We are organizing an event for all of you starting on the first day of summer – June 21st– a virtual climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Here is your opportunity to climb to the Roof of Africa under your own COVID roof!!
Each day for seven days we will put out to those who are interested 1) a step count that approximates the steps you would take on that particular day (8-10,000 steps); 2) a commentary embedded for you to listen to that goes over what that day on the trail is like; 3) a video log of that day by Arienne Parzei; 4) a conditioning follow-along video by Chase Tucker; 5) some music to inspire you for your day; 6) some Kilimanjaro interesting facts and; 7) a fun African recipe.
This will be sent to you in the form of a google slide that we will add to every day. Of course, it is up to each of you how many days you take to complete the challenge.
We will create a spreadsheet so you can record your steps every day. We will use our Facebook pages so you can record how you are doing, any inspirational messages for people or any group challenges you want to put out there! If you are new to all this, we will add you to our Kilimanjaro 2021 Facebook Page – an added bonus!!
We want to raise some money for Christie Lake Kids, but we are not emphasizing the fundraising nature of this experience. We are suggesting each participant contribute $58.95 – the height of Kilimanjaro in meters. If this works out well, we might do this as a full fundraiser this fall. We are still committed to raising over $40,000 for Christie Lake Kids before we actually climb Kilimanjaro in 2021. Right now, we are at $26, 722.
If you want, you can get sponsors to raise more money – we leave this up to you. With the pandemic, Christie lake Kids stills to raise money – most of its regular fundraisers have been postponed, but they still plan to run a really cool virtual camp this summer called Camp in a Box.
This is a good opportunity to invite more people into the Climb for Kids experience. If friends and/or family join, we will add them to the spreadsheet, to our Kili FB Page and make sure they get the link to our climbing slides.
So, please let us know if you are interested and we will get you signed up! Write me here – firstname.lastname@example.org
So yesterday I got this encouraging note from Allan Neal of CBC Ottawa.
This was in response to my tweet about wanting to get some media coverage for Climb for Kids – a pretty difficult thing to do in the very crowded stage of radio and television coverage. I do agree, telling the story is what it is all about. Having a hook that will get people’s attention is a challenge, when there are so many stories out there in our city.
So, here we go. Here are some of the stories:
in 2017, middle -age, freshly retired and very tired principal climbs Mount Kilimanjaro with an organization that has raised over $1 Million for Ottawa organizations;
family decides – in collaboration with Christie Lake Kids Foundation (CLK) – to initiate Climb for Kids combining philanthropy with travel adventures and personal challenges;
over $67,000 is raised in two years;
17 climbers ranging in age from 21 to 72 trek Apu Ausangate (Rainbow Mountains) in Peru reaching heights of 5200 metres; the next year, 14 trekkers trek 170 km around the Mont Blanc Massif, walking for 11 days through difficult terrain and heatwaves;
kids living across Ottawa, ranging in age from 8 – 16 years, benefit directly from the fundraising in sports and STEM programs;
local bands, businesses and individuals contribute time and money to Climb for Kids, including “Barry and the Blasters”;
in 2019, a growing group of new and old trekkers prepare for the climb to the Roof of Africa, July 2020.
The full story we wrote for CBC can be found here.
There are so many ways to start a story like this. From Paul’s perspective, he comes at this from a few angles. First, the climbing. “I am 61 years old and I fell in love with trekking in 2017 when I joined a group of 31 trekkers who climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money for programs for local charitable organizations here in Ottawa. The climbing was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I was able to raise over $9,000 for local programs. “
The following year, my partner, Heather Swail, and I decided to develop our own program so we could channel money and support to Christie Lake Kids (CLK) – an organization here in Ottawa that supports children in low-income families across the city. CLK has been and continues to be an important part of our own family story.
We know Christie Lake Kids through many perspectives: all three of our own kids have worked at the camp; Our eldest, Liam, currently is the associate director of the organization; Heather and I have taught and worked with many of the CLK kids who attend recreation programs and summer camp. We know firsthand what a difference caring adults and skill-building programs make to kids and their families.
Poverty and bad luck are situational: they should not define and restrict opportunities for kids. Through truly transformative, recreation programs – e.g., hockey, music lessons, cooking, leadership programs, they are doing something unique – day by day, trying to break the cycle of poverty firmly entrenched here in Ottawa and empower children to change the direction of their lives.
