If all goes well, on March 5, 2019 I will be stepping onto the summit of Kilimanjaro…the tallest mountain in Africa and the tallest free standing mountain in the world. We will have climbed Kilimajaro mostly in shorts and summited in less than 48 hours with almost no time to aclimate.
I have gotten many questions about the apparent insanity of doing a half-naked speed ascent of Kilimanjaro. Why take the risk? What if something happens to you? These are fair questions.
Ironically the chances of a serious accident on Kilimajaro are extremely slim. Eating an American diet with limited exercise exposes you to 1000x more risk of serious illness than climbing that mountain. Not sure why that doesn’t scare people enough to change their habits around nutrition and exercise.
This is not meant to play down the risk with a “what about” statistical counterpoint, but rather provide some perspective. Without a doubt what we are going to do is not risk free. But the biggest issue is Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) that if it goes untreated it could be fatal but in most cases isn’t. If you do start to get AMS the solution is simple. Stop. Go down. Higher O2 concentration in the air at lower altitudes fixes the problem.
The safety precautions we are taking are very high. We are going with a trekking company that has had a 98% success rate in taking 15,000 people to the top of Kilimajaro. The 2% that didn’t summit was due to bad weather conditions. There are various protocols we will be using on the ascent to constantly measure our O2 levels as well as testing ourselves for AMS symptoms.
Also, we are all seasoned Wim Hof practitioners. Wim has done three fast group ascents with great success and some studies were done highlighting how the breathing protocol is very helpful in dealing with AMS by voluntarily increasing O2 saturation in the blood. Apart from my own physical and mental training I have gone deep into a breathing method called Butyeko that trains your body to tolerate lower O2 and higher CO2. This not only increases the number of red blood cells that carry O2 in the blood, but boosts the efficiency with which O2 is released by red blood cells. Thus with less O2 you are actually delivering more O2 at a celular level….pure biohacking at its best.
But enough physiology. I am certainly prepared, but the trek is definitely risky. This is were tremendous respect is required and a very heightened sense of self awareness is needed to constantly monitor ones own body and mind. What we need to be very careful with is changing weather conditions on the mountain.
So why do this?
The answer for me is clear. The mountain is a metaphor. The key to life is quite simple. The only things that really matter in life are the beliefs you have about what you want, what you think you are capable of, the habits/routines that bring those beliefs to life on a daily basis and the people with whom you surround yourself.
In December of 2018, as I was standing in shorts on top of a mountain in Poland in -25C feeling warm and many profound realizations came about. But perhaps the most important was realizing the power of limiting beliefs. I knew that cold is a physical reality, but our brains can process it in different ways…it can be debilitating or empowering. In the end, cold is just a bunch of information that thermal sensors in your body send to you brain. If you consciously override those inputs you feel warm instead of cold and that was mind blowing. There are physical and mental limitations, but they are certainly much less than what our mind leads us to believe. I asked myself, If this is true with the cold can it be true in other more relevant and useful aspects of my life?
That took me to another profound realization. In our Western world we tend to see things in an extremely binary way which is very limiting. Things are hot/cold, good/bad, healthy/sick, successful/failure, possible/impossible, etc. A deeper understanding made me realize there is tremendous power in surfing the balance of opposites…what I call the Power of the Paradox.
- Getting cold makes you warm
- Embracing fears gives you peace and power
- Letting go allows you to get anything
- Men accepting weakness makes them powerful
- Total strangers are can actually be soul mates
- Going primordial makes you more human
- The power of the tribe makes you a stronger individual
- The more you give the more you get
- What seems impossible is always possible
- What humbles you empowers you
- Your sickness is your opportunity for health
- And there are many more…
So with these learnings, a bit over a year ago I decided that I was going to live to 100 (a belief) and that at 50 I wanted to do a full hardware and software upgrade of mind, body and soul for the next 50 years of life. Part of that was regain the body of my 30s and get in the best shape I have been. If I want to have great quality of life for the next 50 years I needed to set a new baseline for my own health and wellness.
Fast forward a year and through nutrition, exercise and mental conditioning I lost 10 kilos, am back to the waist size of my 30s and feel that I have certainly turned back the feeling of age. If this is true or not is besides the point. That belief gives me power and that is what I was looking for.
So along came the idea of climbing Kilimanjaro half-naked in record time. Once I overcame the insanity of the idea, I realized that this was the perfect goal for me as I turned 50 for quite a few reasons:
- Setting an ambitious goal would motivate me to implement the upgrade plan for my mind, body and soul especially in relation to nutrition, fitness and mindset.
- In the past, stress and fear got the best of me in many situations. Climbing Kili, scares me a lot…but by doing this I learn to turn fear into power by embracing the fear and channeling it towards preparedness.
- I could not think of a better test/graduation ceremony for all the hardware and software upgrading that I have put in place over the past year in preparation for the next 50 years of life.
- I have no doubt that the sense of accomplishment that will come from this adventure will be very empowering for life…and BTW I don’t see this as a preamble for other higher more challenging climbs. After this…being able to create the life that I want for the next 50 years is the NEXT mountain.
- Finally I just followed my gut…something was telling me that I had to do this. Not always easy to just follow your soul.
In the end, climbing Kili is a rite of passage…a rebirth of sorts. By turning inwards and challenging myself, I empower myself to be the best I can be and give the most I can to those I love and give meaning to my life.
I am especially grateful for my wife Stephanie for encouraging me deeply to continue with this challenge despite the risks that it entails. The saying goes that behind every great man there is a great woman…I don’t have anyone behind me. I have a great woman by my side and I hope that I can live up to being a great man.
So with that I take the next big step in a great new phase in life.
Kili here I come.
April 2019, Kili Update:
We did it!
On March 5th, 2019 at 11:11 AM I, along with a group of intrepid souls, summited Kilimanjaro bare-chested in 50.5 hours. I felt euphoric and incredibly energized standing on Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak at 5985m. Soaring above the clouds, I was blown away be the beauty of the surroundings and amazed by the physical feat that that a year ago would have been totally impossible.
To this day I am amazed of what we were capable of doing on that mountain, and, ultimately, the power of the mind over the body. We spent a total of 80 hours in the national park and trekked 97 km with over 4100m of elevation change up and down. I only slept 10 hours while in the park and no sleep prior to the summit attempt. All the training payed off. I had no Altitude Mountain Sickness symptoms at all and, even to my surprise, no muscle soreness once we left the park.
Whatever we believe we can do…we can!