So it’s just over 2 week until we leave for Mt Kilimanjaro and about 3 weeks before we actually start climbing.  We’ve had a few months of preparation and we’re feeling relatively confident about our potential success. Our only unknowns now are the effects of high-altitude and the weather.

So what does one do to prepare to climb for over a week and to almost 6000m? Well I don’t know what is “normal” but this is what we have been doing.

Stephanie & Bella (our training assistant who can’t come to Africa) during one of our training hikes

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1. Exercise
As of this week I’m running 4-5 times a week and usually 9km each time. On weekends we hike/snowshoe for as long as 5 hours. Stephanie is doing way more than me with 3-4 morning swims, and 3-4 run/power walks a week as well as the long weekend hike. Shooting weddings must count for something because they involve 6-7 hours or so at this time of year and lots of equipment carrying and getting up and down.  Our weekend hikes include carrying a rough approximation of what we’ll be hiking with including a big honkin’ camera bag strapped to my chest.

2. Equipment Tests
The last thing you want when on a long hike is to be stuck carrying stuff that you don’t use or having important things not work.  We both had to get new hiking boots for this trip and they are by now, quite well broken in. This is probably the most important piece of gear to get right. We have been experimenting with various ways of using water bags and tubes without having them freeze solid while hiking. You really have to do everything you can to drink as much water as possible during a trip like this so having your water supply cut off for part of the day would not go over well. For clothing we can’t bring anything cotton (since it never dries) and we need clothes that can be worn from +30C to -20C. Thankfully this is much like Ottawa’s yearly temperature variance so we can use everything we own in a week.
As far as camera equipment goes, I think we have settled on 2 Canon 5Ds, a 24-105mm 4.0L, a 135mm 2.0L, and a 16-35mm 2.8LII. It’s not exactly the lightest gear in the world but it should cover our needs.

3. Needles, shots, and innoculations…
If you don’t like needles, don’t go to Africa. Over the last month I have had shots for:
– mumps
– measles
– rubella
– hep A (ask your doctor about Twinrix – I finally get those commercials)
– hep B
– tentanus
– polio
– typhoid
– yellow fever
– flu shot
– diphtheria
– starting soon we have to take an oral medication for malaria

My personal “favorite” was the measles shot since it’s a live virus and it gave me a 2.5 week reaction that caused severe muscle and joint aches and ended with 3 days of measles like spots covering my whole body but especially my face. The aches added new joy to my training and the spots kind of put a damper on some of my photography contracts (especially the one in the intensive care unit at the Queensway Carleton Hospital!).

The image below, if you have the time to click on the thumbnail, shows the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. The steep section in the front is referred to as the Western Breach and is section that we need to climb in order to get to the last camp. In the back is the volcano crater that I’m really hoping that we have enough energy to go visit. Of course we have the opportunity to visit it after an 8 hour climb up that super-steep section in the front so I’ll do my best to over-come the lack of oxygen and likely exhaustion.

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That does it for now. More before the trip…