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To prove we climbed…

Sep 7, 2012   //   by daveswatson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for all for the donations thus far towards our stupid hill climb…

To date, we are up to 93% of our target which is amazing. Do keep sponsoring us though, and help us reach the full 100% (giving us reason to publish the much anticipated pictures we have been holding in reserve) Every donation goes straight to the MSA Trust and is appreciated; enormously!

Anyhow, for now here are some photos to prove we actually climbed the big hill thing…

Adventure Diary

Aug 31, 2012   //   by daveswatson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Adventure Diary

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As promised, below are extracts from a diary I kept…

I know it is a long read, and won’t interest you all. But if you have the time, and a few cups of tea, hopefully it will shed some light on what we got up to on our latest adventure.

(We will also upload some of our pictures very soon)

Daves x

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Day 2 – Lunchtime

It is lunchtime on day 2 and we have already left the rainforests behind, the sun is beating down, and let’s be honest – we are already a little tired.

The adventure started yesterday with breakfast at the outpost lodge. We met our guide (Jackbo) last night for a few beers; and a chat about what we were planning. He left us with some great pearls of wisdom such as “If you get lost, don’t move your feet”. We hoped that didn’t mean ever!

To begin the challenge we had a long drive to the ‘start point’. Told it was an hour drive; in true ‘Africa Time’ this meant at least 3 hours. Warned that we must start to drink lots and lots of water, we proceeded to drink a couple of litres immediately. This added a ridiculous number of pee stops to the journey. Perhaps as many as 6 for “No Bladder Vik”.

Anyhoo lots of crazy driving and bumping later, we made it to Lemosho Gate where we met and picked up our porters. Here we saw the first casualty of the mountain – a woman being brought down who looked rather greener than your average hiker. Undeterred, we signed into the national park, weighed all our gear to be sure we had enough porters, and jumped in the truck for the final wibble and wobble to the start point.

First day’s walk was only about 3hrs, all uphill, but not too steep. Through rainforest, it was luckily quite dry and uneventful. We arrived in camp before 6pm, drank a load more water, had a yummy potato and beef dinner, played cards under candlelight, pee’d a million more times, and promptly fell asleep.

Today we woke up to our first experience of the sort of cold we might experience as we go higher up. With plenty of frost on the ground we realised that our sleeping bags and mats weren’t half bad after all. Carry on climbing we did. Through the rainforest, and out onto the rocky/heathy landscape that exists above. Looked like big cat country to me. I write this as we have stopped for lunch, sun beating down relentlessly, but with an awesome view of Mount Meru, the second highest mountain in the area. No view of the top of ours yet tho!

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Day 2 -Early Evening

Finally we have our view of the top of Kili, and rather scary/wibbly it looks….

I writting this sitting on a Rock in the Shira (not the footballer) Crater. Once a volcano in it’s own right before it collapsed. We arrived at about 3pm after a final climb up into the clouds on Shira ridge (3900 m) , before descending into the crater we are in now (3600 m). The climb was steep today, but we all are still good spirits. Soon as we arrived in camp we played cards with Jackbo, who taught us the local game – last card.

After tea and popcorn we sat outside in the last of the sunlight, scaring ourselves by looking at the mountain again.

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Day 3 – Lunchtime

I was woken up by the first rays of sunlight after a sleep of almost 11 hours (long sleep is becoming a theme, as the hours of sunlight shorten, and playing cards in the dark becomes less appealing). It was a good time to rise tho, as Con and I jumped out of the tent just in time to witness the sun rise over the big scary thing we agreed to climb.

We had our first drop-out this morning. One of our porters did not sleep last night – the first sign of altitude sickness. He left us to head to an emergency road and get a ride quickly downhill. Again, undeterred, we progressed through Shira Crater and climbed the ridge to the other side (3900 m). Now we really are on the slopes of Kili itself.

