Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Climbing Mountains


I’ve never had a desire to climb anything higher than the three story rock climbing wall at the YMCA, done with a safety harness and a guy holding the rope below who tells you where to put your hands and feet. I’ve watched plenty of people do the wall as I used a treadmill across the gym but I never had the guts to sign up because I didn’t think my old hips joints could make the necessary stretches. I wish they’d had walls like that when I was a kid. Maybe I wouldn’t be afraid of heights now if they did. As a young adult in the 1960s The Empire State Building had me crab-crawling the floor of the observation deck where I had my first, full-blown panic attack and when a group of us was about to get on an elevator in the Sears Tower ten years later, which at the time was the tallest building in the world, I felt another panic attack coming and I refused to get in. So mountain climbing? No way, Jose`. Never in a 100 years. I’d probably panic at the top and stay until my bones bleached in the sun and other climbers started decorating my skeleton up like a snowman.

This week I went to a lecture at the senior hall that was presented by a local university professor who has climbed the Himalayas in India, Ben Nevis in Scotland and other mountains around the globe, and he's over half way to joining the elite mountaineers who have climbed the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. But this lecture focused on climbing Mount Kenya (17,057 feet) and Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet), ancient volcanic mountains and the tallest in Africa. Someone asked him what the appeal of climbing is and at first he joked that he climbs for the views, then he said he does it for the adventure. He started rappelling down the sides of buildings at ten and climbed his first mountain at fourteen. If you watch the History or Discovery Channel you may have seen some of his recorded lectures and heard his delightful Australian accent. Craig Benjamin also lecturers on cruises sponsored by both the New York Times and Scientific American and his bio page on Wikipedia includes a long list of books and articles he’s written. He’s the real deal, an expert on ancient Central Asian history. Mountain climbing is his hobby. A fascinating hobby but I’ll stick to knitting. 

One thing I found interesting is he said climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is more like steep walking, except for the glacier on the summit which takes serious ice climbing expertise and equipment which few people do including the lecturer. And all his photographs supported the “steep walk’ observation. You aren’t climbing straight up like I envisioned but rather you’re going on spiraling paths around three volcanic cones to get to the summit. The climb didn’t look at all scary---hard but no places where you could fall off sharp cliffs. His team of six averaged around three miles a day carrying fifteen pound backpacks and they were supported by two dozen porters who carried 40 pound packs, everything from tables and chairs, tents, food and water to a canvas outhouse or as he called it, “The loo.” 

The park only allows 200 people on the mountain at any one time and the law requires they weigh everyone’s packs and inspect everyone’s boots and socks before you can go. Kilimanjaro took them 4½ days to climb up to the rapidly shrinking snow cap (global warming) and 1½ days to climb down and it costs $2,000 per person plus airfare. It’s a major source of income for the country. Another interesting fact is every day they’d climb up x-number of feet and the tour guide would make them come back down a fourth of the way to camp for the night. That got their systems acclimated to the high altitude so they were less likely to get sick from the lack of oxygen in the mountains.

I’ve been in the mountains out in Colorado and on roads so narrow we had to fold our truck mirrors in so we could hug the high side or risk falling 100s of feet below and the evidence of tragic accidents like that could be seen if you looked down. I’ve been in mountainous area where we had to use come-alongs and winches to get yourselves out of muddy mountain ruts---my husband’s idea of a fun afternoon, playing in the mud. Don loved the Rocky Mountains and he camped in them for several weeks every year for over 25 years, pretending he was a mountain man. He had a 35 mm camera with telephoto lens that could turn a speck on the horizon into a moose so close up you could count his eyelashes. He was a good photographer and judging by the hundreds of slides he’d come home with, it’s pretty safe to say one of the things he loved about The Rockies was the views. Me? I’d still like to see the view from the top of the rock climbing wall at the YMCA which is pretty funny given the fact that I gave away my six foot step ladder for fear I’d try to use it and fall to my death. And I'm pretty sure I'm still afraid of heights. ©

32 comments:

  1. Oh, you just added to my bucket list. Mount Kilimanjaro. I seriously thought of doing this when I was 25. I'll practice on the Colorado fourteeners first. So far the highest was Mauna Loa in Hawaii, 13,677 feet, spent the night at the cabin up top. Stars down to the horizon in all directions.

