A Virtual Tour of the Ausangate Region – Climb for Kids!

Welcome to Rainbow Mountain Cusco Journey through an undiscovered land of wild desert landscapes, snow capped peaks, herds of alpaca, and arrive at the ultimate destination – The “Rainbow Mountain” hidden deep in the Andes. Throughout your journey you will pass through a vibrant green valley with the impressive Ausangate mountain towering in the distance. You will experience first hand how locals live in the mountains and even have a chance to speak with them. As you get closer to the Rainbow Mountain you will begin to see the first signs of the colored minerals that formed the painted hills. Your guide will explain what makes up the existence of the “Rainbow Mountain”, and finally with one last push you will hike up to a vantage point that gives you a 360 degree view of the beautiful landscape that makes up this sacred land.

Trip Advisor

For the past week, I have been featuring photos that I received from the wonderful people at Merit Travel, the people who are organizing our Christie Lake Climb for Kids! adventure planned for August 2018.

The photos are truly amazing and most are shots that I can’t find anywhere else. Even the locations like this shot of the Red Sand Pass are unsearchable on Google. To me, this is a good thing. It shows how remote this area is. Even a recent Netflix documentary we watched called Peru: Tesoro Escondido had no mention of Ausangate or the Rainbow Mountains.

We are certainly trekking into territory that is remote and obscure. That is great!

I have also found some amazing 360 images on Google Earth using a feature I didn’t know anything about called Photo Sphere. Take a look at the Google Earth shot of Ausangate Mountain below – each of the blue dots are Photo Sphere shots taken around the mountain. The shots are spectacular and all are done in 360. They make up a beautiful virtual tour of the Ausangate region.

The arrows point out some of the Google Photo Sphere shots.


Here is one of the Photo Sphere shots. Unfortunately, I can’t make it 360 in this post.

I would give this a try. While this is a remote area, there are easily 30 360 images you can take a look at that are most likely a part of our upcoming trek.

A great way to dream away wintery days!

Climb for Kids – A photo per day!

I just received some stunning photos of the area we will be going to this summer in Peru. They are too good to keep to myself so I am going to start posting some on this blog.

As I post more photos, this edition of the blog will get better and better. Maybe we will even pick up the four or five additional climbers we need to get this terrific adventure going!

Here is today’s photo:

The Ausangate trekking circuit goes through some of the most beautiful landscapes of the Cusco region. The five or six days of this itinerary goes around the Ausangate Mountain –  Awsanqati in Quechua – along with hot springs, and pristine turquoise blue and red lakes.

OK, maybe a second photo

Our first Lodge is located in the Uyuni Pampa, at an altitude of 4,368 m.a.s.l. (14,331 ft.). It is a valley with meadows, furrowed by the ice-cold waters of the Quencomayo River, and a grazing place for a great number of alpacas from the community of Chillca. From the lodge, there is a privileged view of the snow-capped Mount Jatun Jampa; an Apu (Sacred Mountain) visible at the end of the valley.

from Andeanlodges.com

More to come!

On Becoming Groundless

When near the end of day, life has drained
Out of light, and it is too soon
For the mind of night to have darkened things,

No place looks like itself, loss of outline
Makes everything look strangely in-between,
Unsure of what has been, or what might come.

In this wan light, even trees seem groundless.
In a while it will be night, but nothing
Here seems to believe the relief of darkness.

You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.

“The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.”

You cannot lay claim to anything;
In this place of dusk,
Your eyes are blurred;
And there is no mirror.

Everyone else has lost sight of your heart
And you can see nowhere to put your trust;
You know you have to make your own way through.

As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.

What is being transfigured here in your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.

from: “To Bless the Space Between Us” by John O’Donohue. Pub in 2008 by Doubleday.

I wanted to start this post with all of John O’Donohue’s piece on groundlessness. To put just a portion of this great piece in this post would be an injustice.

It is a good time to write about groundlessness. Not just because of the time of year where everything is blurred by indistinct light and frigid temperatures, but because being groundless is a quality of the human existence.

We don’t always understand the necessity of becoming groundless and it certainly makes us uncomfortable. But, being uncomfortable and feeling the ground shift beneath our feet is an essential ingredient we need if we are going to learn and grow as thinking human beings.

As for me, I think I have a few reasons for feeling groundless.

I am a year into retirement. I have gone from someone who was totally engaged in my job as a school administrator to someone who is now cut off from my former community. I feel that what once gave me value has disappeared. This is OK, I think that I made the false assumption that being an education leader gave me some value and importance. This can be wiped away very quickly, especially if you are someone who was a bit of a fly in the ointment.

While it is a difficult decision to cut yourself off, I am convinced it was very wise to take this step.