Because Christie Lake Kids is really a social justice venture we are propelled to recruit people every year to bring them trekking. We help them with their training, we pick the routes and we put on a series of great fundraising parties throughout the year.
We know we are going in the right direction, every year we pick up new partners and friends who are helping this to become a really dynamic project here in Ottawa.
Our group members really make this special. We have some people who have been with us for three years now, others join us for a year but continue to support us and spread the news. Our group members support each other and learn to work together, not only to train but to raise money. In the first two years of Climb for Kids, we have raised close to $60,000. This year, we plan to raise an additional $40,000.
Our climbers are great. The video above was taken by Tara Howlett, one of the trekkers who joined us in Year I. Tara took many more videos like this during the five-day high altitude trek in the Ausangate Range in Peru. Her journal became the basis for the film we created about the first year journey.
On the Year II trek around the Mont Blanc Massif, another one of our climbers, Jodie Beyer actually broke her foot on the fourth day of a twelve-day trek. She kept on trekking in incredibly hot and dry conditions and only realized she had broken her foot when she returned to Canada.
These treks are really hard. Our first trek in Peru was over 4800 m for five days. Many suffered through the cold and high altitude, but everybody made it. Last summer, we trekked over 170 km through France, Switzerland and Italy, camping the whole way. It was simply beautiful but many times it was also a real struggle.
So this year we are taking on Mt. Kilimanjaro. This will be another great challenge. Kilimanjaro is very hard for a regular trekker. It is a long seven to eight-day trek, all at high altitude. We will climb through five ecological zones. While we start in the rain forest, by summit day we are living in arctic tundra. The summit is at 5,895 metres (19,341 ft) and as we climb altitude sickness becomes a real concern for everyone.
I know this will be a very challenging climb and we are hoping to bring lots of trekkers with us. This is not for everyone and the process of recruiting people to take on the trek is a very slow one – one that drives me a little crazy! Right now we have 13 climbers and we would love to eventually have 20 people on the journey. We want to make it to $40,000 this year so we can reach the $100,000 mark for Christie Lake Kids.
In all of this there is lots of adversity, but maybe this is just a reflection of the challenges many of the kids CLK supports face every day. There needs to be change, there needs to be hope – this is why we do this – Communities Move Mountains.
In a few days, we leave for the mountains of Peru. We are 17 climbers all raising money for Christie Lake Kids – transformative recreation for low-income children here in Ottawa.
A year ago we started putting this experience together. Our small team recruited hikers, planned fundraisers and over the space of eight months raised over $25,000.
This is the big idea. Come up with an exciting experience then recruit fellow adventurers who are willing to raise money for kids and work together to train for a demanding physical experience.
Climbing in the Peruvian Andes is an arduous experience. We will trek for 5 days and 4 nights reaching as high as 5200m (Mt. Everest is 8,848 m). Over the five days, we will never go below 4300m which means we will be living in a high altitude environment for an extended period of time, more than most of the group has attempted before.
We are a new group, we didn’t all know each other before this whole thing started. We have trained together and have held really fun fundraisers together, but the first time the entire group will be together will be in Cusco, Peru. We are united in our love of adventure and the willingness to support a truly wonderful organization that is changing the lives of children every day.
We are supported by Christie Lake staff, three different travel agencies, a wonderful local artist (who just happens to be one of our daughters), two outdoor gear stores which have sponsored us and given us equipment discounts, two physical trainers, various corporate sponsors (whose logos we will take to 5200m) and a tremendous number of individual stores and donors who have supplied silent auction items and venues for our group fundraisers. We also have so many contributors who have helped us surpass our original funding goal by $10,000. We now stand somewhere over $25,000!
So, with such a large community of supporters, I think it will be important to let people know how we progress through the mountains.
To do this, we will be using a great tool first suggested to me by Ottawa adventurer, Elia Saikaly. We will be using the InReach satellite tracker. Once activated, the tracker will send out a waypoint every ten minutes.
The link you can use to follow our progress is here: – https://share.garmin.com/climbforkids
I will also be able to use the InReach to post messages on Twitter and Facebook. We have some preset messages ready to go and I am able to send other messages during our trek. Here’s the tag #climbforkids.