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Day 3 – Early Evening

One thing I have yet to mention is how good the food is – especially considering how far we are from civilisation. We joked this morning about finding a nando’s round the corner; and hey-presto! come lunchtime we were served Chicken and Chips. And really nice Chicken and Chips at that. As something we have got quite used to,Viks insides immediately kicked into gear again, and promptly removed excesses :-)

Tonight we have made camp on the western slopes of Kili at approx 4300 m. We are in between two ridges so relatively sheltered from the wind; tho the African sun continues to beat down. I even found a stream (well, some cold dripping water) and had a wash; which made me feel pretty good – if a little wind swept. Stef and Con have headaches, probably from exposure to the wind and sun. But none of us seem to have experienced issues with the altitude yet (touch wood!). Looking forward to another looong looong sleep tonight.

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Day 4 – Mid Afternoon

I write today’s entry, celebrating the fact that we have now reached the 1/2 way point on our crazy adventure. Camp tonight is our most remote thus far. On the northern slope of the mountain, we overlooked Kenya for a while, before clouds rolled up the hill and hid a whole country from our sight. None of the official routes come this way, except for our rather special extended ‘L’ route.

Earlier this morning we woke again at first light. However the ridges that kept us relatively sheltered from the wind last night, managed to hide the big fire’y-warm-sun-thing for the first hour of today. This mean it was our first experience of real cold. Certainly well below freezing. For one thing my stream from last night had frozen solid. Therefore a warm breakfast was especially welcome.

Today was our biggest altitude acclimatisation day. Leaving camp at 4300 m, we ascended the ridge that surrounded our camp, and a few more. Always climbing northward and eastward, up and up. At it’s highest we were 4500 m before descending down to camp at 3600 m. Personally I spent most of the day hiding from the wind and sun under my hat, sunglasses and snood (not a scarf Em!).

I am now sitting on a rock, above our camp, very much in the middle of a cloud. Said cloud keeps hiding tents full of fast asleep friends a porters from my view.  Think I shall head down before I can’t find my way back. However will end this entry by stating that today was probably our biggest challenge yet. We did not have a lunch stop, so 6hrs straight walk may have taken it’s toll on energy levels and feet. Still yummy dinner to look forward to.

Incase I never say it again after today – I quite like the simple life on a mountain. Eat, sleep walk. Eat, sleep, walk. A stress free life if you ask me. Just a shame it isn’t warmer…

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Day 5 – Afternoon Sometime

I guess it must be about 2pm, but only judging by the suns position. I don’t own a watch, and lost my phone before this silly adventure even began. Similar to yesterday, all of today’s walking happened before lunch. We were woken by sunrise as usual, but on these northern slopes it is less cold than usual. Instead we were greeted with a wind which huffed and puffed, and darn well almost blew our tents down.

The theme of today was rocks, rocks and more rocks. All of which looked exactly the same. In fact rocks and the odd shrubbery are the only things that exist on this barren northern slope. We staggered onwards all morning, always heading eastwards, hopping from mini-gorge to mini-gorge. From memory it is advised that climbing these slopes is generally a bad idea. People have died in landslides trying, and its easy to see why as the mountain is all just loose rock. As such we stayed low, be it with many ups and downs until camp was spotted (3700 m).

Again lunch was at camp and signaled the end of our walking day. We are thankful of the rest, mindful that tomorrow we hike to ‘Base Camp’ at 4600 m , before the real business of conquering this darn mountain. We are now at the north-east corner of Kili, and have joined up with one of the ‘normal’ walking routes – Rongai. As such we find ourselves with other climbers (although greener to the mountain that ourselves).

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Day 5 – Evening

A final footnote for today – whilst finding ways to waste away the afternoon I was talking to Nelson (one of our guides), who mentioned that the porters were spending the afternoon taking water to ‘Base Camp’ ready for tomorrow. I was surprised no water would be available higher up the mountain, so decided to waste time and check out the supply they were collecting from here. 10mins later, after following a porter, I came across a cave with a dripping ceiling. This was our only water supply – a cave full of buckets, catching water one drop at a time. Crazy! I now really appreciate every single drop I get.

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Day 6 – Early Afternoon

We have arrived in ‘Base Camp’, and finally Con has internet on his Kindle. We can now answer all the important questions that have been bugging us for days… How much money have we raised? What are the footy scores? Is Kili one of the 7 wonders of the world? And what day of the week is it?

(Pah! – it’s not even in the natural wonders list on Wiki)

One of our shorter walks brought us up to ‘Base Camp’ in a little over 4 hours; and in doing so we encountered a few more silly people climbing this big hill. Now at 4600 m, we have time to sleep before the final push to the top begins at 11pm tonight. Again we are all pretty cream-crackered  - can’t begin to imaging how tired we are going to be after tomorrow. As for tonight we have been told to take 4 layers of trousers, 6 layers of tops, 3 pairs of gloves, several pairs of socks, and a ‘down’ jacket. At least! I have a feeling things could get pretty nippy.

We have seen almost every side of the mountain now…. initially climbing to Shira Crater from the South-West, then camping on the West, North and now Eastern slopes. Tomorrow we summit and ascend on the South side (thus completing the circuit). To be honest thus far it just feels like we have just been testing the mounting for weaknesses…. or perhaps it has just been testing us?!?…

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Day 7 

The reason we are here.

I write this at about 9pm in the evening; having sore feet; having a sleepy head; having been awake for over 22 hours; having spent much of that walking one place or another. Most notably up a rather large volcano!

The adventure really started about 5pm on Day 6 with dinner, and a sleep, before the 11pm start. I am sure there is a good reason why everyone climbs the final bit at night – but for now the reason escapes me. Unless it is simply that the big scary volcano thing should remain hidden as long as possible.

A few hours sleep ended in almost none, thanks to a crazy wind which did it’s very best to blow our tents away. If we hadn’t eaten quite so much for dinner, I have the feeling it might just have succeeded. Anyhoo, at 11pm sharp ish, 4 bleary eyed muppets dressed fit for an Artic winter, started to climb.

The first summit we were aiming for was Gilman’s Point (5685 m). A big climb from our 4600 m ‘Base Camp’ , but we didn’t think too crazy. How wrong were we?!?

The Kilimanjaro National Park shows that only 41% of trekkers actually reach the Uhuru summit with the majority turning around at Gilman’s Point, 300 metres short of Uhuru, or Stella Point, 200 meters short of Uhuru

As the highest summit on the Volcano, Uhuru stands at 5895 m. I have personally hiked up to 4500m once upon a time in Peru, and ventured into mines above 5500 m in Bolivia. As such, I considered myself relatively prepared. In comparison, the rest of the Muppet’s experience was limited to Box hill in Surrey. My extra preparation meant that I didn’t suffer any of the altitude symptoms that the others did – but it was still a mahooosive climb! The killer was the steepness twinned with the fact that the slope was anything but firm. Shingle is a fitting description. Even so, I did enjoy singing along to Tanzanian songs with our three guides all the way up.

It was slow progress, but with Jackbo leading the way (and literally dragging one of the muppets along at times) we all successfully made it to the first Gilman’s Point just as the sun was rising. And what a S#*t scary sight it was that the sun revealed. Struth it was steep. Really steep. With clouds and even another volcano below us! Stef celebrated by being sick, Con and I popped a few painkillers, and Vik wibbled rather a lot.

Actually Vik seemed to have used up almost all his energy (explaining the wibbling), and from here on it was slow progress with lots of mind over matter persuasion to make the 2nd, and then final summit.

But all the muppets did make it – and we got our token pictures to prove it!

This was the first time I had ever seen / been at the top of a dormant   volcano. It was quite indescribable (go see for yourself :-) ). Initially I was surprised how much snow/ice was there – but rather less so as the snow started falling.

Queue a rapid descent down the mountain…

For most of us this meant something that looked a lot like Skiing through the shingle with our walking poles. For Vik the walking poles were replaced with a Nelson and an Ali, who pretty much ran down the mountain with him wedged in between.

