Blog of Sam Fox

(Not page 3, popstar, politician, pornstar, or phoenix professional)

Tag

hiking

Africa, Kilimanjaro

Last of the ‘easy’ days as going gets tougher but home comforts help

  1. Kick-off for Kili
  2. The scenic route up Kilimanjaro
  3. Last of the ‘easy’ days as going gets tougher but home comforts help

Day Four: Shira Two camp (3,810m/12,500ft) to Baranco Hut (3,950m/13,106ft)

“Day four! Half way done”. This is the first line in my notebook that I wrote in my tent knackered after quite a day climbing to Lava Tower. And on the Kilimanjaro tour company website, it’s described as the “last of the ‘easy days’”. Easy days?!

Despite the claims of an ‘easy day’ it was going to be one of the longest days and the peak altitude would take us above 14K feet for the first time. With the landscape changing the paths widened as well and we found ourselves less single-file.

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Shira One Camp
Africa, Kilimanjaro

The scenic route up Kilimanjaro

  1. Kick-off for Kili
  2. The scenic route up Kilimanjaro
  3. Last of the ‘easy’ days as going gets tougher but home comforts help

Day One: Londorossi Gate (2,220m/6,825ft) to Mt Mkubwa (2,800m/9,100ft)

There are several different routes to take up Kilimanjaro, our Lemosho route is the most scenic route, and at 8 days is one of the longer routes. People come here without proper training and try and do it in 5 days – what’s the point? Throughout the Kili hike, EBC was a reference for me, it is my only other high-altitude hike, but one of the best things about that trip was the scenery and the journey (will try not to talk about the worst things!).

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Team pre-departure
Kilimanjaro

Kick-off for Kili

  1. Kick-off for Kili
  2. The scenic route up Kilimanjaro
  3. Last of the ‘easy’ days as going gets tougher but home comforts help

Gathering the groups

“Let me know what you think about Kilimanjaro and if you’d be up for it in Feb 2023”. That was just over a year ago in January 2022 when Beth messaged me. Back in 2016 I, along with 6 others, climbed Everest Base Camp. The aim was to create another small group to do Kili.

“It looks really good, very tempted”

Kilimanjaro was going to be nearly 2K feet higher than Everest Base Camp, which gave me some thought. I’d struggled with the altitude at times on EBC , as had another member of the original EBC crew. In the end, our Kili group was 8 people, Beth, Ollie, and myself part of the same crew from 2016. Now it was time to kick off the preparation.

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mountains in the catskills new york
New York, NYC coronavirus lockdown, USA

An upstate retreat for some ‘normalcy’

  1. First day working remote
  2. We stay home and wait
  3. Stretching the legs & (some) social distancing
  4. Confirmation arrives, stocking up
  5. Finding routine in irregular times
  6. New challenges with the remote working
  7. Noticeable changes
  8. Finding a pattern
  9. COVID-19 Lock Down
  10. First week, check
  11. Weekend plans? You know stay away from people as much as possible.
  12. Game night as the pause begins
  13. Streets empty as everyone builds furniture and plays games
  14. Staying sane
  15. Keeping date night going
  16. Socializing remote
  17. Friday feeling? TGIF?
  18. House Parties not Street Parties
  19. Running in the rain
  20. Betting on unknowns
  21. Optimizing the lockdown life
  22. Community Support
  23. Virtual Social Closeness
  24. Friday night: Virtual Happy Hours & Games
  25. Four Weeks In
  26. Discovering the new exciting
  27. A Weekend Getaway in Quarantine
  28. Rain and games
  29. Looking for escapes
  30. Escape to the Country
  31. An upstate retreat for some ‘normalcy’
  32. Rediscovering New York as lockdown eases

We’ve been back three of weeks now, a weird few weeks. When we left the city as still firmly in lockdown, the streets were deserted, and we were getting groceries delivered and left outside our door. A lot of things changed while we were upstate: cases went down a lot, the state started reopening in certain areas, summer arrived and George Floyd was killed. I’ve already reflected a bit on that first week back with the protests, riots and curfew. My next post will be a chance to reflect more on what the city is like now we’re back but I’ll look back at our couple of weeks upstate here.

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Canada

Montreal in Fall: 1 hour north, 100 years back and some stunning colours

Top of Mount Royal, looking out to Olympic Stadium

I compare it to when there’s something such as a restaurant/café so close to where you live you never go there – “It’ll always be here, could go anytime, let’s go there instead”. It’s been just over five years since I moved to New York, in that time I’ve visited 13 US states/districts and 10 countries. More than once I’d taken a journey totaling over 20 hours flying time.  What I had never done was fly one hour north and visit Canada.

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Australia

A Sampling of Sydney – Art, Beaches, Caves…Waterfalls

Sydney Opera House lit up at night

Sydney Opera House at night

I started a travel writing course late last year, one of the first assignments was to identify some potential ‘hooks’. Hooks are stories, events, key dates – something you can hang a story on to increase its relevance at the time of publishing. As I was scratching my head for some hooks I was also planning the trip to Australia.

While Melbourne became the main destination, Sydney had always captured my imagination and particularly Sydney’s Opera House. Thinking back as to why, firstly I remember watching NYE celebrations on the TV, Sydney always being one of the first countries to ring in the new year and so seeing all the fireworks go off with the Opera House in the foreground. Always leading the celebrations and a distinctive setting. Then, secondly, that distinctive setting, distinctive design, more so than a tower, a clock or a bridge and an existing part of the landscape – unlike a ball.

