Autumn’s World Tour – Fact and Fantasy!

By Randy Pierce

Autumn sings with Billy Joel!
Autumn sings with Billy Joel!

While there’s still so much more to tell about our own African adventures, Autumn wasn’t just left home to sing the blues, despite what our playfully adjusted image to the right might suggest!  She is due a little attention because her part of the experience was very important to us as well as rather worthy. On the lighter side, I suggested to our social media manager, Greg Neault, that perhaps he could Photoshop some fun pictures of Autumn’s virtual world tour to post intermittently while we were away. He took the challenge and created a fun series of adventures which our Facebook  and Twitter followers were able to enjoy while we were away. We include all those images in this blog for your enjoyment.

Meanwhile Autumn actually was staying with our friend and Guiding Eyes trainer Chrissie Vetrano. Chrissie originally trained the Mighty Quinn and also brought Autumn to me to work us into the team we are today. Of her own kindness she was taking our precious girl into her home with the promise of plenty of love and attention from the humans of the house and Chrissie’s lovable lab Malcolm. Her accommodations were more like Club Med for dogs than our own home and pictures and video clips of Autumn crossed the Atlantic regularly to keep us posted on her being well loved and tended.

Autumn does a hula in Hawaii.
Autumn does a hula in Hawaii.

During the days, Autumn would travel with Chrissie to Guiding Eyes to enjoy their accommodations and a little bit of extra work along with her vacation. The poignant part of this process is the ongoing care and attention which Guiding Eyes brings to all their teams and dogs. Their work doesn’t end with the training of their incredible Dog Guides but continues throughout the lives and work of the teams. While I’ll never forget the over-the-top care and support they provided to Quinn and me during his battle with cancer, I’m similarly appreciative of the demonstrated way in which they provide this to all handlers and dogs. They were all too glad to accommodate, ensuring our girl would have the best of care in all ways while we were away. She even returned freshly bathed and pampered and so very eager to see and snuggle with us again.

Autumn with Pats players
Autumn snaps some photos with the Pats!

The real key to any organization is always the people (and pups!) who make it great. In this I end as I began, and endured our time away from Autumn with the incredible appreciation I had knowing Autumn was in Chrissie’s so very capable and attentive care. I’m not sure I can ever be thankful enough for the gifts of Guiding Eyes in the dogs and people they’ve brought into my life. I will say with full conviction that I am very, very grateful and hope that every day the open way in which Autumn and I share our teamwork with the world helps to showcase the power of a great organization and the people behind them. Meanwhile, as the photos show – we have a little fun along the way!

Autumn at the Taj Mahal
Next stop: Taj Mahal!
Autumn sits on a ledge at Notre Dame
Autumn saunters over to Notre Dame and hangs with the gargoyles.
Autumn poses beside a large canyon
And finally, Autumn ends an exhausting week taking in some excellent views at Zion National Park!
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The Elephant in the Room and other Secrets of our African Expedition

By Randy and Tracy Pierce

Our African Expedition to Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater was an absolutely amazing experience. While it is not reasonable to chronicle it entirely in a single blog, Tracy and I thought we’d share a couple of insider questions to each other to help you understand just a little of the experience.

Randy and Tracy share a kiss on the Serengeti.
Randy and Tracy share a kiss on the Serengeti.

Randy: While the elephant looming behind our kiss is eye-catching, there’s another elephant in the room in that we did not summit together. Would you be willing to share a bit about that?

Tracy: Oh, dive right into the tough questions! So I did not reach the summit, which was a very tough choice for me. I  spent much of the trip plagued by headaches and shortness of breath. These symptoms caused me to progress far slower than the rest group so I requested a head start on summit night. About three hours into the hike (2am) the rest of the group caught up and easily passed us. By 4am (5 hours in) I was feeling extremely dizzy and was starting to stumble, after about 45 minutes of this I began to question whether I should continue. My teammate Maureen and guide Goodlove encouraged me to keep trying. I pushed on, hoping that sunrise would reinvigorate me. Sunrise came (amazing, gorgeous) but I had no rejuvenation. Finally at 7 am, after 8 hours of climbing I decided that if I kept pushing I would not be able to make it back down. I felt that I made a smart decision that was right for me and was proud that I persevered for hours and came within 10 minutes of Stella Point  (5685 meters). In hindsight I wrestle with feelings of being left out of the experience that the rest of the team shared, yet, I also learned that I reached high enough in my climb to have technically reached Stella Point and I am mighty proud to have climbed so high.

