March 3 – Feeling the Altitude

Listen to Audio of Wally's Call (.wav)

It’s March 3rd and I’m calling you now, we have left the Shira camp, and I’m calling you from over 14,000 ft (4267m) up against the southern glaciers coming off of Kibo, the main summit of Kilimanjaro that we are going to attempt to climb in a few days. We are in a surreal setting here, there is giant volcanic rock strewn all over and it’s a very dry landscape where there is misting fog and clouds everywhere. It often gets compared to a moonscape, and that is very much what I guess it would look like if you could be here with us and see it as well.

We have begun to, the people that I’m looking at in this Climb For A Cure team around me have begun to look like they are climbing at altitude. It’s quite cool up here today as we are hiking along. Laurie described it as feeling light-headed, we are definitely climbing into the higher realms where our bodies are taxed and we’re taking it one step at a time.

We had talked earlier in the trip about a climb such as this is about the perseverance we have, the goals we set and our conditioning, but it’s also about humility and patience. A climb like this is something you take one step at a time, one day at a time. You have faith in yourself when you have less strength and you are not feeling so good physically, you stick with it and it comes around, you take care of yourself, we take care of one another. We all have different times when we are feeling better and worse. A climb like this plays out over the day, it takes determination and as I said patience and humility.

Those songs you heard yesterday that we sent back when we finally had a get together with all our staff as I mentioned. Just to give you some background on that, the whole idea came up only on the second day when I heard Paul and a few others already enthusiastically singing some of the Swahili songs they had heard the staff singing. I told those guys, that’s great but you know I would like to let people back home hear those songs and we’ll get the guys together and do it as long as you won’t sing. I think you can tell from those beautiful voices that Paul and the others were in the background enjoying it but we let them take the lead with their musical abilities at that time.

I ought to describe that scene to you as well when we got all those guys together we presented them with Climb For A Cure hats and I tried to describe to them some of what this climb is about. I’ve done this mountain 28 times with several of these guys, many of them over and over again with the groups that I have brought here. Chagga men singing with Kilimanjaro in the background.But I wanted to explain to them what was special about this group, and I explained that ALS is a terrible disease that it takes strong people from often the prime of their life and in a short time takes control from them physically and takes them from their loved ones. I described that we were here to honor the memory of those we had lost to this disease and to promote learning about how to cure this disease.

I turned around and saw tears running down the faces of the entire group and later all the guys came around, the Chagga guys and it was clear that many of them were very emotional as well. There is a lot of great comradely and spirit here about climbing the mountain and about the cause that we are all up here for.

Good omens abound, I can’t tell you how that struck me on this trip. Right after I gave that little talk to those guys, the clouds parted and we had not seen Kibo up to that point on that day. First views of Kibo from MachameWe also saw the beautiful glaciers, those giant walls of ice coming right down from the summit, the crater rim came very clear as we looked up which added to the emotion and power of the moment.

I haven’t mentioned it yet but when we drove out the other day from Arusha we turned up and drove through the banana fields into the village of Machame and a very unusual thing happened. You almost never see the mountain on this side through the clouds, there is a circle of cloud forest there, but that day I actually saw for the first time ever the full view of Kibo and the glaciers right through the banana trees in Machame and I knew it was another good omen for this group.

We sent back some photos that I hope you will see soon, with luck we will be able to get them up over the internet soon and you can add those to these accounts we are sending to you. But know this team is happy, challenged, determined and the scenery is beautiful, the people are great from both Tanzania and Canada that’s making this trip happen. We’ll keep you posted every day as we continue on and get prepared for our summit attempt on Saturday the 6th of March.