This is the second part of my Kilimanjaro countdown. Read the first part here.
FOUR WEEKS TO GO
I’m starting to get really nervous now. I keep waking up in the middle of the night in a sweaty panic but I’m not really sure why exactly. I’m doing all I can to prepare, and I really don’t think doing any more preparation would actually help. It’s just the unknown. I really don’t know how much this is going to hurt.
I’ve now tried on more backpacks than I can count! I’ve definitely narrowed it down on one brand: Osprey. The Lowe Alpine and Deuter backpacks all have the rigid ‘airflow’ backs with a large gap for air to pass between the bag and your back but I think that takes up too much space, and after the first couple of days it’ll be cold enough that I’m not sure I’ll need it. Some of the Osprey ones have that too; but others have a more low-profile version with vents that I’m assured works pretty well too. I’ve ordered a couple into store to try out, so hopefully that will be sorted this weekend.
Meanwhile, I went to Boots, and did my big shop. It ended up costing me £100! Here’s the full list of all the medical/health/hygiene stuff I’m taking…
- Water purification tablets (Biox Aqua)
- Sports drink / electrolytes tablets (High 5 Zero – I like the citrus flavour)
- Diamox (for altitude sickness)
- Ibuprofen and Paracetamol
- Doxycyline (for malaria)
- Imodium (for diarrhoea)
- Reyhdration sachets
- Antibiotic cream
- Piriton (antihistamine)
- Blister plasters, adhesive tape, normal plasters
- Regular wet wipes (two large packs), face cleaning wipes (one large pack), ‘girly’ cleansing wipes (one large pack)
- Panty liners
- Suncream SPF50 – travel size
- Lip protection SPF30
- Insect repellant – travel size
- Sudocrem / all-purpose soothing skin cream
- Stick deodorant (I’ve heard roll ones freeze and sprays don’t work at altitude)
- Decongestant spray (you can get bunged up at altitude)
- Eye drops (it’s dusty and you can get itchy eyes)
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Nightol (sleeping tablets) – apparently it’s harder to sleep at altitude and people snore more
- Cold sore treatment (I’m a sufferer)
- Loo paper
- Hand moisturiser
- Face moisturiser
- Hand sanitiser
- Tea bags (very important for my health!)
THREE WEEKS TO GO
Gear. I finally resolved the backpack question and have gone for the very lovely Osprey Tempest 40 in a fetching shade of what they call Tourmaline Green (I’d call it teal, but I’m not arguing). It’s lightweight and comfortable, and most importantly it fits all my camera gear! I took it to the gym, loaded it with 10 kg of weight, and then walked uphill for half an hour and it was noticeably more comfortable than my old North Face pack. So that has been officially retired and from now on expect to see photos of the shiny new one (which won’t be shiny for long…)
My official kit bag also arrived from Exodus – which has made the whole thing suddenly seem terrifyingly real! This is the bag in which I’ll put all my clothes and toiletries, to be carried by the porters. I’m allowed to bring 15 kg of stuff, though that has to include sleeping bag, mat, and down jacket which I’m hiring when I get there, and which I’m told weighs 3 kg. So I’m allowed to bring another 12 kg from home. I have no idea what everything I’ve bought actually weighs, and I’m praying that when I put it all in the bag, it won’t weigh more than that. If it does, I’m going to have to begin the difficult process of working out what to leave behind.
TWO WEEKS TO GO
Time for a note about camera equipment. Obviously as a photographer that is something that has had almost as much priority in my mind as the rest of the kit. Can I take my big SLR and lenses up the mountain? (Answer: NO. Too heavy and too slow to get out of the backpack and put away again). And if not, what do I take instead? Well I won’t bore you with the lengthy research and to-ing and fro-ing I did, or the internal wrestling had to do with myself to justify the purchase of ANOTHER camera… Suffice it to say that after a lot of all of the aforementioned I have decided on a Fujifilm X1ooT, which gets rave reviews from just about everyone. It’s a bit of a brave choice because it has a fixed focal length of 35mm, ie. no zoom. So if I want to zoom in or out I am going to have to move my feet. Which may mean I end up walking twice as far as everyone else on the trip! But it is a stunning camera which takes fantastic quality photos, and it is pretty small and compact so I should be able to keep it in a pocket for quick and easy shooting.