Tracy: Day two was some of the toughest footing we experienced can you share some thoughts on how you felt at the end of the day?

Randy: Day one had particularly easy footing with water bars being the main challenge so in contrast day 2 was a little bit of a wake-up call. It still wasn’t any different than most of the trails in the White Mountains upon which we train. As we were climbing over 10,000 feet there was a constant barrage of incredible views and that gave us pause for photographs and side explorations commonly. As we neared the end of the uphill climb which was handled in the entirety by a strong and motivated Jose, we hit a few interesting side scrambles with a drop off. This required us to be slow to manage the risks of the falls which might have otherwise been a problem. Ultimately it was not the most tricky footing for me on the trip but in comparison to day 1 it was a slow down reality check on our pace even before altitude really reduced our speed.

Jose and Randy Day Two

Randy: Do you have a particularly powerful moment from the Kilimanjaro hike which you might also like to share?

Tracy: I think there were two experiences that I’d share. The first was on day two which is arguably the hardest 2.8 mile route I have ever hiked. I was hiking ahead of you and Jose which provided frequent occasions where I would be worried about how the two of you would navigate extremely tough footing. I occasionally stopped long enough for the two of your to catch up so I would know that you were well. The combination of fear and pride at what the two of you accomplished together will be with me until I die. Such powerful emotions do not fade easily.

The second powerful moment was on the Barranco wall. We camped at the base of the 800′  Barranco wall on day three where it loomed imposing and scary. I woke feeling more than a touch apprehensive. Once we started on the wall I realized that the rock scrambling that we experienced in the Whites really set me up to tackle the wall strongly, although I was still scared of the notorious Kissing wall. We navigated a particularly tough spot and I mentioned out loud that if that one was so tough how hard would the Kissing wall be? That was when my guide told me that we had just done the Kissing wall. I felt so triumphant to have handily tackled something that I’d been so worried about.

Tracy: As we know, summit day was extremely hard. You had some unexpected difficulties while trying to make the lower camp, will you share that story?

Randy: Absolutely I’ll share what all those on the hike already understand all too well. Summit day was incredibly difficult in many ways. We’d had little, or in many cases no, sleep; we had too little nutrition as feelings of nausea hamper the ability to eat. We hiked in the dark which restricted my guides abilities and as the oxygen thinned it was harder on all of us to find ways to keep working. Seven hours of hiking brought us to the summit with nobody feeling well or strong. Still things were good enough to savor the sunrise and the summit before we began the long descent. Down is almost always harder on me though the skree of the upper levels wasn’t too bad. Few guides had much strength to guide long and Jose and Rob had spent much of their efforts in getting me to the summit. Greg Neault really stepped in at a critical time. Unfortunately the last half mile before Barafu (high camp) was truly the most difficult for my feet and we worked incredibly hard to get through it. With my headache pounding at impressive levels, food reserves non-existant it would have been great to get a refreshing break at Barafu. Unfortunately plans called for us to rest briefly, get lunch and then hike six difficult trail miles back to a more reasonable elevation at Mweka camp. I was unable to sleep or eat and while Greg put in two of the miles guiding, we switched to Jose with me feeling more and more nauseated, light headed and struggling to give the focus I need to walk even a moderate trail. Two full days of no sleep along with the mental and physical exertion caught up with me and I lost consciousness for a moment, collapsing behind Jose.

Once again a strength of the entire experience was the incredible dedication and capability of the Climb Killi guides and porters. Our main guide, Emmanuel, and one of the assistants, Vader, walked beside me with our arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders for steady support. The trail became a washed out stream bed which is amongst the worst for my making time. We plodded on slowly and with little progress towards my recovery until we neared 12,000 feet. Finally the nausea lifted enough for me to hold down a couple of Jenn’s sports drinks and keep me conscious through to the final camp. I collapsed into the tent and slept through until morning with again no dinner. While this concerned the guides, Tracy and the team understood I could eat a hearty breakfast but sleep was my essential need. This allowed full rejuvenation and a strong hike out on our final day which was blessedly back on trail which is more easily managed. I’m certainly not proud of how rough it was for me but I’m thankful for how much the team supported the efforts necessary to let me struggle through ultimately enough. A very special thanks to Michelle for the constant medical care along the way and to you, Tracy, for having our tent so well ready for my essential collapse.