We have also tried to catalogue most of the events that have taken place over the past year. For this, we are using an Esri Story Map, a great communication tool that allows you to tell a story using maps, video, audio recordings and pictures.
I have a bunch of cameras that I will use to document the trip. The most important part of this will be to get the stories of the individual group members – why are they doing this, what are the challenges they see ahead, how did it feel to put yourself out there as a fundraiser?
The training is over and so is most of the fundraising (we are still happy to take donations here!) The story gets really interesting now as we pack our bags and get ready for a gruelling 11-flight from Ottawa to Cusco. We have a great group and we are raising money for a wonderful organization.
Every day new impressions come to me about the Dream Mountains Kilimanjaro experience. Today I am thinking about the importance of team in our success in making it up the mountain.
Team is something that Shawn Dawson and the other leaders emphasized throughout our seven-month training period. We did group hikes in the Gatineau, we climbed Mt. Marcy, we got to know each other through team socials and events throughout the fall and winter. The importance of ‘team’ was pounded into us.
We actually only really came together as a group once we were all together in Tanzania as our team came from locations across the country.
Through six days of hard climbing on the mountain things changed. We really became a solid unit. We were all that we had. On the mountain we added 93 porters and guides to our ever expanding team. We were becoming a unit moving towards the summit.
This is where team becomes real. I remember one day near the Lava Tower. I was totally exhausted mainly due to the effects of altitude sickness. My group headed out and I just couldn’t keep up with them as we scrambled down steep scree. I should have stayed behind, but that was my group and I needed to be with them. After a few minutes of scrambling, dizzy and head aching, I saw just ahead of me a smiling Jason Colley, calming waiting for me. ‘We saw you on the scree, so I thought I would wait for you’.
Saved by the group! I formed up with the others and made it down the steep descent to our next camp. Jason, our group leader stayed behind me the rest of the way to make sure I made it down safely to camp.
On the summit night, I was part of a group of climbers who found ourselves together, alone on the mountain slope. The sun was just coming up, but we were chilled to the bone and exhausted. We sought shelter behind a big rock and tried to figure out what to do. Some of us – including me – suggested turning around. We really didn’t know where we were on where we were heading. We were immobilized as more climbers piled into our shelter equally exhausted. Then a super duo, Megan and Heather Benoit (twins no less), told us all to get our act together and get climbing. No one had a better idea so slowly we started following Heather and Megan up the slope.
This was the ultimate team moment. Shawn couldn’t do any more for us. He had trained us well, now it was up to us. We all turned toward the summit and every member of our group summited within the next two hours.
This was for me the most dramatic moment in the climb. We were a true group, formed through challenge and hardship, totally trusting in each other. We encouraged each other for the next two hours and then happily embraced when we finally made it to Stella Point.
Another moment. Much later in the day we descended from the peak to a rain forest camp. I had injured my leg on the initial descent and was very slow getting down. The other climbers, equally exhausted had gone ahead and I was alone on a steep and rocky trail.
A porter, carrying another mammoth load saw me and stayed with me all the way down to the camp. It got very dark on the trail and I didn’t want to stop to find my headlamp. No need, the porter lighted my way down all the way to camp. Once we finally arrived, he made sure I signed in and then passed me off to another porter who led me to my tent in the pitch darkness. I thankfully collapsed into our tent so grateful again for the wonderful team who shared the mountain with us.
Do the best teams develop through adversity and challenge? I am not sure. I only know that I feel closer to these people than I have felt to any group for years. Obviously, I don’t include my family and the people I worked with at my last wonderful school, but apart from these people, I can’t think of another group of people that I feel a closer bond to.
What a wonderful privilege to have experienced this level of closeness with people who were complete strangers only a few months ago – what a true gift. Maybe this is the true meaning behind this experience, there is huge value in working closely with people in situations of true adversity – this is where you really can define what it means to be a member of a team.
If I decide to climb again, the group experience will certainly be one of the main reasons for going through all of this again!
a wonderful, joyous celebration with our porters and guides the morning of the final descent
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
Very early in the morning (around midnight), we begin our push to the summit. This is the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek. The wind and cold at this elevation and time of day can be extreme. We ascend in the darkness for several hours while taking frequent, but short, breaks. Near Stella Point (18,900 ft), you will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise you are ever likely to see coming over Mawenzi Peak.
