Dec 092008
 

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In an interview with TVweek, Ann Curry, Today show host, discussed her recent trip to Kilimanjaro.  She and her production crew attempted to climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro as part of the show’s ‘Ends of the Earth’ series.  But she was turned around at about 16,000 feet due to altitude sickness.

Currently, Curry is recovering from amoeba that she got from bad drinking water.  In the interview, she reveals how sick she and her crew were during the trek.   She reported having a headache “from the top of my skull to the back”, being nauseated, having swollen legs, hands and face, being bloated, hallucinating, and having a chest cold.  Curry said that, “Every moment we had was suffering” and that, “We were in bad shape.”

While 80% of climbers do experience symptoms of altitude sickness, Curry’s collection of symptoms were more serious than typical.  In my opinion, she shouldn’t have been on the mountain in the first place.  Curry states, “We climbed with little or no training, certainly with no expertise, trying to do something that had never been done before, and I’ve got to tell you we were all heart. That’s all we had.”  Well, climbing when you should be descending is not heroic.  It’s idiotic.  Furthermore, she talks about her Walmart raingear malfunctioning and getting blisters coming from wearing boots she didn’t break in.  In other words, she was woefully unprepared.

Curry noted that she was supposed to go to the Great Barrier Reef for her show, but did not because they could not get a live signal there, so they went to Kilimanjaro instead.  This decision occurred three weeks before her departure.  Complicating the matter, she attempted to climb the most dangerous route during the rainy season.

Kilimanjaro is known as a “beginner’s” mountain, because it requires no technical skills and is a ‘walkable’ mountain.  However, it is not to be underestimated.  19,345 feet is an extremely high altitude.  Kilimanjaro claims lives every year.  All climbers need to prepare and outfit themselves adequately for the journey.  Curry’s tale is an example of how not to climb Kilimanjaro.

TVWeek Interview with Ann Curry

Nov 262008
 

Ann Curry, Today show host, is back from climbing Kilimanjaro and is in New York.  She is recuperating from her trek and is taking this week off from her Today show duties.  She and some members of her team are a bit sick, reportedly feeling the effects of “poor drinking water.”  Curry noted that her blisters are healing and she is ok.  She will be back on the show next week, after the Thanksgiving weekend.

Here is the video:

Nov 202008
 

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Predictably, Ann Curry, host of the Today show, reported that their five person team decided unanimously to call off their summit attempt today.  As noted yesterday, Ann and fellow members of her party were experiencing altitude sickness as they rested on Arrow Glacier camp and were deciding whether to continue climbing today.  She stated today that all of the team members were still feeling the effects of acute mountain sickness.  I had noted in the last post that it was a near certainty that they would not climb the Western Breach despite Curry’s reporting a 50/50 chance of going for the summit.  Given the condition of the team and the challenges of the Western Breach and Crater Camp, it would have been irresponsible for their guide service to lead the Today show team up the mountain.

Here are the latest videos of Ann on Kilimanjaro:

Nov 192008
 

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On the latest video, Today show host Ann Curry reports that the team is about 50/50 on whether they will attempt to climb up the Western Breach tomorrow.  She noted that her original itinerary called for a climb to Crater Camp starting at 4:30AM tomorrow, and a summit bid on Friday.

Curry noted that they have a five person group, made up of members of her production team, who have experienced differing degrees of altitude sickness thus far.  They have decided that they will either all continue or all descend.  That being said, it’s almost certain they will NOT climb tomorrow.  The likelihood that one of the five members will have symptoms of altitude sickness in the early morning is high.  On the video, mountaineer Ed Viesturs warns Curry not to ascend if the team has any symptoms and to err on the side of caution, meaning to descend, rather than taking another rest day at Arrow Glacier.

The latest video of Ann on Kilimanjaro:

 

Nov 192008
 

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Anny Curry is still at Arrow Glacier camp and reports still feeling somewhat sick despite taking a rest day.  It was 3pm Kilimanjaro time at the time the video was made.  This is not a good sign and I predict she will not attempt the Western Breach tomorrow morning.  Proper acclimatization is particularly important when using the Western Breach because once a partial ascent is made, it is tremendously difficult, if not impossible, to descend on the breach.  Therefore, if her symptoms worsen during the climb, she will not be able to make an immediate descent, which is the best treatment for altitude sickness.  Instead, Curry would still have to continue climbing to the crater ridge before descending on the other side of the mountain.

Additionally, her itinerary probably calls for her to spend a night at Crater Camp (18,500 ft) tomorrow night.  The increase in altitude from Arrow Glacier to Crater Camp is beyond the recommended guidelines which say that ideally one should gain no more than 1,000 feet per night.  Crater Camp also sits in what is classified as the “extreme” zone – over 18,000 feet.  So it would be highly risky (and pretty foolish) for someone who is experiencing altitude sickness at 16,000 feet during a rest day to stay at Crater Camp on the next night.

Curry also mentioned on video that yesterday she climbed from Barranco Camp, not Moir Hut, to Arrow Glacier.  Barranco sits at about 13,000 feet.  Thus, it appears that her climb itinerary looks like this so far.

Machame/Western Breach

  1. Machame Gate to Machame Camp (9,350 ft)
  2. Machame camp to Shira Camp (12,500 ft)
  3. Shira Camp to Barranco Camp (13,044 ft)
  4. Barranco to Arrow Glacier Camp (15,998 ft)
  5. Rest day at Arrow Glacier Camp (15,998 ft)

Again, this is not a typical itinerary.  I’ll be watching closely to see what happens from here.

Nov 182008
 

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Ann Curry, Today show anchor, is reporting from Arrow Glacier camp (16,000 ft).  She stated that she has climbed from 13,000 to 16,000 ft. today in 8 hours, which suggests that she left from Moir camp (13,800 ft).  The distance between Moir to Arrow Glacier is about 5 miles.  This would not be a typical itinerary, if this is the case.  The Machame route usually goes from Shira Camp to Arrow Glacier, with a stop at Lava Tower.  Moir Hut is used moreso on the Lemosho route.

Curry is feeling the effects of altitude and will stay at this altitude for an extra day to acclimatize. From what I can gather from her videos and journal entries, she began her Machame route climb on November 15th, making today her fourth day on the mountain.  Her summit attempt should occur on November 20th (day six) or 21st (day seven), depending on whether she spends a night at Crater Camp at all, and if so, whether it is before or after summiting.  The next segment, the climb up the Western Breach to Crater Camp (18,500 ft), should prove to be the most physically challenging of her journey.

Videos of Curry’s climb are linked below:

Nov 172008
 

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Today show anchor Ann Curry is currently on Mount Kilimanjaro to report on the state of the planet.  In their ‘Ends of the Earth’ series, NBC reporters Meredith Vieira, Al Roker and Matt Lauer are in Australia, Iceland, and Belize respectively to explore climate change.

Based on her Kilimanjaro Journal, Curry, age 52, is attempting to climb using Machame route and the Western Breach summit approach.  The Western Breach is the most difficult path – and the most dangerous.  The rocky slope ascends 2,800 feet in a distance of 1.25 miles.  Rockfall in January 2006 killed three Americans, resulting in the closure of the route for nearly two years.  Even now, there are few operators who will guide climbers up the breach due to the risks.  Given that Curry is an inexperienced climber, only learned of the assignment three weeks ago, and admittedly did not train much, I am a bit surprised she would attempt to climb Kilimanjaro using the Western Breach.

I will monitor her climb in the days ahead.

Below are video links of her on the mountain: