RMI Expeditions Blog
December 4, 2023
Hello friends, all is well here in sunny Ecuador! Yesterday we kicked off our adventure with a trip to the Equator to learn some science and balance eggs on a nail (difficult, but not impossible), followed by a cultural tour of the city. After a delicious Ecuadorian dinner and some spa time, the team hit the hay to rest up before our first acclimatization hike.
We awoke to blue skies and after a nice breakfast we headed to the teleférico where we took a ride up to 13,000 feet and were able to stretch our legs on a wonderful hike to the summit of Rucu Pichincha 15,354 feet. We saw some splendid flowers along the way and even some friendly birds at the summit.
Tomorrow we will check out of our hotel and make our way to Cero Fuya Fuya for another acclimatization hike before ending our day at a lovely hacienda in Otavalo (don't worry friends and family we are certainly not roughing it on this trip). Morale is high and at dinner tonight we will be finalizing our new team name so stay tuned.
Hope all is well back at home and hasta mañana.
RMI Guides Dustin Wittmier, Michael Murray & Team
Sign Up For Ecuador's Volcanoes 12-2-2023 Emails
November 13, 2023
Categories: Mountaineering Fitness & Training
If there is one period of training linked to success on a grueling alpine climb like Mt. Rainier, it is the base building phase. Our intensities while climbing tend to remain relatively low, but the elevation gained, distance traveled, and hours on our feet make it imperative that we can sustain those low intensities hour after hour. Your aerobic base takes time to build, and one of the keys to building it is proper recovery to allow your body to adapt to the training stress you put on it.
Every four weeks, it’s important to schedule a recovery week, in which your weekly training volume will be about 50% of the highest volume week of the period. This is the consolidation week that allows your body to make the changes in response to your training and come out the other side stronger. These weeks feel light and you may worry that you are losing valuable preparation time, but these recovery periods are critical.
Also important – throughout your training period – is how you recover. Excessive alcohol and sleep deprivation both will inhibit at least some of your training gains. Good nutrition to support the training stress on your body is vital. And some light movement, even on your rest days, is better than being completely sedentary – it helps to move some blood through your muscles and flush out the cellular waste. Be strategic about your training, and as importantly, be strategic about your recovery!
Looking to get back in shape to go back to mountaineering.
I am now 66. Good health
Posted by: Steven Edwin Walls on 11/14/2023 at 4:20 am
November 10, 2023
Trekking to the summit of Kilimanjaro is an experience of fitness and endurance. It is also an experience of culture – the sights, sounds, and people of Tanzania are a delightful overwhelm. What are you waiting for?!?!
In September, our very own RMI Office Team Member Lacey Meadows joined RMI Guide Casey Grom and our team in Tanzania to climb to the Roof of Africa and view the wildlife of Tanzania on our Kilimanjaro Climb & Safari. She wasn't disappointed. And if you have questions about this trip, call our office and talk with Lacey. She would love to tell you all about it. Here is her experience:
"Someone asked me recently about my trip to Africa, and they wanted to know if it was as “life changing” as I thought it would be. That was a tough question to answer because I knew it was going to be a very cool trip. I mean, I have spent the last 15 years wanting to go, and of course as a part of my job, I frequently talk with our climbers about the trip details, process the forms and payments, and post the trip dispatches and photos from our guides to the RMI Expeditions Blog. I really felt like I knew everything I needed to know to go to Africa to climb the world’s tallest free-standing mountain. No big deal. Until I got off the airplane at Kilimanjaro International Airport…
"Everything was different from the moment I arrived. The sights of dirt roads, open air buildings that looked mostly unfinished, and markets on about every street. The sounds of horns, motorcycles, and monkeys jumping through the trees, and the smell, a mix of sweet and smoky from the wood fired cooking and heat. This trip was going to be so much more than the climb!
"From the first dinner and team meeting at the Rivertrees Country Inn, our basecamp for this trip, our team connected. We ranged in age from 68 to 26, all different occupations and life experiences. It became noticeably clear that whatever individual experiences of suffering and triumph the mountain would bring over the next seven days, 37 miles and 17,000’ of elevation gain…We would experience it together as a team!
"How this connection happens with every RMI team, I will never truly know. To me it’s the real “trail magic” everyone talks about! This could also be to the credit of our guide, Casey Grom, and our local guides and mountain staff from Barking Zebra Tours who anticipated our needs before we even knew what that need was. Most often, this was some hot tea and a snack during our rest breaks or pulling into camp just in time for an afternoon nap.
