Kurt Wedberg and good friend of SMI Fred Simmons have embarked on their much anticipated expedition to Mt. Everest! After all the planning and preparation they had one last meal with Fred’s family in Los Angeles then boarded a Thai Airlines flight bound for Kathmandu, Nepal on March 24. We will attempt to share highlights of the journey through this blog. This is the first entry as written by Kurt Wedberg:
Greetings from the town of Phakding at 2620m/8596′ in the Khumbu region of Nepal. All the altitudes are in meters here. To convert we multiply by 3.2808.
After 24+ hours of travel from LA to Kathmandu landing on March 26 we spent two nights and one day in Nepal’s capitol city making final preparations before starting our trek into Everest Base Camp. We organized our equipment into gear that will be shipped by yak directly to Base Camp and other necessities that will be used during our 11-day trek. Fred and I have tacked ourselved onto a large tea run by my good friend Eric who has been organizing Everest expeditions for many years. We will be using all their logistics and support and be able to climb on our own schedule.
On March 28 we left our hotel at 4:45am and soon were at the airport where local flights originate from (versus where the international flights go in and out of). A bit of organized chaos ensued as we got 23 people plus 23 duffle bags through security. Shortly after 6am we were called to our flight and boarded a Twin Otter that holds about 15 people. We divided into two groups on separate planes and took off on the 45 minute flight that ended at the village of Lukla at 2840m/9300′ in the Solu Khumbu region of Nepal. This airport is a trip. The runway is angled at 11 degrees. This helps the airplane stop on this short runway. Upon exiting the plane there are several Nepali police officers who love blowing their whistles incessantly as we walk off the tarmac.
The first order of business was to get 23 porters matched with our 23 duffle bags. While that was going on we took some time to have a little breakfast. There are little bakery’s in Luka that have espresso and cinnamon rolls. This mountaineering business is tough work!! At 7:45am we took off on our trek. Today was a very easy trek. We had very little uphill mixed in with mostly downhill hence how we ended up 220 meters lower than where we started. We took a leisurely pace and got to Phakding 3 hours after leaving Lukla.
We’re staying in tea houses. These are little lodges that exist all up and down the Khumbu region. They have simple bedrooms and a dining room. The menus are pretty similar at all of them. There are American dishes like spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, and chips (french fries to you and me). They also have traditional Nepali food including dahl baht (rice with lentils) and momo’s, which are steamed dumplings with vegetables or meat.
For the next day of our trek we plan to hike approximately 6 hours to Namche Bazar at 3440m/11,286′. We plan to spend 3 nights here acclimatizing before trekking farther up the valley towards Everest Base Camp.
We will try to share a few photos from our journey on this blog. This may not always be possible though so we will also have them posted on the SMI Photo Gallery site here: http://www.kurtwedbergphotography.com/International-Expeditions/Everest-2012/22141785_sRN2QC
After a successful climb of Kilimanjaro the team said goodbye to Caleb, John, and April. Caleb and John began their journey home. SMI guide April Mayhew stayed behind in Moshi to run in the Kilimanjaro Marathon. Three days after standing on top of Kilimanjaro April placed a very respectable second among female non-Africans then caught up with the rest of the group for the last three days of safari. Congratulations April! The rest of the team took off on a game viewing safari to see up close some of the most fascinating animals on our planet.
Over the course of five days the team visited Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park, and the great Serengeti Plains. In addition to seeing a wide range of exotic wildlife our safaris are also a rich cultural experience. We spent some time with kids at a local orphanage as has become traditional on our trips. We also visited a local Masai Village where we were treated to traditional Masai dancing ceremonies, saw the mud huts they live in, and we were given the opportunity to purchase jewelry items. We also visited Olduvai Gorge which is rich in archeological history. Bones of many extinct animals have been found in this area. It is also the sight where the archeologists Tom and Mary Leakey discovered the oldest homonid footprints.
Wildlife was prevalent throughout our safari. Below are a few pictures. The entire photo gallery can be found here:
SMI guides April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg just returned from Tanzania where they led another successful climb of Kilimanjaro. Team members included Rhonda Bellevia, Caleb Fiske, Jackie Hammitt, Janet Lacey, and John Lafaro. Several team members used this climb as a fundraiser for Big City Mountaineers (www.bigcitymountaineers.org). The money raised will help this well respected organization bring underprivileged and inner city youth on 7 and 8 day backpacking trips this summer.
The team met in Moshi, Tanzania where we spent one day to relax after the long flights, pack our gear for the climb, take a hike in the forest near our hotel, and eat a traditional Chagga meal of banana soup. On February 18 the team took off for Kilimanjaro National Park and the gate at the start of the Umbwe Route which would be our ascent route of the mountain.
Kilimanjaro is the only place in the world where one can pass through five different temperate zones over a 5-day period. We start in a jungle environment at 6000’/1829m and by the time we’ve reached the summit at 19,348’/5895m we’re in the alpine zone. Along the way we were met with every type of weather possible from warm sun to rain, foggy white out conditions to clear days, and we even had some snowfall at the higher elevations. The team adapted beautifully to the changing conditions keeping a great attitude throughout.
