Kilimanjaro, Day 3

We awoke on a clear Saturday morning to a full view of the peak of Kilimanjaro, with a bright glowing Venus halfway between it and an incandescent crescent moon. It was a remarkable and ephemeral sight, as the sun rose the moon and neighbour planet faded away, and the warmer temperatures brought a rush of fog up the mountainside, pulling a grey curtain across our objective.

After the usual breakfast, our chef David "Mange-Mange" led the whole group of climbers, guides, porters and cooks in an inspiring song and dance (wearing his orange "you had me at Mambo t-shirt, and plaid pyjama pants hiked over his chef-belly").  We clapped along and sang the words as best we could; the words I could make out include "Kilimanjaro, Mambo (how are you), Jambo (what's up), Nguvu (power), hakuna matata (if I have to tell you, rent the Lion King and thank me later) and Boma (the name of the guide company).

We were all sufficiently winded after the clap and dance along, but within minutes my pack was on (still full of everything I brought to Africa with me, 3L of water (which seems heavier at this elevation), and telescoping poles that I still haven't bothered with), and we left Shira camp in our wake.

As we climbed higher the shrubbery and small trees got smaller, until the only plant-life was moss and grass. The terrain reminded me a lot of Haleakala on Maui, if you've ever visited the 10,000ft peak in Hawaii. There was plenty of rain overnight, and it began to trickle again within an hour of our departure. For the first time I put on my MEC nylon rain pants; we hiked for over 6hours in the rain, incredibly my legs stayed totally dry.

So the trail that we use to go up the mountain also happens to be the trail that the water uses to go down. As the rain continued our wet trail graduated from stream to creek to river, with some sections of whitewater and plenty of water falls. We stuck to the shore where we could, but often we were hopping from rock to rock through a shallow river. I need to brag about the Asics lahars again, even when they are immersed in water... No soaker. Props Asics, these are great kicks.

Whenever the fog rolls out we catch a glipse of the snowy peak which awaits us, but we had yet to encounter snow, until today. Our lunch spot today was Lava Tower (google it for a photo, it's bonkers). At 4600metres about sealevel it's just past the snow line, so the rain switched to freezing rain and again to hail - a welcomed change as hail tends to bounce off of you rather than accumulate as slush on your shoulders, pack, hat... any surface. Lava tower has many natural caves and rock outcroppings, so we all scattered to find a good lunch shelter. I was pretty disgusted to see the state of many of the mini-dwellings. Hikers have left their garbage in piles throughout, and while I can excuse eggshells and banana peels, using the only shelter as a toilet is inconceivably ignorant. Shame on those loserpoopers! Shame!!

I found an un-crappy outcropping and quickly devoured my meal and layered up.

Lava Tower was our peak for the day, and is the same height as the basecamp which we will reach early afternoon tomorrow. The effects of the altitude were, not surprisingly, more extreme at Lava Tower than at any other point so far. I had a headache and some minor nausea. Nothing that made me feel like quitting or anything, just a part of the adventure. We started down straight after lunch. Team morale was low after a consistent 3hours of cold rain, but we soldiered on. The initial descent was down a cascading creek, with stepping stones and a narrow bank. It was really steep and fairly slippery, thankfully nobody slipped. As we continued down my nausea diminished and headache all but disappeared. The shrubs came back, and soon there were broad-leafed plants and flowers and some short trees. I picked a low hanging leaf to use as an umbrella (despite the fact I was already totally soaked), and Alex and Praygod scolded me for impacting the environment. I apologized and put my umbrella leaf on the ground. It didn't work anyway.

The Tanzanian Time Warp was in full effect this afternoon. Alex and Praygod insisted that Lava Tower was between an hour and ninety minutes from Barranco, tonight's camp. After 2 hours we were all getting a little anxious, and for the next hour it was always "about 25 or 30minutes left". We arrived after 3hours 15minutes from Lava Lunch tower, for a total of 7hours and almost 30minutes of hiking. It was only about 13km; I'd run that on trails at sealevel (without a 30kg pack) in under 80mins... So suffice to say our pace was pole, pole.

Barranco camp is incredibly scenic, when the rain and fog relented for a few minutes we could see the stiff peak and kissing rock - or first challenge tomorrow, the most technical section of our 6 day climb.

We finished dinner relatively quickly, pumpkin soup with tasty little pekoras, spaghetti bolognese and some fruit. I've been pretty cold since we made camp, so I'm happily bundled up, out of the rain in my super comfy Aquila sleeping bag.

Tomorrow we hike about 6hours to Barafu basecamp, eat and rest for just a few hours, and begin our summit ascent in the middle of the night, hoping to arrive at the roof of Africa before the sun rises over this great continent.