Randy: My next question involves our team.  As I was so commonly connected to a primary guide and each of us formed our own interactions, I wonder what you took away from the development of our team?

Tracy: That is an great question. I knew every member of the team to varying degrees prior to our trip, with the exception of Maureen. A wonderful development was that Maureen was by far my biggest, most pleasant surprise.  We found that we hike at similar paces and have similar hiking styles and really got along famously. As to the rest of the team, I loved how quickly the entire team settled into a fun camaraderie coupled with kindness and helpfulness. It is true that sharing epic adventures with a group of people creates a bond that is both amazing and unrivaled. I will cherish this group of people for their sense of fun, adventure and their willingness to help their fellow teammates!

Tracy: One of my favorite, most celebratory moments was the singing that we were greeted with at the Mweka gate on our completion of the trip. Can you share a time that was most celebratory to you?

Randy: You know I’m never shy so I’ll share two very different experiences which took place on the same day, I believe. On Wednesday night we camped at the Barranco Camp with the massive and intimidating 800 foot wall directly ahead of us. This was a hands to the trail slightly technical scramble for much of the morning. Our entire team has enough familiarity with scrambles in the white Mountains that we treated the entire journey like the East Osceola chimney. We were quick and capable such that at the top of the wall we stopped to celebrate together. It was a great bonding moment of achievement and pride for how well everyone had worked. I relished that feeling then and still.

Later that evening we were in the mess tent sharing a dinner when Greg asked Rob to read his guest blog that had been released back home. It was powerful and moving on so many fronts and led to more team emotional sharing which brought us together on an even deeper level. We had plenty of trials ahead but the team was cemented into a strong and caring enough core to undertake that challenge together.

Randy: The Serengeti was so vastly different from what I expected and definitely an incredible experience. What surprised you most about the Safari adventure?

Tracy: The Serengeti was amazing and the one thing that surprised me the most was just how close most of the animals were. Whether it was hyenas or lions sleeping right off the road, or elephants passing behind our Landrover almost close enough to touch.

While this is just the barest insight into the experiences of only two of our eleven team members, it hopefully provides you with a little flavor as well as the incentive to reach out to any and all of our team for the rest of the many stories. Life has the potential to be an amazing series of adventures whether by hearing or living the stories. As in many things, however, they are always the sweeter when shared together. Thank you Tracy for sharing life’s adventures with me!

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The most perilous peak

By Randy Pierce

“You never know what’s around the corner. It could be everything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain.
–  Tom Hiddleston

Team all together in Aurusha before the hike
The team hangs out all together in Aurusha before their epic climb! An important, supportive community.

I’m writing this before departing to Tanzania for my attempt to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro. When we publish this, the success or failure of that summit goal will be known. To me though, the success began with the belief that it was a worthy experience and the confidence to choose to try for it. Hundreds of people with whom I speak often relay to me their lack of belief in their own abilities to attempt a variety of things, sometimes within the realm of common activities for the majority of people. What is it which allows doubt or fear to paralyze people in their pursuits? Why even are people so easily consumed by their own lack of confidence?

One of the simplest approaches to easing this challenge is to surround ourselves with people who encourage and support our ideas. Our basic community has such a powerful impact upon us and we forget that we ultimately choose the people with whom we share our lives. I have a marvelous accompaniment of supportive friends and for me it constantly makes a difference. I, in turn, encourage myself to always be that supportive influence in their lives as well. If we are commonly given doubt from the outside, it’s simply no wonder it might ease into us and impact our own thoughts and feeling for ourselves.

