Looking Back at 2021…

Looking back at 2021…

It’s the last couple of days of the year- time to look back at what’s happened this year, and to look ahead at what the next year has in store for us. I’ve never been one for grand New Year’s Resolutions; I always felt most of the common ones were vague and therefore not likely to get completed. But this past year, I tried something new. I thought, what if I made a bunch of smaller, more reachable resolutions? Like things I want to accomplish, but on a scale that feels manageable to me? So I played Resolution Bingo with myself. 

I saw this idea online somewhere, but I can’t remember which site. Basically, come up with 25 resolutions/goals for the year, and see how many Bingo’s you can make. I tried to come up with some habits, some mental, some physical, and some activities- to give a well rounded set of goals. So here’s my list for 2021- I highlighted what I completed.

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Changes

In March of this year, I had a baby.

In October, I stood on the roof of Africa at 19, 341ft. 

Both are incredible accomplishments, but there’s something really interesting about the after effects of each. You know how they say that women “forget” the pain of childbirth so they will want to have another child? Yeah…I haven’t forgotten. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be pregnant, but labor, childbirth, C-Section, recovery? I definitely still remember how those felt. On the other hand, summiting Kilimanjaro was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and at points I didn’t think I would make it, and at points I promised myself I would never do it again. But now…I’m only a few weeks out from that trip, yet my brain is already “forgetting” the pain it took to get there. I had told myself that once I summited Kilimanjaro, I would be content not doing it again. But I don’t know if that’s true. Tyler is planning his next trip out there, and I’m remembering how much fun I had, and how beautiful it is, and now I really want to do it again. (Which isn’t happening next time, because someone has to hang out with Sam, which is fine by me!) But wow, I want to climb mountains. I want to do more of the 7 summits- I don’t know if I’d ever do Everest, but there’s definitely a few more that are attainable for me. All this brings me to an interesting realization about myself and how I want my life to play out from here. 

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Conquering Kilimanjaro

If you follow me on Instagram (@path_of_pumphrey), you already know this. But in October, I returned to Tanzania to try one more time to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. I traveled alone this time, with Tyler staying home with our son Sam. I’m so incredibly grateful all the pieces fell into place for me to make this trip- having been planning and dreaming about it for so long, actually seeing it happen was incredible. 

Spoiler Alert: I made it up the mountain. I stood on the Roof of Africa. It was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I don’t regret returning one bit- the sense of accomplishment is almost overwhelming. 

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First Road Trip, First Plane Ride: 4 Months Old

Sam turned 4 months old on Sunday, July 18th. On this same day, we all went to a wedding for some dear friends- in Southern California. It’s about 8 hours to drive from our home to the wedding. So, Sam’s first long road trip was in order!

Now, he’s been in a car a lot. We grocery shop in Reno, about a 35 minute drive. I went to visit my family in Modesto for the 4th of July, about 3.5 hours. But all day, in the car, driving through nowhere down 395, road trip? This was new. 

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Kilimanjaro: Days 5-6

Final part of our trek of Kilimanjaro in 2019! Part one here, part two here.

Day 5: Barafu to Summit, then down to Mweka

It’s midnight. We’ve slept for a few hours after devouring as much pasta as we could take. We’re woken up by our alarm and our guide, Mohammed. We get dressed, layer after layer. It’s cold, and it’s going to get colder as we climb, but on the way back down, we’re told we will want to be shedding layers quickly due to the exertion heat our bodies will provide. If you know me, you know I get cold very easily. So I’m in every layer I could possibly have, prepping as though I were about to ski. Snow pants and my Goretex outer shell complete the look. I’ve got my ski mask and warm hat to keep my head warm, and I’m armed with electric heated gloves.

We get ready quickly, then start off. It’s pitch black, we only see by the light of our headlamps. Ahead and behind us is a trail of moving lights, signaling the other groups of hikers hoping to see the summit that morning too. After about 30 minutes of slowly climbing, we stop to catch our breath. The problem is, I can’t seem to bring my breathing back to normal. We wait a few more minutes, letting other hikers pass us by. I’m starting to panic a bit, which doesn’t help my breathing pattern. After talking to our guides, I make the difficult decision to turn back. Whatever was happening, it was scary. It was sudden. And it felt like too big a risk to keep climbing when I could be experiencing altitude sickness.

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A Letter To Our Son

About 3 months ago, Tyler and I welcomed our first son, Sam, into the world. We’ve been adjusting to parenthood pretty well, on the whole. He’s a happy baby, sleeps easy (so far, fingers crossed that sticks around), drinks milk great, and is content being around me, Tyler, and other people. 

Before deciding when to have kids, we spent a lot of time talking about what kind of parents we wanted to be, about how we would handle certain topics, conversations, and challenges. These are the goals we came up with for ourselves as Sam grows up.

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Kilimanjaro: Days 3-4

Part Two of our Kilimanjaro 6 day trek! If you missed Part One, read it here. If you’ve read that, then you know we just finished day 2. So here goes…

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Day Three: Shira II camp to Lava Tower to Barranco camp

Shira II camp continues onto the trail in a gradual uphill, dirt-and-rock path. We headed out after breakfast, Lava Tower being the first goal. Today we lived the advice “hike high, sleep low”. As a way to adjust to higher altitudes, the idea is that you hike higher up to get your lungs introduced to how the oxygen feels as it thins, then sleep lower to give your body time to prepare itself for being in that thinner environment. So the plan for today is to have lunch up at Lava Tower, which stands at 15,229 feet, then head down to Barranco at 13,070 feet for the night.