For all team members (besides the guides) climbing Kilimanjaro would be a new personal altitude record. It was a joy watching this group of people who came from California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas mold into a super fun, supportive, and efficient climbing team over the course of this 7-day climb.
Congratulations everybody on a job well done!!
A few pictures are below. The entire photo gallery can be found here:
As has become customary on our Africa trips we pay a visit to at least one orphanage. HIV and AIDS is still a very big issue in Africa and orphanages are overflowing with kids who’s parents have fallen victim to this epidemic. What little SMI can do to bring a little cheer into these kids lives we feel very humbled and honored to be able to do. Sarah MacDonald and Steve Schumm joined SMI guides April Mayhew and Kurt Wedberg for this visit. As we did with our visit in February we brought with us hand made dolls courtesy of Cindy Simon and a group of talented ladies who sew these to distribute to kids all over the world. A big thank you to Cindy and all the ladies who help make possible delivering these special dollies to the kids.
A few pictures are below. The entire photo gallery including some video can be found here:
After a highly successful and emotional climb of Kilimanjaro the team then ventured off on a game viewing safari. We offer safari’s as part of a package with our Kilimanjaro climbs. They are always fun and they never disappoint. Since animal behavior is never completely predictable it is always a treat to watch the days unfold. The only thing we know is that we will get to view some of the most legendary wildlife on our planet. We visited Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti, and Olduvai Gorge. We also visited a Masai Village. Below are a few pictures highlighting some of our animal sightings. The entire photo gallery can be found here:
There are over 1100 bird species in East Africa. We see many on safari. Here are a few of them:
This is a summary of our recently completed Kilimanjaro climb written by Kurt Wedberg.
Our June Kilimanjaro trip was another great success. The climbers included people from Canada and from both coasts on the USA. Some were new to the SMI experience and others were long time friends. Sunniva Sorby and Kurt Wedberg both have roots with Adventure 16 Outdoor and Travel Outfitters where both were introduced to the outdoor industry. Sunniva has since traveled the world as a lecturer, explorer, adventurer, and guide. She gathered together a group of ladies to raise money and awareness for kids in Africa affected by AIDS. Also joining us were several friends of SMI who have all been on trips with us in the past. Team members included: Rosemary Berard, Kelly Dunfee, Barbara Falco, Jody Foster, Bettina Hiniker-Breckenfeld, Shena Hinks, Sarah MacDonald, John Risickella, Steve Schumm, Sunniva Sorby, Kathleen Urdahl, and Margaret Webb. Joining this group were SMI guides Karsten Delap, April Mayhew, and Kurt Wedberg.
Everybody who started on this trip made it all the way to the summit and back down… that’s 15 out of 15 to the summit!!! A big congratulations to everybody on a job well done!!
Below are a few pictures from the climb. The rest of the pictures can be found here:
Congratulations team on a job well done!!!!
Our Kilimanjaro team got down from the mountain and had a great celebration dinner in Moshi on June 20. The following day we headed out in three Land Rovers for a game viewing safari. One day was spent at one of the seven natural wonders of the world when we toured the impressive Ngorongoro Crater. We also spent two nights in the infamous Serengeti Plains, plus visited Lake Manyara, which is famous for its diverse bird populations and lions who climb trees, and experienced Olduvai Gorge where numerous fossils of extinct animals are still being discovered.
A more comprehensive report is forthcoming. In the meantime we wanted to share a couple quick photos highlighting a couple of our animal sightings:
Above : A lioness in the trees, June 25, 2011.
Below : A cheetah in the Serengeti, June 24, 2011.
On June 19 our entire team reached the summit of Kilimanjaro (19,340’/5895m) at 6:45am led by SMI guides Karsten Delap, April Mayhew, and Kurt Wedberg.
Everybody returned safely and had a nice celebration dinner on June 20. The team is now headed out on a game viewing safari for a few days.
We will have more details about this very memorable climb upon our return from safari. Thank you everybody for all your prayers and good thoughts!
We are always excited to return to Africa. Team members have begun traveling to Tanzania from different parts of the globe. Our objective will be to climb Kilimanjaro via the Umbwe Route. After the climb we have a game viewing safari planned in the famed Serengeti plains and the Ngorongoro Crater. Along the way some of the group members will also visit Tarangiri, Lake Manyara, and the famous archeological site at Olduvai Gorge.
We will try to keep you updated on the progress of our climb. Joining us on this trip of a lifetime are: Rosemary Berard, Kelly Dunfee, Barbara Falco, Jody Foster, Bettini Hiniker, Shena Hinks, Kathleeen Urdahl, Margaret Webb, Sunniva Sorby, Sarah Macdonald, John Risickella, Steve Schumm, Karsten Delap, April Mayhew, and Kurt Wedberg.
Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers during our travels. We look forward to being in touch again soon!!