Secondly, I believe we so easily focus upon the negatives in our world. Yes, I too have many doubts and some fears which could easily paralyze me if I gave them the chance. I choose to focus on the means of resolution to challenges, of the rewards and benefits possible rather than those doubts and fears. It isn’t that I do not realistically evaluate them and identify the crucial points–it’s that I dwell on solutions more than problems and rewards instead of failures. Whether this approach is of help to anyone else, I cannot be certain, but I do know that in my pursuit of my own peak potential and my well wish for all of your similar abilities to reach new heights, I think the most perilous peak of all is the choice not to climb!

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The Final Countdown to Kilimanjaro and everything you need to follow along during our journey!

By Randy Pierce

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” — John Muir

Mt. Kilimanjaro
Mt. Kilimanjaro

This is it! Single digit days will give way to our September 18 departure. When Monday, September 21 arrives, we’ll have already hiked our way past the Machame Gate and onto Kilimanjaro’s massive shoulders. We will make every reasonable effort to share updates along the way and I’ll give you those details now but first a few announcements and thoughts are worth sharing.

When your team is a perfect 10 (members) already, why would you turn the volume up to 11? The answer is simple, when is it not the right time to help someone reach for a dream and once in a lifetime opportunity?! Jennifer Uhlman has guided me along the steep sections of Mt. Carrigain and supported our team in the Mt. Snow Tough Mudder, now she joins the rest of the team.

So on that notion of the seeming “Once in a Lifetime,” I find myself so tremendously blessed with the belief each day we can work towards something which possesses rewards we will indeed treasure forever. There are those moments which resonate beyond our expectations and I count so many in my own life that I have come to believe for all of us the choice to experience such moments is with us. I’ve long suggested I’m a problem solver more than a risk taker and as such try to ensure planning is at the root of many of my quests. That’s all fine and true yet still there is value in words I reviewed today.

“If you have a dream, you can spend a lifetime studying, planning, and getting ready for it. What you should be doing is getting started.” — Drew Houston

We are taking this trip together as a team and for those not joining us directly, I welcome you to follow along and live in this instance vicariously through our progress. Help us celebrate accomplishments and commiserate the hardest of the challenges. In the process, I hope you are evaluating what dream should be just ahead in your life and what excuses for not reaching may be eradicated to leave your goal ready for you.

Thanks to the ingenuity and kindness of our friends and hiking partners www.RoarLoud.net, you can follow us live or review the history of our progress via the Delorme Inreach technology. Simply visit:

https://share.delorme.com/RoarLoud

We will be sharing progress on our own 2020 Vision Quest Social Media and the front page of our website. The reality is these will be progress updates with no images to be shared until we have completed our descent from the mountain and may send a few of the images along for our friends, family, and community. I’m tremendously excited for all aspects of this experience and intend to put my best effort into the entire attempt. Ultimately it is always the journey and not the destination which is of highest import and I hope that journey includes crossing the crater rim as the sun rises impossibly distant from that incredible height. Thank you for allowing me to share my adventures and I hope for all of us the drive to reach for our peak potential can be constantly and successfully pursued!

You can also follow our friends and their marvelous Roarloud project via:

Facebook
Blog
Twitter
Instagram

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African Safari!

By Randy Pierce

No trick! The safari information is below, but first I am sneaking in an update about my other dream (as if climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and taking an African safari weren’t enough!) One of my responsibilities’ for ensuring the success of 2020 Vision Quest is coordinating ticket sales for our Peak Potential Dinner on November 14. This is more difficult with my two weeks in Africa. I am hopeful we might reach our sell-out or come close before we depart on September 18. If you are thinking about tickets as an individual, couple or table of 8 friends, please consider making that purchase now and helping me with that goal!

Breathtaking view of the Serengeti. (Photo from www.climbkili.com.)
Breathtaking view of the Serengeti. (Photo from www.climbkili.com.)

We’ve shared the details of our climb  and the team and so now it’s time to talk a little about the other adventure on this trip. Given that it is unlikely I’ll ever return to Tanzania or possibly even Africa, there was no way I wanted to miss the opportunity to take a safari and experience the wonders beyond our mountain climb. Throughout my younger life, one of the epitomes of adventure was a jungle safari with lions, elephants, and the Serengeti plain as well! Through our Climb Killy guide service, we have chosen a 4-Day Safari to begin the day after we have finished climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and I expect it to be the perfect exclamation on a trip of a lifetime.