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    1. It really looks like a great experience. His party did mt Kenya first because they couldn't get int Mt Kilimanjaro right away and they had the mountain to themselves which wasn't true when they got to kilimanjaro. But they decided to embrace the crowd and in the evenings they visiting the tents of people from all over the world. When I was writing this post, I ran into three YouTube video by Erik Conover on the Kilimanjaro that mirror what our lecturer showed and talked about. https://youtu.be/nKhRvoN1UWI The three videos only take 30 minutes to watch but give a lot of details.

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  2. I like an Australian accent. There's something charming about it.

    I don't mind standing safely on a building top and gazing at a view, but I get jittery if I'm not in or on a secure place. My father used to make me clean the gutters when I was a teenager. I can remember being so afraid that I would fall. I still marvel at roofers and people who clean roofs. They just walk around like they're taking a stroll down a garden path. My brother-in-law once fell off a roof. Lucky for him, he fell into a pile of sand that the workers were going to use for something or other. I don't clean gutters these days, but I'm still afraid when H does it. Crazy stuff.

    Those mountain climbers really have the lust for adventure. I remember hearing a conversation between a dying mountain climber and his wife. He was stuck on the mountain, and they knew he would not survive the night. He sounded so calm and sleepy when they patched him through to her. Like he was drifting off to sleep.

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    1. I could listen to an Australian all day long and this guy had a great sense of humor and a philosophic view of life that was endearing.

      I knew someone who fell off a roof and broke his back. It makes me nervous when workers are up their walking around.

      There are a lot of serious medical problems that can come up from the lack of oxygen if a person isn't careful and follow the rules of the climb. They do have special, one person tents you sit in to get treated with oxygen if you heart and lungs are in serious peril or the porters carry you down the mountain a ways. And the guides want you to test your oxygen levels twice a day. Our lecturer said doing the smaller mountain first really helped them health-wise get acclimated and they had less issues than some of the others on the mountain.

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  3. Don’t know if you watch ABC news , but Amy Robach, who is a 5 year cancer survivor, just climbed along with her family and some guides and it was filmed. It was quite a feat and especially the altitude sickness some experienced. But she did it for other survivors as a tribute of sorts. It was very interesting. They did some of the latter climbing after midnight. You can probably find it on the internet.

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    1. I did see a news clip about Amy's climb! If a person has a compromised heart or lung situation in anyway the altitude sickness can literally kill them.

      Every video I've seen and the lecturer all mentioned doing the last leg of the climb starting at 2-3 AM. They tell the tourists it's so they can see the sun come up while they are at the top, but my lecturer said the real reason is if they saw where you had to climb in the daylight you wouldn't go. LOL

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  4. I hate heights. Just stepping up on a ladder makes me feel dizzy. I did go up Empire State Building in New York but didn't bother me because my feet were flat on the floor.
    Now for the truly daring, the seasonal Edge Walk experience lets you step completely outside the CN Tower at a height of 356 meters (1,168 feet). Strap on a safety harness and take a 20 to 30 minute stroll on an open platform that's 116 stories above Toronto! My brother's wife did it but I would never do it. No, these people can have it. I will keep my feet down flat on the floor or ground. God put they they, I'll stay right there until I die LOL See ya Jean

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. I would hate that Edge Walk. I was in a glass elevator that ran on the outside of a building and I thought I'd die of fear. Heights make me want to lean into them and jump, but not in a good way.

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  5. I'm not too keen on heights. I hate those tourist spots with glass-bottomed floors - I can't stand on them and look down! Too scary.

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    1. I've never been on a glass-bottomed floor but I've heard others say they didn't like them either.

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  6. I so share your loathe of heights. I once was paralyzed on a stairway on the side of an aircraft carrier during a tour. It took a burly sailor to pry my hands off the rails. Such a fear of heights makes us miss some great views.

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    1. I sure does. How lucky that a bulky sailor came to your rescue.

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  7. You are so adventurous! Just to go and watch that! Although, I think the porters should get all the acclaim! They carry 3x as much AND set everything up and cook, then clean. I'm not afraid of heights ... just afraid to be high up without something to keep me from falling!!

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    1. I'm not a member at the Y anymore and I'm not in as good of shape as I was the year I was going there four days a week. The wall is not going to happen. But I might try a zip line next summer. I know to people my age who have done it. One loved it, one hated it. It's over a river and I can swim so that doesn't seem as scary as going over land.

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    2. P.S. The porters did get a lot of credit from our lecturer and from the guy whose YouTube video I posted to oc1dean up above. Those are considered to be very good jobs to have, working for the licensed guide services.

