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HIKER’S PARADISE: Meteora, Greece

Welcome to HIKER’S PARADISE!

We’re glad you’re here!  This series is where you’ll find some of the best recommendations for places in the world to live in or visit if your passion has to do with spending time in the mountains.  Our featured hiker’s paradise is: 

METEORA, GREECE

by Romy of Brunette at Sunset

Before I get into the hiking trails, I have to tell you a bit more about Meteora. Meteora is an incredible phenomenon in Greece. A landscape where the wonders of nature and man meet. Rock formations form this landscape and monasteries were build on top of them. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason. Monks had to climb the rocks to reach them as there where no stairs then. It somewhat of a mystery how they did it. They must have been incredible rock climbers, because the rocks are steep!

Many people come just to visit the monasteries, but this area has some of the most scenic hiking trails. You can walk the trails that monks may have used centuries ago. Some of the trails are more challenging than others, but they are all beautiful. This place feels magical and I’m sure the monks felt that magic and serenity when they build the monasteries. A couple of the trails lead up to one of the monasteries and a few up the rocks in the area. I’d highly recommend:

Aghio Pnevma

One of my favorite hikes was up the Aghio Pnevma rock, also known as the Holy Spirit. There are a couple of companies advertising hiking tours, but this is one you can easily do yourself. Our hotel staff told us we could do the trail in about an hour, but it definitely took us a lot longer than that. I’ll leave it up to you to judge if the hotel staff was wrong or if we were just out of shape;) The rock is situated in the middle of the valley. Early on in the trail you already get to see amazing views of the monasteries. When you continue you’ll eventually reach a gate, but don’t worry, it is open! You can just open the gate and continue. A rugged trail leads to the top where you can find caves that were once used as prisons for monks. Take a short moment to imagine what it must have been like for the monks to be locked up there, before you finish the trail. You’ll have to climb the last bit of the rock to reach the flag on top. From the top you’ll have breathtaking views in every direction.

How long do you need?

A lot of tour groups have stopover in Meteora for just a few hours, but they are crazy in my opinion! I would recommend at least 2 to 3 days. You need at least one day just to visit the monasteries and maybe do a tour to get to know the history of this magical place. There are a lot of incredible legends. The other days you can explore the hiking trails and view the area from a different perspective.

How to get there:

You will probably arrive in Athens. I would recommend booking the train from there. The train takes about 4 hours to get to Meteora. Just make sure you make the reservation well in advance, because they sell out quickly. We were the suckers that were too late to book the train and had to take the bus. The bus takes about 5 hours and is harder to get to. There’s no easy way to get to the bus station in Athens so we ended up taking an uber there.

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Interested in joining solo travelers for trekking tours to Peru, Nepal, Kilimanjaro & many others?  See PEAK EXPLORATIONS.

OUTDOOR WOMAN’S VOICE: Sarah D. Tiedemann

Often, as hikers, we hit the trails to clear our minds, to connect, or to reflect on our daily lives.  We also hike to create stronger bonds and lasting memories with friends, families and pets.  Our hiking experiences fall under any of the above categories.  Today’s feature is about creating memories with people that matter the most and cherishing the memories of those who are no longer with us.   Either way, hiking is about love for the activity itself, for those around us and for ourselves.  I’m honored to be touched by Sarah’s hiking life. I hope she touches your life the same way by reading her story.

Feature Outdoor Woman’s Voice

Sarah D. Tiedemann is from Trenton, NJ.  Off the trails, she works as a paralegal, writes on the side and enjoys hibernating for the winter.  Sarah spends time in North Jersey and Adirondacks for her hiking adventures.  In addition to hiking, she enjoys crocheting and crafting.  Sarah’s love for hiking started at the age of 17.  Let’s hear more from Sarah directly about her hiking life.  Enjoy!

Sarah’s discovery of hiking appears to be inspired by the location she was in at the age of 17.

I moved from New Jersey to Hawai’i when I was 17. The beauty of Hawai’i encouraged me to get on my feet. There was so much to see and I wanted to see it all.

What do you like the most about hiking?

The quietness. I’m an over-thinker and being outdoors quiets my nagging, obnoxious inner voice.

Do you enjoy hiking solo or with others more?

