Research is the Key

Lone elephant in Kenya

Lone elephant in Kenya

The key to success is research whether it is writing a book, or preparing for a mountaineering expedition or applying for a professional job. I feel better when I am prepared, organized and have completed my research. It has become a part of me. Over the years the more I traveled, the more I learned and the more eager I began to think about something more challenging. I was nearing the end of my teaching career when I decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was my first international high adventure and the first time traveling alone to a foreign country. I put a lot of effort into the planning and this was months before the expedition.

I studied what medicines to bring with me and a few months before leaving I took the required shots and then days before I began malaria treatment. I researched appropriate clothing, footwear and equipment for mountaineering and the tropics, also preventive treatment on clothing against malaria. It was the first time I used trekking poles which made a tremendous difference in my success. The poles aided me with balance, the strength to lean on going up steep inclines and took the stress off my knees going down the steep slides. I researched types of footwear, types of clothing, glacier glasses, headlamp and a list of things to be selected. I also used gaiters for the first time in a tropical area for protection against bites and scratches on my legs. Photography is an interest of mine, and I wanted to take good pictures but not carry any camera that was too bulky or large while mountaineering. Also the cold was tough on film which I used then. I learned to carry my camera in a pocket inside an inner layer of clothing and at night it went inside of my sleeping bag.

During this adventure, I began journal writing again. I sometimes wish I had kept a daily journal while living at home but life was just too hectic and my daily routine didn’t seem exciting enough to write. I did keep a daily calendar which has been helpful to reflect accurately over the years .I also keep my correspondence and I take a few writing courses. Reading is something I do every day and it is an essential tool to being a writer.

My physical training is a daily requirement, seven days a week. I keep a log of my daily training. The training  makes a difference on my cardiovascular in mountaineering. Also, my body strength becomes much better and makes it easier to climb. I try to be prepared. I was the oldest in my group for Kilimanjaro. I wanted to be prepared in all aspects l as I could not control the fact that I was the oldest and a woman. I make up the difference in ways that I can. My goal was to train so that I could succeed and stay healthy and to meet the rigorist demands of hiking and summiting. In this case, my first mountain was the highest peak in Africa. I did this entirely alone as I knew of no one personally who had done this. It was a big step into the unknown for me.  For each major adventure, once my mind is set, I do it.

I had more research to do, because Kilimanjaro is “into thin air” a phrase that is used by mountain climbers, which means that at 18,000 feet there is only half the supply of oxygen than at sea level. I had no idea what this would be like. It is one thing you cannot train for but take it slowly and watch for warning signs that you may be in physical danger, as you climb higher and higher. Some people take Diomox for climbing high altitudes other climbers elect not to and to trust their own body system for acclimation. Once you start taking Diomox you must continue until you descend.  I brought it with me and on all other major summits I never used it. Each time I went to a remote area in the world I prepared carefully and it is a time consuming process.  It paid off. I learned to carry a jar of peanut butter, bottled water, my own means of water purification and a medical kit. It is important to practice at home how everything works as in adverse conditions it is not the place to try something out for the first time. Risk take carefully, and plan meticulously is something I advise all potential adventure seekers, and believe me this is very important. The further I go from home the more this is true. I plan, study and research all towards the goal, and accomplishing has been a large part of my life.