Monday, February 15, 2010


Now it begins...

Dr. Bob Frantz of the Mayo Clinic and Dr. Ray Benza and Physicians Assistant Jessica Lazar both from  Allegheny Medical Center in Pittsburgh are packing up and getting ready for their flight to Tanzania.

Once there, they will prepare to summit the 19,330 ft. Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa nad the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. Their adventure will begin on February 19 and go through Feb. 27.

During the past two months, it's been my privilege to be part of a team that has met weekly by phone to help turn their climb into an opportunity to increase awareness of PH in the U.S. and globally and to raise a minimum of $100,000 for PHA's research and patient-serving programs.

We have heard about the medical professionals' rigorous training for this climb.  We have learned about their understanding - and intention - that, at the heights of Kilimanjaro, they will experience the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension their patients live with every day...the better to offer informed and empathetic treatment. We have been inspired by their blogs.

Their itinerary, as produced by their guides and sent by Jessica Lazar, is below but their climb is already a success...

Tremendous awareness is already buiding.  You can find links to some of the press on PHA's Climb pages

They are also very close to their fundraising goal...within $7,000 as I write this. You can help get them over the top by visiting their Donation page or attending one of the Unity Walks being held to support the Climb.

The Climbers will be electronically equipped and will be doing interviews (I'll be doing one of those interviews on Feb. 23) and posting updates daily from the mountain.  Check their blog and the PHA website to follow their progress,

Here's their itinerary...

DAY 1 (Feb 19)

Arrive anytime at Ilboru Safari Lodge in Arusha, Tanzania. With prior arrangement, airport pick up and private transfers to the hotel are available from Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), or simply make your own way by taxi. We will gather in the evening for a pre-climb briefing and an equipment check. We will also confirm you have the appropriate mandatory medical coverage and travel insurance.

DAY 2 (Feb 20)

We take a ride to Londorossi National Park gate to complete the necessary registration formalities, before driving a short distance on a steep track through farmland and plantations (9,200 ft). We continue climbing steadily on foot through shrub forests and stands of giant heather to reach the rim of Shira Plateau (11,000 ft). The views across the surrounding plains open up as we approach our first camp, Simba Camp (11,600 ft).

[4-5 hours walking]

DAY 3 (Feb 21)

Today is an easy day to help acclimatisation and to explore the grassy moorland and volcanic rock formations of the plateau. We walk to the summit of Shira Cathedral (12,300 ft), a huge buttress of rock surrounded by steep spires and pinnacles. There is a tangible sense of wilderness here, especially when the afternoon mists roll in. From our camp near Shira Hut (12,600 ft), we take in the unforgettable views of Mt. Meru as she floats among the clouds.

[4-5 hours walking]

DAY 4 (Feb 22)

The morning walk is a steady climb away from the moorland of Shira Plateau to reach the broad upland desert beneath the Lent Hills, with expansive views in all directions. After lunch in our camp close to Moir Hut (13,800 ft), there is the option of a more strenuous afternoon walk to reach the summit of the Lent Hills (15,400 ft). We can explore the area beneath the Northern Icefields, a remote place rarely visited by tourists, with unusual views of Kibo. Few visitors get to this remote corner of Kilimanjaro.

[3-6 hours walking]

DAY 5 (Feb 23)

We enjoy a morning of gentle ascent and panoramic views, walking on lava ridges beneath the glaciers of the Western Breach. After lunch at our Lava Tower (14,900 ft), there is a steep but spectacular afternoon walk on the rocky lower slopes of the Western Breach. This afternoon excursion is highly recommended for acclimatisation purposes and for the superb views of hanging glaciers on both sides of the Breach.

[4-6 hours walking]

DAY 6 (Feb 24)

A steep descent into the bottom of Barranco Valley (12,800 ft) leads us to the famed Barranco Wall and its steep climb. At the top the undulating trail crosses the flanks of Kibo with superb vistas of the Southern Icefields. The terrain is volcanic scree, with pockets of vegetation in sheltered hollows, and a powerful sense of mountain wilderness. Our next camp is at Karanga Camp (13,100 ft), the last water point on the approach to the summit.

[5-7 hours walking]

DAY 7 (Feb 25)

We follow an easy path on compacted scree with wide views that gains altitude unrelentingly to reach Barafu Hut (14,800 ft) for lunch.

There is a short acclimatisation hike to the plateau at the bottom of the southeast valley (15,700 ft). The remainder of the day is spent resting in preparation for the early morning final ascent.

[3-5 hours walking]

DAY 8 (Feb 26)

We start our ascent by torchlight about 1 a.m. so that we can be up on the crater rim by sunrise. The steep climb over loose volcanic scree has some well-graded zig-zags and a slow but steady pace will take us to Stella Point (18,800 ft), in about five or six hours. We will rest there for a short time to enjoy the sunrise over Mawenzi. Those who are still feeling strong can make the two-hour round trip from here along the crater rim to Uhuru Peak (19,345 ft), passing close to the spectacular glaciers and ice cliffs that still occupy most of the summit area. The descent to Barafu is surprisingly fast, and after some refreshments, we continue to descend to reach our final campsite, Millenium Camp (12,500 ft).

[11-15 hours walking]

DAY 9 (Feb 27)

A sustained descent on a well constructed path takes us through a lovely tropical forest alive with birdsong and boasting lush undergrowth with considerable botanical interest. Our route winds down to the Kilimanjaro National Park gate at Mweka (5,400 ft); and on through coffee and banana farms to Mweka village, where we are transferred to Ilboru Safari Lodge in Arusha.

[4-6 hours walking]

DAY 10 (Feb 28)

After breakfast, we can arrange for a private transfer or taxi to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO)

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