Priority Prep Lists, lists and… Shopping Lists!!

Gear for Kilimanjaro

The growing pile of gear – waiting in my “Kilimanjaro Corner” for our departure.

There are a great number of things to consider when undertaking a task as huge as Kilimanjaro, and the first questions logically include those related to budget, trekking agency, choice of route, when to go, and eventually, what to take. Fortunately for me, by the time I committed to the trek, the “when” had mostly been decided and the agency and choice of route, after a bit of research, were easily voted unanimously amongst the 7 of us.

This left me pondering the most exciting question – What to take?

I started memorizing the content of “What to take” from Henry Stedman’s Climb Mount Kilimanjaro guidance under the headings of Clothes, Essentials, Highly Desirables, and Other Useful Equipment. The next step was making a prioritized list of what I needed, what I wanted, and what I already had. Easy, right?  Upon completion of the all encompassing list I discovered that I already owned most of the cold weather clothing I needed for the summit, the technical warm weather trekking gear, and the best 70L Pack a girl could ask for from Scotland, 2006.

Relieved and foolishly thinking I would save a load of cash with my previously owned items, I made a list of priority purchases:

  1. Boots
  2. Day pack & Duffle
  3. New Rain/Wind Shell Jacket & Trousers
  4. Sunglasses
  5. Trekking Pants x 3
  6. Sleeping Bag Liner
  7. H2O Bladder System
  8. Gloves, Liners, & Hat
  9. Thermal Underwear
  10. Casual Attire

After completing the list, you can imagine that I was feeling quite pleased with myself, so I set out with the intent to conquer the hiking outlets, have my bags packed months before I needed to leave, and prove to myself that I was as organized as I thought I was… the reality was shockingly different. My actual purchase list to date is as follows:

  1. The North Face Summit Series Down Jacket (not even on the list!)
  2. Casual Attire – Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) Capris, Technical tank tops x 3, Skort (Outdoor Research – little and black, and oh so perfect!), Long-sleeved safari UV protection button down (Technical fabric that actually looks like denim!), A new Buff (desperately desired and always a practical purchase)
  3. Trekking zip-off trousers
  4. Osprey H2O Bladder
  5. Boots – Amazing Asolos!!!
  6. Osprey Day Pack w H2O Bladder included – Mantra 36 (give originally purchased Item #4 to my best friend Brande!!)
  7. Zip-off Trekking trousers x 2 (perfect fit Columbia tan and The North Face stone grey)
  8. Thermal Underwear – Columbia Heavyweight with thermal reflective Omni-heat
  9. Outdoor Research Sunshower Sombrero (never, ever, thought I would love a hat like this!)
  10. A few more items that could technically be classified as Casual Attire… and another a new Buff!!! (fun and oh so practical. One can never have too many!)

And so it goes… One can see that the best laid plans do not always go accordingly and if you’re anything like me, this is especially true when it comes to shopping!

Don’t get me wrong, preparation for an undertaking like Kilimanjaro cannot be taken lightly. Research, reading, and educating oneself about the mountain, the country, and the people is the top priority. An exhilarating secondary priority however, is the pondering, planning, and purchase of old and new, serious and fun, and necessary (and not so necessary), equipment for the upcoming adventure(s).

We have 2 months until go time but I am not worried. While I am certain that a thermal sleeping bag liner, gloves, and rain proof gear is essential for the trip, I am not uncertain that I won’t find it on one of my many adventures in and around the outdoor outfitters of Edmonton, Alberta. I feel justified in holding out just a bit longer – not because I am a procrastinator – because I am that if nothing else – but because I love a good bargain!!!

There are many ways and countless opportunities to save cold hard cash and I grab hold of every one. The best thing to do is to plan ahead. Up to a year before leaving if you can and buy off-season. There are tremendous deals to be had. I purchased my Columbia thermal underwear for 75% off merely by picking them up in June. In the spring it seems that footwear is cleared out to make room for the new year’s releases. I got my amazing Asolos for 50% off! My Summit Series down jacket from The North Face was 66% off when I bought it in late spring.

Since writing this I have added a few more non-essential items to the list such as a Pistil belt and wool hat both 75% off, my rain trousers from The North Face 30% off, and of course, some Gaiters by Outdoor Research and SmartWool socks.

