Monday 14 November 2016

Unexpected Attention?!

Sometimes, given my  poor vision or lack thereof, I’m amazed at  what is  around the corner  when I turn right or left on a sidewalk never traveled before. Such is the case when the Kilimanjaro Challenge was kick started late last year November 2015. It was only an idea then but as time unfolded  the idea snow balled into  reality in September 2016.   Never in my wildest dream did I ever think Spencer and I would be in the media but, apparently, our Kili Challenge was of interest to some.   Below are links to   newspaper articles and radio programs that carried our story. If you’ve not had a chance  to view them previously, check out the links below.

It was an adventure of a lifetime and  Burnaby Now’s the 3rd article  summed up  the Kili Challenge the best.

Newspaper Publications:
1st Burnaby Now article

2nd Burnaby Now..follow-up article:

3rd Burnaby Now article - Oct. 12th (Wrap-up story)

CBC Radio Interview for  the Early Morning Edition: CBC

Early Edition (radio) (follow-up story upon return from Kili):

As you were all aware , The Kili Challenge was  not just a personal tribute to Lana but it was also to support two charities  with a $15,000 donation target each. I’m happy to report , thanks to all of you, we were able to reach and beat  each charity’s donation targets as follows:
Alzheimer Society of B.C. : 15,027
Down Syndrome Research Foundation : $16,717

For those who have not donated and are still  contemplating to do so , both charity’s donation pages are still up and available via my blog, , to  accept your donations for your 2016 tax year.

Again..Thank You! Thank You!  Thank You! ..for all your tremendous support!

Ps. Please feel free to  connect with me via my e-mail  address:  with your thoughts on  our Kili Challenge.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Back to Marangu Hotel (Day 8)

The original plan was for the climb team to stay overnight at Horombo Camp, then hike the 6 plus hours down to the bottom of the mountain for pickup back to Marangu Hotel. However, it was decided to speed up the return by calling for a truck pickup at Horombo Camp instead. Spencer, Salim and Safiya arrived late into the evening of Day 7, one day ahead of schedule and had a truly restful night in a comfortable bed in from the cold mountain night.

The following pictures and videos show the next day's celebration of a successful Kilimanjaro Challenge!

The Kilimanjaro guides are a different breed of people. They take on physical and mental challenges of tackling a mountain and Elias (senior guide), Winfred, Mongol and Tall have taken our team to where few have gone before. If not for their tenacity we would not have been able to challenge our own physical and mental limitations to summit Kilimanjaro, The Rooftop of Africa. As they "polepole" (slow step) up the mountain they have shown us how to be “one” with the mountain.

The specially carved Alzheimer Society’s staff has travelled from Vancouver to the bottom of Kilimanjaro, all the way to the top and now back down to Marangu Hotel ready to return home to Vancouver. A wonderful physical round trip and a symbolic one given Lana’s carved name on the staff. She is returning home after a fantastic Kili Challenge with Spencer, Salim, Safiya and I forever changed by Kilimanjaro and the Kili Challenge.

All of us receiving our Kilimanjaro certificates of accomplishment confirming that we actually did climb Kilimanjaro. The certificate is an outward symbol of an inner expression of achievement that will forever be carried in our hearts into the future forever changing us to challenge any symbolic mountains in our lives that we feel are hard to climb. If we can do Kili we can tackle any mountain in our lives and summit! However high that summit is.

Showing appreciation to our entire support crew, guides, cook, assistant cook and waiter and all the porters

 A picture of myself and the four (Winfred, my guide and Christopher and Israel. I cannot recall the third porters name) crew members who hiked down the mountain with me when I had to descend from Kibo Hut (15,000 plus feet) and we did it with them carrying all my gear. I was too weak to carry my own day pack. It was all I could do to just take one slow step at a time from Kibo Hut to Horombo camp where a rescue truck took Winfred and me down to the bottom of the mountain. 

The truck only had room for Winfred and me as space was needed to bring another rescued climber to the bottom. The three porters took another transport to the bottom. They stayed and made sure I was fine all the way until they had to return a separate way. They were a phenomenal support Team!

