Journey to Kilimanjaro with Expert Climber Tom Bicksler, Part I
We are excited to chronicle Tom Bicksler’s quest to climb the Seven Summits of the world: Kilimanjaro, Denali, Elbrus, Everest, Aconcagua, Cartensz, and Vinson. Tom’s story is unique because he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes at the age of 32, which presented a whole new level of obstacles. Join us as Tom shares his adventures, expert training tips and videos!
In October of 2012, the Bicksler7 summit attempt commenced with a 24-hour flight — from Los Angeles, to Detroit, to Amsterdam, and finally, to Kilimanjaro. I lost my cellphone in Amsterdam and therefore had no contact with the rest of the world during the 10 days we were in Africa, but there was no need to fret, as I was in great company with my guide (Sylvester) and our team.
After a swift check-in at customs in Tanzania, we scrambled to see if our bags made it to the gate: they didn’t. It’s very common for bags not to show up until the following day, and unfortunately, many of the summiteers had already scheduled their first day of the climb for the next morning.
Pro Tip: Always give yourself at least a one-day buffer to get things sorted out upon arrival. It’s extremely important to consider this before starting any climb, especially when luggage is critical for success. Having to rent gear in Tanzania is not like renting in Nepal; it’s difficult in the former, as there are little to no options.
I spent my Day 1 on a quick tour of the village of Moshi and then headed back to the hotel, where I started hydrating with tons of bottled water. The excitement really started to kick in at this point. Finally, it was time to load up our gear and head to the start of the Machame trail head, which starts at about elv. 6000. From there, we trekked through the rainforest to Camp 1 (approximately elv. 10,000) for the night.
Initially, there was no rain, and the temperature was around a pleasant 70 degrees, but after signing in with the rangers at Camp 1, the rain started to fall! At this time of the year, afternoon showers are very typical in Kilimanjaro. Of course, 70 degrees quickly turned into 40 degrees as I ate dinner inside my tent. On that note, the weather may have been brutal, but the freshly prepared food was excellent the entire duration of the trip.
On Day 2, I woke up to test my blood sugar and was happy to see a steady 125 on the meter. This put a huge smile on my face. After all, keeping good blood sugar levels while trekking up and down a mountain makes for a successful summit! We continued to climb, our heads poking through the clouds, and experienced amazing views. Camp 2 ended at about elv. 12,600, and fortunately, we were clear of rain.
I started Day 3 with slightly high blood sugar, but after taking my medication, followed by a hard day of acclimatization climbing, it quickly dropped back down to normal. We started at 12,600 ft., climbed to 15,200 ft., and then descended to elv. 13,100 for the night. It was a tough leg: we fought both rain and snow, but by now, I was getting a good feeling of how my body was going to do at high elevation; I was feeling great and ready to climb some more! Also, the temperature had only dropped to a low of 30 degrees today—not bad at all!
More information on Tom Bicksler can be found at http://www.bicksler7.com/