Though I can appreciate the merits of hiking solo, I’m in the “strength in numbers” camp. I’m a scaredy cat and it feels safer for me to hike in a group. I typically hike with my husband and we mostly have a “together but separate” experience. At first, we’re abuzz with excitement and conversation, then we slowly quiet down and it becomes a more intrapersonal experience.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from hiking?

The biggest lessons I’ve learned were about myself. I’m much stronger, tenacious, and more capable than I give myself credit for. I’ve learned to appreciate what I can accomplish and to not be so hard on myself.

Sarah shares with us three places that she’s hiked accompanied by photos.

Mt. Marcy, Adirondack Mountains, New York: This was my husband and my first high mileage hike and we were total noobs. It’s pretty funny to go back to the pictures from that day and look at what we were wearing and what “gear” we had. Aside from my bloody blisters that soaked through  to the other side of my boots, it was a great trip!

 Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawai’i: I was totally sure I was 100% prepared for this hike. It often makes lists that detail the world’s “most dangerous hikes”. I didn’t take that lightly- I was prepping   physically and mentally for months beforehand. We ended up taking a wrong turn at a trail junction (in retrospect, it was totally obvious) and long story short, we hiked back to the trailhead in the dark, rather than spending 3 nights at a secluded beach.


Sun Fish Pond, Worthington State Forest, New Jersey: My husband’s family has been hiking this  trail for decades. It’s their “power spot” and where we spread my father in law’s ashes. It’s the perfect hike for a quick jaunt in the woods.

What advice would you give to women who are new to hiking?

There are certainly things that are different for women when it comes to hiking, but I think a general rule for those who are just starting out would be to plan for the worst and hope for the best. A lot of times, feeling apprehension is a normal reaction to something we’re inexperienced in. The best remedy for that is both physical and mental preparation.

Sarah takes us to her view on hiking as a female and any challenges that it entails.  Curiously enough, the challenge doesn’t come from the outside. 

Honestly, the biggest challenges I’ve run into have been self imposed and internal. Whether it be a big scramble or a feat of upper body strength- I consistently question my ability as a woman. And, every time I question myself, I pull myself up by the bootstraps and make it happen.

Any gear recommendation?

Smartwool base layers. They are absolutely amazing in any weather. You stay warm, dry, and comfortable.

What treks do you have on your bucket list?

Kalalau Trail 2.0- We’ve got to get back and finish what we started. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I had originally gone to school for anthropology before life got in the way, so now it’s just a fun hobby.

For the most memorable hiking experience, here’s one of hers.

Cascade Mountain in the Adirondack Mountains of New York in the winter. I was terrified to hike in the winter- I was imagining all the things that could go wrong, and coupled with the cold, I was sure it would be a disastrous experience. We prepped to the gills and I was pleasantly surprised- that was the best hike I had ever taken. It was a perfect winter’s day- sunny, still, with plenty of snow on the ground. The stillness of the woods was incredible. We’d hiked the same trail in the summer and it wasn’t an easy one. Blanketed in snow, it brought you up the mountain on an easy slope. It was not what I was expecting at all!

Check out below Sarah’s favorite hiking photos.  Favorite doesn’t always mean the “best” shots from a photographer’s standpoint.  At times, it means the photos that depict the most meaningful memories in our lives.   I tend to agree with that as some of the most important photos in my own life remain tuck away for now.   Photos exude their own power of allowing us to relive moments, whether it’s a feeling of joy or sadness.  Sarah’s candidness in sharing her personal stories behind each photo is certainly appreciated.

This is a candid shot of my husband and I dancing upon our summit of Algonquin Peak in the Adirondack Mountains. It was such an incredible day that I think back on fondly. My sister-in-law was with us on the trip, so she made sure to take some photos of us without us knowing. It was a nice treat to look through them!

This is my father in law on our last hike together to Sun Fish Pond before he passed. He just exudes happiness in this photo. It means a lot to us!

This was from a trip to Yosemite when my husband proposed – that speaks for itself

Sarah graciously shared her toughest hike yet that was closely intertwined with her life off the trails.  At times, that happens.  Our lives on the trails coincide with some moments in our lives off trails.  Usually, nature provides the comfort or extra layer of meaning that we seek.