I am in the process of remaking myself. It is very hard to do, but I am learning in the process. Writers and philosophers like John O’Donohue and Pema Chodron believe that we learn best in the times of discomfort or even crisis. I truly believe this. We need to go through the times where the ground is not steady, where our reference points are blurred.

To avoid doing this is to avoid learning and experiencing.

No Yoga for Old Men!

Have you ever done a downward dog with your dog? I have. I think this actually sums up my yoga prowess at this stage of my life!

I am finding that at 59, things don’t seem to move the way they used to. Today to make a statement against the crazy -30 C weather outside, I did 35 minutes of yoga inside. Just like my 31 days of posting challenge, I think it might be a good idea to try 30 days of yoga!

So, why does everyone who instructs yoga look like a lithe and graceful elf? I am more like a lumbering, wheezing stickman. All the joints hurt. Forget any idea of bending from my waist and touching my forehead to the floor. If you watch me closely, you may notice a slight, painful bend, but the floor is light years away.

I do yoga most weeks. We have a group in the community who work out for 90 minutes in a painful collective therapy session. I like it. I like pain I guess.

Being strategic, I hide off to the side with my friend, neither of us can really do the poses, but we are very good at the groaning and complaining. Fortunately for us, we have a yoga instructor who has the patience of Job and she never gives up on us.

I will just speak for me, but is it possible to turn into a petrified man? I think I can actually feel my joints calcify as I stretch out.

yup you got it right Leonard

How did this happen? How will I keep this up for 30 days of yoga? What is that new pain in my hip?

Our yoga instructor says its the crazy weather we have been having that causes the pain. My partner says I am just old. Our dog gets to lick my face when I do a downward dog.

So, who knows?

I do remember trekking in the Western Highlands, 26 kilometres a day over really rough terrain for a week.


I was there, I did this

I do remember making it to the top of Kilimanjaro, even though I fell after and tore a quad muscle (maybe that’s the problem).

I think I took this shot, but high altitude plays with your memory

So, I will struggle through with Adriene’s yoga, she can’t see me anyway. I will continue to go to our group yoga sessions and I will continue to hike and climb whenever I can.

I ache, but so did Leonard, so I am in pretty good company.

Educators and Mental Health: Teaching on a Global Stage

I have been reading and rereading posts by some very brave people this weekend. Destigmatizing the Depressed Educator by Mandy Froehlich, Too Much by Colleen Rose and material by  Chris Nihmey.

I have worked with Chris and he is a gifted writer, presenter and mental health advocate. I have met Colleen and I found Mandy’s post thanks to George Couros.

All three of these people are educators and all three have moved onto the global stage to share some of their most personal struggles about mental health with the world. Colleen and Mandy have posted recently about their struggles on their blogs. Chris is a well-known advocate in the Ottawa area.

By writing and speaking out, they are educators in the truest sense of the word. They have all moved beyond the classroom and they are using themselves to highlight the struggles people go through who are dealing with mental health issues. As educators and excellent communicators, they are very well suited to take to this stage.

We trust our teachers and we learn from them in all sorts of ways. As educators, we have a responsibility to speak out on important issues like this one.

Being open about their own struggles is extremely difficult, but it means so much for all those who come into contact with their stories.

Mental health is still a scary story. Very few people want to make their stories public and many people live their suffering in silence. Others have difficulty supporting those who are suffering, either they are scared or they see the sufferer as somehow untouchable.

I have done my own writing on this topic so I know what these people are risking and I applaud them for speaking up and normalizing something that is so common but still is seldom spoken about.

The struggles are difficult, but there is good that can come out of these trials. When an educator speaks about such a personal struggle, they are giving permission for others to realize that mental health is something that most people struggle with at some point in their lives.

It also means that students, educators and parents will begin to find a more accepting audience when they take the risk involved in coming forward with their own journey. I know that I became a much better principal and counsellor once I started to learn about my own mental health issues. I could empathize and understand much better now what students and parents go through. I like to think that I was a much more effective educator because of my own struggles.

I am writing here to acknowledge what these teachers are doing and to say that these people are being educators in the most important way. They are putting themselves out there so that others can learn and feel accepted when they struggle.

Struggling in silence is terrible. Making mental health something that we can all talk about is essential. Having respected educators being open about their own struggles is liberating for all of us.

Thanks to all of you!

Christie Lake Climb For Kids! Join the Adventure!

Our official logo for Christie Lake Climb for Kids!


This is a great day and the start of a new adventure.
We are very happy to announce that the Christie Lake Climb For Kids fundraising trek is now ready to sign up participants.
The August 2018 trek will be taking place in Peru, starting in Cusco and will head towards Ausangate Mountain. The trek reaches an altitude of 5200 m which is a real mental and physical challenge. Are you interested in a big challenge?

