Month: December 2012


After two days of hiking & Mule riding , Kurt, April, Alan, Andy & Scott make it to 4200m Base Camp. All are healthy and feeling strong. Rest day tomorrow and then they begin a series of training/acclimatization hikes on Wednesday. Below are some photos of the trip thus far.

SMI off to Aconcagua (6962m/22,841′), Argentina!

Morning alpenglow on Aconcagua (6962m/22,841')

On December 28 SMI guides April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg met Alan Bagley, Andrew Burg, and Scott Evans in Mendoza, Argentina where they staged for an expedition to the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere.  They spent the day securing climbing permits, packing gear, and organizing trip food.

On December 29 they started off from the trail head at Punta de Vacas at 2400m/7874′.  It will be a 3-day trek in to Base Camp at 4200m/13,747′.  Here is their planned itinerary:

Dec 29: Hike from trailhead at 7874 feet to Pampa de Lenas at 9514 feet

Dec 30: Hike to Casa de Pierdra at 10,630 feet

Dec 31: Hike to Plaza Argentina at 13,747 feet.  This is our Base Camp.

Jan 1: Rest day, take small acclimatization hike

Jan 2: Acclimatization hike, prepare loads for higher camps

Jan 3: Carry load to Camp 1, return to Base Camp

Jan 4: Move to Camp 1 at 16,732 feet

Jan 5: Rest and acclimatization day hike

Jan 6: Carry load to Camp 2, return to Camp 1

Jan 7: Move to Camp 2 at 19,127 feet

Jan 8: Rest and acclimatization day, prepare for summit bid

Jan 9: Summit bid

Jan 10: Extra day built in for weather/acclimatization

Jan 11: Extra day built in for weather/acclimatization

Jan 12: Extra day built in for weather/acclimatization

Jan 13: Return to Plaza Argentina Base Camp

Jan 14: Hike to Pampa de Lenas

Jan 15: Hike to trailhead, spend night at Los Penitentes

Jan 16: Drive to Mendoza

They will be calling in updates via satellite phone.  We will try to post reports as we hear from them.

Mendoza has a population of approximately 1.2 million making it the fourth largest province in Argentina.

Fountains light up La Plaza de Independencia, the largest plaza in Mendoza

Kilimanjaro Wrap Up December 16-22, 2012


Our latest climb to Kilimanjaro was another great success!  This trip with LA residents Heather Krug and Robyn Stern had been in the works for a year by the time we boarded a flight at LAX bound for Tanzania.  Upon arriving we spent adjusting to the time change, which is 11 hours ahead of California.  We took a walk through the forest near our hotel, ate lunch in the town of Moshi near our hotel, and packed for our climb.  On December 16 we drove to the park gate and started our seven day trek.

Kilimanjaro is the only place in the world where it is possible to climb through five climate zones in five days.  We started off in a jungle and a few days later we would be at the summit in an alpine environment that has snow, ice, and dirt but no forms of life at all.

While it is possible to climb Kilimanjaro in less than seven days this cuts short the crucial acclimatization process we need to adjust to the thin air we will be climbing in.  We try to average 1000’ per day above 10,000’.  This gives enough time for our bodies to keep producing more red blood cells that allow our circulatory system to carry more oxygen, which is important as the air gets thinner at increasingly higher elevation.  For many of our clientele Kilimanjaro (5895m/19,340’) this is the first time they have been this high in elevation.  Robyn and Heather’s training program included hiking peaks in Southern California including San Gorgonio (11,499’/3505m) and Mt. Baldy (10,064’/3607m).  Robyn had also climbed Mt. Whitney (14,508’/4422m) with us over the summer and Heather had trekked in New Zealand.

As we ascended through the different temperate zones the landscape and scenery changed with each one offering its own unique beauty.  At lunchtime on December 20 we arrived at our highest camp at 4600m/15,100’, which put us in position for our summit attempt the following day.  We had an early dinner and got to sleep well before it was dark because we had planned to leave for the summit at 11pm.  We would climb through the night and hopefully be high on the mountain by sunrise.