Paying the full price for any item is not too much to ask, especially when the items are well-made by hard-working and reputable companies such as those listed above, but if you do have the time and the energy to shop around and compare, and to wait for that one amazing deal that you know might be out there, I think it’s okay to waiver a little on the priority list.

After all, they are never written in stone, merely paper… and more often than not, temporary paper… more than likely, a Post-it.



Maybe He Is Into This

Sometimes I wonder if my husband just might be into this Mount Kilimanjaro thing way more than he lets on …

For those of you who know me (Brande) and my husband (Lance) you can skip the next couple paragraphs; you know all I am about to say about Lance and hiking. For those of you who don’t know us or don’t know us as well – keep reading, I am going to give you a glimpse into what hiking means in our relationship.

In a nutshell – Lance hates walking. He just doesn’t get it. Why would you walk to walk, hike to hike, or pick a random hill to just walk up and over for absolutely no reason? Do you have an actual destination? Couldn’t a car or plane get us there? Why wouldn’t you just play a sport? If there is no ball, no rules, and no competition then there is no Lance. Fair enough, he likes his sports and everyone has their own passions.

Here is the rub however –  this husband has a wife who loves, loves, loves hiking! Her heart beats in time with her hiking boots – no joke, it is her happy place. This works out fine for Lance and I usually, we do our own thing and then meet on the deck for dinner talking about his rugby game and my hike. We are each other’s biggest fans.

Then one fine day his wife says “I need to climb Mount Kilimanjaro”.

My hiking world and Lance officially collide!

As a hubby, you cannot imagine seeing your wife walk up and over a mountain, through the death zone of altitude where you take in 50% less oxygen than you need, in the middle of East Africa, without you at her side as support and encouragement. So he bought some boots, a backpack and assortment of other hiking necessities, signed the waiver, and he is walking, hiking, climbing up that mountain for me and with me! Wow!

Now, Lance does not think he will enjoy it much but he does think it is a pretty epic opportunity. His level r lack of enjoyment has not registered with me yet; I am still all melty goo-goo ga-ga deeper in love with him for doing this with me.

Enough of the mushy love stuff …

Osprey Backpack broken

The amazing Osprey Backpack broken.

The other evening Lance and I were on one of our hill-training walks (up and down big hills in all of our Mount Kilimanjaro gear in our neighbourhood) when I discovered the right strap on my backpack was a few threads from busting – literally.

Gasp! Scream! Denial!

Kick and punch at the air dramatically!

Nooooo! This is my amazing, much loved, molded to my spine, heavens open and sing when I am wearing it Osprey Backpack!

This backpack has been with me through at least 1,000 kms of trails in Canada, Scotland, Wales, England, Spain, Greece, Italy, France, and the United States since our paths met by divine fate at the Robinson’s Outdoor Store in Victoria, British Columbia the summer of 2008. (best store ever by the way!!)  I am NOT ready to let go of this pack, in fact, I kind of refuse !

{Not to mention, I am super cheap and about to go on a very expensive African adventure and I am not spending $150+ bucks on a new backpack 65 sleeps from departure.}

Osprey Backpack fixed.

The amazing Osprey Backpack fixed and ready to roll again!

Well it seems Mr. Lance Romance is so excited about our training for and the actual Mount Kilimanjaro climb; that the very next day he went out and found a tailor who fixed it right up ship-shape and even reinforced the other side for me. Hmm this makes me wonder a couple of things ….

Does this mean Lance is more into the training, the mountain and this hiking thing than I think?


Does this mean I would stress about my pack for days, and the best way to get me out of melt down mode was to go and get it fixed and get me back outta the house training again so he could have back his peace and quiet when watching some international rugby game on TV ?

I think its door number 1. Definitely.


65 sleeps to go!

Socks or Peanut Butter?

Our Mount Kilimanjaro climb is quickly approaching (68 sleeps) and I find that I am starting to think about all the little things, this includes using up a lot of brain power debating what to pack for the mountain. This challenge is not an easy undertaking (the climb or the packing in my opinion).