DAY 1: ARUSHA – SERENGETI

Wildebeest and zebra graze on the Serengeti plains. (Photo from www.climbkili.com.)
Wildebeest and zebra graze on the Serengeti plains. (Photo from www.climbkili.com.)

We’ll fly out of ARUSHA to get directly out onto the appropriate part of the SERENGETI. While the timing is not appropriate for the incredible herd migrations, we’ll be taking our journey to a known point of quality contact with some of the most exciting animals available on the plains. We’ll travel in well equipped and very safe vehicles to blend our safety and the opportunity to get close observations of these animals in their natural environs. Our safari works back towards our hotel over the four days and our first night will be at Kilima Valley Tented camp. It may seem like the Taj Mahal after our time tenting on the mountain!

DAY 2: SERENGETI

Next up is a full day in the Serengeti. We’ll explore the reserve looking for the big five: lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants and rhinos. I didn’t even know the “big five” before the safari but have a few additions like zebras, giraffes, and elephants of course! We again return to the Kilima Valley Tented Camp for a final night.

Gorgeous view of the Ngorongoro crater. (Photo from www.climbkili.com.)
Gorgeous view of the Ngorongoro crater. (Photo from www.climbkili.com.)

DAY 3: SERENGETI-NGORONGORO

Today we’ll follow game routes from Serengeti National Park to the Ngorongoro Highlands. Perched atop the infamous crater which hosts one of the most abundant wildlife retreats in the world we’ll prepare for our final day with a night at  the Ngorongoro Wildlife  Lodge. 

DAY 4: NGORONGORO – ARUSHA

We’ll descend down the crater 2000-ft for a full-day crater tour. This is the largest unflooded and unbroken caldera in the world and as a result has become a breath-taking natural wonder. While our entire trip could likely be spent exploring the geographical and animal splendors of this region, we’ll have one long day before returning to Arusha for the end of incredible adventure!

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A Look into the Kilimanjaro Team

By Randy Pierce

Rob Webber
Rob Webber

“When he took time to help the man up the mountain, lo, he scaled it himself.”
–Tibetan Proverb

While the above proverb is quite likely true in many ways for our group, the basic message suggests that in our teamwork and support of each other, we can all achieve heights beyond our expectations. Once I determined Kilimanjaro was a goal, the most important next step was finding the right people to be part of the experience and team. That in itself was a longer and more interesting journey than I would have anticipated and I’m very pleased to report that I will be part of an excellent group of people.

Jose Acevedo
Jose Acevedo

The selection of those ten began with my intent to use the human guiding approach we developed during my quest to summit the 48. With that in mind, Rob Webber and Jose Acevedo were the first to officially join the team with me. There are many fantastic friends with whom I have hiked through the years and I’d have liked all of them to be able to join this expedition, but unfortunately that was not reasonable. We did feel that we needed at least two friends who have guided me and were comfortable not only with the task but with the impact my medical condition might cause for all of our chances at a successful summit. Rob is one of my longest and strongest friendships going back to our days at the University of New Hampshire together. He was my Best Man and brings  an intelligent, thoughtful patience to his excellent athleticism. He’s also taller than I am which is particularly beneficial when guiding me down from elevation as my hand on the pack appreciates that height to keep me from bending.

Jose meanwhile is “less tall” for the upward sections when I can more readily keep my hand on his pack as we ascend. I’ve known Jose for well over two decades. An excellent and charismatic leader with energy and endurance as we showed in winning the National Marathon Championship together. Both serve on the Board of Directors for 2020 Vision Quest and we were prepared to be the core of a team.

Greg Neault
Greg Neault

When Greg Neault and I discussed the trip. it quickly became clear to me our ever growing friendship and frequent hikes of the White Mountains provided a reason for me to inquire and he was immediately interested and eager to be part of the experience. Greg has a tremendous sense of adventure and matches my drive to believe things are possible with problem solving and determination. An excellent artistic eye and generous with his photography gifts, he has become the Social Media Manager for 2020 Vision Quest.