Wish me luck, and lots of simba nguvu.

La la salama...


Kilimanjaro, Day 2

As I fell asleep last night, I thought that a 6am wake up might be pushing it, given the jetlag, my previous evening's 4am bedtime preceded by 26hrs of travel, not to mention the 10km hike at this altitude. As it turned out, I had no reason to be worried. I was asleep by 9pm and wide awake by 4am. I stayed in my very comfortable MEC Aquila -12C bag until first light, and emerged from my tent with my thermos in search of hot water and a good photo op.

I found both, made some coffee and saw, for the first time on this trip, the beautiful snow capped peak of this great mountain. I found a decent view of where we hiked in from, and marvelled at the reality of waking up above the clouds.

As I sipped my coffee I chatted with Alex our lead guide about his family and life as a climbing and safari guide. Like most of the Africans I've met, his stories are astonishing. He has 4 kids of his own, and he supported 4 street kids from Moshi, the small town where he calls home. He has seen two of the adoptees through university and a third completed a mechanic aprentiship not so long ago. His perspective is so valuable to me. His experiences and wisdom are so unique, the chance to share a conversation with people like Alex adds so much to these journeys.

We gathered for a quick breakfast of porridge, eggs, sausage (hotdog), toast papaya and citrus, packed our camp and were off up the mountain before 8:30am.

I packed out all of my gear again today, feeling confident that my pack was so perfectly distributed that it would hardly add to my physical exertion. I packed along our packaged lunch (same as yesterday) two hiking poles, and the obligatory 3L of water.

The two little fanny packs on the sturdy waist strap of the MEC EOS bag allow really easy access to things like my camera, lip moisturizer (it's a very macho-manly variety), snacks and hand sanitizer. The waist strap is fixed in the middle of the bag, but pivots with your hips allowing for natural movement. At the end of our day today, I was amazed at how great my back and shoulders felt. If I didn't know better I'd say that the pack actually makes me hike more efficiently.

Our climb started right at the sign-out hut, with a staircase-like pitch for 3 or 4 kms. Every third or fourth step was a high lunge up the equivalent of 2 or 3 regular stair-sized steps. The rock was slippery and wet, and as we switched back and forth I remarked at how similar it was to choosing your line when snowboarding or whitewater kayaking (I'd assume).

As we continued higher the vegetation continually changed. Our guide Praygod was generous with the names of plants and flowers, and constantly provided encouraging words in Swahili, "Pole, Pole sassa" for "slowly now", "sawa sawa hakuna matata" for "it's ok, no worries" and my favourite "Nguvu kama simba" for "have the power of a lion".

I reached into the left side pocket of my waist pack and found a sharpie, and asking Praygod to tell me all the sayings again I wrote them on my left hand and arm. For good measure I wrote the words for 1-10 next to the corresponding fingers as well, "moja, mbili, tatu, nne, tano, sita, saba, nabe, tisa, kumi". Thank you is "Asante", you're welcome is "karibu", and cheers is "hungea"... There, now we know Swahili!

We stopped for our packed lunch and the bird showed up, harassing us for our snacks. Everyone was hungry, and we didn't think Patrick, Alex or Praygod would be particularly pleased if we fed the giant avian mooch. Clearly it's accustomed to some charity from climbers.

As we marched on it began to trickle rain. Then the thunder struck, and the sky opened up and literally drained a lake onto us and the trail. Just before it really started hammering I ducked into a cave with Kevin to dig out my harcore MEC gaiters and put them on, in an attempt to keep the insides of my otherwise very waterproof Asics Lahar hikers dry. It proved to be good timing, and as we emerged from the cave the skies added hail to the rain, despite the fairly warm temperature. I hiked in shorts and knee high compression socks again today, and was never cold at all.

The climb became fairly technical as we made our way around some small passes with hand holds. I still haven't used the climbing poles, but I'm certain they'll be essential when the air is thinner (the air gets even thinner than this! WAY thinner, and I'm sleeping at 3850metres tonight...)

The last km of our trek was the first and only downhill section we've experienced since we departed from the Machame gate. It was a welcome change, and after over 6hours of hiking today, (one of those hours being extra soggy) our enthusiasm reappeared and we trotted into camp bright eyed and bushy tailed (author's licensed token exaggeration).

With a few hours before dinner I chatted with some Aussie hikers, explored a little, unpacked, ate popcorn, drank cocoa and had a little nap.

The fog cleared for the first time today and a full view of the town of Moshi ahead, and our destination; a now very clear picture of the stiff snowy peak, was visible.

