Tuesday
Jun042013

K2, Something New!

(pictured above, many fast men's K2 boats going really hard in Poznan. One from Holland, one from Poland, one from Germany, one from Austria. Burloak pictured in Canadian colours in the middle there)

"Great things aren't just worth working hard for, but also waiting for as well.  Patience is like a virtue, or something." - somebody very wise

I've taken a big break from my usual routine for the past few months.  Paddling my boat has become the thing I look forward to doing everyday, once all the other things are taken care of.  I needed (and continue to need) to diversify my portfolio of works a little, and to focus on all of the things that are really important that don't involve "left-stroke, right-stroke".

Happy to say that I'm very much enjoying the process of "normalization", and stoked that I still seem to have plenty of strokes left in these elbows.

I'm freshly home from our 2013 European Tour, which started in the beautiful pseudo-European city of Montreal a few weeks ago, with our National Team Selection Trials. A concise update is in order...

  • Montreal trials were good, just a little windy. I won the K1 1000m race with my K2 buddy Brady a close 2nd.  The young gun crew of Rob Clarke and Andrew Jessop bettered us in the K2 1000m by a length, but by finishing 2nd we earned the privilege of racing at the World Cups.
  • Our first Euro stop was Racice, Czech Republic (pre-flood).  Brady and I had some ups and downs but thrived on the ups and learned from the downs.  K2 at this world-class level is a brand new beast for me/us, so we're amped to be partaking in a learning process. We were 9th in the 1000m, 10th in the 500m and I raced the 5km smashup and managed to get back into 9th by the finishline after being probably last at one point.  Fun times were had by all.
  • I went to Sweden for a week in between the world cups for some lox and latenight sunshine. Also there was some wind.
  • I arrived in Poznan Poland for World Cup 2 after some train rides through 6 cities ending in -köping (Swedish for -market).  Hopped back into the teamboats with a K4 session with our speedy U23 dudes (Nice work fellas!), and back to the grind in K2 with Brady.  We sorted a few little thingies out, and started feeling fast again.  We had a good regatta, contributing one silver and one bronze (1000m and 500m respectively) to the 13-thousand medal haul Team Canada managed to pilage from Poznan. Respect to all of Team Canada, much thanks to our coaches, and Bainer and Bernie for keeping us logistically and muscularly in check. Congrats to everyone who raced, but especially Gabriel Beauchesne-Sevigny for his 2 Golds and a Silver in distances ranging from 200m (a 38second race) to the 5000m (over 20minutes)... you're a dynamo. AND, an engineer! Felicitations mec.

Now I am home in Toronto, eager to get back on the water and up north for some cabin time. I have a summer reading list, some fun travel plans and some new challenges ahead.  As my friend Kurt always used to write: "You are what you pretend to be, so be careful about who you pretend to be".  I'm going to carry on pretending to be a happy K2 paddler with lots of great friends and teammates and some fun races coming up for the time being.  See you on the water, friends!

(pictured above, Brady Reardon of Burly Decal and Sign and Adam van Koeverden celebrate their silver in K2 1000m with smiles and flowers)

Friday
Jan252013

John Wood (1950-2013)

The sport of canoeing lost a giant yesterday. John Wood was an inspirational man for multiple generations of Canadian paddlers, canoe and kayak alike. I don't recall when I first met John, sometime in the fall of 1995 when I first took to the water at the Burloak Canoe Club I suppose. I remember Larry telling me about who he was and that he won a silver medal in the 1976 Olympics. I could tell how inspirational he had been for Larry throughout his early career. Whenever John's Silver "AG 76" license-plated Porsche was parked at the club I'd be excited to see him out on the water. He was the retired Rock Star the canoe club never had, he was so cool, and so fit, and he was older than our dads. He was snowboarding before any of us had ever heard of a Burton or a halfpipe. He'd usually get out for his 10k paddle before my group was on the water.  He'd seemingly sprint the whole thing, I never once saw him with his paddle down on the creek. He'd go for a 10k paddle and take like 65 strokes a minute for the whole thing without a break, still sweating and breathing hard as he wiped the creek water from his wooden canoe.  The man epitomized a lifelong dedication to sport and fitness to me.

I had the honour of lighting John's Torch in the Vancouver Olympic Torch Relay with mine. I remember telling him how it should be the other way around, and that Larry should be between us on the relay... and he just smiled in his no-worries way and said, "ah, this'll be fun".

We emailed occassionally, usually about politics in Canadian sport, his vehement disgust of doping and Burloak business. In flipping through our most recent correspondance I saw his latest email signed off with "Time for lunch?", and I didn't reply. Sorry John... I really wish we had sat down. I'll really miss you.