He also is a positive catalyst for expanding my own adventurous nature. In fact, he and Cathy “Wildcat” Merrifield were fundamental in my eventually entering into the Tough Mudder Nation. Perhaps that explains why Wildcat and her significant other, Frank Parrot, were soon welcomed into the growing team. Each have hiked with me in the past and have become steadily closer friends.

Cathy Merrifield and Frank Parrot
Cathy Merrifield and Frank Parrot

I’d met Cathy on a run with the Mighty Quinn in which a mutual acquaintance had us bounding over tricky roots while training for shorter races. I was proud to keep up with her and have come to value the entire Wildcat clan! Cathy has an infectious spirit of encouragement and courage as well as her own chronicling of adventures. Frank is the quiet technology presence who augments the silence with the deep thought behind the scenes. Perhaps the most difficult to get to know he also provided the most profound answer when our first training weekend had us sharing significant life experiences. Frank is the tallest member of the team and may help Rob with descent guiding as his own hiking prowess has grown as he details in his guest blog to Wildcats page. Frank’s photography skills and hiking determination may exceed the little detail that he might just be able to carry the entire team on his shoulders for short distances!

Tracy!
Tracy!

Cathy’s addition blazed the trail for my favorite addition and yes, I’m not only allowed but expected to have a favorite! My wife Tracy has been a fundamental part of my adventures as well as her own. She ensured Jose would not be the shortest member of the team while allowing me to have the person I’d most wish to share such epic life adventures right there beside me. Along with her taking the core planning of our actual trip into her ever immense list of responsibilities Tracy also best understands my blindness and the rest of my medical challenges. She’s a well grounded presence to aid the entire group but most especially my essential needs to best encourage success. Mostly though I’m just joyful that instead of missing her while away we’ll be sharing the experiences together and that is an essential way to live our lives.

Michelle Brier
Michelle Brier

While we might have halted at a lucky 7 in our group, we have built a few friendships through our strong connection to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Though Quinn and Autumn may top the canine lists of gifts from the wonderful organization,  our friendship with Michelle Brier is unrivaled. Her energy, enthusiasm, and creativity are welcome in all aspects of life, while her caring and giving nature help support a team. Her medical skills will be a tremendous asset for sure as will her subtle attention to the well-being of each individual along the way.

Through Michelle, Catherine “Cat” Orza joined us for what proved to be Quinn’s final hike and took the legendary photograph I’ll always treasure. It’s almost unfair that the youngest member of our team is renown for that photo instead of the hiking knowledge, fun-loving and easygoing kindness she also showcases. Yet another incredible athlete on our team, Cat’s also adding to the photographic prowess I decidedly lack.

Katherine "Kat" Orza
Catherine “Cat” Orza

Our final team member is a trainer at Guiding Eyes and that might be incredibly beneficial on many of our hikes where many dogs and most certainly my Dog Guides might be involved.  All the dogs are remaining home though and Maureen Mellett is  the least known to me of our group. She is a hiker with much familiarity working with the blind and some specifically for guiding. She was the first to positively respond to my request for those who would be willing to guide me on Kilimanjaro which speaks much about her approach. Ultimately though she’ll be some of they mystery we share as our experience goes forward. I know that she joins us with a very high recommendation from Michelle Brier and that’s enough to make our team a perfect 10!

Maureen Mellett
Maureen Mellett

While we all undoubtedly have our own reasons for undertaking the journey, we have a common purpose which unites us: we are all determined to do our utmost to ensure that all of us have every chance to reach the summit successfully. A common purpose will bring us together and undoubtedly a few challenges along the way may require we communicate and adjust approaches to best benefit the expedition. Overall though, we are all very committed to making the most of the experience. Every expectation is that the shared aspects of how each of us grows into the team and from the expedition will be part of our success. My hundreds of hikes have taught me to appreciate how much any individual can enrich the experience and how much the experience will bring any group together. While we will share our stories in words, images, and video, only we 10 will fully experience this expedition together and understand completely how it transforms all of us. I do wish I could have many others along with us but I’m reminded of William Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech, and so in the same sentence I would not wish for one man more for we few, we precious few, are enough.