"For seven days, we traveled together on the Machame Route. Each day started with a breakfast of hot cereal, avocado toast, bacon, sausage, and coffee, then a few (or more) hours of walking, soaking in the views as we ascended the slopes of Kilimanjaro. The landscape looked out of this world: unique plants, rock formations, and views for miles of the Great Rift Valley. A highlight was the Barranco Wall, a class 4 scramble, and for me, one of the best parts of the climb.
"Time spent in camp was never wasted. Our evenings were spent in the dining tent reflecting on the day, laughing at newly christened trail names and how they came to be, all while eating an amazing variety of soup, chicken dishes, rice, fresh vegetables, and fruits. The fuel we needed to keep our spirits high, and our bodies going. We watched the sunset from every camp and learned how to take photos of the stars with our iPhones. Some of us played cards or took cribbage lessons before turning into our tents with our hot water bottles keeping us cozy.
"One of the most amazing things to me was how our camps were always set up by the time we arrived. Our dining, sleeping, and toilet tents were all waiting for us. I have never seen a more elite group of athletes than the guides and porters that trek up and down Kilimanjaro!
"We arrived at Barafu Camp (high camp) as a team, as we had done each day. Getting to high camp was surreal, the day was short, but the walking was slow, and breathing was heavy, in the pressure breathing sort of way that you do at 15,200’. This was excellent practice for what was to come.
"We ate lunch in our dining tent and Casey gave us a good rundown of how our summit day was going to play out, what to wear, what to eat, what to keep in our packs, and ensured each one of us that the summit was within our reach. We absorbed what information we could and spent the remainder of the afternoon organizing ourselves and our gear. It was back to the dining tent for an early dinner of pasta, veggies, and bread. Then it was off to bed before the sun even set (which is early near the equator) for what little rest we may gain before an alpine start. The energy was quite electric…equal part nerves and excitement, but our team was ready!
"“Pole, pole,” Swahili for “slowly, slowly,” became a bit of a mantra in my brain. When the walking gets tough, I usually sing Staying Alive by the Bee Gees and stare at my feet. The beat is “pole pole” and it's better than looking up at the endless string of headlamps as far as you can see. One foot in front of the other until you reach the rest break where you must eat.
"Note: Bring food that is easy to consume, because you must force yourself to chew and swallow above 16k!
"There were six rest breaks on summit day, the fifth one being Stella Point, the crater rim, at sunrise. That seemed so far away as we were leaving camp at midnight, but I just knew if I could keep walking until sunrise I would summit. I do not know, but I am going to guess that there is a time of delirium for everyone on summit day. You need to dig deep and distract yourself from what your mind thinks is too hard, but that your body trained all year to do. It also takes a little tough love from your guide!
"Suddenly, you look up at the most brilliant orange and purple sky you have ever seen, the sun is coming! We did it! We are on top of the world!
"I AM ON TOP OF THE WORLD!
"The tears were overwhelming and I didn't really know if it was joy, pride, relief, or sadness. It is an indescribable feeling unless you have been there, but you know you have kept the promise to yourself, your team, your guide, and all the people in your corner cheering you on. Forty-five minutes later our team crossed the crater rim and we were standing on the true summit, all smiles, taking photos, celebrating, and taking our sixth and final rest break! Our entire team…100%…every single person stood on top!
"Three hours later with some easy downhill on fields of dusty scree we were back at camp. Greeted by the sounds of our porters and cooking staff singing the most joyous music, our tired legs could not help but dance, and yes, I cried some more!
"What goes up must come down, so they say! After a long walk and about 9,000’ of elevation loss, a muddy trail, and tired legs we settled into our final night at Mweka Camp. The ease of sleeping at 10,000’ might have been one of my best night's sleep ever!
"One more early morning, and a final descent to the Mweka Gate, and plenty of talk about how many showers it might take to get completely clean (about three!). At the gate we were welcomed with a final meal, song, and dance with our local guides, porters, and mountain staff – what a joyous celebration it was!
"I am not sure I have met a kinder group of humans than the ones that led us and took care of us on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. I was sad to say goodbye to Kilimanjaro and the people that ensured our safe passing. I will forever be in debt for the kindness and care they gave. Asante sana!
"After at least four hot showers and a good night’s sleep in a real bed back at Rivertrees Country Inn, we swapped our mountain duffels for our safari duffels. We all opted for the more casual attire of open-toed shoes and armed ourselves with cameras and binoculars as we loaded into our specialized Toyota Land Cruisers for the second half of our African Adventure.