Each participant on this expedition will be asked to raise money for Christie Lake Kids, a wonderful organization in Ottawa that provides recreation opportunities for low-income children throughout the year.
The trip is being planned and coordinated by Merit Travel here in Ottawa.
Christie Lake will provide each participant with their own fundraising page and will help each team member to raise money throughout the upcoming year. This is really a big community fundraising event that will take Christie Lake all the way to Peru.

A full itinerary is available here along with a booking form for those who are interested in signing up. We will be taking 16 people and to reserve your spot, you need to complete the form and make a $500.00 deposit. You can contact Darren Prashad at Merit Travel to secure your spot he can be reached at DPrashad@merittravel.com

We are planning an information meeting for mid-November to go over all the details and to introduce people to the personal training group we plan to use to get everyone in great shape for the trip!

You can now sign up for the information meeting here. The meeting will take place on November 20th at 6:30 PM at Great Escape Outfitters 369 Richmond Road in Ottawa.

This will be a terrific adventure and a unique way to give back to a wonderful organization. Having done one of these trips to Mt. Kilimanjaro last April, I know this is a great way to help others and yourself at the same time.

 If you can’t go but would like to help with the fundraising, I will share our fundraising page once this is up.

Looking forward to a great year and a terrific climb!



Social Media and Educators – When Will We Grow Up?

Doug Peterson has written a number of great posts over the past few days based on a wide-ranging Twitter conversation we had on the weekend.

Doug has summarized the conversation really well in the following posts:

Yeah, it can happen – Oct 11
The right to tweet – Oct 10
The “P” in PLN – Oct 9

This is a hard conversation to summarize as it went on for three days and had participation from at least ten different participants. The conversation is collected here in case you want to see it.

I also tried to summarize things in this blog post: Twitter, Educators, and Dissent – October 8

As the conversation evolved, we got closer to talking about free speech, social media and working for an institution. I don’t think anything was resolved, but it was very interesting and more than a little sad to read what people had to say.

To me, it shows that our ideas on social media are still evolving. It indicates that institutions have an incredible fear of social media and see it still as a threat. It also reminds me of the incredible power of institutions to suppress the actions of its members even if these actions are not clearly critical of the institution.

To be honest, it is amazing that we had any sort of conversation as some of the participants are still working for districts and these individuals clearly took a risk by getting involved. I totally understand why others decided to stay clear.

I wrote one comment on Doug’s post and I think this would be a good conversation to have openly on voicED Radio.

In preparing to write the comment, I took a look at an old disciplinary letter that I received. It had a chilling effect. It brought back all the old, bad emotions that swirled around during the last year and a half of employment for that district. Truly, writing about this stuff is more difficult than what I have written in the past about my mental health journey.

Still, this needs to be written about. Institutions should not be allowed to operate with impunity, nor should they be motivated by fear or the desire to sanction employees who challenge their way of thinking.

I hope these posts, discussions, and comments can open this conversation a little bit. It is way past time that we matured in our views regarding social media.

Here is my comment:

Hi Doug. Thanks for your posts over the past few days. Very interesting discussion. Reading the comments and your post again I think it is important to point out that disciplinary action is not a black and white thing. I think we are all looking for the smoking gun – the obvious tweet that is clearly over the line. It is not as simple as that and not everything can be resolved through a face to face conversation either.
When it comes to a violation of board policy leading to disciplinary action, it is the school board that defines what is appropriate and what is not. They are the ones holding all the cards and they determine what is appropriate. They issue the letter and add in that any further ‘violation’ will lead to further action including suspension without pay.
These are extremely effective actions because they do not need to define what a violation really is.
When you don’t have to clearly define the policy or the violation almost anything can be considered a violation. This effectively shuts down the person who receives the letter.
School Boards are well within their rights to do this and in Ontario at least, nothing can be done about this, especially if you are an administrator.
You do not have to say or tweet something critical of the board, you just have to do something they disagree with. None of this is obvious and none of this falls within the easily defined lines you mention above.
What is the result of all this? Basically, silence.

Response to George Couros: 4 Ways To Not Let Others Dim Your Light

One of the great things about walking all day is that you have lots of time to think. This latest post has been on my mind and I think after walking such a great distance, it is a good idea to put this out there.

Again, George Couros is an inspiration, but this is something that was on my mind throughout our West Highland Way trek. I would encourage you to read his entire post. He makes a great deal of sense and I just wish more people in senior administration would do more than just retweet his work and ponder what he is saying.

I hope that what George writes and what I am writing here will help people who are going through similar experiences. If this is you, read carefully what George writes and don’t let anyone ever dim your light!

