I leave for Africa on Friday!
If you follow my personal Instagram you may have noticed I’m out amongst the beautiful Gold Coast Hinterland most Sundays. I’ve been in training for the past 6 months because I’ll be climbing Africa’s highest mountain ‘Kilimanjaro’ (for 7 days!) after teaching ballet in Nairobi for my Peace & Pliés Project.
People have been asking what my ‘training’ involves and to be honest I’ve been making most of it up as I go! As far as I’m aware the best physical condition involves a moderate to better than average aerobic fitness level, strong legs and knees and a taste of altitude training (with the correct dosage of Diamox).
The second one was easy – I do ballet all day!
I’ve also been taking my CrossFit more seriously as that involves a combination of squats, weightlifting, gymnastics and cardio that makes me feel stronger every day! My family calls it ‘Cross-Cult’ (haha!) but I believe it only gets a bad rap because not everyone can keep up in a Crossfit class. My coaches and friends at Crossfit Broadbeach could not have been more supportive of my goals and have kept me motivated when I felt like dropping the ball or on the verge of tears…
I’ve also been training on the Nerang State Forest, Springbrook (Polly’s Kitchen) and Mt Warning trails for the past six months. The full Polly’s circuit takes about four hours, reaching peaks of 993meters with a total distance of about 13.5km.
When we hike, our average speed is 3.5km p/hour and my heart rate fluctuates between 130bpm peaking at 185bpm during the tough inclines. However this is not completely preparing us for what we will experience on Mt Kilimanjaro as we (hopefully!) summit at 5895m high and walk much slower to adjust to the higher altitude.
According to (the amazing and gracious!) John Buckley from the Altitude Training Centre, your reaction to extreme altitude is largely based on genetics, not athleticism. This would make a lot of sense considering my Dad isn’t very athletic but found the trek to Everest Base Camp (5364m) back in 2012 easier than most of his more athletic buddies. Haha, don’t tell him I told you that!
However this hasn’t stopped me from making sure I’m in relatively good physical condition for the climb and visiting the Altitude Training Centre for a small taste of what it feels like to be 5500m high.
How does it feel? Not too bad. I was a little out of breath and slightly light headed, but my heart rate was good and after John gave me a thumbs up I felt a lot more confident heading into this climb.
Since starting a more intense training routine I’ve noticed one big difference. I’M ALWAYS HUNGRY. Like, ALL THE TIME. My favourite snacks on the trails are banana’s, MUNCH by ‘Think Foods’ (dry roasted nuts and seeds) and Clif Bars (the chocolate chip ones are the best).
When reaching high altitudes your appetite is suppressed. However because you’re exerting so much energy you need to replace it with nutrient dense snacks that are easy to digest. We have meals prepared by the guides during the climb, but I’m still bringing some Clif Bars and MUNCH packs with me just in case.
So what am I bringing on the trek?
First of all we have two bags. A day pack (a fancy version of a back pack with a little more back support and lots of pockets!) and a Duffel Bag that the porters will carry.
In my day pack…
- hiking poles (I have Black Diamond ones…)
- hats (beanie and cap)
- head torch
- insulated water bottle (I have a Kleen Kanteen one!)
- small medical kit
- personal kit; baby wipes, water purification tablets, tooth brush and lip balm…)
- spare clothes (in case I fall over and ruin/tear the ones I’m wearing, highly likely!)
In my Duffel Bag…
- sleeping bag (that can handle -20 degrees)
- sleeping mat
- 1 x down jacket
- 1 x fleece layer
- 1 x set of thermals (mine are from Mountain Designs)
- 2 x pairs of trekking pants (these from Khatmandu are the best!)
- tracksuit bottoms (for lounging around camp)
- slippers (for lounging around camp, but of course I have BLOCH ones haha)
- 2 x base layers (I’m using these from Lululemon because they don’t smell!)
- puffy vest
- socks (can’t recommend Injinji more!)
I haven’t bought all these items. I’ve borrowed most off amazingly generous friends and for example my trekking poles, day pack and head torch were Dad’s when he did Everest Base Camp. Pretty special!
My biggest expense was my GORTEX Jacket which I haven’t listed above. This is to fend off any moisture, rain and wind. It will be pivotal on summit day! I chose one from Patagonia as I love their philosophy on clothing manufacturing and the environment.
So that’s it! After having my yellow fever shot a couple of weeks ago I’m all ready to go!
But who am I going with and what company have we used to organise all this?
Firstly, I decided to use HUMA Charity Challenge (a branch of World Expeditions) who exemplify #adventureforacause – I mean if you’re going to do something like this, why not do it for a good cause? This is how Peace & Pliés was born.
Secondly, my partner-in-crime/body-guard/buddy/uncle for the trip is Mike Lang from Zero Vanilla – a non-profit group that challenges everyone to seek adventure in their daily lives. They do super cool stuff like tackling Everest Base Camp, climbing the infamous Mt Rainer and smashing multiple summits in Iceland to name just a few. So I’m in safe hands with an experienced ‘mountaineer’…
I’m also amongst generous company. Mike’s business The Outlet Homewares and Furniture has always donated to GC Dance raffles over the past five years and is now a huge contributor towards my Peace & Pliés Project. Mike matched my businesses $1000 donation so that we’re now taking $2000 over for the charity we’re climbing for – Anno’s Africa – who run creative arts programs (ballet classes!) in the Kibera slums.
Basically, Mike is an absolute legend!
You can follow trip updates on my Facebook page, The Balanced Ballerina and let me know if you found this post useful, interesting or boring (haha!) I’d also love to hear from you if you’ve done Kilimanjaro… did I leave anything off the list?
Peace & Pliés,