Kili Karuna #20

Happy May 2-4 Weekend!,

It’s a funny holiday in Canada. Celebrating Queen Victoria’s Birthday, May 24th, the holiday is set as the closest Monday to May 24th without going over. So this year, even though May 24 actually falls on a weekend, we’re celebrating the week before. The WOKies (Women of Kilimanjaro) used the occasion to do our final big climb before leaving for Kilimanjaro. Once a month, we’ve done multi-ascents of our local landmark, Signal Hill.

Signal Hill overlooks the harbour and was the site where Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal. Four months ago, we began with three ascents. The next month, we did five. Last month, seven. And today…we did ten. We’d been aiming for nine but then Diane, our Signal Hill speedster, pointed out that we should aim for ten since there are ten of us on the team and ten is such an even number and cats have nine lives, and if we only did nine would people wonder why we didn’t do ten. In the end, we accepted her accountancy-attenuated arguments and agreed to ascend again (how’s that for alliteration?)

We climbed steadily for nearly five hours resting only on the downhill drives during which we all revisited our adolescent antics of seeing how many bodies we could fit in one vehicle (eight). We started each round and the bottom of Temperance Street, climbing from sea level to Marconi’s perch. Temperance is a very steep hill that puts you in the hole before you even start and requires temperance of pace and breathing.

Of course, the weather today was less than ideal. An elevation-based mix starting with warm, windless grey giving way to gusts and rain about halfway up and then fog and drizzle with a brisk wind on top. Newfoundland is one of the few places in the world where wind and fog can occur in the same sentence and on the same hilltop. At one point, we paused to listen to the delicious roar of a jet plane taking off beside us. This may be a strange thing to take delight in but since we’ve have nearly a week of intense fog that has caused many flights to be canceled, it squashed our growing anxiety (for the moment) that we might not get off the island for our big climb.

We celebrated our nearly 5000 feet of elevation gain and 20 kilometres of hiking with lunch at a local café before heading on with our days. Since getting warm and dry, I’ve had to fight off those wonderful “I hiked hard this morning in cold weather” sleepies to get a few things done. Getting warm and dry was a bit of a challenge (those of you who are long time followers of my blog can chalk this one up to my history of plumbing adventures).

I’ve had a leaky shower for about a week. Drip. Drip. Drip. Cranking the faucet down was no longer doing the trick and I worried about the waste of water and energy dripping down my drain (IT IS an alliteration day sponsored by the letters A and D). Yesterday I got brave. I looked up leaky faucets on the Internet, got a few simple directions, and carried them out. Shut off the water. Drained the pipes. Disassembled the faucet, trying to keep track of what came from where. Diagnosed the problem as a disintegrated washer and went to Canuck Tire in search of a replacement. Decided which was the most likely washer candidate and came home to install it.

It all went back together-though the cartridge was a little resistant to going back into its seating. Solved with a bit force, it all went back together. No drips when I turned the water back on. Though, of course, I neglected to test turning the shower off and on. Details. Details.

Fast forward to today. I’m naked in the bathroom eager to wash 20 kilometres of Signal Hill off my sore and cold body and I try to turn the shower on. At first, I can barely budge the faucet, then suddenly, it gives way and water pours from the showerhead like manna from heaven. There is only one problem. Two actually. A steady stream of water is pouring from the faucet as well as the showerhead. I grab the wastebasket and catch the errant water before it sneaks behind the tub. “Shoot,” I said. (Actually I said something stronger but children might read this). I wanted a shower, not an adjustable wrench.

The trashcan was containing the super leak so I decided to proceed with my shower. That’s when the second problem showed up. I couldn’t budge the cold water. Nope. Nadda. We’re talking scalding water pouring from heaven with no cold water to temper it. “Hmmm,” I thought. “I really want a shower and I don’t want to have to put my clothes back on and go downstairs and turn off the water and take the faucets apart again without a shower.” Have I mentioned that I can be stubborn sometimes?

I decide scalding hot is better than no shower and quickly part the shower curtain and vault to the far end of the tub just out of reach of the burning spray. I try kneeling down in the shower to see of the drop would cool the water down to bearable before hitting me. Nope. Too hot. I do my best version of the limbo and try to get horizontal in one third of the tub’s surface to see if the added 10 inches of drop would cool it down enough. No way.