At a few minutes after 11pm we left camp bound for the summit.  We were treated to a warm, clear, and windless night.  Climbing at a steady measured pace we navigated by headlamp and were treated to a beautiful blanket of stars above.  We took a few breaks along the way for water and food and found ourselves reaching the crater rim of Kilimanjaro at 4:30am.  It was still dark and we were ahead of schedule!  Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano.  The top of it is a large oval shaped crater.  We reached the crater rim at an area called Stella Point at 5737m/18,821’.  From here it takes 45 – 60 minutes to traverse around the crater to its highest point they call Uhuru Peak at 5895m/19,340’.

Once we hit approximately 5500m or 18,000’ we have half the oxygen that is present at sea level.  Climbing in this rarified air requires 1-3 deep breaths for each step we take up hill.  We took a 10 minute break at Stella Point then started off on the last push towards the summit.  As we neared the top we could see the first evidence of sunrise out to the east.  We reached the “Roof of Africa” at 5:30am!

We spent a few minutes taking summit photos and enjoying the view as it began getting light enough to see around.  The weather was cold with a slight morning breeze beginning to pick up.  We were bundled up in several warm clothing layers including our puffy down jackets.  At 5:55am it was time to begin our descent.  As we retraced our steps we were treated to the awe inspiring view Kilimanjaro always offers of the sunrise over the African plains!

Heather and Robyn are now off on a game viewing safari to unwind after a great adventure.  Thanks to everybody at home for your loving support and prayers during our climb!!

Below are a few pictures.  The entire gallery of photos taken during the trip can be viewed here:



December 16: Robyn, Kurt, and Heather at the start of the Machame Route on Kilimanjaro.

Heather and Robyn hiking through the jungle en route to Camp 1.

Our porters carrying loads on day 1. Our Chagga staff carries most of our gear so we can carry light day packs.

The jungle environment is rich with exotic plants and wildflowers.

Our tents at Machame Camp, Camp 1 at 3000m/9842'

Afternoon tea and popcorn at Camp 1.

Kilimanjaro from Camp 1 on the morning of December 17, day 2 of our climb.

Robyn psyched on the trekking and scenery on day 2.

Heather taking in the views at a water break during our trek to Camp 2.

Camp 2 at 3864m/12,620'. The peak in the distance is Mt. Meru, a satellite peak of Kilimanjaro.

Heather and Robyn hiking on December 18, day 3 of our climb.

Kurt and Robyn at our high point on day 3; Lava Tower at 4610m/15,170'.

Kilimanjaro's Western Breach Wall from Camp 3 at 3940m/12,926'

Lobilia plant near Camp 3. There are five varieties of lobilia. Their distinguishing feature is the leaf structure funnels water into the center of the plant where it can drink it as needed.

Kurt, Heather, and Robyn saddled up and ready to hike on day 4.

Giant Senacio plants near Camp 3.

Late afternoon light at Karanga Camp, Camp 4 at 3930m/12,893'.

Heather, Kurt, and Robyn at Karanga Camp on the morning of day 5. Heather decided to descend from here and not try for the summit. After saying goodbye Robyn and Kurt ascended to high camp and Heather returned to our hotel.

Sunset at Barafu Camp, Camp 5 at 4600m/15,100'.

Robyn dressed up and ready for summit day!

High on the crater rim of Kilimanjaro at dawn. Seeing the sunrise over the African plains is one of the most breathtaking events to witness in Africa!

Robyn's summit photo with the sign that sits atop the highest point in Africa.

December 21, 2012, 5:30am: Robyn and Kurt on the summit of Kilimanjaro 5895m/19,340'

Kilimanjaro Team Reaches Summit!