 

Wednesday
Nov142012

Day 6 - Finale

Day 5 was crazy. We started at 1am and hiked for over 13 hours. After we returned to Barafu camp (4600m asl) from Uhuru (the summit, 5850m asl), we were told that we should take a 1hr nap, wake up and eat and prepare to hike 4 or 5 hours to Mweka camp (3100m asl).  I already did the math, so you don't have to... that's 1250 of ascending and 2750 of descending.  After dinner I barely wrote a blog on my blackberry and emailed it to my mom to post before falling asleep before 9am.  I slept better than I had in days, likely because we were lower than we had been since day 1. We woke up early, ate David Mange-Mange's breakfast of eggs with cucumber (you know when you've got weird stuff in your fridge, and you make recipes up?), hot dogs and "oatmeal".  I used my last via coffee pack, put on my MEC EOS pack and joined the pack for our final descent, Day 6.

Our crew informed us that the terrain would be really simple, since Day 5 into Mweka Camp involved 7km down a dry river bed with a really trecherous rocky decline.  Day 6 was a lot like the first day, a steady groomed muddy trail with few obstacles. It stayed dry for us, and as we descended below 3000m, the flora and fauna returned to jungle-style as the bushes and shrubs turned into ferns, palms and giant camfor trees. We spotted monkeys and birds that we hadn't encountered yet. We saw a big beautiful moth, bigger than your hand with two big eyes elegantly painted on it's wings.

It was about 4 hours down to Mweka gates.  We arrived to our porter and guide team singing and dancing a congratulatory routine in mostly Swahili, but with enough English and now-familiar Kilimanjaro terms (Mambo, Jambo, Poa, Pole Pole, and the names of our camps)... that we got the jist. It was so awesome to be welcomed back by the guys who made our journey possible. They seemed so genuinely thrilled for us, and I feel like we really shared the adventure, despite many of the guides having been up the mountain over 200 times. Kidori and Praygod, who are only 24, have been up to the summit more than 100 times.  Kidori first summitted when he was 14, and his older brother is in the Guinness Book for the quickest roundtrip at 8 hours.  Kidori plans to beat that in the spring.

After our celebration we had a champagne lunch in the garden, bbq chicken and fries with Kilimanjaro Beer (after you climb it, drink it). The champagne got sprayed around so we didn't really drink any.  I've got some video of the dancing, I'll post it soon.  If Mange-Mange's belly dance doesn't make you howl then you are simply dull and boring.

It feels so good to be back close to sea level, but somehow I already miss the adventure.  5 nights in a damp tent, 75km of hiking with a heavy pack, nauseating altitude, bone chillingly cold mornings, and the rain.  As nice as the view was, the challenge was really the only reason to go.  If it was easy, then it probably wouldn't be so rewarding. Another example of my "life-thesis", the inherent value in hardwork, was illustrated in full colour, once again. I made 6 new Canadian life-long friends in Jason/Jansen (ok, he's actually a yank), Mr. James, Jo-Jo, my tent mate Kev, Jamie and Danielle and a bunch of amazing Tanzanian ones too in Alex, Kidori, Praygod, Patrick, Osman, Sarah, Solomon, Mange-Mange and all the fellas that worked so hard breaking down and setting up camp everyday. Thanks for the memories team... this is an adventure that I won't soon forget.

Pictures and video are coming soon... I'm late boarding my flight to Frankfurt from here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  A quick stop in Khartoum, Sudan, another longer one in Frankfurt, and I'll be back on Canadian soil by lunchtime tomorrow. Headed to Vancouver for the last Gold Medal Plates Qualifying event for the Canadian Culinary Championships... I get to emcee and refresh my appetite with the best food Vancity can make. See you soon west coast... bye for now Africa.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Monday
Nov122012

Day 4/5

Day 3 was a challenge. We got so much cold rain, we arrived to a soaking, muddy campsite, and everyone's gear was drenched. It was one of those "character building" days for our team.

We awoke the morning of day 4 at Barranco camp to another clear morning view. Kissing Rock to our left, a lush jungle in front, and the peak of Kilimanjaro behind camp.

We ate breakfast, packed our gear and hit the trails early. I continued to carry all of my gear, towards our destination, Barafu Basecamp. At 4600m it is the same height as Lava tower, where I experienced some altitude related symptoms on Day 3.  Our first obstacle was Kissing Rock, a huge outcropping with a switchback ridge carved into it. It requires the use of both hands to climb, and you ascend high above camp within 30mins, it's a really awesome view. Of the camp and the peak. The only annoying thing is that the trail then takes you away from the Kilimanjaro peak, as our route ascends from the opposite side.