This isn’t turning out to be the relaxing “celebration of great physical exertion” cleansing ritual I so wanted. I stood in the end of the tube, quite chilled from the cold air of the bathroom hitting my backside while avoiding the scalding waterfall in front. I got brave and cupped my hands down low and scooped up a bit of water than was really too hot and doused myself with it. That took care of some of the too cold bits. I reached out and grabbed my tooth brushing glass discovering that I could temporarily capture the volcanic water in the glass–both keeping it off my body and allowing me to cool it down with cold from the tub taps.

I’m sure you are trying to picture this–well–my shower faucets are in one end of the tub and the tub faucets are in the other–it’s not exactly modern or conventional. It became a trick to fill the glass with just the right amount of hot and then cold water to have a pleasant experience. With practice I learned to get it right and avoid placing my buttocks into the lobster pot when I bent over to put cold water in the glass. When the first glass of perfect temperature water cascaded down my body, I had a flashback to taking showers at Mount Everest Base camp and the intense joy of hot water at 5200 metres.

Eventually, I managed to get my hair washed and my body scrubbed without suffering any burns. It wasn’t the shower I imagined or craved but I was clean and warm. I turned off the water again, diagnosed the problem once more, and made another pilgrimage to Canadian Tire for new parts and I’m happy to report I won’t need to do the hot shower dance anymore.

People asked me several times this week about how training was going. I decided to answer honestly, “It’s not.” I’m finding it hard to be motivated. The month of travel and disrupted schedules took me off-guard and discipline has been hard to come by. Fortunately, it’s at the point where tapering is called for and even when I’m struggling, I still put in about eight or nine hours of training in before today’s five. Guess I’m not such a slacker after all. I also know that in every other climb there has come a point where I tire of training and just want to get on with the climb. It usually happens around the same time–the four-month mark so I may at some point, remember that and only start training four months out so I can go to the mountain without hitting this phase.

It’s also a time where feelings start to bounce around with anxiety and excitement. After one of our training hikes this week, I wrote this message to the WOKies.

Discussion, on the Tickle Bridge, revolved around nerves and panic attacks. I just wanted to share that, in my experience, over the next two weeks, you’re likely to experience every emotion under the sun (or fog if you are in St. John’s). You’ll be nervous, scared, anxious, excited, thrilled, terrified, elated, down, up, and all around. It’s all normal and everyone will be feeling the same (though not necessarily at the same moment). You won’t be alone in your “yoyo” times. You’ll feel like you haven’t trained enough, that you’ve trained too much, that you peaked last week, that you don’t want to train anymore, that you won’t want to go on the trip at all, that you wish you were leaving tomorrow, and if you have what it takes to make it.

Take a deep breath. Now and often. Take packing step by step. Print off a gear list. Lay the gear aside. Check the list again. Weigh it. See what you can live without and what you can’t live without. Breath again. Remind yourself that you are OK, that you are well prepared, that you are traveling with a wonderful group of supportive women, and that no matter what, all will be just fine. Label the thoughts/feelings as butterflies-and know the trick is not to get rid of them, but to get them to fly in formation. Use the nervousness to pack well, train hard but not too hard, and to focus your attention on the challenge and fun ahead. Pack your favourite food that you know you can eat anytime and ask your near and dears to write you a few special notes you can take with you to open when the times get tough. Take another deep breath. You’re fine. You’re OK. Everything is unfolding just as it should.

Drink lots of water on the plane. Practice with your freshette or pee-wiz. Laugh a lot. Circle your support team around you and celebrate the amazing women that you are. You are a gift to me. I’ve loved training with you, and I look forward to sharing the flanks and peak of Kilimanjaro with you-and then kicking back on one heck of a safari.

The first of our teammates leave in less than a week. I leave in ten days. The climb begins on June 2 (god willing and the fog don’t rise…or actually we hope the fog does rise up and disappear or drops down and out…where does fog go when it’s not fog anymore?). You will be able to follow the climb on both my website ( and the myeverest website ( We’re eager to take you up the mountain with us.


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