In less than eight weeks we will be on the mountain. The training continues its regular beat and we were back out on the Berowra escarpments on the weekend, this time with fellow trekkers who are our regular walking companions (and fellow Kilimanjaro veterans). The mental game associated with the climb started some time back, mainly with visualising the climb and the summit, though this has been through a ‘glass darkly’. Last night we finally printed off some high resolution images of the mountain and pinned them to a wall in the kitchen. Each is marked with the camps and the appropriate altitudes of each of those. It helps to see equivalent altitudes and be able to say “That camp is the same as the summit of Kilimanjaro.” Or not! But it helps to see as much as you can before climbing. In the early days of this sport the best you had was a sketchy map and part of the adventure was the exploration of the routes and finding a way up these things. Visualisation was on the back of written notes from early, and perhaps unreliable travellers.
The images are supported by comprehensive notes covering each days ascent, and descent if there is acclimatisation involved. On the back of that we have drawn up an acclimatisation profile, mapping the plan against the ideal rate of ascent (nett altitude gain no more than 300m/day). Between the narrative itinerary, images, acclimatisation plan, poring over gear lists and reactivating the evacuation insurance the head is quickly getting into the right place. I’ve found this approach extremely helpful for all the other expeditions we have undertaken. Just landing in situ and heading off is not the best way to tackle these challenges and it’s good to have an idea of what the effort will be each day. And when the rest stops are as well. (Knowing when the rest days are helps you manage the seemingly pointless hauling up and down the mountain as you play out the acclimatisation plan.) But above all this sort of planning helps you take control of yourself and the trip even as you join an expedition led by someone else (in this case the Dan Mazur team). It’s not good enough to allow your mind to slip into neutral simply because someone else is doing the heavy lifting around planning and logistics. You can’t plan for the unexpected if you have not planned for the expected. We want to enjoy the climb and the adventure and the best way to do that is to climb it with eyes open and intellect engaged.
So the training continues and the planning is ramped up and the last bits of gear will be purchased. Above all we are talking to ourselves about what each day will look like but especially what the summit will look and feel like. One day soon this diary will be telling it how it is.