Day 4 was a long hike day. After scaling kissing rock we hiked up and down for a few hours, eventually crossing the "last water" river, named that since the opposite side is arid, and there isn't another water source closer to Barafu basecamp. On the opposite side of the river there were two trails to choose from, according to our guide Praygod, the first was "long and steady", and the second "short and steep". We chose the latter.

We stopped at Karanga camp for lunch. Karanga is a wide open, very exposed area, covered in rock and shrubs. We ate in one of the ranger buildings, and talked to the park cleaners about their work. They walk in, bringing everything they need for a 10day work week, keep the area clean, and walk out once their shift is complete.

After lunch we had a long uphill trek to Barafu camp. The sun was shining bright and it was really warm so we gathered up all of our wet gear from the previous day and set up some drying lines. After dinner I went to check on my clothes, they had sat in the bright sun for hours, but as soon as dusk came they froze solid. Barafu is so high that there's barely any moss on the rocks, and the atmosphere is moon-thin. In the sun it's always scorching, and the shade is always freezing cold.

We had to eat dinner early and go straight to bed, as our summit attempt was to begin the next morning at 1am. The reasoning behind this is unclear. Our lead guide Alex has a way with answering questions. One morning I asked "Alex, are we anticipating any rain today?"... His reply "Adam, it depends on the weather". I asked why we were starting in the middle of the night, was it for the sunrise on the summit, or a temperature thing or what? His reply "we start in the middle of the night because we want us all to summit Kilimanjaro". Alex is awesome.

We hit the sack at 8pm, got a few hours sleep despite a tornado wind storm. I woke up to find that our toilet tent had blown away, leaving the little composting toilet in the middle of a small tent, totally exposed. I had to go, and nobody was awake yet, so I sat on this little potty beneath the most spectacular star display I can imagine. There was no moon, and I'm certain every star in the universe was visible from my throne.

We had a small breakfast, I drank too much coffee, and off we went on our quest to summit the roof of Africa.

I honestly don't remember much about the first 5 or 6 hours of our journey. I remember being cold, peeing like 10 times because of the 1. Coffee, 2. Altitude, 3. Cold and 4. Nerves. I remember having no appetite and feeling like I was going to vomit with just about every stride. I recall looking up at the trail 1000m above where we were climbing in the pitch black, seeing the headlamps of climbers who had left earlier, and seeing stars just a few inches above them, trying to identify where mountain ended and sky began. I remember as the sun came up, I looked over at our shadows and noticed how amazingly slow our sillouettes appeared to be moving along, realizing that we were literally crawling along the trail. It felt a lot like driving through the night. I put my ipod on shuffle and just stared at the boots in front of mine. For 5 hours.

At 5000m the nausea really started to set in. The monotony of hiking in the dark didn't help, I felt like I was being hypnotized

Then the sun came up and we could see our progress, and what was left. Kevin and I both lamented not taking a photo of the sunrise, then we both checked our cameras and found 4 or 5 each. I have no recollection of that, and neither did he. The elevation really messes with you, it's like being half-drunk all the time.
The next hour was the most difficult. The Tanzanian time warp made it tough to know how much was left. I fantasized that it was an hour or so, but got the impression that it was more like three from Alex.

We could see climbers at Stella point, the last stop before the summit. They seemed so close, we could practically yell to them. But with the stunted pace due to the extreme altitude, it was to take us 90mins to reach where they stood.

The last 200m of ascending up to Stella was totally consuming. I had to concentrate so hard on keeping my oxygen demand as low as possible. As soon as I did anything beyond take slow short steps; reach for my water bottle, bend down to pick up a dropped hiking pole, turn around to answer a question, chew a cookie... My heart rate would race north of 150 and I'd start to hyperventilate.

Before long we reached Stella and the peak was in sight. We took a long rest, I removed some layers, had a good drink, and lay prone in the sun for a few minutes.

The final push to the peak was actually really enjoyable. I went my own pace, stopped to take a few glacier pictures, and arrived at the big green sign at the top of the continent with some energy in reserve. We took photos and walked around a little, had a snack, and started the long walk back to Barafu.

Ok I'm totally exhausted and I can't write anymore. I made it back to Barafu in under 2hours, anxious to eat, breathe slightly less thin air and lie down.

After a short rest and a bowl of soup (still no appetite) we hiked another 4hours down to Mweka camp at 3100m, for a total of 13hours of hiking today. I feel back to normal at this elevation, even though it's higher than I ever visit back home. I think that's close to Lake Louise altitude...

I'll wrap this trip up and add a bunch of photos soon with a final entry. Thanks for reading!

