Caren Ware's Blog

April 3, 2014

There are top of the worlds

Filed under: hiking,Marathon Running,traveling,Uncategorized — Caren Ware @ 7:52 am

Climbing right up the ridgeline of a volcano in the middle of the night above 15,000 feet is not something one does everyday. The lack of sleep. The lack of oxygen. The task was to keep going…uphill. Plod. Plod. Deep, noisy breath. It is windy. Very windy. It sucks precious air away. It is cold. Very cold. Skin has to be covered in warm layers. But we are sweating. It is a dangerous combination that does require the right kinds of layers and materials. Here, the products gleaned from living in Jackson, Wyoming are made for just this. An Icebreaker wool base layer. A Patagonia fleece hoodie. A Northface down jacket. A Marmot Gortez expedition jacket. (I left my beloved STIO down jacket and wool sweater in the states, reserved for the ski slopes, not the trudge up Kilimanjaro) The designed hood of the Gortex expedition jacket became my saving friend. It let me hide from the wind and choose when to face the lung freezing air. The beloved jacket was earned working a running event for Teton Mountaineering in Jackson.
The stars are out. On all sides of us. It is very hard to describe, but we were stepping through the galaxy. The stars were all around. It was so dark you couldn’t see the ground. All you could see was within the beam of the headlamp. There were many climbing the mountain and you could not distinguish which were far off headlamps, or glittering stars. Plod. Plod. Breath slow and steady. Every once in a while the body would just gasp, or sigh, or grimace. The little stuffed monkey dangling from the pack in front of me was the only thing illuminated by my headlamp beam. I tried to bubble out a few sentences of encouragement, but no one could hear. The wind, one; but more so, we had fallen into a chain gang progression of altitude endurance and we had retreated into our own little survival worlds. Awake. Moving. But in a disturbing dream state.
My world wandered to some woes. The condo I tried to buy and didn’t get a bank in Wyoming to venture a loan. They wanted a year’s resident history and a full time job in town. I blindly thought getting a year round full time job in a seasonal resort town would be no problem. Plop. Plop. Suck in air. Breath it out. I started being constructive, tackled great ideas for new events, rolling through my mind like catching a great set of waves.
Our guides were moving among us constantly checking on our well being. I could tell they were concerned with me. I was the amped one that could have a breathing attack. I was the one that my lungs were starting to gurgle. But they also knew I was the one that competitive, athletic determination was going to dogmatically summit and shut out the wisdom to respond to what my body was doing in elevation. That is why the guides have to be given the final judgment calls, but thankfully they know that it will only be called if seriously threatening. It was tough on everyone, no matter and we all just had to push past. That is what is so rewarding about tackling Kilimanjaro. It is doable and we were doing it.
My mom came to mind. And there I memorialized Kilimanjaro to a great hearted woman who always reached out for the underdog as she was one. I twinge as my steps climbed higher. She had lost her life to cancer in her fifties and asked me to explore the world for her…to not wait until retirement years. She looked me in the eye, reached up and pulled a hand full of hair and laid it on her hospital bed. The first round of chemo. She weakly smiled an affirmation of acceptance. A tear of love dripped out of her eye. And than she turned and gazed far off and silent. Without looking back, she said, “explore the rest of this intricate world for me, dear daughter. Retirement years are not guaranteed to ever get. You can only take the lines that you wrote on other people. Nothing else.” So, dear mom, who taught me to see life in angles, and hues, and expressions, and improv moments through the lens of a camera, I dedicate this climb to you. You, who, also, as a child was abandoned in a boarding home most your life ,taught me to feel the needs of others.
Joel our guide is humming. It is as melodical as his accented voice. He is humming a hymn to a beat that is African. A guide down the line on the mountain joins in. Than does our other guides. A guide above us starts to add to the symphony of voices. I hadn’t even noticed the wind had died. Stilled. And the still night was lullabied by IMG_4922

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IMG_4951these beautiful men with husky, flowing, beautiful voices. Their song hugs us in a way that you could not feel until you have meet the grace of these Tanzanians.

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