pre-scheduled to be published, so unfortunately I will be unable to respond to your comments at this time. I'll respond when I return!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Final Boarding Call

A few last thoughts before boarding the 30+ hour flight to Tanzania:

I wonder if lions like to be scratched on the tummy, or behind the ears better?

Last time I spoke to Mom, she told me to keep my new leg inside the tent so no wild animals wander off with it in the night. Wonder if she knows something I don't...

It dawned on me that I'll be the one others point to and say "I don't have to run fast, I just have to outrun HIM."

Why did I buy the sleeping bag that had extra foot room?

-- Mobile post

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Going on a Lion Hunt

Yellow fever shots: check.
Malaria tablets: check.
Typhoid, Rabies, Tetanus, Hepatitus A, Polio vaccinations: check.

Large backpack: check.
Secondary pack: check.
Sleeping bag: check.
Wool wicking layer: check.
Rain proof jacket and pants: check.
Telscopic poles: check.
Rigid boots: check.
Hydration pack, hat, headlamp, flint/steel: check.
Pliers, scissors, rope, good knife, tree saw: check.
Extra socks, silicon sealer: check.

Nikon DSLR Camera with zoom lens: check.
Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 Freeze proof, drop proof, crush proof camera: check.

The will to give up shaving and showering for three weeks: double check (why should this week be any different?).

Following the herd migrations on the Serengeti: Priceless.