La la Salama.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Saturday
Nov102012

Kilimanjaro, Day 3

We awoke on a clear Saturday morning to a full view of the peak of Kilimanjaro, with a bright glowing Venus halfway between it and an incandescent crescent moon. It was a remarkable and ephemeral sight, as the sun rose the moon and neighbour planet faded away, and the warmer temperatures brought a rush of fog up the mountainside, pulling a grey curtain across our objective.

After the usual breakfast, our chef David "Mange-Mange" led the whole group of climbers, guides, porters and cooks in an inspiring song and dance (wearing his orange "you had me at Mambo t-shirt, and plaid pyjama pants hiked over his chef-belly").  We clapped along and sang the words as best we could; the words I could make out include "Kilimanjaro, Mambo (how are you), Jambo (what's up), Nguvu (power), hakuna matata (if I have to tell you, rent the Lion King and thank me later) and Boma (the name of the guide company).

We were all sufficiently winded after the clap and dance along, but within minutes my pack was on (still full of everything I brought to Africa with me, 3L of water (which seems heavier at this elevation), and telescoping poles that I still haven't bothered with), and we left Shira camp in our wake.

As we climbed higher the shrubbery and small trees got smaller, until the only plant-life was moss and grass. The terrain reminded me a lot of Haleakala on Maui, if you've ever visited the 10,000ft peak in Hawaii. There was plenty of rain overnight, and it began to trickle again within an hour of our departure. For the first time I put on my MEC nylon rain pants; we hiked for over 6hours in the rain, incredibly my legs stayed totally dry.

So the trail that we use to go up the mountain also happens to be the trail that the water uses to go down. As the rain continued our wet trail graduated from stream to creek to river, with some sections of whitewater and plenty of water falls. We stuck to the shore where we could, but often we were hopping from rock to rock through a shallow river. I need to brag about the Asics lahars again, even when they are immersed in water... No soaker. Props Asics, these are great kicks.

Whenever the fog rolls out we catch a glipse of the snowy peak which awaits us, but we had yet to encounter snow, until today. Our lunch spot today was Lava Tower (google it for a photo, it's bonkers). At 4600metres about sealevel it's just past the snow line, so the rain switched to freezing rain and again to hail - a welcomed change as hail tends to bounce off of you rather than accumulate as slush on your shoulders, pack, hat... any surface. Lava tower has many natural caves and rock outcroppings, so we all scattered to find a good lunch shelter. I was pretty disgusted to see the state of many of the mini-dwellings. Hikers have left their garbage in piles throughout, and while I can excuse eggshells and banana peels, using the only shelter as a toilet is inconceivably ignorant. Shame on those loserpoopers! Shame!!

I found an un-crappy outcropping and quickly devoured my meal and layered up.

Lava Tower was our peak for the day, and is the same height as the basecamp which we will reach early afternoon tomorrow. The effects of the altitude were, not surprisingly, more extreme at Lava Tower than at any other point so far. I had a headache and some minor nausea. Nothing that made me feel like quitting or anything, just a part of the adventure. We started down straight after lunch. Team morale was low after a consistent 3hours of cold rain, but we soldiered on. The initial descent was down a cascading creek, with stepping stones and a narrow bank. It was really steep and fairly slippery, thankfully nobody slipped. As we continued down my nausea diminished and headache all but disappeared. The shrubs came back, and soon there were broad-leafed plants and flowers and some short trees. I picked a low hanging leaf to use as an umbrella (despite the fact I was already totally soaked), and Alex and Praygod scolded me for impacting the environment. I apologized and put my umbrella leaf on the ground. It didn't work anyway.

The Tanzanian Time Warp was in full effect this afternoon. Alex and Praygod insisted that Lava Tower was between an hour and ninety minutes from Barranco, tonight's camp. After 2 hours we were all getting a little anxious, and for the next hour it was always "about 25 or 30minutes left". We arrived after 3hours 15minutes from Lava Lunch tower, for a total of 7hours and almost 30minutes of hiking. It was only about 13km; I'd run that on trails at sealevel (without a 30kg pack) in under 80mins... So suffice to say our pace was pole, pole.

Barranco camp is incredibly scenic, when the rain and fog relented for a few minutes we could see the stiff peak and kissing rock - or first challenge tomorrow, the most technical section of our 6 day climb.

We finished dinner relatively quickly, pumpkin soup with tasty little pekoras, spaghetti bolognese and some fruit. I've been pretty cold since we made camp, so I'm happily bundled up, out of the rain in my super comfy Aquila sleeping bag.

Tomorrow we hike about 6hours to Barafu basecamp, eat and rest for just a few hours, and begin our summit ascent in the middle of the night, hoping to arrive at the roof of Africa before the sun rises over this great continent.

Wish me luck, and lots of simba nguvu.

La la salama...