Ultimate Kilimanjaro – Machame Route
This is a challenging post to write, but it is the post that needs to be written now – how we summited Mount Kilimanjaro on April 7th and 8th.
We trained very hard for this climb and our training never let us down. We were able to trek for days up the Machame Route, considered a high difficulty route, especially in the rainy season.
Because of the roundabout nature of the route, we saw the summit almost every day, although for days the summit seemed elusive and distant. How we were going to summit such a massive peak remained a mystery.
We worked our way up through the camps, dealing daily with less oxygen, to the point where it was a major struggle to put your socks on in the morning. Scurrying up a short incline would leave you breathless and all our Canadian and Tanzanian guides had to warn us not to rush – ever.
Our approach to the summit involved a 5-hour climb to Karanga Camp (elevation 13,106 ft). We realized that we would never sleep at this camp. We ate a great lunch (the food was always great!) and then rested for the afternoon. At 6:30 PM we all gathered for dinner and were organized into three summiting groups, each led by a Canadian and Tanzanian guide. I was part of the first (slowest) group and we were instructed to be ready to summit by 11:00 PM that night.
At the appointed time, we gathered up in a straight line in complete darkness, illuminated only by our headlamps.
We were in utter darkness, totally dependant on our guides, heading now to a summit that was invisible. Soon, the weather turned vicious. The group was buffeted by very strong ice cold winds that cut through all of our clothing layers. We hid behind rocky outcrops to get respite from the wind and to layer up. Eventually, I was wearing everything I had with me – two tightly woven merino wool layers, a hard rain shell, my down-filled Kilimanjaro puffy and another hard shell.
This bizarre combination seemed to do the trick, allowing me to move without being cut in two by the winds.
We climbed very slowly through the night, sometimes with our guides who encouraged us to dance and sing to keep warm, sometimes on our own. The night went on forever. Far below, we could see the second group coming up the trail by their bobbing string of lights.
At some point, probably around 7:00 AM, we found ourselves on a broad, steep slope. We were scattered all over the mountain with no real sense of where we were heading.
dawn on the mountainside
This is when high altitude really began to kick in. Nothing can prepare you for this. It is very easy to get disorientated above 18,000 ft and as a group, even with the encouragement of our Tanzanian guides, we really didn’t know what we were doing.
We decided as a group to continue up the mountain face, even though it was impossible to see the summit! We were reaching for the crater rim – Stella Point (elevation 18,884 feet). The summit was really a long ridge and I really didn’t know we were at the summit until I stumbled up to it.
We had probably been climbing for around 11 hours at this point and our little group was totally exhausted. We could have continued to move on the Uhuru Peak, but almost all of our group was wiped by the night climb and only three of 30 climbers made it to the next peak on the volcano rim.
This was an incredible feat. As I wrote about the Barranco Wall, it takes a few days to realize what an achievement this is. It is starting to sink in at this point, especially the incredible will power it took to make that night climb.
We did really well – 28 climbers summited at Stella Point. The general overall success rate is around 65%, so we did much better than the average. I think our success has a great deal to do with the incredible training and leadership of our Canadian guide team – Shawn Dawson, Kristi Johnston and Jason Colley and the amazing support of our families and friends back home.
The climb is over, we are safely home, we have achieved something special.
Barranco Wall was one of many great challenges on our climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro. While some people contend that Kilimanjaro is a ‘non-technical’ climb, Barranco Wall really challenges this assumption.
I looked up at Barranco Wall for the first time after an 11-hour trek in the rain. I remembered years ago planting trees in the mountains of British Columbia and remembered that I actually found mountains threatening and sometimes foreboding. Staring up at the wall, I actually could not see a way up the rock face. Intimidating for sure.
There is a way up the wall, it reveals itself the closer you get to the rocky face. One by one we slowly made our way up a very steep incline. In writing this post, I looked over all the photos I have taken and really didn’t find any that do justice to the climb. I realize that even though I had four cameras with me, I was more focussed on getting up the wall in one piece.
One section of the climb is called the ‘kissing wall’ – at this point, you have to hug the wall as closely as possible and step over an open section of the rock face. We stepped out into the abyss to be caught on the other side by one of our wonderful guides. We followed their advice and did not look down!