"This time, we headed west of Arusha toward the game parks. Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, and Tarangire National Park were our new objectives. This was our chance to see the “big five” - lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalo. The big five is a list from trophy hunting back in the day, but capturing them on camera is usually the goal today. Why giraffes are not on this list is beyond me because that is all I really wanted to see! Honestly, I am glad the giraffe did not make the list!!
"Our first stop was Lake Manyara, home of the tree climbing lions, and a stunning concentration of baboons. We were so excited to be on safari that our mountain guide turned safari guide Casey Grom told us that we would see plenty of baboons, otherwise we all might have had 200 photos of baboons on our cameras! We saw lions (not in trees), elephants, zebras, and way in the distance a lone giraffe.
"Fun fact: When a lion is laying in the middle of the road, you just wait….and wait!
"A later lunch by the lake shore wrapped up the day, and we headed to the Plantation Lodge, our home for the next two nights. If I could have figured out how to work remotely and convinced my family to move to Africa, I would have never left the Plantation Lodge. The food and accommodations were five stars, a wine cellar to rival all, and the views stunning.
"When we entered the Ngorongoro Crater, I could not help but feel we were on hallowed ground; the crater was once a mountain the size of Kilimanjaro that erupted and caved in upon itself, and the very place where some of the first hominoid species were discovered and believed to have lived and walked this earth. We share that DNA. The biodiversity is such that, except for giraffe and impala, every other notable African mammal lives successfully within the giant caldera, 100 square miles surrounded by 360 degrees of steep embankment. AMAZING!
"This is where we saw the big lions up close, so close that one male felt our Land Cruiser was in a great position to mark his territory. The crater floor is filled with enormous herds of zebra, antelope, wildebeest, cape buffalo, and pools full of hippos trying to stay cool in the midday heat. If you ever watched Wild Kingdom as a kid, just know that in the crater, you are living it!
"Saving the best for last, yes! Tarangire National Park and the giraffes! I was looking forward to these final two days on safari. We saw a leopard in a tree, a lion in a tree, and had to stop many times for elephants in the road, living their best lives grazing and knocking down trees, for fun or food, I do not know.
"The landscape was what I imagined safari to look like, giant termite mounds, huge baobab trees, and large herds of zebra and wildebeest moving along. I continued to be awe-struck when looking through the binoculars and seeing so many varied species within my view, still only one lone giraffe. I was starting to worry I would not see them. But as we approached our safari camp, there they were – a large herd of giraffe! It is hard for me to put this experience into words, but it was as magical as I had always dreamed it would be.
"We spent our last night on safari watching “bush TV” (a bonfire). With a glass of wine, elephants meandering, and our final African sunset, we reflected on our days on the mountain and safari. Coming together as a team and how perfectly we all fit together, we have shared experiences now, ones we will not soon forget.
"So, to answer the first question, was my trip to Africa life changing? No. I am back home, doing all the things I did before. You know, family, friends, work, and all the day-to-day activities life brings, so it did not really change my life. But, this trip was LIFE ENRICHING! Me, a girl from a small town, age 50, first ever passport, and I travelled over halfway across the world to climb a mountain and see giraffes. I did not realize it was going to be so much more. I know now firsthand that the world is big and beautiful, there are so many unique humans to meet, and even more wonderful places to see. A trip of a lifetime, sure, but not the last trip of my lifetime!"
Hey Lacey! That is an Awesome Experience you shared with all of us! Thank you! The part of your experience when you said you had tears of emotion or exhaustion or what ever they come from on the summit….that is very real. I have tears of joy on every summit! :)
Posted by: Dave Kestel on 11/11/2023 at 3:17 am
Following two nights of tent camping in the paramo, yesterday we climbed Antisana. Several members of the team reached the summit and everyone gave a serious effort. Congratulations to all for making it as far as we have.
Antisana is Ecuador's fourth highest mountain, but the complex glaciers that one encounters makes a summit bid quite difficult. Our camp sits at 14,800' in the final patch of grass before entering more serious alpine terrain. The first hour takes you through a glacial moraine before arriving at the base of the glacier. Once on the glacier, numerous huge crevasses are encountered as well as needing to navigate through serac-ridden terrain. Higher on the mountain, the team worked their way up some very steep snow pitches before walking the seemingly endless plateau to the true summit. Although this section is benign, the altitude of over 18,000' catches up with you. This is truly a difficult climb and for making the effort, you are rewarded with excellent views of other high mountains in Ecuador.
