This was my first morning waking up on the mountain.  I hear monkeys and birds in the trees outside the tent – what an amazing way to wake up.  The REI team stops by with morning tea and a warm towel around 6:30am.  To which we reply ahsante sana… which means thank you very much!

It’s time to get up, get dressed and get packed for the day’s hike.    Sleep was very good and the temperatures were not too cold at night. One thing I wished I had brought was an old school thermometer, so I could have also tracked the weather.  My inner data geek was disappointed I couldn’t track weather too…  I’m guessing it was around 40 last night.   I was actually a bit hot in my sleeping bag last night.. that is a good sign, as it will only get colder from here, and that is a big concern of mine… what if I’m cold and can never get warm.

Before breakfast we pack all of our gear up.  You can see my Day Pack, REI Traverse 35 in Wasabi color with a 3L Osprey reservoir for water on top of my duffel, Patagonia Black Hole 90L.  The REI team would filter the water and fill up my reservoir plus water bottles that I would carry electrolytes (Nuun) to drink.  The goal each day is to drink at least 4L – mixture of mostly water and some electrolytes.  Staying hydrated at altitude is very important.  I carry my day pack, and a porter carries my duffel for me to camp.  (sorry to disappoint anyone who visualized me shlepping my sleeping bag, tent, etc.. up the mountain). My duffel was limited to 30 pounds, and had my sleeping bag, clothes, etc.. in it for the 8 days on the mountain.

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While we head to breakfast, our team is rapidly disassembling our tents to move them on to the next site.  Our cook makes a wonderful breakfast of eggs, sausage, chapati (similar to pancakes/crepes), fruit and porridge.  REI knows that appetites will diminish the higher you get, so we need to eat up now to have the endurance for the trip.  Food is in abundance.

M and I get ready to leave..obligatory start of day selfie.  Plus one with our guide Philemon.  Since we are still at relatively lower altitudes, expecting it to get to 60+ today in spots, so long sleeve technical shirt (shirts from races were great from this!) and some camo capris for today’s hike.

We will quickly leave the rainforest and head to the next climate zone – Heather and Moorland.  The trees are getting shorter.
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Our line of hikers as we continue on….as porters would pass us they would greet us with jambo to which you reply jambo – or sometimes the more casual mambo – to which reply poa.

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We stop for a short break.. it’s time to dip into the snacks.  I had played around with some different snacks hiking in TN and NC – however you never know what will or won’t taste good to you at altitude.  I brought with me: Cashews, Raisins, Trail Mix, Kind Bars (Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate), Haribo Gummy Bears, Milk Duds, beef jerky, and some of my running Crank Sports e-gels.  I wanted to have all kinds of choices from protein to pure sugar.

This is the first time I break out my Milk Duds.  I don’t know why – but these are always amazing to me on hikes.  I brought 2 big boxes, so enough to share with the rest of our group.  Turns out I’m not the only one that thinks these are AMAZING at altitude!  Milk Duds will remain popular.. and we only had 2 “Milk Dud Down” moments…more on the other snacks later.

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2 of our guides -Charles on the left goofing off with some Spanish Moss.  M with Joseph and me.

Some more views as we continue on, we are starting to get into the clouds.  It is also very dusty on the trail.

We had lunch set up on the trail for us by REI.  It was chicken, egg sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, fruit, with a pound cake like dessert.  Yummy!

After lunch we headed up a steeper climb.   I was definitely warm, but with our pole pole (Swahili for Slow) pace, my heart rate stayed completely in the aerobic zone.

My shoes are blue… but not so much anymore.   Some people had gaiters, but I just pulled my socks up a bit, and didn’t worry about it.  It was dusty but fine.  I loved these hiking boots (Keen Terradora). They were extremely comfortable.  I also bought a full size up, similar to what I do for my long running shoes.   This accounts for that your feet grow a bit when you are on them all day.   The only slight knock was that the grip going down very dusty or muddy areas was less than others, but I had hiking poles, so the less grip was ok.

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We arrived into camp late afternoon around 3:30pm.  The team sang their welcome song and we celebrated 2 days done – 8.54 miles hiked, 4,410 feet elevation climbed.  The final elevation for tonight’s camp is 11,843 feet (3,610 meters)

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The view from the tent.  The yellow tent ahead is our dining tent.  I was very diligent every day to spend about 30 minutes stretching and rolling with my Stick to stretch out my muscles for the next day.  I would also use this time to re-charge my Garmin from my power bank and top up my phone charge a bit.

At 4pm every day we would have tea and snacks (usually popcorn) and then dinner around 6pm.  Dinner tonight was cucumber soup, beef stew, potatoes, and pineapple with a sugar glaze for dessert.

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Tonight will definitely be colder… bedtime around 9:30pm.  I did bring headphones and had downloaded a couple of things to watch from Netflix, just as a way to wind down and settle in… that and the music on my iPhone were nice to fall asleep to… especially as the camps got busier and busier, as it could be noisy until 11pm on some nights from other campers. Remember we are sleeping in tents.. which are effectively very thin walls, if at all…. so you hear everything.

And for my fellow data junkies…..

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Adding a new bit of data to today from Training Peaks – 170 hrTSS = heart rate Training Stress Score.  We are starting to get higher.  At elevation, your body has to work harder as there is less oxygen in the air.  So, for today – hiking 5.36 miles between 9-11K is the equivalent work for me to running about 13 miles in Charlotte.  This is the total work my body had to do.. clearly I run 13 miles in less time than this :). So, lower intensity for a longer period of time.