Lessons learned while climbing Kilimanjaro

On Mt. Kilimanjaro, we climbed for 8 days, usually 6-8 hours a day, not including the 16-hour summit day.

That gives a climber lots of time to think.

Now that I am back in Canada, I am trying to put together some of the lessons I have learned while on the climb. There are several I am mulling over now, I am sure there will be more later.

First, take risks. Its a short life and it is very easy to get caught up in the comfortable routine of everyday life. I sincerely believe that you need to be looking for the risks out there that will make you a stronger person, that will help your school, that will enhance learning and that ultimately will stretch you out of the comfort zones we all enjoy too much.

For me, I needed to get out of the destructive cycle of work and I needed to challenge myself physically and spiritually. In some ways, I needed to find some way to cleanse myself from the corporate education world. Bitterness and cynicism were seeping in and I needed a totally new challenge to break a destructive cycle. Climbing the highest mountain in Africa seemed to be the ticket.

The Barranco Wall – looking down

If you are not taking risks, what are you doing? What are you waiting for? Why are you wasting your time waiting for something to happen – nothing will unless you make it happen.

Second, your body is your vehicle. I have taken part in some challenging physical ventures over the years. As a youth, I planted trees in the mountains of British Columbia. Later, I ran marathons and more recently, I took part in bike touring events stretching over two days and over 300 Km.

What I learned from these experiences and again on Kilimanjaro was that without a well-maintained body I was going nowhere. I trained hard for six months to build up my muscles and lung capacity, I was careful about what I ate, I drank up to 6 litres of water every day on the mountain. All of this because I wasn’t going to make it if my body shut down – it was the only way I was going to summit.

This is a great thing. We really don’t have to depend on our bodies very much. We may appreciate them more when we get sick, but generally, we live a pretty sedentary life and we make few demands on our bodies. It is liberating to turn your focus on your own body and see it as the only vehicle that will help you reach your goals. I appreciate my body more now and am committed to keeping it in good shape to be ready for the next challenge.

Tough morning of steep climbing on the way to Shira Camp

Third, what is your social mission? We are all connected and many of us in the Global North are very privileged. So when choosing a venture or a project, ask yourself what is the social good I am creating as part of this project. For us, this was easy, each of us was connected to a charity through the Dream Mountains Foundation.

If I ever do this again (I can’t believe I just wrote that), I will do it because the expedition will allow me to give back to the community – in my case the Sens Foundation.  Everything we do is social and everything we do should have some social good attached to it. When I worked at my last school, all our projects were designed around the idea of helping students and families that did not have the same opportunities as most of us enjoy. All of the Dream Mountains charities try to address this imbalance.

Finally, listen to people who know what they are talking about. As a principal, it was easy to disregard the advice I received from many people. Part of this was plain arrogance, part of this was based on the fact that I didn’t always receive very good advice that could help our students and our school – very few people at the district level had a good understanding of the roadblocks to progress that existed for our children.

So, it is important to discern. Who has valuable advice. Who is motivated to work with you to make you and others successful? This is a challenging process and you may be disappointed – many times over. Having said this, there are good, wise people out there who will work with you and will ensure that you are successful.

On Kilimanjaro, we had three people like this – Shawn Dawson, Kristi Johnston and Jason Colley – our Canadian guides. Each of these people consistently gave us all important advice that prepared us for this incredible climb and that protected us on the mountain. I can’t say I always liked their advice, but they were right, they were experienced and most importantly they knew how to lead people – a very rare commodity in my opinion.

I can say I listened to them, I took their advice and I have immense respect for all three of them. In your own ventures and work, try to seek out people like this, people you can really trust who will not let you down.

If you are a leader, try and do this yourself. Don’t disappoint the people who work with you. Strive to give them advice that will empower them and help them grow.

Make sure they make it to the top of their mountain.

Our Dream Mountains Team at the beginning of the climb

Team Meeting before Kilimanjaro

In the morning you can see Kilimanjaro from our hotel. It is a stunning sight and hard to realize that we will be at the summit in 5 days.

Now we are in our first team meeting and Shawn Dawson is going through what we need to know before we set out.

First – control your stress, we are all trained, but we are coping with extreme heat already and altitude will affect us soon. The most important thing is to relax and don’t let your mind defeat you. We can do this, we just can’t defeat ourselves.

Go slow. This is not a race. We take this one step at a time, keep to your own pace and keep to what you know about yourself.

Water – drink all the time, at least 5-6 litres a day. Today, even before we head to the mountain, Shawn has told us to drink at least 3 litres of water today.