Honestly, Antisana might be my favorite volcano climb in Ecuador. The beauty of our campsite alone is worth a visit. We camped two nights in tents and there is also a dining tent where we were served delicious, hot meals every morning and evening. The staff at Antisana basecamp is lovely and as always, our local Ecuadorian guides are professional and just truly good people to hang with.
Today, a portion of the group heads home while the rest of us are headed to Chimborazo. We spent a final night as a team at Casa Ilayaku, a quaint hacienda on an old farm property near Quito. According to our smart watches, the sleep was near perfect. For those headed to Chimborazo, we are now on a four hour bus ride to the Chimborazo Lodge for one more relaxing night prior to another big summit push!
Thanks for following along.
RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier
That is Awesome Dustin and Team!!
I speak from experience, a few years ago Dustin was the reason I made it to the Summit of Cotopoxi!!
You all have an Awesome guide!
Posted by: Dave Kestel on 11/5/2023 at 3:57 am
November 1, 2023
Iliniza Norte summit!
Our team reached the summit of Iliniza Norte at 6 pm yesterday evening. It was a beautiful afternoon, so upon arrival at the hut we decided to just go for it. We were rewarded with a lovely sunset at the summit, one of the nicer ones most of us have ever seen.
Back at the hut, we sat down for a hot meal and although it was quite tasty, Emma and I spent some time forcing people to eat. A long few days of acclimatizing is catching up with everyone, but you have to eat! The main objective lies ahead.
We are now in route to Antisana Basecamp, where we will spend two nights and hopefully be standing on top of the fourth highest peak in Ecuador less than 48 hours from now!
RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier
That is Awesome Dustin and Team!! Thank you for sharing those incredible pictures! Breath Deep!!!!
Posted by: Dave Kestel on 11/3/2023 at 4:21 am
October 31, 2023
Flying into Quito you begin to grasp the magnitude and astounding beauty of the volcanoes surrounding the city. The dichotomy of the lush Amazonian rainforest and the high, snowy mountains leaves one with a sense of the diverse ecosystems of Ecuador. Our first day included trip introductions, getting to know each other and exploring the city. We spent the first half of the day at the equatorial line, learning about the indigenous people of the Amazon and their culture. The second half of the day we explored old Quito, checking out stunning architecture and discussing the current politics of Ecuador. Our second day we took a teleferico or gondola up to around 13,000ft to begin our acclimating hike up to the summit of Rucca Pichincha at 15,354ft. Everyone enjoyed snacks and laughs at the summit before heading back to Quito for a delicious Mediterranean dinner.
Best of Luck to the entire team from US, especially from Chicago and NY. Wish I was there with you guys.
Good Luck on Antisana and Chimborazo. Carpei Diem…!!!
Fernando Carranza Sr.
Posted by: Fernando R Carranza on 11/2/2023 at 1:00 pm
Posted by: Jean Wittmier on 11/1/2023 at 11:35 pm
October 22, 2023
Categories: Mountaineering Fitness & Training
As an athlete, have you or are you currently caught up with anxiety wondering if your training is working and if it will be enough for your upcoming climb? We have all been there in the nervous countdown to the start of a big climb. A useful way to calm the nerves and get good information about whether to stay the course or change up something in our training can come from periodic benchmark tests.
Training plans require adaptation to adjust to individuals’ physiological differences, and benchmarks give you data points to make those adjustments. They also can help you understand how closely your current fitness aligns with the requirements of your next climb, so that you know if you are on the right track, need to adjust to add a bit more of a type of training, or have plateaued and need to shift training strategies to continue to see improvement. In order to get a good picture of how your fitness is changing, try to standardize your benchmark tests, so that each test gives you a good comparison to the last. The most useful tests for us as mountaineers fall into the categories of aerobic endurance and strength.
Aerobic endurance tests
The best way to measure and track improvements in aerobic endurance are with a time trial of sorts. The operative word is AEROBIC, meaning in zone 1 or 2. As climbers, we are trying to maximize the pace that we can move while remaining below our aerobic threshold, in a foot borne sport (ie running or hiking). There are a number of ways to create a test depending on the terrain you have available. One would be to choose a steady uphill hike that takes between 1 and 2 hours. Record the time it takes to do that hike from the same start point to the same end, hiking it as quickly as possible, while remaining in zone 2. As your aerobic fitness increases, you would expect to see that time decrease – you’ll be able to do the same distance and vertical more quickly with the same effort.