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  8. I never had a fear of heights until I became a mother. Then I figured that was just survival instinct finally kicking in, for the continuation of my little gene pool - who's gonna raise my progeny if I fall to my death, after all! It's eased off a bit since the kids have grown (in keeping with my hypothesis) but I am still not comfortable with certain situations, like a glass floor on top of the CN Tower. I can stand on it, but I'll be hugging the wall the whole time. Stepladders as yet not a problem for me...Thanks for the funny post, Jean!

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    1. That's interesting, your theory for why you developed a fear of heights. Makes sense. There is a glass bridge in Japan that is 780 feet long and is 600 feet above a valley below. There are people on it crawling and hanging on to the sides for dear life. https://youtu.be/rRIrs8hQNv0

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  9. I have to say -- 15-pound packs, with porters carrying all of your other (obviously luxury) stuff, sounds a little wussy...then again, I live in Colorado.

    We just had two local friends climb Kilimanjaro, raising money for a well-drilling project for a village.

    I'm dying to ask -- did the speaker mention a dried leopard found on top? Hemingway mentioned that in his shorty story, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," but said no one knew why the big cat was up so high, for no apparent reason.

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  10. He did mention the leopard and the book. He said Hemingway never climbed the mountain, just camped in the foothills. He talked about another book that is supposed be very popular with climbers. No picnic Kilimanjaro, I think? A true true about 3 guys who escaped a Low camp during WWII how climbed the mountain. I'll bet the pack weight has more to do with employing more porters, than health concerns.

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  11. I got to drive up and down Pike's Peak in Colorado, something I had wanted to do since I read about it in 3rd grade geography class. When we got to the top, I jumped out of the car and promptly fell against and across the hood--so dizzy from the 14, 110 elevation. They had oxygen masks hanging from an area in the gift shop to revive oneself.

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    1. I never ran into oxygen masks in Colorado. That must have been interesting. But I don't recall ever seeing a gift shop either...other than in Steamboat. Don had friends out there and they took us to out of the way, non tourist places.

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  12. Ugh! I've done enough hiking and backpacking on "normal" sized mountains in the Rockies and Cascades to do me. I used to love getting up to the views, but now I ask, "Isn't there a road that goes up there?" I still LOVE the views from mountaintops but I don't hike them anymore. I do know people who climb high peaks for fun, which I find puzzling, but I guess we all find our challenges in ways that appeal to us.

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    1. You know what I used to love the most about The Rockies? The smell...so clean and sweet. But hiking is not my thing. I don't like feeling lost and having to depend on a compass to find my way around. I did trust Don and his friends but I couldn't have done it on my own.

      Right now my biggest challenge is making more space on my cell phone. LOL

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  13. I admire all climbers. I'm not one of them. Too dicey on my feet and the height thing kind of creeps me out. But boy, do they ever get a view!

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    1. I like the kind of personality in a person that is driven to climb mountains. They are challenging themselves in ways give them a natural high. I'd never do it but I'd love to be that physically fit that I thought I could do it.

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  14. I'm back! :)

    I honestly believe I have fallen to my death in a previous life. My fear of heights even plays out when a driver over some 'overpasses' on the freeways that are high and going left. Not a problem when I'm in the passenger seat and doing a similar one going right. I can't figure it out other than to say it's really deep-seated with no other possible rational explanation. That said, flying never bothered me. Just heights in general. So you aren't alone.

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    1. Isn't it curious that you can fly but be fearful of overpasses? I've been fearful of driving or riding in places in the Smokey Mountains. And for a couple of years after 9/11 I was very fearful of overpasses. I guess that's why they call these things irrational fears because they ARE irrational. Glad I'm not alone.

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  15. I've got the fear of heights thing, too. I can't even climb up lookout towers with open staircases. Intellectually, I know there is no way I can fall through the spaces between the slats on the treads, but part of my brain just can't accept it. If I can see all the way down, I panic.

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  16. I recall as a teenager easily climbing a fire tower high above a forest but when time to come down I resorted to bouncing on my bum as the open back steps were just too much for me.

    We, too, drove all over Colo. mtns to highest point wen young. Also spent a couple weeks at high mtn city Quito, capital of Ecuador when in my twenties, straddling the equator with no breathing issues though could much more rapidly upchuck unexpectedly. Years later, when aged, a trip to Colo. to visit adult child at elevation at even lower level caused possible sickness for husband. Life changes.

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    1. Life changes. That's part of why I'd like to do the climbing wall...just to see if I am still afraid of heights and if I am if I can overcome it.

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