I got to try out the new camera on a quick trip to Snowdonia. For my last proper training walk I thought I’d better climb an actual mountain, so I persuaded my brother to come and walk up Snowdon with me. We weren’t terribly lucky with the weather, but at least I got to test the waterproof qualities of my new jacket!
ONE WEEK TO GO
Things are getting properly scary now. For so long I’ve been talking about this as just an idea, a concept, that is so far off in the future that it’s not really real. It’s sort of like, one day… in theory… who knows… Except it’s not one day, it’s next week. And I’m 100% certain that it’s going to hurt. A lot. I just hope I can get through it!
On a positive note, I did a trial pack. Here is everything I’m taking:
The full packing list:
- Two pairs North Face zip-off walking trousers
- One pair North Face fleece trousers for camp, sleeping in and as an extra layer on summit night
- One pair Arcteryx thermal baselayer leggings
- One pair waterproof trousers
- Gore-tex waterproof jacket
- Two non-cotton wicking t-shirts
- Two long-sleeved sports tops
- Two long-sleeved thermal baselayers, one thin, one thick
- Fleece mid layer
- Ultra-light down jacket
- My mum’s old cashmere polo neck as a mid-layer. A bit non-technical, this, but I wore it all the time while filming in Norway and Iceland and it was great.
- 8 pairs thin liner socks and 4 pairs thick hiking socks
- 8 pairs of non-cotton, microfibre knickers (from M&S, so much cheaper than any sports ones I looked at)
- Two sports bras
- Two pairs of gloves: one thin, one thick ski gloves
- Two buffs, one thin and breathable for keeping out dust and sun, one fleecy for keeping out cold
- Two hats: a baseball cap and a knitted beanie
- Trainers for wearing around camp
- Hiking boots (better not forget those!)
- I’m hiring a thick down jacket and sleeping bag when I get there to avoid having to carry them all around Tanzania afterwards
- Travel towel
- Headtorch and spare batteries
- Spare small torch
- Notebook and pen
- Playing cards
- Kindle (hope the battery lasts!)
- Wraparound sunglasses
- Waterproof backpack cover
- Silk sleeping bag liner
- Eye mask for sleeping
- Ear plugs
- Portable phone charger
- Camera and 4 spare batteries
- Two water bottles
- Daypack and 2l hydration pouch
- Hand warmers
- Snack bars – I’ve allowed two per day, plus a couple extra for summit night, and I’ve gone for Clif and Trek bars
- Toiletries and medical supplies as above
We were advised to pack our clothes into waterproof bags, so I bought these Pack Mate Compression Bags. They come in a variety of sizes; you simply put your stuff inside, zip them shut and then roll to squeeze the air out. They seem to work well so far, though how long they last remains to be seen. But so far I think they’re great! I’ve got one for tops, one for bottoms, one for socks and underwear, and one for hats, gloves, scarves etc. I’ll also take one for my day pack to keep any extra layers dry in case we get rained on!
When everything is packed and in the bag, it weighs 12.5 kg. I’m so relieved! I’m allowed to bring 12 kg, and when I weighed it I put everything in, including stuff I’ll be carrying in my day pack, so it should be fine. Hurrah!
I’m incredibly nervous now and not sleeping well at all. I keep waking in the middle of the night with a knot of fear in the pit of my stomach and am wondering what on earth I have let myself in for. It all seemed like a good idea at the time but now it’s just a few days away I’m wondering what on earth I was thinking!
I’ll let you know how I get on…