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Kili Week 3: Preparing with a pararescueman

The following post was written by newMedia instructor Lindsay Clark as part of a series on our upcoming senior trip in Kenya and Tanzania, where our 12th grade students and a handful of staff and faculty members will attempt to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Lindsay Clark

Last night, I came clambering up the staircase of the boys’ residence to witness the majority of the senior class enthusiastically pumping through interval training with Adam. The rooftop provided expansive views of Hiroshima at a beautiful time right before sunset. The air was the perfect temperature for cooling down warm muscles.

In the past two weeks, I have seen the Class of 2014 rise to the occasion, completely engaged as a unit in mentally and physically preparing for our attempt at Mt. Kilimanjaro. Even though they have huge exams coming up in two weeks with much revision to do, they have managed to work into their schedules many opportunities to be active and research the challenge that is before them.

I know Mark and Yada have been taking advantage of the nearby hike we affectionately call “Temple Run,” and Gijs has been showing us all who is boss with his daily workouts and dedication to a healthy lifestyle. Our training program tracking sheet tells us that there are many A-teams working together to achieve this goal, while others are just starting to get a sense of how they will support each other.

Now that we are all engaged in the training program, it’s time to expand our preparation to include some mountain-specific information.

Firsthand Advice

Last year, one of my oldest friends summited Kilimanjaro with four of her friends from Chicago. Laura is a dedicated athlete who participates in many events each year, including long running races and triathlons. After sharing some of her images with the seniors, I invited Laura to Skype into their homeroom last Friday.

Many students had questions about the rigors of the climb, packing needs, suggested training, and her overall experience. It was clear many students were able to better wrap their heads around the upcoming challenge after hearing her personal experience.(Note: the video contains one mild profanity.)

High Altitude Effects and Medical Support

Kilimanjaro is not necessarily a difficult climb technically or due to the terrain. Instead, the largest obstacles climbers have to overcome are the high altitude effects and the mental rigors of a long and tedious climb. Because of its immense height – 5,985 meters – many people feel adverse effects if they don’t acclimatize properly or if they don’t have the grit to push past the mental barriers.

Luckily for the Class of 2014, we won’t have to deal with these two obstacles alone.

Chaney Harrison will be joining us on our climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro. He is a Special Ops para-rescuer in the United States Air Force Reserves. Not only is he specially trained to recover and provide medical treatment for those in difficult environments, but Chaney has also climbed Kilimanjaro twice and knows the particular needs of climbers on this mountain. Not that we anticipate needing the full extent of his services, but it is certainly reassuring to know we have that kind of support with us on the trail.

Chaney is in Hiroshima this week to help facilitate this part of the TGS Transition. While he’s visiting, he will be taking part in and leading different sessions with the seniors as well as the members of onsite staff who are climbing.

The following schedule was pulled from my email to the seniors:

Monday – Chaney will join the rooftop training session with Adam. He hopes to see many of you there! Afterward, he will join you for dinner, so be sure to grab a seat near him and ask about his crazy job in the military. He saves people from intense situations. I hope you feel more secure and supported knowing that he will be joining us on our trek. This will be his third ascent on Kilimanjaro!

Wednesday – Put this in your calendars: 6pm in the common room for a chat about high altitude effects and a general Q&A. He will also be at dinner following this session, and if you would like to chat with him or ask him a question one-on-one, he wants you to know he’s available and eager to help.

Friday – “Gear Shakedown” at 5pm: please meet in the common room and bring with you the following items: the shoes you will hike in, your hiking socks, gloves, and outer layers that you will need on the final days, and what pants you will likely do most of your hiking in. Throw it all in your hiking backpack for carrying ease. If you don’t have these, Chaney will inform you of the necessities that you need to get asap. We can follow this session with some optional training or potentially a trip to outdoor gear store if there is a need.Saturday – OPTIONAL hike in Miyajima: The Green Squad will be off on a trip, and for those of you still in Hiroshima, Chaney and I will be going to Miyajima to hike the mountain there. If you would like to gain some very relevant experience, please join us. Please do consider this heavily because not only is the act of hiking ideal training for the real thing, but this will be important mental training alongside the man who will likely be your strongest source of mental support on the mountain.

This support comes on top of the pre-existing opportunities by ResLIFE and student clubs (such as Running Club and Football Club) for students to be active, a list of options from which students can pick and choose according to their schedule. By the end of the week, the students will be well-informed about the effects of high altitude and very aware of their individual packing needs…on top of being sore, strong, and unified.

So far, this has been a successful format for training within the confines of our schedule that knows no bounds. While it would be better to incorporate more long hikes and repetitive climbing movements into training, we are being creative and realistic with the time we have. Long hikes and repetitive movements would help us anticipate the mental space we venture into and help us identify individually our strengths and weaknesses with this type of activity. Chaney will also play a key role in supporting that mental strength development, both in training and on the mountain. More details to come.

What’s To Come

The seniors have been diligent with meeting regularly to spend time together and train. Mark and Charis hosted a Sunday morning crepe party which many attended. Adam assembled the seniors the previous weekend to talk about training and specialization.

The more we talk about what is to come in the next two months, the more opportunities the seniors have to wrap their heads around the challenges they face, the successes they earn and the people they are becoming. I hope they continue to chat about this landmark in their lives and not lose perspective in the midst of exam tension. Chaney informed me that the climb up Kilimanjaro incorporates ample time to reflect on experience and self, and I am certain our students will arrive back at home feeling a sense of closure and a strong sense of self.


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A passion for travel. A strong academic record. And the desire to improve the world as you experience it. If this sounds like you, you just might be our ideal candidate! Start your application with a five-minute inquiry form - you never know where you might end up.

It all starts here.

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