Retreat was to a different Barafu ‘Base Camp’, also at 4600m. This took a few hours and when we arrived we were greeted with a giant tent city in the snow. A very surreal sight in Africa. Messed with the brain somewhat (or perhaps that was the altitude messing!). We had a quick lunch in a kind persons hut, before heading further down the mountain to ‘High Camp’ (at 3800) where we will be spending the night. Tomorrow we can reflect/celebrate on what we achieved. Tonight we badly need sleep (although we have managed to acquire a rather expensive beer someone carried up to camp)!!!

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Day 8 

Day 8 marked the final descent down the rest of the mountain. And to celebration ‘o clock…

A lot of the popular routes would share the same way down the mountain as us; so we started nice and early and was on the move by 7am. If we had been quicker yesterday, the plan was for us to be one campsite further down the mountain, and closer to a beer. As it was, our estimated time to arrive at the bottom was going to be 1-2pm. But we were eager!

It may have been the ‘promise’ of beer, or the ‘promise’ of ‘Chicken and Chips’, but something got us moving fast. In fact we overtook most of the people who slept in the camp below. We left the heathland behind pretty quickly, and slipped/splashed our way down the mudslide slopes of the rainforest that did their bestsest to send both porters and muppets thisaway and that. The ‘promises’ must have done their job, because way earlier than expected 4 muppets were successfully down the mountain – drink in hand by 10:30!

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Summary 

I am actually typing this blog entry from Doha Airport in Qatar at 2am in the morning – 10 hours or so from the end of our 3 day journey home. I’ll spare you all the details for now, expect to say that Vik tried his level best to stay in Kenya by packing his passport in his suitcase and checking it in. I will let him explain another time how he came to be such a plonker :-)

Looking at what I have written, I am not sure if this diary fully conveys the effort that this adventure took. I think it is fair to say this was one of the hardest (if not ‘The’ hardest) thing any of  the muppets has ever done to date.

To put things in perspective, we caught up with an Aussie guy at the airport yesterday who climbed the same time as us, and stayed in our ‘Lodge’. One of his friends was carried off the mountain and into intensive care whist we were summiting. He was terribly lucky, and probably alive only because the symptoms did not manifest until he was already 1/2 way down the mountain, and within hours of the hospital. We have since learned that a 28 year old girl died on the mountain a few days ago, but don’t know the details. During our summit night we also saw a young British guy trying to sleep on the rocks in freezing conditions – if our guides Jackbo, Nelson and Ali had not forced him to his feet – I expect he may have gone the same way.

I hope this helps to paint a picture of how tough a challenge this can potentially be. For the muppets, we were lucky – it was a successful challenge completed. For some others it is a challenge perhaps just a bit too far. However, I must say I loved every little bit of it – and wouldn’t swap the experience for the world!

Please do try it yourself if you get the opportunity. It is an amazing experience. But do pay that little bit extra for acclimatisation days and/or a longer route like we did.

Alternatively for a slightly easier challenge; why not cycle from the bottom of England to the tip top of Scotland?!? :-)

And don’t forget to sponsor us, if you haven’t already!

Daves

xxx

Doha Airport, Qatar, 2:20am, 1st Sept, 2012

 

Coming Home

Aug 31, 2012   //   by daveswatson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Heya all,

Guess what? Four Muppets are on their way home!

Well, well, well…. we actually completed the adventure. Really – all four muppets made it to the very tip top of Africa!!!!

Thank you enormously to all of those who sponsored us. We are massively grateful! To those of you who said you would, but have not yet… please, please, do. We are still 46 percent off our target. Get ya wallets out to help a really good cause!

In my next post I will share a diary I kept during our adventures. I know it is a long read, and wont interest all of you. But if you have the time, and a few cups of tea, hopefully it will shed some light on what we got up to; and how hard climbing Kili can be. In the week we did it, one 28 year old girl died, and someone we knew ended up in intensive care. Put simply this really was a huge challenge, not to be underestimated.

http://www.justgiving.com/muppetskili

We all look forward to seeing many of you very soon!