Another picture of the fantastic guides and us, now Kilimanjaro Alumni.

Here is the famous Kilimanjaro celebration song sung by the entire support crew! A fitting conclusion to our Kili Challenge!

Until the next time! Happy climbing! (What? Are you crazy...climbing Kili again? Never say never!)

Blogging off for now.
Bill Der (The Blind Guy with a Vision and followed it!)

P.S. I hope this has encouraged you to follow your vision too!

Horombo Camp (Day 7)

As they say, “What goes up must come down.", and down our climb team went as Spencer, Salim and Safiya with their guides, trekked their way down from the peak but with one BIG difference. They were going down in pitch black darkness! Unlike many who’d started their ascent at night, in the dark, to catch the sunrise at the Peak, they’d ascended during the day and caught the sunset instead of the sunrise and now need to descend back to Kibo Hut in the dark, a reverse scenario.

Two things happens when the sun goes down, the temperature drops dramatically and it’s dark. There are no street lights to light the way for you at Uhuru Point. So, out come the headlamps to light the way down. The trek from Kibo Hut to summit Kilimanjaro at Uhuru Point took approximately 12 hrs. It was a slow and steady climb given the blowing wind, cold temperature and some altitude sickness. However, the trek down took only approximately 3 hrs! In spite of the need to be super careful with the footing and in the pitch black darkness of the mountain. Unfortunately, no pictures or videos could be taken given the darkness so no pictures or videos are available to document the climb down from Uhuru Point back to Kibo Hut where they spent the night before hiking down to Horombo camp at mid-mountin.

The original plan, when I descended from Kibo Hut, was for me to meet them at Horombo camp on their way down. However, when I arrived at Horombo camp, the Ranger at the camp decided that it was best for me to head all the way down to the bottom given my pulmonary edema which, in hindsight, was a good decision. This, in spite of my wanting to stay there and meet the rest of the team on their way down. Even at the lower Horombo camp elevation I was still in danger of fluid building in the lungs. As a consequence, I was not there to greet them when they arrived at Horombo camp the next day.

The following depicts their trek down from Kibo Hut to Horombo camp.

After resting overnight at Kibo Hut, the Climb Team is trekking down to Horombo camp.

As they hike further down the mountain the terrain has changed from a moon scape type of terrain to desert like terrain with desert like landscape and vegetation. The cactus like tree is called Giant Groundsel or Senecio tree and can be seen throughout the lower elevations on the mountain.

You can see Horombo camp coming in to view as they continue to hike down the mountain.


Finally! They’ve arrived at Horombo camp exhausted but with a feeling of having done something few have ever accomplished before.

A final descent and a job well done! Check out the next Blog post.

Kilimanjaro Ascent (Day 6) – Part 2

From Stella point it took approximately another two hours to reach Uhuru Point, the Roof Top of Africa!

Uhuru Sign. Success!

Waaahooooooo!! We’ve reached the top and you can see the triumph in everyone’s face and the happy cheers.


Climb team pictures in front of Uhuru peak sign in triumph,

 and everyone singing a celebration song. They are dancing for JOY!

Mission One accomplished. The climb team succeeded in bringing the specially carved Alzheimer Society’s staff to the top of Kilimanjaro. It is a beautiful work of art with all our climb team’s names on it with Lana’s and Bert’s names carved in memory. It was a truly symbolic climb for me as the carved walking stick replaced my regular guiding stick that I use to climb the Grouse Grind at home. Elias, the senior guide, held one end of the carved staff and I held the other end guiding me right from the bottom of Kili to Kibo Hut. It was as if Lana was with me throughout the climb and Spencer carried it all the way to the top! Fantastic!

Spencer enjoying his triumphant moment!

Mission Two accomplished! The Answer Company flag is flying at the top of Kilimanjaro. Way To Go! Spence! You did it! Spencer had to carry out the mission in my absence. Answer Company, you can now say you’ve been to the Roof Top of Africa! Thanks, Spence!


Mission Three completed. Salim is flying a T-shirt with all the names of people who had helped him in the past, thanking them and bringing them to the top of Kili! Way To Go, Salim!