There were countless hikes wherein I had to push myself both physically and mentally, but the one that stands out the most is the hike we took to spread my father in law’s ashes at Sun Fish Pond. He died as a result of a work accident- he was still young and vibrant. The whole family, ranging in age from 20-70 made the trip up there to say goodbye. Coincidentally, my husband’s uncle had died years before and his father still had his ashes. We spread both of their ashes at the top.

Dad’s death felt final and real that day. It was a surreal experience, but we did it to honor him and his wishes. It was something we had to do and that made it a little easier to handle. We haven’t been able to get back up there since.  It’s far too painful- but we hope to be able to make the trek in the future.

To get her through daily challenges or any moments of fear on the trails, Sarah reminds herself of these two quotes, the latter of which re-energizes her spirit:

“Everything is true just as it is. Why dislike it? Why hate it?”

“When plans fail, blaze new trails.”

Sarah’s philosophy has led her to expand on her own creativity.  On an outdoor-related project, Sarah recently wrote a book about hiking and the outdoors for those who experience fear and anxiety when adventuring outside.  The book is called, Traveling with Baggage: A Guide for the Hesitant Hiker.  She notes that the book was written partly based on her experience growing up in the city where opportunities to get outside were scant.  It’s also based on Sarah’s experience of venturing out for the first time.   Sarah adds the book also has a  specific section that addresses how to be prepared mentally and physically as a female hiker.  Make sure to check it out on Amazon. You can also follow Sarah via her website: www.sarahdtiedemann.com

Thanks to Sarah for sharing her hiking life and personal journeys.  Her feature is a great reminder to never take anything for granted, be it on or off the trails.  Hiking is one of the most effective ways to create and maintain bonds with people, however short lived any hiking moment may be.

For more hiking stories & inspiration, read Why I’m Not That Superficially Hot Gal on the Trail.
 

To prepare for your first solo adventure, see 8 Ways to Mentally Prepare for Your First Solo Adventure.  

Is the Classic Inca Trail Trek on your bucket list?  Check out the upcoming treks & adventure tours through BGT’s social enterprise, Peak Explorations.

If you know of an outdoorsy woman who you think should be featured on the OUTDOOR WOMEN’S VOICES SERIES (yourself included), please see THIS LINK to find out how to be a part of it.

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HIKER’S PARADISE: Colorado

Welcome to HIKER’S PARADISE!

We’re glad you’re here!  This series is where you’ll find some of the best recommendations for places in the world to live in if your passion has to do with spending time in the mountains.  Our featured hiker’s paradise is: 

COLORADO

by Logan & Kallsy of Pages of Travel

Upon arriving in Colorado you will be instantly welcomed by a beautiful skyline and lush snow capped mountain ranges just begging to be climbed. With approximately 58 14ers, four U.S. national parks, nine national forests, four national historic trails, 42 state parks, and one national recreational area – Colorado is an outdoor junkie or hikers dream come true! Colorado parks offer a variety of trail lengths, difficulties, and scenery.

Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park.
Storm Mountain, Estes Park.
Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs.

In Estes Park, you will be surprised by the scenery and wildlife of all 350 miles of trails that weave throughout Rocky Mountain National Park; while in southern Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Park will make you feel as if you’ve glided into the Arabian Desert with it’s golden sizzling hot sand that delicately touches the outline of the mountain ranges behind it.

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Red Rocks Ampitheatre.

Thinking of living in or near a city? Popular Denver even has it’s own trails near Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a hiking and yoga area by day, concert venue by night and nearby Boulder has the challenging, yet astonishing, Flatirons. In Colorado Springs you can enjoy free admission to a local favorite, Garden of the Gods, or prepare to ascend a well liked 14er, Pikes Peak. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner you won’t have a problem finding a trail to hit in Colorado!

Maroon Bells, Aspen.

 

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I Told My Fears to Take a Hike & This is What Happened

My life these days seems reminiscent of the law school days of the past: intense, highly motivated by caffeine and filled with self imposed anticipation of what is to come next alongside the constant questioning of whether I’m cut out for this or not.

There’s a redeeming difference, however, this time around.  As much as I wish I could say my attending law school was a true desire,  I’d say it was partly a desire; and partly a peer pressure induced move in my life.   This time around what I’m pursuing is completely part of every inch of my existence and further beyond I have ever imagined to behold my dreams and creativity.  In the real world, it’s called ENTREPRENEURSHIP.  In my world, I deem it as FREEDOMPRENEURSHIP.