An interesting thing about some of the really challenging portions of the Kilimanjaro climb, you really don’t have any chance but to go up. Your body can do this, you just have to will yourself to keep climbing, no matter what is behind you – just keep moving up the mountain.
Looking back on Barranco, I think this will be one of the moments I was proud of what I could do and what our team could accomplish. It takes a few days away from the mountain to really discern the moments that are unique and worthy of celebration.
Barranco was certainly one of those. We didn’t flinch, we climbed the wall.
This is a question many climbers may be asked in the next few weeks. It was gruelling and the climb tested our physical and emotional limits. Why did we do it?
There may be many reasons, but for everyone, part of the reason will certainly be the charities we raised money for. All climbers were expected to raise $5000.00 for a selected charity. Teams of climbers worked together on the featured charities. In my case, I raised money for Rec Link – a group that opens up recreational opportunities for kids and families in Ottawa inner city neighbourhoods.
Another one of the charities is SOS Children’s Villages, an international organization that works for children in 134 countries around the world. The children SOS works with are at risk due to the loss of parental care. In some cases, these children live in community with a house ‘mother’ who cares for children on a daily basis until they move on to other communities. SOS provides health care, education and a family-centered base for the development of the child.
We had the unique opportunity to visit a SOS community in Arusha once our climb was completed.
This was an important visit. It is rare that climbers get a chance to see what their money does and how their selected charity works. We do this work in the belief that all of our efforts will pay off and that the charity will be able to do a little more good work because of our efforts.
It really brings all this home when we actually get an opportunity to visit one of the projects that is associated with a Dream Mountain charity. I don’t think it matters a great deal where we visit or who we see. We all could have visited some of the neighbourhoods served by Rec Link and we would have heard similar stories.
The important thing to remember is this is why we climbed. It wasn’t for us, it was for others who we had the privilege to support through our fundraising efforts. Our greatest success came before we ever touched ground in Tanzania.
We achieved something for people who we will never know. We worked as a good team and we raised over $200,000.
Zara Tours is managed by Zainab Ansell, a creative and committed social entrepreneur who I wrote about last week. Zainab employs all the porters and guides and has made a great effort to bring more stability to their lives by creating bank accounts for all employees so that payment for expeditions goes directly into their accounts to assist the families of Zara staff.
The porters carried everything we needed – food, water, much of our gear, tents, toilets – they were a moving village. Every day, they began our day with a hot cup of tea or coffee at our tents. They then supplied us with a great breakfast while filling up our water bottles and water bladders for the day’s climb.
They then broke up camp and scampered way ahead of us to set up camp for lunch and our night stay.
While we carried a small day pack, our porters carried everything else. The life of the climb flowed through them.
We were accompanied each day by our guides who stayed with us, checking on us throughout the day. On summit night, they were the ones who carefully watched us and cajoled us to keep going – slowly polepole. At one point, as we froze during the night ascent of the peak, the guides actually broke out in song and started dancing. I am not a great dancer, but I moved right along with them in order to warm up in the frigid dark.
The guides and porters took care of us.
After hurting my leg on the way down from the summit, several porters looked after me and eventually lighted my way to the next camp – almost in complete darkness. That was a really long day.
When climbers started to struggle down off the mountain after the long summit night, porters alerted to our level of exhaustion dropped what they were doing and climbed up the mountain to meet us and make sure we got down to base camp safely.
They did this because they were so committed to helping us – Canadians unknown to them only a few days ago.
On the last morning as we prepared to descend to the park entrance, everyone gathered to sing and dance in celebration of our collective achievement. We sang and danced with our guides and porters because we had become connected to these incredible people – our lifeline on the climb, our guides to the top.
The climb is over and the group is in the process of returning home to Canada.
The climb was a great success and almost the entire group summited on the night of April 8th after gruelling night ascent.
There is so much to write about – our wonderful porters, all 93 of them, our time in Moshi, the visit to SOS Children’s Villages in Arusha, all the incredible climbing days from the opening gate to the summit and back down again – the last day’s ascent, including 18 hours of climbing, trekking, falling and descending and much more.
It’s hard to know where to start, but I will do this as soon as we are home. Right now we are in the airport in Amsterdam waiting for our last flight to bring us home.
An incredible, hard, inspiring journey. The next step is really important, making sure all our supporters get a sense of how we fared over the past two weeks.