The reality of our world is that people get threatened when other people shine their light on the world.  This bothers me even more so when it is educators doing it to educators, as our jobs are to empower those we serve, not try to bring them down.  If you are doing this to a colleague or peer, would you do it to a student? Would you do it to my daughter if she was in your classroom?  In education, this is unacceptable.

Here is my response to the post.

Thanks George, a very good post and excellent advice. There does come a time however when you need to consider leaving the system when those in positions of higher authority have made the decision to block you any way they can. I guess this come under #3 ‘move on and ignore’.

You are right to point out that it is strange that educators can treat other educators poorly, but my experience tells me that with a few notable exceptions, educators forget who they are (or were) the higher up the corporate eduladder they climb.

They can be very cruel and unforgiving to the point where on my case, they suspended me for three weeks without cause. While I was later vindicated and invited back into the professional fold, they never apologized which to me is inexcusable.

A year after my suspension, I retired from my board and I am much more at peace. I still have a great community of positive fellow educators that I work and correspond with, but I no longer have to suffer the negative soul destroying authoritarians who made my life so difficult.

Coming on to two years now after the suspension, it still rankles and this is something that could still be solved with a simple ‘sorry’.

How can we expect to make real progress in our education systems when the people at the top expect blind compliance. To forge a different path means that you could be punished with impunity.

That was the end of my comment today.

I don’t expect ever to hear from my former employers. It would be good if they took responsibility for their actions. It was shameful, but I have certainly moved on.

I have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, I have had the privilege of assisting my partner through major surgery and I have trekked more than 100 km through the Western Highlands with my daughter.

I have left the past behind and I love the exciting challenges that the future presents.

Thanks George and the West Highland Way for getting this post written – finally! Now on to more great positive adventures in the future.

Slow travel in Scotland

Slow travel is not so much a particular mode of transportation as it is a mindset. Rather than attempting to squeeze as many sights or cities as possible into each trip, the slow traveler takes the time to explore each destination thoroughly and to experience the local culture.

The Art of Slow Travel

I didn’t know this was a term, but slow travel is a thing and we are doing this now. We are spending our second day in the little town of Drymen, Scotland, 30 miles north of Glasgow. Tomorrow we start on the West Highland Way, a trail that was developed 30 years ago as the hiking craze took off in the British Isles.

I am traveling with my daughter Colleen who is just starting a journey that will take her all over Europe. We actually bumped into each other yesterday in the town square. No need for cell phones here.

I like the term slow travel for what we are doing. We have settled into our second B&B in Drymen and we will start hiking around 22 kilometers a day on the way to Fort William and Ben Nevis eight days away.

This is not a tour that will take in all of the Highlands of Scotland, this is a moderate 135-kilometer trek through the highlands ending with a climb up the highest mountain in the United Kingdom. A wonderful way to see beautiful countryside.

After climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro last year, I am most interested in travel that allows me to walk from place to place. Any form of motorized travel blurs the experience and takes me away from learning more about my surroundings.

What I have learned so far. Drymen was settled first (at least that is what we know) because it is located close to the Endrick River and a shallow fording of the river. There are supposed to be ancient fortifications guarding this ford, but I couldn’t see them.


Endrick Water

The town hosts the oldest licensed pub in Scotland the Clachan Inn. Established in 1734, it was once owned by a sister of Rob Roy. The pub is wonderful and offers at least 30 different types of scotches.

Right outside the pub is a road that stretches straight to Stirling and was built during the 1745 Highland Rebellion to link up key defensive positions for the British.

Not bad for 24 hours. Tomorrow will be more of a challenge, but as we travel into the Highlands, we will learn even more and meet more people who are out to discover a bit of Scotland. Lots to experience, but we will continue to do it slowly.

The beginning of our trail starting tomorrow.

Travels with My Daughter

It’s a really different world when you no longer work in a traditional setting. I don’t call it retirement because I am still working, just at other things.

There is work coming and there has been lots of work, but when you leave the mainstream working world you need to become a bit of an opportunist. Two weeks ago, I dropped our youngest daughter off at the airport in Montreal to start her grand tour.

It occurred to me on the way home that I am between contracts and probably for the first time I can remember, I really don’t have anything I really need to do.

This is an odd sensation, not one I am totally comfortable with, but you really need to lean into things when you are facing a major turn in your life.

So, I will join my daughter for nine days of hiking through the Scottish Highlands. I haven’t been to Scotland for 35 years, so it is way past time that I visited. We will hike through the Highlands and attempt Ben Nevis at the end of our hike. After climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, this is the only type of travel that I want to do.

To do it with our youngest daughter is a really wonderful opportunity. I am so glad I decided to take a leap and go for it.

So the writing will continue, but I will be back focusing on adventure and trekking. I am very fortunate to be able to take this opportunity. Let’s see what leaning in really looks like.