One of the questions I think I have been most frequently asked since taking on the Kili challenge is, “So, how do you train for something like this?” People seem genuinely interested while you talk about the gear and the beautiful hikes we’ve had the opportunity to go on. Then I watch as their eyes glaze over as you discuss walking lunges, squats, dead drops with 20kg of weight in your hands, the 4:30 a.m. wake-ups, the repetitive climb up the 200 odd Westcliffe stairs. For anyone interested in what you need to do in order to be able to climb a mountain, here are some of the things we’ve learned along the way:
Training Tip # 1: Take a hike
In our family, most Sundays consist of what seems like endless, mindless housework – weekend laundry, weekend dishes, week-end clutter to clear up, long queues at shopping tills while we stock up on the week’s grocery requirements. Chances are there’s a birthday party to attend – either our own or one of our children’s friends. For some reason, my children seem to find themselves attached to screens for as much of the day as we’ll allow them to be – XBox, computer, TV. Somehow the day seems to both drag and fly. Interminable hours are spent doing things I have no other time to do except on a Sunday and these chores consume my free moments. So often at the end of our weekends I wonder if we did anything truly meaningful, or if we squandered the precious gift of our off day.
An unanticipated consequence of the Kili campaign has been the necessity to actually hike. I guess I had not truly thought about or really imagined the wealth of beauty and wildlife, right on our doorstep. The importance of hiking in preparation is significant and finding places to hike close to Joburg and Pretoria has become a regular group project.
A few weeks ago I took my boys aged 9 and 6 years respectively with me as we explored Klipriviersberg. I watched my sons meet and interact with adults who were strangers to them, but important to me, run in the fresh air, explore rocky mountain sides and experiment with my walking poles. The Kili campaign is all-consuming for many of us. It dominates waking thoughts and sleepless nights and even dinner conversations. It excites and terrifies both private and shared moments with spouses and friends. It seems equally surreal and inexplicably palpable. It would appear that there would be no space for anything else – except for the fact that as we all know real life has a way of forging ahead whether or not you’re engaged. Work and family occupy my real day to day busy-ness. To see my family, the one reality more precious than any adventure, coalesce with my Kilimanjaro world was incredibly affirming somehow. It was exhilarating, it was energising. I bonded with my children in a way that was unlike anything I could have achieved over a shared movie (even with popcorn and chuckles). When I signed up for this expedition, part of me acknowledged that it was in some ways, a selfish thing to do. I would be away from my family for 10 days. I would sacrifice time with them as I trained. I would be unavailable at night, because of team meetings or because I would be comatose with exhaustion as a result of early morning training. I did not anticipate this other, wonderful gift – a chance to discover raw African beauty; a chance to be outdoors drenched in glorious sunlight and to explore a whole new world both invigorating and soothing. Best, I would find an opportunity to share it all with my children.