Coming back from a one year sabbatical from my legal career in 2015, I must admit I was a complete mess.

Sure, I quickly adapted and retrained my brain to function yet again as its legal minded counterpart but deep within the core of my being my peace was disrupted by the rallying of new age thoughts that developed while in full access to a life of freedom on the road.  Mind you, the thoughts were not harmful in anyway.  They were life-changing.  They were the voices that I have successfully pushed aside all these years because of one thing:

FEAR

So, as I walked back into the house I have lived in for a decade on my first day back in the U.S., the familiar sense of home I once knew was no longer there.  I became a stranger in a space I called home for ten years. I discovered that my path was changing.  I didn’t have a clue as to how, when or what.  I knew, however, that I had no choice but to follow the flow.  For the first time in a long while, I saw a big sign on the road telling me to go a certain way.  It was loud and clear.  There was no way for me to push down on the brakes.  There was no way out of it except the exit door that life was presenting before me. There were no more excuses to keep me from unlocking the door and walking through it.  I dove right in without pre-planning anything or everything.  I was free and yet completely lost in the midst of this  pool of creation and energy, the physical built up of which was the formation of a social enterprise.

Peak Explorations, which is Brown Gal Trekker’s virtual mountain home, didn’t materialize out of boredom or the need to partake in a lucrative endeavor.  

It all started because of a burning desire to impart on every person that manages to join a trek the notion of freedom – the way I experienced it on my one year away.  To speak truthfully about this, the freedom they will experience on a two week trek in Nepal will merely be a fraction of what I have experienced, but good enough to afford them the idea that there’s more to life than the status quo that we created in our respective lives.

Peak Explorations aims to put in the forefront of the trekker’s mind the meaning of fear.  Fear is an illusion. But our desire to travel is real.  The nagging voice that tells us to take a break from our job to explore or to quit our job altogether to pursue our passion is your voice in its most authentic form.   Drowning it any further is futile.  It’s our inner being finally  grabbing a hold of that microphone to be heard loud enough by your ego.

Life is about freedom, joy, love and inner peace.  

Since being back to the U.S., people have asked me repeatedly about the lessons learned on the trails and unequivocally seek for words of wisdom based on my love affair with the world and the mountains.  So, I tell them my best guess and hope that they instead search inwardly for the answers they’re looking for.  In a chaotic world where our lives are mediocre at best, it is up to us to recreate and refurbished the complexities of our lives and transform them into a much more comprehensible and simpler version of living.  I know it can be done. I have met the people who have executed this premise flawlessly and now living the life that they initially pushed away because of fear-based excuses.

Entrepreneurship has a way to pave the path towards freedom.

By this, I mean in a broader sense, we should never leave the major decisions in our lives at the discretion of our bosses or mates or friends.   The lifelong questions of where we go and who we are lie solely within our sole capacity as humans to address, understand and accept in their entirety.  That’s part  of coming face to face with true freedom.

As to entrepreneurship, by transforming myself to becoming my own boss, I know I’m half-way there.  The second half would merely entail the grunt work that the  outside world often gets to witness.   Mind you, the process is scary as hell as I worry about safety of my clients all the time.  After all, mountain trekking is a serious endeavor with some serious consequences in the event of mishaps on the trails.  This is when faith is crucial – faith in that everything will work out.  That your passion outweighs your doubts.  That your mission is noble enough to render the risks minimal.

You tell yourself, YOU GOT THIS! Yeah, YOU GOT THIS!  Soon enough, you will believe it and the world will, too.

It’s been overdue.  But, finally, every step of the way, I’m telling my fears to take a hike.

In my traveling life, I have figured rather quickly that as humans we crave freedom more than we care to acknowledge.  As a new entrepreneur, freedom turned out to be everything that I always wanted for the sake of creativity, self-expression and actualization of  the authentic version of myself.

For more, see also

Freedompreneurs

She Becomes a Judge and I Become a Mountain Nomad

Trekking Has Taken Over My Life But I’m Ok With It

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Trekking the Inca Trail: Why Go With The Crowd?

It’s no exaggeration.  The Classic Inca Trail has to be on every list of top 10 treks in the world.  

