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JeffinHillsboro | profile | all galleries >> Africa 2007 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Africa 2007

First time to Africa and had a really good time. Got very very lucky with the weather, as El Nino is wreaking havoc there as well and dumped a huge amount of snow of the top of Kili just days before we were scheduled to summit (can I use that word with Kili? Makes me feel way cool). So the pics turned out better than I expected - and the camera worked like a charm at the top. Used microdrives up to 4600m and then the CFs after that. You're at the top for such a short time that burning through a card isn't really a problem.
If I could do it again I would:
- Bring another 5D body (with a battery grip) and swap them if one got waterlogged or just too cold(and have a special bag filled with dessicant packs to dry it and the lens(es) out)though honestly, even after 3 days of constant rain, it wasn't the rain, but the combination of cold and altitude (at about 4300m) that made the one microdrive act up (2 others worked fine). 5D NEVER had a problem, even when I let it get super cold. (LOL - dumb me put on 2 pairs of sunglasses when the sun popped out while we were on a snowy plain, then looked at the rear TFT and wondered why I couldn't see anything.) Rechargables were the champs, working strong all day even in cold and rain. Thanks to them, on day 5 (of 7) I still had 4 fully charged LiIon packs to use with the battery grip.
- Bring waterproof stuff bags for EVERYthing, cause I almost ended up with a bag full of wet clothes on day 5, just before the hike to the top. Even so, the sort-of waterproof ones I had saved me many many times, making it easy to keep things well organized, especially camera gear!
- BTW, using a standard backpack for the general gear was fine, but its important to have the camera bag sorted before you get going. My solution was a HUGE fanny pack, with one of its two inner pouches used for lenses (usually just the 100 macro and a 50mm) and one for everything else (batteries, cards, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc.) This kept the weight mostly on my hips and off my shoulders (when I set it up right) and made things a LOT more accessible than a with standard pack. Then, the 5D was bandolier style over the right shoulder, ready to swing up and shoot quickly, and the raincoat on top of all this, protecting it. (sort of)
- buy a plastic "sock" to keep the rain off the lens body. This caused the most trouble - when the lens got wet and the front element fogged up. (You can see this on the day 3 shots especially) I'd also like to try using no-fog spray on the front filter (I used an MC UV for the 17-35 and the 70-200) If you could get a good, tight seal between the filter and the lens to keep out the moisture, you'd probably be set. Again, the camera body was NO problem, and the battery pack too.
- be in less of a rush to keep up with the group. It would have been fun in a few places to have set up the tripod, especially when there was a lot of detail in the shot and light was falling. I had my own guide and 3 porters, so there really wasn't any need to hustle all the time. But keeping the weight of the camera gear off the shoulders really helped, I feel, as standard backpacks, especially cheap ones without well-padded straps, can restrict the flow of blood to the head and lead to altitude sickness, so I have heard.
- Had an Epson P-5000 (or is it the 8000 now?) to review shots and backup the pics. Will be getting one of these soon to take to Tibet in August. Since my Tripper won't read my 6GB microdrives and I didn't want to bring the laptop, I had no way to backup anything along the way. More than a bit dangerous, as one of the microdrives did have a problem and I could have lost over 300 images. If I were a pro, I'd probably bring 2 of them AND a PC, though again, I've heard most hard drives don't like to run at high altitudes and at low temps, so probably need to be careful about when you use the PC.
- bring cookie-like energy bars that did not freeze solid and force you to practically break a tooth to eat. This is a serious thing - when you're freezing cold on that final ascent and NEED some energy QUICK! you do not want to have to knaw for 10 minutes on a frozen bar.
- be prepared for the fact that even though you are paying a ridiculous amount of money for park fees ($70 or $80 a day, which is a LOT of money in Tanzania) to climb this mountain, there are virtually NO park staff or equipment to help you in case you get in trouble. (Guess where they are - at about 3200m, well below the snow line and about 3 to 4 hours away from anyone heading up. Other guides and porters told us that most of our money went straight into the pockets of corrupt officials!) The entire 8-9 hour final push is done without ANY kind of man-made shelter. If you get into any kind of trouble, you and your guide have find a way to work it out. Period. At about 4:30am if the wind is blowing, things get REALLY cold, and you are getting really tired. But with the exception of ONE large rock about halfway up, there is NO shelter. Really recommend people have a GOOD checklist that incldues extra layers (fleeces) in case your original idea of what you needed was wrong (as mine was), and be VERY careful that your gloves and gaitors are securely strapped on and doing their job. I made the scary mistake of not securely tightening the gauntlets of my gloves, which let in a lot of cold air that went right up my arms to my shoulders and neck. About 1/3 of the way up I was wondering why I felt so cold, and I almost didn't figure it out in time. I was just starting to fall down to my knees and things were spinning when I realized that the gloves were the problem, and then I just barely caught the attention of my guide, who then ran back to me and strapped them on. We sat down for a bit and after about 10 minutes I started to feel better and could continue. But it was a close call. So please buy good goretex equipment and be well prepared!
One thing that worked really really well - brought a bottle of the Echinacea herbal tincture, and it ended up helping many of my other friends as well. Its known to reduce swelling and I thought that it might be helpful for altitude sickness. Well, it certainly did! - I put it in my drinking water every day and never had ANY headaches, even at the very top. And on day 2, when one of the other folks complained of a headache, I gave him some to put in his tea and viola! No more headache for him. Then, on day 3 when a few others got a touch of snow-blindness and their eyes and faces became really swollen and painful-looking, we applied echincea around their eyes before they went to sleep and they both looked MUCH better in the morning. We then repeated this the next day and both of them made it all the way to the top. Of course, bring all the standard meds you like, but I recommend including a bottle of echinacea tincture as well. Its sure going to be in my bag whenever I travel from now on. And last, thank you for taking the time to look at this gallery.
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