When the fog cleared there appeared to be some cell reception as our guides and porters all had their nokias out chatting and texting. I've had less luck finding bars, but if you're reading this I got the email off somehow...

I'll wander around now with my left hand-clutching-phone extended into the air, while my right brushes my teeth, in hopes that the millions or billions or trillions of 1's and 0's that these words translate into in computerlanguage can zip down the 3000meters to a tower somewhere in Moshi or wherever. Wild stuff.

I doubt if there will be service as we ascend higher, so this may be my last real-time blog entry (thanks to my mommy for posting it). Rest assured that I'm feeling great, but I'm really respecting this mountain, the terrain, weather and most of all, the altitude and all that comes with it. I'll push hard as far as my sealevel legs and lungs will take me!

La la salama, and nguvu kama simba...


Tanzania, Day 1

Osman, Solomon and Sarah were the three friendly faces I saw when I emerged from the Terminal at Kilimanjaro International. There were only 11 people on my flight, and 8 of them carried onto Mombasa after dropping us off. We had to share one pen to full our customs card (one that I brought, since the customs officer told the lady in front of me in the line, "this one is mine" while holding his pen up next to his face, unwilling to share the implement necessary to carry out the simple task). My new friend Osman drove while Sarah and I chatted about my journey; a 26hr haul through Frankfurt, Khartoum, Addis Ababa, and finally, this small city in Northwest Tanzania. Solomon rode shotgun in the Safari Landcruiser, devoid of seatbelts. I arrived at Kilimanjaro's Honey Badger Lodge at 4:15am, showered, brushed my teeth, plugged in my phone and camera, set up my mosquito net and fell asleep.

Morning came quick, and at 7:40 I was up and ready for breakfast. We had coffee, Hibiscus flower Pomegranate juice, eggs, toast, sausage, beans tomato, banana and watermelon.

A short meeting with our guides and we packed our gear into the van, hopped aboard and took off for Kilimanjaro national park. We ate a lunch of cold chicken and bread, mango juice and banana at the park gates, literally fighting off monkeys and giant crows, who felt entitled to our meal. A monkey showed me his teeth and hissed in my face. What an attitude!

I chose to carry all of my gear today, about 20Kg of gear, in my new MEC Eos 70L backpack. I've got warm clothes, two parkas, rain gear, sleeping bag, snack food, 3L of water, a book and some random miscellany. Alex, our guide warned me that it would be hard, and encouraged me to take a small day pack and allow the porters to take my bag instead. I kindly requested the chance to carry my own gear, explained that I'm athletic and know my limits, enjoy the challenge and that I would be very honest on day two with regards to how much I can handle. Alex hesitantly allowed me to pack out my own stuff today. I get the feeling that I will be closely monitored in my pursuit.

The motto on Kilimanjaro is "Pole, Pole", which means "Slow Down" (it's also written on the school crossing signs on the roads).  Our hiking guides, Patrick and Praygod encouraged us to go as slowly as we can, it's how we cheer eachother on, it's become our team mantra. This will be my first athletic pursuit where my goal is to travel as slowly as possible. I know I need the acclimatisation time, I have little experience with altitude, and my goal is to summit - not summit tomorrow.

The first day's scenery was characterised by a deeply mossed rainforesty jungle. There were monkeys and birds of all kinds, an incredible waterfall, ferns and a beautifully diverse canopy. It rained most of the way, but the canopy allowed only a trickle through onto us, and the occasional massive blob of cold water onto the back of my neck. It was warm enough for a t-shirt so I didn't bother with the heavy raingear. I'll save it for the cold rain or wet snow, in the case that it graces us (that's not an invitation).

The MEC rain cover for my pack kept my stuff dry, but my t-shirt was soaked (50-50 sweat/rain). My feet stayed dry, thanks to my Gore-Tex Asics Gel-trail Lahar hiking shoes, and the Asics knee-high compression socks kept my otherwise bare legs feeling fresh. I'm going to carry my own pack again tomorrow. The Eos performed well, spreading the weight evenly between my hips, shoulders and back.

Our team is 7 strong; RTP supporters from a variety of walks of life... Jaime is our Right to Play person, Danielle works for a bank and is an avid scuba diver, Kevin works for Imax and is the only person to have attempted Kilimanjaro before, Joanne is an entrepreneur who does lots of philanthropic work in Haiti, James is the man with the plan behind this trip and our top fundraiser, finally Jason, lives in Texas and runs "Lug" a stylin' luggage company. After a steep 10km, a little over 4hours through the jungle we emerged into a more alpine like area, with no canopy, some more coniferous style trees, more shrubbery and a soft moss hanging from almost every tree. After only 600m we found our camp and signed in. Our guides had set up our tents, and had dinner on the go for us.