Hence, it can get crowded.   You may even be so unlucky that you lose out on the chances of getting a permit. But, don’t be discouraged!  Take this as a good reason to keep trying to cross this trek  off your bucket list because it’s deemed to be one of the best for a reason.

I organized a group of 30 people to do the classic Inca Trail years back.  Even to this day, we still reminisce about the experience.  Upon reflecting on our journey, we can’t help but feel the same joy we felt while on the trail.  The Classic Inca Trail trek is undoubtedly one of the most unforgettable adventures of our lives.

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So, why is the Inca Trail THAT appealing?  Here are 11 reasons why:

1. It’s a short trek – only 4 days

Let’s start with the obvious.  The Inca  Trail trek is in essence akin to a long weekend backpacking trip.  You wake up early on the first day so you can get to the trail head just after the sunrise and start walking on the same day.  On the last day, you wake up early before sunrise to hike to the much awaited highlight of the trek – Machu Picchu.  The trail itself is only 26 miles long.  Hence, a traveler can easily add this trek to his or her itinerary without using up too many days to do so.

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2.  It’s not so high

Although it’s deemed as a high altitude trek, the highest point is only 13, 828 feet.  It’s high enough to feel the altitude but low enough to comfortably trudge on without much of an issue. In fact, my group of 30 consisted of ages ranging from 20s to 60s.  All of us made it to the highest point with no problem.  Of course, you would need to consult with your doctor to make sure there are no pre-existing conditions that would render you unsuitable for high altitude trekking.  For more on how to prepare for high altitude trekking, read THIS.  Please keep in mind that this trek does require hiking up a significant amount of elevation so you have to be fit and in good health!

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3. It’s trekking with a day pack

One of the key factors as to why this trek is easier than most is the fact that you can hike the entire trail with a small daypack to carry only your day hiking essentials.  A lighter weight on your back means a much more comfortable walking experience.  At the same time, this trek has been instrumental in the tourism industry in the Cusco region of Peru, no doubt.  The trek has created jobs for the locals who are hired as porters to carry all your personal belongings.  Typically, you can share the cost of hiring one porter or you can have one porter to be assigned only to you.  Usually, people share porter services as each hiker is allowed to hand over 15-20 pounds of items.  With it being only 4 days, you can easily minimize the weight to under 15 pounds. As a side note, it’s always appreciated when hikers are mindful of the weight they give to the porters to carry so avoid that urge to overpack.

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4. It’s a luxury vacation on the trail

You don’t need to deal with setting up tents, cooking meals and setting up group gear.  As part of the tour, you have the luxury of simply walking from one point to the next and not even have to worry about setting up a tent.  Tours include set up of tents and the meals on the trail.  Once you get to the camp, the time you have there is all yours to do whatever you wish. There are no chores to be done on your end. Your job is to enjoy your rest and the nature that surrounds you.

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5. It’s an easy and well-marked path

The trail is well-maintained and closed part of the year for the purposes of cleaning and overseeing the trail.  There’s nothing technical about it; nor is there scrambling or any tricky parts to the trail except for some sections that may be rockier than others.  In addition, there’s no concern about getting lost on the Inca Trail.  Even if you do find solitude along the way (which can happen most definitely), you don’t need to panic and worry about getting lost.  You’re far from being off the beaten path. It’s a well-trodden trail that even trying to get deliberately lost would be a challenge.  Don’t even try.

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6.  The weather conditions are typically pleasant

Unless you go during the rainy season, this is a trek that poses no concerns regarding any kind of extreme weather.  The area may be prone to rain, but even so, the rain typically doesn’t last long and the amount is rather minimal.  At night, it can get chilly but it’ll never be below freezing.  This means there’s no need for you to buy an expensive high quality sleeping bag.  Most decent sleeping bags will do and oftentimes travelers rent the bags from the tour company, which is the more reason why the trek attracts crowds.  The tour company can essentially supply you all the gear that you need.

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7.  Machu Picchu is at the end of it

Obviously, this is the top reason why Inca Trail is on everyone’s bucket list.  Having been there myself, I can confirm that the majestic nature of this site DOES live up to its reputation.  DON’T MISS IT.  That’s all I have to say.

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8.  You can dip into a hot spring as a reward.