Rely on your tent mate – this person is your partner, they can also let you know if things aren’t going well. Share with your partner at all times.

Sleep – try to sleep. There’s lots of time to sleep, it is sometimes hard to sleep on the mountain. Just do your best.

Eating – sometimes people have difficulty eating. You can lose your appetite. It is important to eat and we will have great food. It is important keep your strength.

Living, our chief guide and Shawn talking to the group.

The routine – we get up at 6:30 every day.  Before that – keep quiet, people need their sleep, respect that with you are in a very large group. You leave your tent, the backpacks and duffels come with you. By the time we finish breakfast, the porters are already gone – all 93 porters.

Pacing will be important. On summit night, climbers will be going out at different times depending on the pace climbers have established over the past few days. The goal is to get everyone there at the same time. One point, on summit night if you can’t carry your bag, you stop at Stella Point.

Car – means get out of the way. Porters are coming up and down the mountain all the time. Our job is to get out of the way – and stay on the high side. This is how we have trained since September – now this becomes really important.

group members getting the details

Today we also have to weigh our packs. The main duffel has to be no more than 15 Kg. Our personal pack can be no more than 7 Kg. If we go beyond that, extra weight will be taken out before we are allowed to climb.

Today, I will be packing and repacking to get everything just right.

 

 

Dream Mountains gets ready for Mt. Kilimanjaro

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We leave for Mt. Kilimanjaro in 31 days.

This has been a very intense experience on many levels.  First, the physical training has been incredible.  Stair climbing, now as many as 4200 stairs over a two-hour period has been gruelling.

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Every second week we do a trek on the Wolf Trail – a good 2-hour hike up one of the ridges in the Gatineau near Ottawa.  Each of these treks is an opportunity to try out new equipment, new food types and most importantly, a chance to get to know the people you will be climbing with and depending on during the climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro – 5,888 metres (19,318 ft).

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Physical training aside, the next great challenge is raising money for the group we have been assigned to support throughout this entire journey.

For me, this is what makes the Dream Mountains experience unique.  It’s not about you and your own bucket list.  It’s more about the fundraising each of the group members is doing for a great collection of local and national charities.

Our current fundraising totals
Our current fundraising totals

I don’t think I would be doing this if it weren’t for the community connection that has been created between ourselves and the groups we are working to support.  What really would be the point?

For me, another important part of the preparation has been my attempts to explore various communication tools that will allow people to follow the climb while we are in Africa.  I have taken my inspiration for this part of the planning from Elia Saikaly who is a master at telling adventure stories using social media. There is no way I can do what he does during one of his expeditions, but I am doing what I can.

My main tool is one that Elia has used – the ESRI Story Map, a wonderful media tool that has allowed me to tell our story from our early training climbs right up to treks along Wolf Trail.  With incredible help from the ESRI team, I have been able to improve my story map and have learned how to add waypoints from my tracking tools – InReach and Suunto to the Wolf Trail base map.  I am really hoping that I will be able to add points during our climb to a 3D map of Kilimanjaro I have added to the story map.

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The money I am raising is going to Rec Link a group here in Ottawa that is doing so much to help the families and children I used to work with while I was principal at St. Anthony School.

 

our-canadian-kilimanjaro-journey-clipular It is such a privilege to be able to give back to a group that has done so my for our kids and I have the coordinator of Dream Mountains Shawn Dawson to thanks for this. Shawn is a truly selfless individual who has an incredible commitment to give back to the community while supporting over 20 novice climbers in our long journey to Kilimanjaro.  It is such a joy to work with someone who is so positive and supportive and is willing to give so much of himself for others – a very rare commodity in my experience.

Finally, none of this would be possible without the great group of family and friends who have supported my fundraising efforts. It has been truly humbling that so many people would donate so much to help me reach my funding goal.  At this point, I have raised more than $8000.00 for Rec Link and have received wonderful support from my wife and family – without them, this would never have happened.

 

I hope people follow us up the mountain.  I hope the technology works.  I hope we have all trained hard enough.  Whatever happens, this already has been a truly unique and wonderful experience and I am happy to part of this great group.

34 Days to Go!!

Now we are getting close!!

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This is the 3D map I will be using to track my progress on InReach – the map should get updated every day of the climb.
 
34 days until we depart for the climb and $820.00 away from making it to our goal of $8000.00 for Rec Link. That’s just $24.11 a day to make it! If you haven’t donated yet – please click below and make a contribution to help kids here in Ottawa.
 