There are many nuances to consider when compiling what to bring and that is just when you consider the basics of the climb not even preferences. Here is a minimum of what you need to know when you start making decisions on what to pack:

  • How long? 7 day Unique Rongai route
  • With which guide company? Climb Mount Kilimanjaro
  • What does the company provide? tents, food, water, toilet, sleeping mats, basic first aid
  • What will the weather be like? bottom of the mountain +30C, top of the mountain -15C
  • How much stuff am I allowed to bring for a porter to carry? 70-90 liters (44 lbs)
  • How much of my own stuff do I carry everyday? 3 litres of water, and no more than 15-20 lbs (camera, rain gear, some snacks, some ear buds and a iPod if that’s your thing, warm sweater)

Crazy enough the reason I am getting into this ‘what to pack’ thought process is … to get to a discussion on peanut butter! Yup, you read that right! Peanut butter to me as what spinach is to Popeye. It gives me energy, it makes me strong and on a tough hike it gives me back my happy place.

So if this is about peanut butter, why do you have socks in the title? Well, I was trying to get down to the least number of socks possible in my pack so I could justify replacing “sock space” with “peanut butter space”. Yup those are my priorities – or they will be when slogging up and down a mountain for 7 days in Africa.

I was thinking I could get down to wearing the same pair of Smart Wool Hiking Socks for 2-3 days (so bringing only 3 pairs) and wearing the same Wigwam Gobi Liner Socks for 2 days each too (so bringing only 4 pairs).

Well, on my training hike today, I sadly discovered (picture both me and my peanut butter crying at this point) that so few socks is just not going to work.  So glad I tested my quite logical, albeit a bit smelly, theory. Seems that my liner socks stretch out after one wear from the heat and moisture of my clean, very feminine, perfume smelling and super cute feet. Meaning that the seam of the heel part of the liner sits up on my ankle on the second wear and rubs in the worst way between my heel and my boot. Not good! A disaster really after a few hours on the mountain. Doh!

What does this all mean? A few things …

  1. I had to pull over on the side of the BCMC Trail to take off my boots, remove my wool socks, take off the liners and toss em in my pack, put back on my wool socks and then back on my boots. Sitting on a steep trail to balance in bare feet is a real test of my fear of heights and my willpower to stand up and start hiking up again – yes, yes suck it up princess you are about to climb a mountain! {oh and yes you read that right. I am terrified of heights and I am travlling across the globe to climb a mountain. Passion before reason right?!}
  2. I had to go shopping to buy more liner socks so I would have a full 7 pairs; 1 for each day of the climb. Doesn’t sound like a big deal right? Well … hmmm … umm I accidentally bought other stuff too, tee hee. I cannot be trusted at Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) every time I go I add another 2 or 3 things to the list of things I want to do in the world and that list is already pretty darn long!
  3. Finally, and most importantly I will need to downsize my peanut butter jar for the trek. Sob! I may have to go with the smallest container and rock myself slowly in comfort when it runs out on day 5. Sob! If you hear my crying from Africa eat some peanut butter toast in memorandum of my empty peanut butter jar. (mmm PB toast)
Asolo boots and Smartwool socks

Asolo boots and SmartWool socks of amazingness .. liner socks MIA.

On a side note, the BCMC Trail in North Vancouver which takes you up to the top of Grouse Mountain and is a great alternative to the grueling and very busy Grouse Grind is my very new favourite trail ever in the Vancouver area – wow trail, wow workout, wow view! Its a bit longer and more difficult but so worth it!

View from Grouse Mountain Gondola

The view from the start of the Gondola down from the peak of Grouse Mountain.


PS 68 sleeps to go

Oh the Places these Boots have Gone .. and will GO!

Oban, Scotland Ferry

Lana-Rae and Brande on our 2006 Scotland and Ireland adventure.

We are the greatest of friends and the biggest of geeks when it comes to making every attempt to see all the nooks and crannies of this great world we live in. We have traveled to many places together, alone, with family, and with other friends …and it all comes back to sitting down together in the quiet of the morning, with a warm mug of good coffee, and sharing our latest travel story with each other all the while planning our next adventure!

For a little more info on who we are and what inspires are travel and crazy antics – check out About!

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”  Susan Sontag ~

70 sleeps to go …

Continue reading

A Table for 7 Please

project management

Project management geek on!

Our 6 week great African adventure starts in Tanzania (climbing Mount Kilimanjaro), then into Zimbabwe (Lake Kariba, Zambezi River, Harare) and South Africa (Cape Town, Drakensburg, Table Mountain, Shark Diving) as tourists. We may even toss in some Zambia (Devil’s Pool) and maybe some Mozambique.

Planning all of this has been interesting – especially with the added nuance this is not just a trip for 2, this is a trip for 7 people at any one time. Wow, that is a lot of moving parts!