If hills aren’t available, try using a set running loop with the same idea. It’s also possible to do this test on a treadmill. Set the incline to the same point each time, and either run or walk a set distance, adjusting the pace on the treadmill to keep you in zone 2. As your fitness increases, you’ll be able to do the test at higher paces with the same effort, and your times will fall.
Mountaineering is in the end a sport of elevation gain, so we haven’t found a distance pace that equates to success in the mountains. It can still be useful for tracking the evolution of your aerobic capacity. In the mountains we use vertical distance to measure pace, as so much depends on the terrain that we are moving through. A good rule of thumb is that for a Rainier climb, we average about 1000 vertical feet per hour as our target pace. That’s while carrying a pack that weighs about 20 lbs. Your goal should be to have that pace be very comfortable so that you are well within your aerobic capacity throughout the climb. Being able to sustain 1500 or 2000 vertical feet per hour by the time of the climb, means that you’ll be well within your fitness capacity while climbing, and thus have plenty of energy for everything else that requires attention, like the terrain, taking care of yourself, and cold temps and weather.
Core and leg specific strength are important strength aspects in mountaineering. An easy way to create benchmark strength tests is to see how many reps (with good form) of given activity you can do in a minute. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat once more. You can do this with sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, and box steps.
Our bodies take time to adapt to training, so benchmark tests are useful if done every month or 6 weeks. Over that time period you can expect to see improvement from test to test in each of these categories. If you aren’t seeing improvement, talk to a personal trainer or coach to get some advice on how to adjust your training to get you back on track.
Comments? Questions? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!
Everything went like clockwork this morning, smooth and easy. We ate a last trek breakfast and walked toward the Lukla heliport at 7 AM. There were clouds, but there were also plenty of aircraft coming and going already. After a short wait and weigh-in session, we were ushered out and into a running A-Star B3. The pilot went right to work and we cruised out over farms, ridges, rivers and terraces. He took us around clouds but there were always plenty of open avenues. After 45 minutes we’d reached the busy Kathmandu airport. Within minutes we went from being a famous and well above average trekking team to just another van full of tourists in a big city. We checked back into the comfy Yak and Yeti and headed for the showers. It was a day for catching up, for mingling with other trekkers and climbers and for getting ready for the next phase… the big travel chore. But first, we went over to Thamel, the busy tourist and trekker Mecca for a last relaxed dinner together at the New Orleans Cafe. We toasted a fine journey… one that wasn’t always easy, but one that seemed very much worth the trouble.
Thanks for following along.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
Sign Up For Gokyo Trek September 30, 2023 Emails
We walked for seven hours today… of course we did take a leisurely lunch break in Phakding, so it was less. But it felt like a big day. We lost about 2,000 vertical feet in the first hour, coming down the Namche hill. That was significant, since it meant we were then working at low altitude (around 9,000 ft) which was easier than so much of what we’ve done in the last week. It was a cloudy day, but there was an amazing amount of helicopter traffic overhead. And there were plenty of trekkers, porters and pack animals on the trail. It is prime time in the Khumbu. Still, we had some fine peaceful moments gazing at waterfalls and flowers and children playing on small farms. We bounced across a bunch of cable bridges and finally we climbed uphill for the final 90 minutes to reach Lukla. We’ll spend the night and see if we get lucky with clear weather for flying in the morning.
RMI Guide Dave Hahn
Sign Up For Gokyo Trek September 30, 2023 Emails
Thanks everyone for following along and once again, a shout out to Farmer Dave for all the encouragement!
Climbing Orizaba is never easy. We ended up having a great weather day and route conditions were also favorable. But it still felt like a hard push after the long week of being rained off of big mountains and spending hours drying gear. The team can take pride in their perseverance and their summit of Pico de Orizaba, the third highest peak in North America.
Last night we celebrated in Tlachichuca at the Servimont hostel, where there is always a nice meal and cold drinks. Most people were in bed by 8pm, it was quite the party. Now we are on one final bus ride, to the airport this time, and will return to normal life tomorrow. The muddy, dusty gear we are bringing home will remind us of the good times we had in Mexico.
RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier
Sign Up For Mexico's Volcanoes October 7, 2023 Emails
Hey Dustin! Way to go getting your Team to the Top!!! Brought back Awesome memories!!!
Posted by: Dave Kestel on 10/15/2023 at 10:33 am