Here is the link:  http://bit.ly/2bwIrnT
 
Here is the link to find me on the mountain using the INReach site – https://share.garmin.com/PaulMcGuire
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Either way, this will be as interactive as I can make it – if you follow the journey, please make sure you are a true partner in this venture by making a donation for kids in Ottawa.
 
Really looking forward to sharing this with you and at the same time making a significant contribution to a really effective agency here in Ottawa
 
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You don’t climb without support Blog Post # 9

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As I get ready for our big fundraiser for the Sens Foundation next week and look beyond this to the Kilimanjaro climb, I decided to write those who are supporting this great effort.  To date, we have raised $4385.00 and over 70 people have signed up already for next week’s event.  Here is my note to them.
Hello everyone
You are receiving this e-mail either because you have donated to my Dream Mountains charity – the Sens Foundation or because I just want to keep you informed on our progress as we get ready for the Kilimanjaro climb at the end of March.
First, to all those who have contributed, I want to thank you so much for your support.  We now have raised $4385.00 and have sold 75  tickets for next week’s fundraiser/retirement party.
You can still get tickets by going to our ‘donate now’ page.  Everyone who donates $25.00 gets a ticket and a tax receipt from Canada Helps.  Here is the link
There is still time to donate, even if you can’t make it to the gala, we are aiming at reaching $6000.00 for Rec LINK (through the SENs Foundation) before the end of next week.
I have also been working hard on a few sites that I hope will help tell the story of the climb.
First, there is my blog that I am using more as a journal on preparations for Kilimanjaro.  It has a new look and a new title to better reflect the current purpose for the blog.
I also have two story maps, both have their strengths, and I am using both as a way to tell our story as it unfolds.  Both get updated weekly and they act as a running record of the Dream Mountain experience.
The first is Our Canadian Kilimanjaro Journey – a story map from ESRI
The new one is from Sutori, a great new tool.  This one is simply called Our Kilimanjaro Journey
This one includes an on-line forum so students (and adults!) can ask questions about the trip, training or anything else that people may be interested in.  This is very new to me, I hope this is one way to engage students.
I also have a site called Kuula where I will be putting photos from my 360 Theta camera. There is not much there now, but I will add more photos, especially as we climb Kilimanjaro. You can find this site here.
Thanks for sharing this journey with me.  I hope to see lots of you next week at our fundraiser – January 27th at Fatboys in the Market.
Paul

Switching over – Climbing Kilimanjaro Blog Post # 6

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I find that my priorities are beginning to shift.

While I will still continue to include lots of education posts in my 31 days of blogging, more and more of my mental and emotional energy is going into the immense physical challenge of getting ready to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with Dream Mountains.

I took this challenge on as a way of starting retirement and I guess as a way to rewire (or reprogram) myself after 31 years of working in the education world.

What is important to me is that in doing this climb, I have pledged to raise $6000.00 for the Senators Foundation – a charity that does lots of important work in and around our school community for our families.  I wouldn’t be doing this if this was a bucket list thing, I’m not interested in projects that don’t tie into my former school community.

I was fortunate to meet up with Shawn Dawson who leads the Dream Mountains Foundation.  Shawn is a very accomplished climber who is giving back to his community every year by recruiting and training 20 non-climbers to take on the challenge of a lifetime.

In the years Shawn has run these trips he has raised close to $1,000,000 – in fact, we will break this barrier very soon as we raise money for our different charities.

dream-mountains-clipular-1 The training for this experience is brutal – probably some of the most challenging training I have ever done. It comprises walking up more and more flights of stairs in a 31-storey building.

Our ultimate goal is to do 10 stories in 10 minutes per set.  Right now, I am at 8 stories completed in under 13 minutes each.

I have a way to go.

We change things up by hiking an 8.5 km trail  that quickly ascends 310 m.  This past weekend, we did this ascent in 55 minutes – a good pace!

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The group at the top of trail – great group to hike with

These hikes serve many important purposes – the main objective is to get to know your fellow climbers – these are the people who you will depend on during the climb and it is important to know who has your back on an arduous climb. The climb also gives you the opportunity to try out your equipment – a constant experiment and most importantly at this point, it gives you a chance to test your fitness level.

For me, I realize I have work to do, but that’s OK – this is January 16, and we don’t leave until the end of March.  There is something wonderful in focusing on your physical fitness – it is so rare in this society that we have the opportunity to do this. After 31 years of working as an educator it is a very welcome change!

I am loving every minute of this experience – the training, the hikes, the constant learning and the team building.  There is lots more to write about – especially how I hope to share this experience in real time as much as possible, but that is for a future post.  Lots of time now to write.

Today, recover and get ready for another assault of the stairs.