So how do you approach planning a trip like this? Well you ‘geek it up’ and go into full blown project management mode. We have itineraries, calendars, task lists and spreadsheets. And those are not all mine, some of the other travelers are doing spreadsheets too! I have to admit there was some mocking when I brought out poster sized post it notes and colour coordinated small post its.

To officially kick off the planning, we gathered on our big deck, ordered in some sushi, cracked some cold pints and started laying out the details:

  • The group had their iPads, travel books, notes and whatever else
  • Everyone had an idea of what they wanted to see, where they wanted to go
  • We drew up a massive calendar with all our travel dates
  • We added to the calendar anything that was booked (flights to and from Africa, etc.) using post it notes so things could be moved about as needed
  • We added to the calendar things that we needed to book on certain days in post it notes again so we could shuffle as and when needed to accommodate other items
  • The end result was an exciting start to a travel calendar, and pretty large task list with action items (things to book) and who was doing the booking
  • We put the task list and travel calendar up on our private Facebook Group ‘Africa or Bust’

We are now all working on our tasks, using Facebook as our communication vehicle so everyone sees all of the conversations going on, and will meet again in August and September to finalize. Loving the ability to ask a Poll question on Facebook – this is dream with 7 people involved.

At the end of the day we now know we have some serious thrill and monkey seekers in the group – and some sightseeing, museum and wine tour seekers in the group. The combination of both will give us a plan with a bit of lazy and a bit of crazy…perfect!


PS …73 sleeps to go

Step by Step Training – Literally

Brande's Keens/Socks

Happy, dirty boots and socks post Grind!

There are many different schools of thought about training for Mount Kilimanjaro.

Some say you should build up the core and legs, hike a lot of stairs and steep hills, and learn how to drink a lot of water. Some say there is no use in training when the middle aged and out of shape have a great success rate of getting to the summit. I say lets go for more training than less, it is good for the body anyway and hope for the best out of this body when it comes down to step by step up the mountain.

So here is what I loosely consider my training regime:

  • jog 3 mornings a week
  • stair / hill walk 3 times a week
  • long hike weekly
  • hard or crazy work out hike weekly
  • play some of my usual sports
  • eat way more veggies than usual, losing a few pounds is always a nice treat
  • work on core, legs and all around harden up the muscle-y bits

For this weeks hard or crazy work out hike I tackled the Grouse Grind in North Vancouver.

PLEASE NOTE to some this is not hard or crazy, they do it near daily and can get up the mountain side in under an hour or less and enjoy themselves … I am not that person, sadly but also proudly lol. For me the slog up the 2,830 stairs is grinding (pun intended) but the reward amazing.

So up I went this morning – I started at 8:00am and finished at 10:40am, took lots of 20-30 second breaks on the way up (yes, these were usually to let someone pass my turtle self) and generally enjoyed my pace and my time. I didn’t love the fog that socked me in at 1/2 way up or the rain that soaked my from about the same point – but I live on the lush, green coast of Canada what do you expect.  I started my Keen Targhee boot training this morning to get them warmed up for Kilimanjaro and they were awesome! I also had my day pack stuffed with 25lbs which I swore at a few times on the way up 🙂

I enjoyed me a lovely yummy extra hot latte at the top – did a little reading for school while sipping away. Usually I would enjoy the amazing view but that fog I mentioned prevented seeing more than 10ft.

If interested in more Grouse Grind details: (you may secretly hate the path and everyone on the way up, but wow you feel like a rock star when you get there)

76 sleeps till we leave for Kili!

(PS one of the things hikers on Kili hear over and over from their guides is Pole, Pole. This is Swahili for Slowly, Slowly so you don’t burn yourself out and get more time to acclimatize as your climb. Perhaps my turtle self was made for Pole, Pole! Yah!) 


One ‘Step’ At a Time

What is the hardest part of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro Trekking Guide

The Trekking Guide to Africa’s Highest Mountain by Henry Stedman, Trailblazer Publications

Seems it was NOT signing up for the hike, the training, convincing friends and family to join the crazy adventure, or even researching on altitude sickness. The hardest part so far has been getting up the courage to launch a travel blog – this blog – to tell all about the amazing adventure we are about to embark on.

Well here goes nothing.

If we can climb a mountain in Africa we can probably write a blog right? ha!

Stay tuned to find out …