Lots of Love

Daves and the three other muppets

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Kili, Kili, Higher!!!

Aug 29, 2012   //   by daveswatson   //   Blog  //  1 Comment

Guess what?!? ….

We made it. We actually made it. All of us. Every single muppet reached the top!!!

More details and the full story to follow… but for now we just wanted to post the pictures to prove we made it. Now get ya wallets out and sponsor us (tight gits)! Or u wont get to see the night sky (aka the moons), as promised.


The Muppets

Once Upon a Time…

Aug 20, 2012   //   by daveswatson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Once Upon a Time there were Four Muppet’s at an airport…

Three boarded a plane;  and one went wee wee weee all the way home (via the passport office)…

His name was Conor, and he was the leading muppet in this little adventure. He lead by example, by remembering the two most important items – Boots and Passport. He remembered them well; but forgot that passports have to be valid (for 6 months).

“It was emotional” – Conor Cripps 20th Aug 2012

So in english… three of us made it to Africa land. One did not. For the three that did go, it was a 30hr ish journey from home land (including two planes, one shuttle, and a taxi), in which we only lost one item – a phone - to arrive at our “lodge”. For the one of us that did not (i.e Conor!) it involved a trip or two to the passport office, some begging, hope, tears, and $$$$$).

Us being the caring friends we are, we took off and hit the road - safari wise. Met met Stef’s namesake called ‘Casper’, who took us to meet lions, tigers (that’s a lie), hyaenas, and an ‘inconclusive’ Rhino.

Anyhow, tomorrow begins our arduous journey up the mountain! We spoke to our guide tonight who assures us that we will be fine, and if we get lost “don’t move your legs”… good advise?!? In freezing temperatures… really?… but he is the expert… right?!? ‘Least we got a football! :-)

Oh and as a last note – please do keep sponsoring us. If we reach 1k, before we reach the summit, we will moon for you (let us remind you it is -16 degrees at least). Soo 1ooo of your english pounds for one moon picture…. 250 pound per arse! Bargain!

(Somehow that sounded better in the pub)

Wish us luck - Will update u again as soon as we can!

Much love; the muppets x4

xxx

Tick Tock… Only Two Days To Go…

Aug 14, 2012   //   by daveswatson   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Oh dear, oh dear… it is that time of year all over again!

In Conor’s words, we are “laughing, crying, cowering, buzzing, anxious, nervous, ecstatic and down right gonna explode with anticipation”

For why…?… Well in about 40 something hours, the four muppets will once again put on their idiot hats, don their jester trousers, and pull up their numpty socks – and once again embark on an adventure we are totally and wholeheartedly, undisputedly, and not even slightly prepared for.

For on Thursday the stupidity begins!!!!

Over the next week we will do our bestest to update this blog with our stories, photos, and pain. Not sure if mobiles work at -16 degrees (the sort of temperature we will likely encounter at the tip top of the giant volcano thing otherwise known as Kilimanjaro) – but if they do we will keep posting.

So please, please, do dig deep into those pockets of yours and help us reach (and maybe surpass) our target!

http://www.justgiving.com/muppetskili

Yours humbly,
The ‘Muppets’

The Muppets Strike back

Jun 26, 2012   //   by daveswatson   //   Blog  //  2 Comments

In our latest stupid idea, the muppets will attempt to climb to the tip-top of the tallest freestanding mountain in the world!

On the 19th August 2012, Conor Cripps,  Stefan Arthur, Vik Ramparsad and Dave Watson will attempt to climb Kilimanjaro. We will be attempting this feat, in order to raise funds for the MSA Trust.

This is a very personal challenge for Conor, whose father was diagnosed with having MSA last year. We want to help raise awareness and very much needed funds for the MSA Trust, and give back whatever we can for this great charity.

More information to come very soon….