Aguas Caliente, the hot spring and the town with the same name are both amazing treats to hikers.  Who can resist the idea of trekking for 4 days and ending the journey with a dip in a hot spring?  Plus, the town of  Aguas Caliente is full of restaurants and shopping opportunities that attract the tourist side to those who hike the trail.  It also serves as a quick immersion back to civilization.

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9.  You visit Cusco.

For full immersion after the trek, you return to Cusco in the evening on the fourth day – a highlight in, and of, itself.  Cusco is one of the most beautiful colonial towns in South America with such a warm and welcoming atmosphere to tourists of all kinds. There are plenty of restaurants for the hungry hikers of the Inca Trail where you can indulge in local delicacies before heading back home.  As an aside, souvenir shopping can be had in every corner of the town.  Not a bad place to end your trek.

10.  Reasonable airfares

Let’s not forget one other good reason for the popularity of this trek – the reasonable flight costs, especially from the U.S.  If you wish to be creative and are willing to sacrifice time and sleep, it’s possible to book a $200-300 flight round-trip from the U.S.  Be prepared, however, to  deal with long and multiple layovers to get to Lima and back.  Otherwise, on average, the flights can go anywhere from $650-850.

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11.  You can get by without speaking Spanish

Finally, you don’t need to be fluent in Spanish to survive the experience, both on and off the Inca Trail.  English-speaking locals are common in Lima and Cusco.  Once on the trail, you’ll be with an English-speaking tour guide and TONS of English-speaking hikers.  There’s plenty of English to be spoken on this kind of trip so don’t even spend a second worrying about language barriers.  Having said that, it would serve you well to learn some Spanish before the trip and practice it when you get there.  Locals always appreciate the effort.

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In summary, the trek is an ideal experience for all levels of hikers, even those who are new to multi-day trekking and high altitude. As a bonus, it’s also a great introduction to other cultures for those who are first-timers to overseas traveling.  The culture shock is minimal which renders the entire experience pleasurable.

So, coming from a hiker who loves off the beaten path trails, for this one moment in time, I will happily deviate from that to to tell you –

Go follow the crowd!  Seriously, you should.

I did with 30 people and to this day it’s still the best NON-off the beaten path experience I ever had.

As a side note, you can join Brown Gal Trekker’s trekking group for the April, 2017 Classic Inca Trail Trek.  For info, click HERE.

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Kilimanjaro Kills! Here Are 13 Ways to Survive

Kilimanjaro almost killed me.

The first time was no joke.  Lessons were taught by the mighty Kilimanjaro on how not to mess with her without proper preparation and a healthy mindset.  At the last hut, Kibo, was when I had to make the painful decision to turn around.  At that point, the symptoms of altitude sickness had increased tremendously to the point I was experiencing symptoms of High Altitude Pulmonary Edemy (HAPE).   It hurt to decide not to go forward because I was just a few hours away from the summit.  However, surviving the ordeal taught me important lessons in dealing with high altitude trekking and ensuring a non-fatal ascent.

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While many mountaineers aspire to trek up Kilimanjaro for very good reasons, one being the peak is part of the 7 summits, it is prudent to keep in mind the dangers involved in climbing this non-technical trail.  Your number one enemy in this case is the altitude, among other possible deterrents that are mentioned below

Here are 13 ways to survive the dangers on the trails of Kilimanjaro and cross it off your bucket list for good:

