DON’T DIE WITH YOUR DAYPACK ON

“DON’T DIE WITH YOUR DAYPACK ON!”  they said.

These words stuck in my head from our briefing after dinner on summit night.

Every evening after dinner, they would come into the mess tent, do our medical examinations and share with us how they thought we were all doing and what will happen the next day, or later that night in this case.

Dr Erica Peabody - Don't Die With Your Daypack - Chiropractor Cafe of LIFE Fenton

Me (Dr Erica Peabody) Ready for Summit Night

We had 12 guides with our group for our normal day to day and about 50 support staff.  The porters were the ones that carried all of our gear, food water and tents and such.  Everyday they would pass us on the trail and get to camp ahead of us and have everything set up for us for when we finished our days.

The intensity of summit night required the assistance of our normal 12 guides along with 18 additional porters in order to have one to one support for the final hike to the very top.  Having this one to one support for the final summit is the reason this particular company has such high summit success rates.

I woke up nauseated and although I ate a tiny bit of food, I really couldn’t manage to stomach much at 15,000 ft and almost no sleep.  So the climb begins at 1am.  We line up in our hiking line and start to make our way up the trail.  It was the most beautiful night with bright stars in the big African sky.

As we begin to hike, the phrase “DON’T DIE WITH YOUR DAYPACK ON” came back in my mind.  What exactly where they talking about?  I feel absolutely fine.   Were they really serious when they said that?  I am surprised they made such a point to make sure that was clear and that if we needed to hand over the load on our backs to a porter, we could easily do that.  “I won’t need to do that, I feel super strong.”

An hour goes by and I had already overheated once and had to strip my outer expedition-weight goose down jacket off.  The guide warned me to keep it close because I would want it back sooner rather than later.  As I thought about it all, it is close to zero degrees and I should not be overheating at this point.  Then I got the chills.  Then I got goosebumps from head to toe.  Then I got hot again and then the chills.  What on Earth was my body doing???  It felt as though my body was confused and couldn’t regulate my temperatures.

I felt my stomach start to gurgle (which will be an entirely separate blog post) and just after the first hour I realized I was not going to be able to do this summit with the current situation I had going on.  I tried and tried and tried to remain calm and keep pressing on.  I tried so hard to the point I got blurred vision and lost all my strength.  Unfortunately for me my camelbak water hose froze and I no longer had easy access to hydration.

Dr Erica Peabody - Don't Die With Your Daypack - Chiropractor Fenton Michigan

Me (Dr Erica Peabody) Finishing Kilimanjaro Trek

I fell to the ground.  I needed a break and I needed help…and THIS is exactly what they meant when they said “DON’T DIE WITH YOUR DAYPACK ON!”  I understand now.  Sometimes that extra 10-15 pounds, although comfortable and distributed evenly on my back, was just going to be too much, and for me, it was.

Now let’s back up a minute and discuss this concept.  I am not one to ask for help from others.  Of course in my office, I cannot do that alone and have hired help.  But life in general is manageable and when I focus my mind and efforts on something, I almost always can be able to come out on top.  I rarely ask for help, I guess maybe I was raised that way.

There was absolutely no way I could have gone on from that point which is common in those circumstances, hence them having one to one support for that part of the trek.

The greatest thing happened when I fell down.  I was in tears and yelled “I NEED HELP!!!!”  The next thing I heard was “Erica we got you covered.  As I lay on the ground, those from the group that hiked past me put out their hands for a high-five and I heard things like “Erica you are my hero.”  

I realized in that moment that I wasn’t a hero because I was so strong and powerful, I was a hero in that person’s eyes because I recognized that I needed help and asked for it.

Sometimes our admitting defeat is where we really grow into the person we are supposed to be.  Admitting defeat and receiving the help we need is a sign of vulnerability and inside vulnerability is where true power lies.

Turns out that not only did I need my assigned porter to carry my pack, the final 50 steps to the summit, I needed him more than ever.  When it got to the very end of the climb, I would take 2 steps and lean over so my chest would lay on the top of my trekking poles and take a few breathes.  Then another 2 steps and lean over my poles.  You guys, there is a reason NOTHING LIVES THAT HIGH!!!  It was so void of oxygen I didn’t know how I was going to do it.  My porter took my left arm and put it up over his shoulders.  He then took my trekking pole and he took the final 50 steps as the left side of my body (picture the 3 legged race during field day in elementary school).

Even as I write this right now, I get goosebumps from head to toe as I re-live the intensity of that scenario (again, sorry Mom).

“DON’T DIE WITH YOUR DAYPACK ON!!”  I get it now and I am so glad that my subconscious took good note of that when it was said that night.

 

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