As we left camp in the morning, the clouds we left behind floated just past the cliff. Every time I turned to see our progress, this was the view that greeted me.

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The scenery didn’t change much from morning until closer to Lava Tower- barren desert with rocks and small bushes that probably survive on very little water. The path, almost the entire time, was a gradual climb on a dirt path. We saw other groups of people, near us, and further up, smaller people figures showed us where the path would be winding next.

We got a great reminder this day to always, always, carry your first aid kit with you. See, on Kilimanjaro, the porters carry the bulk of your backpacking/camping gear, and through the day you’re just carrying a daypack with water, food, and the essentials you need for the actual day’s hike. For us, that includes our first aid kit. Well, today it came in handy. Before lunch, we were walking behind a group of porters, and one slipped on a loose rock and fell. They hit their head and their elbow scraped rock as they fell. There were two German hikers directly near them, but they had said their first aid kit was in their overnight bag, not on them. We stopped and got our kit out. Mohammed, our guide, helped us to talk to the porter (many porters only spoke very broken English). He said he felt okay. We were able to use hydrogen peroxide, gauze, and bandaids to patch up his elbow and head, and gave him Ibuprofen for the pain. I’m so glad we had our first aid supplies on us when it was needed!

(Side note: even if your first aid kit is basic, it’s better to have something than nothing. We had bandaids, gauze, hydrogen peroxide, ibuprofen, a pad (Because you never know when being a girl on the trail is going to hit, haha), and a couple miscellaneous items. I don’t even think we had an Ace bandage, but it’s so important to plan for the worst when you’re miles away from the closest convenience store.)

The final push up to Lava tower was a bit steeper than the morning’s climb, but I remember thinking it wasn’t that bad. Tyler and I have definitely done steeper. Lava Tower is technically a campsite, but most groups/routes just use this as a stopping point for lunch and a break before descending to Barranco. There is actually a lava tower at this point- I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting that.

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Our awesome porters had set up our tent for lunch (seriously, I can’t say enough how amazing these humans are! Such a relief, not having to worry about setting up or prepping lunch. They served us chicken wraps for lunch- I can’t believe I don’t have a picture of them, but they were flavored so well! I still remember they had a bit of a kick, a bit of maybe Indian/thai seasonings, and they are almost my favorite meal on the whole trip. The crazy part was, we ate to our hearts’ content, and when they took our leftovers back, Mohammed actually came to our tent to tell us they were concerned we weren’t eating enough. Every meal they made through the entire trek looked like it could feed a family of 5 or more, and I had to explain to Mohammed that my stomach functions on smaller “meals” through the day, and that I promise I’m getting my fill at every meal.

We spent some time resting up at Lava Tower, and just enjoying the highest we had ever been up until that point. Whitney sits at 14,505 ft, so we were about 100 feet higher than that. Neither of us felt any altitude sickness- no headache, no nausea, we both felt completely normal. I think we were expecting to feel normal, but still, it felt good to still be okay the higher we climbed.

When we began our descent to Barranco camp, the clouds that had been appearing and disappearing finally covered the entire sky, and we started descending into an abyss. I vaguely remember getting some Lord of the Rings vibes from this scenery. The cloud cover made the air cooler, and I even put my jacket from the morning back on for a bit as the air chilled.

The descent was steep- especially compared to the morning’s gradual incline. There was a trail, but we were constantly stepping over and around rocks in the path, using some as steps, and weaving through others to stay on the dirt. We weren’t sure how far to go before camp, but Mohammed told Tyler he was much better at descending than a lot of other climbers he had taken up. That was a shock to both of us, especially Tyler. He had “warned” our guide that his strength was definitely going up, not down. His knees have always buckled as we went down from other mountains, so his pace is usually slower than me. This day, however, was a confidence boost for him to be told he’s selling himself short.

After a few hours of this steep, rocky terrain that housed some unique plant life, we saw the sign for Barranco Camp.  We snapped a picture at the sign, with a blank slate sky of cloud behind us. This camp was huge- it was more spread out than the first two had been. There were two “levels” to the camp- a short cliff with a few pathways separated the two. We had to walk to the lower “level” where our tent was. We were actually right next to the German group we had hiked with our first day, Eric and his dad Garrett. Margaret had started feeling ill at Shira II camp, and had made the difficult, but correct, decision to turn back. We shared stories with Eric and Garrett for a bit, before turning in for the night.

The clouds had cleared a bit by the time sunset came, and we got some beautiful views of the changing sky that night.

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Day Four: Barranco camp to Karanga camp, then on to Barafu camp

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Opening the Backpacking/Hiking Season

We just got home a few hours ago from our first hiking/backpacking trip of this season. Both Tyler and I have all the telltale signs of a good time: sunburns, dirt all over, unshaven faces and legs (face for him, legs for me- obviously), and mounds of laundry and gear to wash off. In spite of the achy muscles and stinging skin, we had a great time!

We took a short trip, this time with Tyler’s dad, Kent, up to Rock Creek area by Mammoth Lakes, California. Mammoth is this family’s favorite place. Kent used to work for the ski resort, and he taught Tyler the love of Mammoth early on in life. There’s just so much to love; it’s got killer skiing in the winter, killer hiking in the summer, and gorgeous mountain and lake views year round. Mammoth has a small town feel, even though it’s definitely changed a lot the past few decades. For Tyler and me, it’s well worth the three hour drive to get down there. It’s our doorway to the outdoors, our basecamp for adventure in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

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