Alison M. Jones Photography:
Pre-climb Training


March 10, Amboseli, Kenya: I'd been staring at Kilimanjaro's ice cap for the last 5 days asking mountain spirits to tell me whether I would be welcome. Nothing seemed clear to me. This evening after photographing Saruni and Solomon's Maasai village once more, I sat up on a granite outcropping watching the final evening rites as cows and goats returned to the manyatta and the grandmother visited each wife's dung hut. It seemed nothing had changed for thousands of years for them. Yet I knew change was around the corner. As Kilimanjaro took on its pink sunset glow, I realized I wanted to go even further back in time to grasp as much of East Africa's legacy as possible before it was all gone — especially if the scientists are correct that the "snows of Kilimanjaro" will be completely gone by 2020...

     The next morning, I climbed a small hill for sunrise photo-ops with Solomon, lending him my binoculars so he could see his brothers going out from his village with their cattle for the day. Lingering behind en route down chasing images, I was behind and scampered down the scree to catch up — and inevitably falling and twisting my knee. Lesson #1 — don't hurry down scree! And always carry Advil!

April 6, Mountainville NJ: Returning from a Western ski safari with a recovered knee, I walked up the Hell Mountain and Ridge Roads for the first time in my life despite having spent 21 years growing up under the shadow of Hell Mountain — the last 8 years spending vacations and weekends there.

April 23, Benguerra Island, Mozambique: Off to the eastern side of the island to explore archipelago dunes. We drove for 1/2 hour through a coastal forest of cashew trees, cassava patches, large-leaf false thorn trees, lala palms (used for weaving and making palm wine), coastal plum, milkwood and marula trees. Arriving with a gasp at the 50-meter high Baz Dune, we clambered up as quickly as possible to capture the sunset. For each 20-inch step up, my feet slipped 10 inches down — but the effort was worth it, especially as it was great conditioning for August's Kilimanjaro summit attempt. Once up we watched the windfall of sand from the dune's ridge in the dusky light. Ungulate tracks prompted me to momentarily wonder if there were antelope on the island, until we spotted a cluster of black and white goats on an ocean-side ledge of sand. They suddenly spurted up towards us, scampered over the crest of the dune and disappeared in the leeward grassy slope down into the milkwood forest. Our other sighting was a funny, google-eyed crab pausing at the entrance of his hole into the sand. Carefully holding cameras high above our heads, we gleefully floated from foot to foot down the dune, somewhat like effortless cross-country skiing!

May 7, Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia: Here the dunes are huge — they are the highest in the world (300 meters!) and red because the originally white sand oxidizes as it's blown 60 miles inland to this point! The word "sossusvlei" translates as dried pan, "the place where water stopped to rest." We landed our Cessna 210 on the crusty calcium carbonate pan surface at the foot of a remote knife-edged dune, and climbed up barefoot — on the shady side! It was 92 degrees and the climb was exhausting. I didn't make it to the top — my feet were too hot!!

     Our only company was a rock swallow, some long-legged dune beetles, and a couple of shovel-snouted lizards. The beetles flex their stick legs to raise them off the sand during the heat of the day and to lower them onto the sand during the cool of desert nights. The almost transparently pale lizards use their snouts to crawl into the dune to escape the sun's burning rays. Just 50 years ago this was savannah land habituated by sheep farmers — the only evidence of which is some fencing and water troughs here and there.

May 18, Mountainville NJ: Tried to find the old logging path up Hell Mountain — followed a mossy trail under leafy spring boughs across the mountain but never found the direct way up.

June 8–18, St Croix USVI: Hauled myself up the Ironman's "Beast" to the scenic ridge drive through the rain forest and other North Shore eroded dirt roads climbing the bluff. Oh the humidity!

June 20, Park City UT: Wildflowers made hiking straight up ski slopes at altitude 7500 worth it! Lupine, milkweed, wild clover, sweet peas, Indian paint brush and many I didn't know... there were more the higher we went!

     Easier to walk on the slight bit of path despite rolling stones there than thru high grass which seemed to be just a bit of extra effort to push through.

June 22, Weatherby Canyon on Idaho's Middle Fork of the Boise River: Climbed a high, wildflower-spotted hill under the watchful eyes of two red-tailed hawks. He kept soaring higher and higher on the thermals and she kept us away from her nest in the tall pine trees.

June 24, Jackson Hole WY: Deadman's Canyon in the rain. Interesting combo of trail names we've trained on so far: Hell Mtn, The Beast, Deadman's Canyon...

June 26, Park City UT: Thoughts on second trip up Park City ski slopes 1000': philosophically better to face downhill when pausing than uphill, which can be daunting; breathing is easier if I take longer steps, but slower.

July 28 and 29, Fishers Island NY: Luckily Jeannie and Richard's home is on a Long Island Sound Bluff, so I put on my hiking boots and ran circles up and down in their front yard! And jogged on the beach, of course!

July 4, Califon NJ: Climbed Point Mountain's orange trail up 1000 feet over fallen glacial rocks scattered all the way up the path.

     Learned Lesson #2 in the first 3 minutes: be really careful when hiking by yourself! I carelessly fell over the rocks, bruising my right side badly in 4 places on the rocks. Luckily my head hit a rotten log that provided a relatively soft pillow. I noted my good fortune and then continued despite some pain and a headache. If I couldn't get through 2 hours at low altitude with a mild headache, how would I ever manage altitude effects up to 19,000 feet! Nice ending to the hike along the Muscanetcong River.

July 6, Rowayton CT: At sister Pammies, I forewent working the legs and spent a day kayaking the Norwalk River and around Bell Island to Contentment Island and back. My dear friend Brendon found me and fortified me with a dish of choco ice cream for the return trip!

July 8, New York City: Back to climbing the six flights of stairs up to my SoHo loft as often as I can each day from now til I leave. As well I continue to do my Fritha Pengally set of Pilates/Yoga exercises I've been doing since the New Year! Thanks for the coaching, Fritha!