Check out the view at the Peak. Can you see the curvature of the earth at this height?

One of the reasons we’d chosen to climb Kilimanjaro from Sep. 10 – 17 was to ensure that we’d be able to ascend and descend Kilimanjaro when the full moon appeared and, here we are, the full moon at the peak of Kilimanjaro! Fantastic! (I wish I could see it…maybe, one day.)

The guides were wonderful! Without them we would not have gotten too far on the ascent. Many thanks to them! Elias, the senior guide, helped Salim get past his exhaustion. Mongolia, assisted Safiya to go beyond Gilma Point to reach Uhuru. Tall, helped Spence to go on despite his tired body. Reaching the peak was a major physical and mental accomplishment that all can be proud of! Congratulations to all!

Now, follow the Climb Team in the next blog post as they start to descend and that was a challenge in itself as their descent was in the dark!

Kilimanjaro Ascent (Day 6) – Part 1

Due to my altitude sickness we were forced to part company, saying our good-byes and wishing each other the best at reaching our separate destinations -- me going down the mountain and Salim, Safiya and Spencer going up to the summit. It was a bitter sweet moment. I was disappointed at not being able to join them but proud that they were going to carry on with our Kili Challenge, bringing the specially carved staff with our and Lana’s names carved on it, and The Answer Company flag to the top.

The following pictures and videos and the next few blog posts will depict their "polepole" (slow walk) to Gilman’s Point and Stella Point. Then, finally, to Uhuru point, the Rooftop of Africa!

The sun was coming up just as the group started the climb at about 6:30am from Kibo Hut. The wind was slow but steady and given they were ascending during the day the temperature was not too cold (ie. -10 to -15) as it would be if the ascent began the night before around midnight like many of the groups ahead of us. The ascent traditionally is done during the night in darkness with head lamps to light the way to catch the sun rise at the summit. However, for our group, it was decided at the outset that our ascent would be done during the day for an easier climb given my visual impairment. Unfortunately, best laid plans were foiled by Murphy lurking around the corner to pounce and pounce he did with pulmonary edema forcing me down the mountain. Winfred, my assigned guide and three porters headed down the mountain and Elias, the senior guide, plus two other assigned guides to Salim, Spencer and Safiya headed up the mountain.


A mountain cloud view as the group climbed higher and higher towards Gilman point, two thirds of the way to the top with the air continuing to thin and the wind becoming stronger. They were forced to trek even slower than before, from small steps they were forced to take half steps, almost shuffling up the mountain to conserve energy and prevent over exhaustion. They were experiencing some nausea and head aches but gritted their teeth and continued to climb. Their guides were a phenomenal support, motivating them to keep going when they felt like stopping and turning back. Their guides at several points held them by the arms and guided them to the next rest stop.


Success! They’d reached Gilman point, about 10 hrs after their start from Kibo Hut.

 Salim reporting.

Salim, Spencer, and Safiya. They toughed it out and are enjoying the moment.

From Gilman point you can see the glacier crowning Kilimanjaro. This was what had captured the imagination and the incredulity of the early explorers and discoverers of Kilimanjaro. In the heat of Africa how can there be a mountain with snow on top? With a glacier on top? Hard to believe and that has sparked many to find out for themselves. Just as Spencer, Salim and Safiya are finding out for themselves as they look up towards the peak of Kilimanjaro. Fantastic! as Salim would say.

Different views of the massive glacier at the top. Thankfully, the weather was holding out and no snow was falling to make the next stop, Stella Point, difficult to reach. Everyone was snug in their many under layers, down parka jackets, winter gloves, mittens, balaclavas and goggles. On they trekked.

It took the Team another hour or so to reach Stella Point, the second last stopping point before the summit, Uhuru Point. They were totally exhausted but could see the summit from Stella point.

A report from Salim. With the guide's prompting they continued to trudge ahead against the wind, the cold and altitude sickness (nausea, headaches, etc).

We are almost there! Don’t give up yet. Keep following the Team to the Roof Top of Africa!