HATS Lessons from Mt. Kilimanjaro
Recently, I had the opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
At 19341 feet tall, it is the highest point on the African continent. Kilimanjaro is more than just a hike; it is a long hike at altitude. In total, our expedition spent five days climbing and one day descending.
When you embark on a week long trek with no access to running water, toilets, showers and other conveniences you have to quickly learn some lessons.
It’s funny, but I found myself thinking about the lessons HATS teaches. Here are a few things that came to mind during the hike:
1) Your Attitude Defines Your Altitude.
While this is an often used metaphor, it is an absolute truth on the mountain.
When dealing with challenges on your body, keeping a positive attitude is key to success. On our trek we had 16 climbers, two of which were extreme pessimists and let their attitudes affect their climb.
While the rest of us took adversities in stride and kept a positive outlook to reach the summit, the pessimists succumbed to altitude sickness and had to be physically supported by others at the summit.
Sure, it wasn’t always easy to stay positive, but there were no maladies and we made it.
2) Clear and Copious.
Plain and simple: your pee must always be clear and copious on a trip like this.
Hydration is essential to avoiding altitude sickness. In fact, we drank 5-7 liters of water every day to ward off the affects of altitude sickness. I kept 3-5 liters of water on me at any given time, and our guides were great about reminding us to continually drink more.
3) Take Clothing off to Stay Warm.
As you can imagine, we had several nights of below freezing temperatures.
One morning one of the guys woke up freezing. He couldn’t figure out why; he wore all his clothes in his down mummy sleeping bag, yet couldn’t get warm! He didn’t understand how a sleeping bag is intended to be used. The additional clothing worked against him.
My warmest nights were when I wore shorts and a light shirt in my sleeping liner in the mummy bag. I was toasty warm! Strangely, most people do not follow this advice.
4) Layers, Layers, Layers.
Kilimanjaro covers 5 different climate zones starting in the Rain Forest and ending in the Arctic.
Each day of hiking had different clothing demands, and combined with the exertion of climbing all day you can go from hot to cold to hot.
On any given day, I wore 1 to 6 layers: shorts, t-shirt, thermal underwear, long sleeve shirt and hiking pants, fleece, down and finally a shell and ski pants layer. With this strategy, I was dressed appropriately for each climate zone and minimized the amount of items I needed to pack.
Kilimanjaro makes it easy to disconnect from the world. Yet at some base camps, weak cell signals showed up and there were guys walking around, phone in the air trying to get a connection.
I’m glad to say, the guys who relaxed, observed the beauty of nature, enjoyed a hot chocolate and shared jokes and stories appreciated the disconnect as much as I did.
The lessons HATS teaches are useful on our campouts. They are not only useful, but they also keep us comfortable and safe.
Take a moment and think about a HATS lesson you have learned and how it fits into your life.
TAGGED : adventure, attitude, communication, gear, HATS, HATS program, Hiking, hydration, outdoor activities, outdoor skills, Safety and Wilderness First Aid, weather