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Mt. Kilimanjaro looms large

By Randy Pierce

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

Mount Kilimanjaro is the is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Mount Kilimanjaro is the is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Our early plans for this epic climb have grown considerable as our winter training hike demonstrated. Each of us has been in various ways attending the training and conditioning we will all want for the successful experience we hope is ahead. Just four short months remain before we will board planes and fly to Tanzania to begin the official expedition. The questions have begun in earnest and our teamwork must now also begin in earnest: What route are we taking? How many days will it take? Where is Autumn going to be staying? What’s the most challenging part? When do we summit? Will we have updates?

The truth is most of these already have answers and I’ll provide more now but the full trip sharing is still ahead as we must first finalize all the details of our teamwork ahead.

We are working with an expedition company called “Climb Kili” and will be using the most commonly traveled Machame Route up the mountain. We expect to depart the United States near the middle of September and return in very early October. The climb itself will involve six days of ascent with a summit planned for dawn after an all-night hike under a full moon. The sunrise from atop the tallest standalone mountain in the world has an incredible allure, though we all recognize the amount of work involved for all of us to experience this together.

Group shot on Franconia Notch
Group shot on Franconia Notch on a training hike last winter.

Speaking of which, Autumn is not joining us for the trip as the impact of low oxygen upon a dog is something we do not understand well enough to undertake at this point. She has plans to stay with Chrissie Vetrano of Guiding Eyes where she will get incredible love and care as well as some potential opportunities to show off at Guiding Eyes for the Blind!

While we are there we have decided to undertake a four-day safari following our climb. It is unlikely that many of us will ever have such an opportunity again and thus it was an easy part of the plan. There are so many safari variations and we are building ours to take advantage of the best regions for the season we are there.

So what can we do to train? We are all building aerobic conditioning. Running, biking, and climbing locally are certainly some ways. Stair climbers and treadmills can help though we simply need to get time out in the mountains as often as possible this summer as well. We have an oxygen-restricting mask to help simulate the low oxygen of higher altitudes when it is literally one breath per step to ensure the muscles have the oxygen they need to function. Equipment research and purchasing is happening. Finding ways to fully share all of the experience ahead is one of our goals. We’ve even heard from a company giving consideration to sponsoring our trip on our more significant scale but all of that remains for future development. Today we just want to share a little more and invite any of your questions or comments about the great adventure ahead!

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Reaching new heights: Expeditions to Kilimanjaro September 2015!

By Randy Pierce

Mount Kilimanjaro is the is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Mount Kilimanjaro. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

It is the highest stand alone mountain in the world. It is the tallest mountain in Africa and achieving its summit will be our quest. We are seeking the Peak Potential of Mt. Kilimanjaro! Three members of the 2020 Vision Quest team have chosen to join The “2015 Wild Heart – No Limits Kilimanjaro Expedition” in September of 2015.

Rob and Randy hike Mt. Jefferson. Photo courtesy of Greg Neault.
Rob and Randy hike Mt. Jefferson. Photo courtesy of Greg Neault.

There will be many future discussions as we are joining a team with a mission similar to our own, but this is a time for announcements and  celebrations as we establish the foundation work for success. When Michael and Serenity Coyne approached me with the opportunity, I was tremendously honored and knew there were many questions to answer and problems to consider before commitment. All of those have been addressed with enough comfort for us to give an enthusiastic yes to this opportunity!

I wanted two capable companions familiar with the challenges presented by my hiking with absolutely no vision–in long-time friends Rob Webber and Jose Acevedo I have that and so much more. In the future profiles of our many companions from the expedition, we hope to showcase a very inspirational team each with inspirational stories to help power the journey. We look forward to sharing our planning, training and support over the next 16 months leading into our adventure!

Jose Avecedo and Randy on a peak. Photo courtesy of Tracy Pierce.
Jose Acevedo and Randy on a peak. Photo courtesy of Tracy Pierce.

I want to be very clear that this incredible expedition, as with all of the adventures we’ve undertaken in the past, receives absolutely none of the charity funds we raise for 2020 Vision Quest. We fund our own adventures and share them with the 2020 Vision Quest community for our enjoyment and in part as a testament to the Ability Awareness we suggest as we all reach for our Peak Potential, literal and figurative.

We believe our efforts should in all ways enhance the mission of 2020 Vision Quest and that our worthy message should indeed resonate around the world!

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