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Australia

The Grand Tours

Torquay Beach

Torquay Beach

Torquay, some may recognize the name as a seaside town in Devon, England. It also happens to be the name of a small town near Melbourne, population of only 10,000 with significant surfing heritage. Two of the biggest surfwear companies RipCurl and Quicksilver were both founded in the town.

On this occasion, as we got out of the van and climbed over the ridge to face the sea, we were not here to surf. Torquay is also known as the Gateway to the Great Ocean Road and this was the order of the day. Indeed, we were not carrying surfboards but rather a cup of tea, as we made the first stop for morning tea and cake. I had joined a tour run by a local company “Go West”, we were going to travel the Great Ocean Road making several stops along the way and then returning express in the evening.

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Everest Base Camp

What I didn’t tell you about the hike to Everest Base Camp! (The Outtakes)

My injured eye on the way upto Everest Base CampI’ve written several posts on the hike to Everest Base Camp, and most of them I wrote while hiking and still on the mountain. In an effort to not increase worry and anxiety amongst some of the readership of this blog, I decided to omit certain details about the hike while I was still in Nepal. Since I have now been back to England and provided in-person evidence of the fact I’m not missing any limbs, it’s time to document the outtakes. In roughly order of occurrence here goes..

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Everest Base Camp

Country Roads home from Base Camp

It’s our last day before we fly out of Kathmandu tomorrow, this morning we explored the “Garden of Dreams” – an amazing oasis of calm hidden in plain sight of the crazy hustle of the Kathmandu streets. I’m now writing this in the Hotel courtyard, contemplating not only the whole trip but also how unlikely it is I’ll be sat outside updating this blog anytime in the near future.

The route back from Base Camp, over the following four days, to Lukla where the journey began in earnest was very enjoyable – the weather held and some of the varied routes took us through stunning scenery. Further, being acclimatised to circa 5000M and having nine days hiking behind us meant the hiking and altitude felt less strained than on the way up.

Day 11, Kala Pattar then down to Lobuche

Sunrise from Kala PattharThe day after EBC, everyone was feeling tired and some were feeling the effects of a cold which had hit our camp. Colds at altitude are definitely less fun than they are at sea level also. That morning we had the optional hike of going up a nearby mountain which is higher than EBC, the idea was to hike up – about 2/3 of the mountain to get a great view of the sunrise.

Sunrise is 6AM, so for those of us who chose to go on the trip agreed to meet at about 4.45AM. If we hiked for an hour we should be in a good place to see the sunrise over the mountains. To put in perspective how cold it was at that time, the jug in the barrel of water next to the toilet (to be used in place of a working flush) had frozen together preventing anyone from flushing the toilet until the ice melted. This was the one instance where I wore my down jacket, alongside top and bottom base layers and my soft shell fleece.

We started out with our head torches affixed, going up the mountain. As it approached 6AM the shimmy of the sun could be seen on the horizon. What we hadn’t accounted for was given how high the mountains are, how long it would take the sun to rise above them – particularly Everest. The point we’d reached at 6AM was my physical limit at that time, you don’t sleep particularly well at high altitude, especially with uncomfortable beds. The combination of the day before’s hike and lack of good sleep was a definite factor in my feeling at that point. I also wasn’t the only one feeling the pinch. To keep warm Pemba showed us a couple of ways to warm the extremities up and we ended up walking in small circles to keep warm. After about 30 minutes of this the sun had made little to no progress up the mountain so it was at this point we called it a day and trudged back to the relative warmth of the tea house and an early cuppa. It was at least an hour later we saw from the window the sun peak above the mountains, the few of us who’d gone up feeling our decision to come down ratified.

After breakfast we had a relatively short hike back down to Lobuche, though we didn’t lose much height – only a couple of hundred metres. The tea house was more comfortable and I had my first hot shower in several days.

Day 12, to Pangboche

World's Highest BakeryAs we left Lobuche we passed the “World’s Highest Bakery” at the “hight” of 5000m. Unfortunately, I cannot report on what the bakery was like as we didn’t go in to try – maybe next time! As we continued the hike back down the valley in the morning we were able to spread out an not walk single file in a line as we had to do for much of the trek and everyone capitalized on the space to find their own pace. I tried to use the opportunity to get some front facing shots of people, I seemed to find myself at the back of the group most of the time as I stopped to take photos – meaning most of my shots of the group are of their backs!

In the afternoon we were back amongst the cliffs looking down on the river below with stunning scenery surrounding us. Once we reached Pengboche then it was time for celebrations with Beth celebrating her birthday in the Himalayas. We cracked open the first beers of the trip – hangovers at altitude are like the hangover after that Christmas party you would rather forget – best avoided, local ales don’t seem to exist but sharing a Sherpa lager wasn’t going to result in any complaints! Whenever tea houses had music in the background it was meditation type music, almost identical everywhere – supposed to lower your blood pressure. This time it was a little different though with the tea house lady deciding to put on some Billy Ray Cyrus and John Denver. Country Roads prompting a sing along much to her amusement.

We weren’t the only ones getting jolly that night though, Pemba met up with a friend (though in all honesty it felt like Pemba knew everyone in the mountains!) and came back after his friend had continued to pour “one more” Chang (local rice wine). Nick also shared a small bottle of whiskey he’d bought with the Yak driver, the gesture prompting a look of absolute sheer joy and even a little jig from the Yak driver.

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