At 5:30am on December 21 Robyn Stern reached the summit of Kilimanjaro with SMI founder Kurt Wedberg.  They reported beautiful weather for their summit day, clear skies and little to no wind.  Stars were out in full force. They descended to Mweka Camp at 3100m/10,170′.  They plan to sleep here tonight then make the final 3 hour trek to exit the mountain tomorrow.
Below are some pictures.  More stories and pictures are coming soon!  Congratulations Robyn and Kurt!

Greetings from high camp at 15,100′ on Kilimanjaro!

Since our last update we have been moving steadily higher putting ourselves in position for our summit attempt tomorrow.  Along the way we have seen amazing scenery and experienced everything from sunny days to rain.  Sitting here at high camp we have a clear day with clouds forming below us.  Our spirits are high and we’re very psyched to be ready to attempt the summit in the morning.

Our plan is to wake in the middle of the night and hike by headlamp with the intention of getting close to the crater rim at sunrise.  We will then traverse the crater rim to Kilimanjaro’s highest point they call Ururu Peak at 5895m/19,340′.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we attempt to reach the “Roof of Africa”!

Below are some pictures depicting the last few days…. Enjoy!

Kilimanjaro Team Reaches Camp 1

Greetings from Camp 1 on Kilimanjaro at 3000m/9842′.  After a good breakfast at our hotel we drove to the park gate at 1800m/5905′.

Kilimanjaro is the only place in the world where it is possible to pass through five temperate zones in as many days.  Locally they name these zones as follows:  Cultivation Zone, Jungle, Moorland, Sub-Alpine, and Alpine.  Our climb today took us through the Cultivation Zone and into the upper end of the Jungle Zone.  We had a little rain today as we walked.  This made the jungle smell fresh and sweet.  The canopy overhead gave us partial protection from the rain.

Although Kilimanjaro is not known for having an abundance of animals it is possible to see a few neat forms of wildlife.  There are also several varieties of wildflowers including the Kilimanjaro Inpatients.  The jungle surrounding Kilimanjaro is the only place in the world where this pretty red and yellow flower grows. Look for more coming soon!

Kilimanjaro here we come!!

Kilimanjaro (5895m/19,340') from near the village of Moshi, Tanzania.

On December 14 SMI founder Kurt Wedberg arrived in Tanzania with Heather Krug and Robyn Stern.  Robyn is a Creative Director who’s biggest account is Purina and Heather is the CEO at Bear Grylls Ventures.  This trip has been planned for close to a year now.  Many hours of planning, conditioning hikes, acquiring gear, and rearranging lives have gone into the preparation for this climb.

December 15 was spent acclimating to the Tanzanian countryside and getting prepared for a 7-day climb to the Roof of Africa beginning on December 16.  We will try to keep you updated on the progress of our climb as often as possible.

Here are a couple pictures from today’s adventures:

Heather and Robyn taking in the scenery on a walk through some local rice fields outside the village of Moshi.

A local Tanzanian carrying hardwood from the forest behind. He will use this for heating and cooking in his home.

Bananas growing near the rice fields. There are an estimated 80+ different types of bananas grown in East Africa. Some are used for cooking and others can be peeled and eaten.

They harvest rice twice each year in these fields. In the foreground a local farmer is tending to groups of starter plants that will soon be transplanted to the empty fields behind.

Rice farmers pause to greet us as we walked by their plot of land. The people in Tanzania are some of the friendliest people we've met anywhere in the world.

Tanzania is abundant with over 1400 varieties of beautiful flowers.

Tanzanian children from the Chagga tribe are always a joy to be around. Today they enjoyed following us on our walk.

Kurt cutting open a fresh mango. Sampling the local fruit is one of the fun fringe benefits when visiting Tanzania.

Kurt climbing a vine in the forest.

A Black & White Colobus Monkey yawning high up in a tree in the forest.

Kilimanjaro looming high above our hotel. We're excited to start up it tomorrow!