  1. Before even flying out to Kilimanjaro airport, learn about the symptoms of altitude mountain sickness (AMS) and the appropriate treatment.  The internet has extensive articles on the subject.  You can dive into it as deeply as you’d like but at the very least, you should know the signs to look for to indicate whether your body is experiencing some negative effects from the altitude.  However, only study the topic to the extent it gives you sufficient knowledge on the symptoms and treatment.  I know some people who scare themselves off from reading too much about it.  Although knowledge is certainly useful in this instance, on the other hand, make sure not to overdo it to a  point you cause yourself unnecessary stress and anxiety.  Your mental disposition is one of the key things for a successful ascent as discussed below.  Hence, find a balance between knowing enough about AMS and knowing about it too much.
  2. From knowing the symptoms follows knowing the treatment.  Diamox is one common medication that prevents and treats AMS.  Make sure to talk to your doctor regarding the appropriate usage in your case as the dosage can depend on each person’s medical history and condition.  These days it is easy to obtain a prescription from your primary care physician, which most health insurance covers.  No need to go to a travel doctor, which can be costly.  While you’re at it, ask for antibiotics for stomach issues.  You’re likely not going to need it but it doesn’t hurt to have it just in case.  Another prescription drug which is used for treating HAPE is some form of steroid.  You can ask your doctor about this particular medication and decide if it’s something you wish to bring with you as a treatment measure for HAPE.  Typically, HAPE is treated by descending as soon as the initial symptoms appear.  If you get to a point in which you’re prompted to use medication to treat HAPE, that usually means you’ve already gone much higher than you should have.  This isn’t a smart way to trek given the risk of death resulting from HAPE.
  3. So, the last point naturally brings me to this – learn to listen to your body and be honest with yourself when it comes to your body’s condition.  Sure, you paid tons of money to conquer Kilimanjaro, but will you allow the mountain instead to conquer you?  And leave you dead?  No. Life is too precious to lose over a mountain. Let’s be honest.  We love the idea of success.  We’re obsessed with the the idea of conquering Kilimanjaro and crossing it from our bucket list of peaks to bag.  But guess who’s the one who makes the call whether you go forward or not?  No, not the ego.  It’s your body.  I witnessed runners run up the mountain like they’re jogging in the city. I’m not sure why they would do that but as days progressed, I realized it was their ego talking.  The ego in their heads told them to go fast so they can be the first to arrive at the hut every night.  Sure, they did get there first.  But once they were above 12,000 feet, they realized the inevitable – your body needs to adapt to the altitude.  Instead of listening to their bodies, they acted against their bodies’ natural state.  Hence, I wasn’t surprised later on to find out that they didn’t make it to the summit.  Kilimanjaro is the kind of mountain that will punish you for being a speedy Gonzales.  Keeping the ego in check will serve you better.
  4. How will the mountain reward you? By going the opposite- “pole, pole,”  which is Swahili for slowly, slowly.  Every local says it, chants it, preaches it, and even yells it at those who refuse to listen. There’s a reason why.  It’s the only style of hiking that will make you conquer Kilimanjaro.  Practice the idea now so when you hear your guides say this, your tendency to go fast will be put on sleep mode by the time you start the trek.  In our hiking lives, we are prone to wanting to go faster.  It’s just in our nature to work on our speed.  In this case, you must throw that idea out the window.  And trust me, it sounds easy but it’s actually hard.  Your adrenaline is pumping.  You see other hikers on the trail and like most people you don’t want to be that last one to arrive.  To reverse that thinking is unnatural.  Hence, I would emphasize one more time- practice your walk now at a lesser than normal speed.  That way you would not have any difficulties adjusting when you’re on the actual trail.  You’ll have one less thing to worry about.
  5. Drink plenty of water. Get into the habit of drinking even if you’re not thirsty.  This is especially important when you are taking Diamox as this medication causes dehydration.  You need to make sure you are drinking enough water.  For altitude, sufficient water intake is also deemed to help.  It’s a general rule in life that is definitely worth practicing on the trail, no matter which peak you’re bagging.  Drink enough water.  Always!
  6. Eat well on the trail.  This is not so much of an issue given that most trekking operators feed you more than enough nutritious food, especially carbohydrates.  Eat enough carbs but don’t overfeed yourself.  Snacking on protein bars is a great way to supplement you with energy so make sure to bring trail bars with you because the town, Moshi, where you spend the night prior to the trek, is devoid of any nutritious trail snacks.
  7. Get good rest and sleep.  I cannot emphasize it enough how important this is.  Enough sleep every night is going to determine your body’s overall functioning the next day.  It’s the best means of preventing or treating any illness on the trail.  Know that it is cold at night so make sure that you bring the right gear to give you enough warmth to allow you to have a restful sleep.  Sleepless nights on the trail can certainly impact your chances of making it to the top.  Likewise, rest is important during the hike each day.  As noted above, you must listen to your body.  If it tells you to stop and rest, then you do so.  When it tells you it’s ready to move, then go.