We climbed over 2000m in elevation today, and I certainly started to feel some light effects of the thinner air. Just a little head ache, and a constant urge to pee.

After we set up camp our guides had cocoa and popcorn ready for us, and Mange-mange (our chef, are you feeling sorry for us yet?) cooked an incredible dinner of zucchini soup, avocado salad, fried fish, boiled potatoes and a hearty vegetable sauce... In like an hour from scratch on one gas element, he's the camp champion. Mange's tee shirt reads "me say Mambo", and he has the biggest smile in Africa. He personally carried his cooking gear and food up this afternoon, leaving 30minutes after us with a cigarette dangling from that smile, and catching up to us before we made camp.

Tomorrow is a big day, with almost 10km of hiking all at over 3500metres of elevation. We rise at 6am and pack up the camp, eat breakfast and hit the trail before 8am. I can hear the rushing river from my tent. If there's time in the morning, I'd like to make it down there to wash up before we set off.

I should turn in for the night, my tent mate Kevin is already out cold, and it's not even 9pm.

La la salama (sleep well).


Kili Climb: Adventure 1/10

In less than 24hrs I'm embarking on a week long adventure to climb Africa's highest mountain, Kilimanjaro. I'm a proud member of a team that has raised over $120K in support of Right To Play, and we start our climb early tomorrow AM in Tanzania. I'm in Frankfurt right now.

(donate here:


I've never climbed a mountain before, and I'm unfamiliar with the effects of altitude. I love hiking and trail running, and I have a fabulous hunger for adventure. I love raising money and awareness for RTP, and I love being active in the out of doors. Needless to say, I am tremendously stoked.


In addition to everyone who donated on my pledge site, I want to send a massive thanks out to Mountain Equipment Co-Op for helping to oufit our team with sleeping bags, headlamps and various hiking essentials. In addition to that, the fine folks at MEC set me up with the finest hiking backpack, rain gear, travel snacks and accessories available. MEC supports healthy and active living, adventurous pursuits and charitable efforts of all kinds... Thanks for being such a wicked industry leader MEC! 


I'll do my very best to blog and tweet about our adventure, I want to share this experience with any and everyone who wants to be a part of it. It's the first time that I've come across the pond to do something athletic where my goal is to go as slow and leisurely as possible, but I'm certain that's the only way to conquer this goal.


Slow and Steady makes it to the top!


Check back soon!



what is next?

(photo credit: Frank Ryan School, Ottawa Ontario)

What is next? That's a question I've been getting asked, as well as asking myself, a lot lately. Nobody ever really knows for certain, though.  We all make plans, set goals, get inspired, aspire to be awesome, and look ahead. But it's rare that our eventual trail matches the journey's map we drew in our imagination before setting off. That's exciting to me, not daunting or scary.  I'm looking forward to the future, whatever it might hold. I will continue to set goals and aspire to be great at my job at hand. I've got a full tank of gas and an open mind, what isn't possible?

This weekend I got news that I was nominated for Male Canadian Athlete of the Year! I'm in esteemed company too, with the likes of Brent Hayden and Ryan Cochrane, our bronze medalled swimming men of 100m and 1500m persuassions, respectively. I am lucky to call them friends, and very fortunate to be able to call them my teammates. I'd say "may the best man win"... but then I'd have no chance against these gentlemen and I'm competitive so I'll just say best of luck, fellas!

I've got a couple trips planned this fall, very excited. One of which I would like to tell you about... would you like to hear about it? Ok then read on dear reader...

I'm going on a trip to Africa with Right to Play! This time it's a little different. It'll be my third visit to the great continent with RTP. Both previous trips were site visits, to Liberia and Mali. They were educational and amazing, inspiring and life-altering trips that I will never forget. But my trip this fall is about FUNDRAISING. With six other Right to Play devotees, I will attempt to summit the great mountain of Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania.

But, I need your help. I will only go if I can raise five thousand dollars. And I REALLY want to go... but I've got to raise the dough first.

Right to Play brings the power of sport and play into the communities of 835,000 kids every WEEK worldwide. These kids live in countries affected by war, poverty and disease, and like ALL kids are, they are entitled to the educational power of sport.  The curricula that RTP provide in the field are specifically catered to the needs of each community, and I've seen the difference it makes. It's astounding what an educational game, a supportive coach, a friendly competitive opportunity, a pat on the back, high-five and a smile can do for a child's future.

So, here's my fundraising page: ADAM's FUNDRAISING PAGE

100% of the money I raise will go directly to RTP. My goal is to climb a big mountain, but with your help, the result can be a lot greater than just a summit.

Please be generous!