Mount Kilamanjaro Adventure
9, 2003 - Climbing Mount Kilamanjaro
We started our
climb of Mount Kilimanjaro on August 2, 2003 at 5,900 ft and had been
on the trail for 4 days gradually ascending to 12,7500 ft. Although tiring
from 6-8 hour hikes, it had been fun. There were twelve of us from
all over the USA and we bonded from the start. We joked, laughed,
grunted, and sweated together. At meal time we took turns assisting
each other with the soup and porridge and pumping, filtering and sterilizing
water. A few of the twelve hikers had some degree of altitude
sickness ranging from headaches, nausea, sleepiness, lassitude, and sleeplessness
after being awakened by a pounding heart. So far, I had not had
of us begin to huff and puff going from 12,750 ft to a 15,000 ft.
Our guides continually tell us to go "pole pole" which means
slowly slowly in Swahili. We rest often, lean on the hiking poles
and stop to take in the views which at times are spectacular. At
other times they are downright scarry. More than once I looked over
my shoulder to see where we had been and looked up, and ahead, to see
where we had to go, and would silently ask myself, "What in the hell
are you doing here"?
interest in East Africa was long standing. Martha, my wife, and
two children, Martha S. (Mottie) and Carl had been to Nigeria in the late
70's on a medical mission trip and had yearned to return to Africa, particularly
to East Africa and see the wild life. While on vacation at Bat Cave,
N. C. in August of 2001, I read in the Sunday Asheville, N. C. Newspaper,
a story of 4 men who had been to Tanzania, climbed Kilimanjaro and continued
on a wildlife Safari at the Serengeti National Park. Dr. Karl Bitter,
a fellow Urologist, was one of the four. I was enthralled by his
story and gave him a call to hear the rest of the story and get the name
of the Safari Company. I called Thomson Safaris of Boston and started
made reservations for August of 2002. I started the training which
included riding my bicycle 10-15 miles at a good clip. I had some
neck pain which I had never had and at first thought it may be arthritis
from holding my chin up to see where I was going. I consulted
Dr. Keith Lackey, my internist and he thought I needed a stress test.
We did one and proceeded to Echocardiogram because of some minor changes
on the Thalium stress test. The Echo was negative and Dr.
W. B. Ellison, my cardiologist, said to keep on training.
twisted my knee one day and knew I had torn a cartilage. The
knee kept creaking and hurting. On November 4, 2001, I had arthroscopy
and the torn cartilage was repaired. This slowed me down for a month
or so and as I began to get back into shape, I noted the neck pain again.
After consulting with my son, F. Carl Derrick, III, and my cardiologist
Dr W. B. Ellison. We all agreed I needed a heart cath. This was done in
early March of 2002 and much to my surprise, there were 4 partially blocked
arteries: a posterior descending one about 90% and the others about
70%. After talking with Dr. David Peterseim, the cardiac surgeon,
I decided to have the quadruple bypass. On March 14, 2002, I had
the surgery at Roper Hospital. The first few days of recovery were
tough, but slowly I began walking and went home in 5 days. After
6 weeks of recovery at home I started rehab at Roper Cardiac Rehab Unit.
At first I was running in 1st gear but slowly got into 2nd gear.
It took about 4 months to get into high gear and somewhere about 6 months
I felt I was back into overdrive.
the way, I called Thomson Safaris and told them to postpone my reservation
went on the internet to find anything I could on training for mountain
climbing and particularly high altitude training. The first thing
I learned was that the Olympic training area is near Flagstaf, Arizona
at about 10-11,000 feet. In almost every article I read, the idea
of training at high altitude came through. More information came
from the armed forces and the space program where the astronauts and
pilots train in hypobaric (low oxygen) chambers to acclimate to high altitudes.
None of these were available to the public. Duke University has
a hypobaric chamber which is used for research. I spoke with their
physician in charge and his suggestion was that I use Diamox on the climb
and that should protect me. I found a hypobaric tent which several
athletes in America are using including Lance Armstrong. Next I
found a unit in Australia which was portable and could be used in the
home. It was called the Intermittent Hypoxic Training machine.
It was just being introduced into America and I happened to be in the
right place at the right time. Through several emails, and phone
calls, I negotiated a lease of the machine for one month and it was shipped
to me from Australia. I used the machine for one month and
delivered it to Hilton Head, South Carolina to be used in a Peak Training
Facility. In my opinion, the hypoxic training was a large factor
in my being able to climb Kilimanjaro and not get high altitude sickness.
4, 2003: We hiked about 7 hours and lunched at 15,000 ft. We then
descended to Baranco Camp at 12,750 ft. We stayed here for 2 nights
the next three days we went to Lava Tower (15,000 ft.), Arrow Glacier
(16,100 ft.) and Crater Camp (18,750 ft.). These were tough hiking
days over rocks, some ice, and always uphill. However, with our great
guides encouraging us to go "polepole" we all made it.
I think we all knew that if we had reached Crater Camp that we could make
it up to the top.
9. 2003: We were awakened at 6:00 am and got out of our tents for
breakfast at 6:30 am. With the temperature at 10°F, and a 30-40
mph wind, we were all cold, but after coffee, tea, and hot porridge
we were ready to climb the final 600 ft to the summit of Uhuru peak at
19,340 ft. All of us made it and I must tell you it was an exhilarating
experience. Jonas, our chief guide, led us up the trail.
We went very slowly, taking about 1 1/2 hours to get to the actual peak.
When we all reached the top, the group allowed me to lead up the the tippy
tippy top. Something to be said for age. We took pictures and did
a lot of "Hi 5's" and started down.
of the younger trekkers went down the lava gravel and sand as though they
were skiing. I had to take it slow and easy, digging in my heels
and pushing until I had a foot-hold. I did this to keep from falling. After
just a short time, my knees and thighs began to complain. After
3 hours of this I was lame. We had lunch and started down again,
by this time we were out of the lava gravel and the trail was firm.
Still, my knees and quads were sore. We stumbled into camp just
before night-fall, having descended to 11,000 feet from 19,340 in about
6 hours. The next morning, we were all rested and ready for the
next 5,000 ft descent. We went through the rain forest again...and
the muck and mud....We were again hot and it was "open the shirt
time". After being the first up to the peak, I was the last
to enter the trail head. My knees were sore, my quads were sore,
but my spirit was very high. Jonas, David and one of the young porters
in training to be a guide, stayed with me all the way down. In the
deepest mud, I followed Jonas' tracks. They really helped me, knowing
I was struggling.
we rounded the last curve, I could hear the rest of the group talking.
I began to get excited, not so much for finishing the trek, but
to see Martha. I knew she would be there....and as the group came
into view, I spotted the blond hair. A wonderful sight. When we got closer she came running
and at the last moment I threw down my hiking poles so I could give her
a big hug. We had a marvelous reunion. Thanks to the others we have
a great picture of that hug.
getting diplomas for climbing the mountain (I was # 118 for 2003), we
were taken to The Impala Hotel for a much needed shower. We were
able to do our laundry as well. We had a wonderful graduation banquet
at the hotel that evening. After a good nights sleep we were off
the the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti to view the animals in their