  8. Do the longest route possible to the summit of Kilimanjaro.  I made the mistake of doing the shortest route, Marangu, which takes you to the summit in 3-4 days.  This is the only route that has huts and so no tenting needed.  It might have been warmer at night time via Marangu but the ascent was suicidal given the elevation that you gain from 1860  meters to 5895 meters in 3-4 days.  The success rate for summiting stands at less than 30% whereas the longest route via the newer trail, Northern Circuit, has a success rate of around 80% as it gives you 3-4 extra days to summit.  Of course, the longer route would mean it’ll be more costly.  One thing I learned from all this though is that climbing Kilimanjaro is such a major endeavor that you should do it properly the first time around.  Otherwise, if you don’t summit, then you do it again which means you end up spending more money than if you did it right the first time.
  9. Get medical and emergency evacuation coverage.  Considering the risk factors of climbing this peak, it’s a no brainer, really.  Make sure you are covered by adequate insurance in case of medical emergencies.  Luckily, in my case, the guide was able to arrange for porters to bring me down the mountain via a stretcher. In other cases, a more immediate evacuation may be necessary and require a helicopter rescue.  It’s worth investing in having the appropriate medical insurance and emergency evacuation for these reasons.  Also, do keep in mind only certain insurance companies offer medical and emergency evacuation for trekking that involves high altitude.  Make sure to check that they cover the activity and the specific altitude as some only cover trekking up to a certain elevation.
  10. Provide any relevant medical information to your guide.  It may not be altitude that gets you on the trail, but allergies of some kind.  Make sure that you inform your guide or trek operator ahead of time if you have medical conditions that should be noted. THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO BE SHY ABOUT IT.  Failure to disclose can cause you your own health, and perhaps, life so be honest and upfront.  Trek operators are expected and required in most instances to ensure confidentiality of their client’s personal information so there’s no need to worry about others finding out.
  11. Work on your cardio and stay active.  Being fit may not keep altitude away from pestering you and causing you to experience symptoms but the fitter you are, the less issues you’ll have on the trail, besides the altitude, that is.  After all, walking up from 1800 meters to over 5000 meters requires tremendous amount of cardio and fitness, and more so at high altitude.
  12. Know your blood type and carry a medical card with said information.  Let’s go back to basics.  If you don’t know your blood type or have forgotten it, find out before your trek.  If any injuries occur that would require blood transfusion, this is a critical piece of information that can save your life.   It’s worth knowing that in some countries, certain blood types are rare to find.  You can find out more about altitude and it’s impact on blood types and about organizations globally that can help with rare blood types via this article:  High Altitudes Can Change Your Blood
  13. Finally, learn to let go of the pressures of making it to the top.  Those who do make it to the top of any high altitude peak are usually calm and deliberate in their efforts to be stress-free in their journey to the top.  If it’s not the altitude that will stop you from summiting, then my next bet would be the mental challenge that is inherent in this endeavor.  I know of people who were physically fine and could easily have trekked up to the top but didn’t because fear stopped them.  Don’t fall into that trap.  Don’t compete or succumb to the pressure of comparing your abilities with others.  Don’t bother questioning who will make it or who won’t or canvassing among your peers who will be the first or last to make it.  Seriously, just don’t.  Their journey on this mountain or any mountain for that matter, is totally different from yours.  Respect that and just focus on your own path.  Preoccupying yourself about others’ abilities eats up energy that you can be using towards hiking up to the top and is merely a distraction that serves no purpose in your own unique journey.   The healthier your mind is, the less ailment and stress you’ll experience on the trail.  Meditate, nap or listen to music to relax you when you get to camp.  While you take care of your physical body by eating and sleeping, your mind also requires the utmost attention while on a trek that is as strenuous as one that will take you to the highest point in Africa.  Yes, so much pressure, indeed.  But your best approach is to stay calm and focus on trekking up that peak, one step at a time.

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With all the above pointers, you’re ready to conquer Kilimanjaro.   Either way, the mountain will always be there.  You, on the other hand, have one life to contend with.  Take care of it, and the peak will show itself to you sooner or later.

And remember, Pole, pole!”

As a side note, Brown Gal Trekker is going for part 2 to trek up Kilimanjaro in February, 2017 via the Northern Circuit route as referenced above.  It’s a 12 day trip with other fellow solo trekkers via her social enterprise, Peak Explorations.  You’re welcome to join her and her group of adventurers. See more via this link: KILIMANJARO (NORTHERN CIRCUIT)

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