Cancer Climb for Prostate Awareness 2005

August 14, 2005

Summit Accomplished!!!

Well, we made it. 9 out of 10 members of the team made the summit yesterday morning at about 9:30AM. Four days ago, we were driven several hours into the mountains to the north side of El Misti since our climb was planned for the north face of the volcano. We began our ascent at just under 12,000 feet and this first day entailed roughly 1000 feet of elevation gain. After almost 4 hours of hiking and climbing through fields of sand and rock, we reached Camp One, at about 13,000 feet.

CAMP ONE - We made camp and settled in. As some used cameras and binoculars to view the mountain and discuss the strategy and routes for the next few days, others climbed an additional 800+ feet to gain some acclimatization. The temperature under the hot sun in the mid afternoon was 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and as the sun began to set over a ridge behind the snow-capped Picchu Picchu, El Misti's sister mountain in the Peruvian Andes, the temperature quickly dropped to about 20 degrees. The wind and temperature patterns in this part of the Andes Mountains varies frequently and although the season is officially winter down here, many locals say you may experience all 4 seasons in one day in the mountains.

At this time, more than half of the team was suffering from flu-like symptoms and mild signs of the altitude including dizziness, lack of appetite, and insomnia. The medical team frequently checked the status of the group and administered medications as needed.

We slept at Camp One, and rose early on Friday for a quick breakfast. Some team members were experiencing heavy coughing and chest and head congestion, which are tell-tale signs of altitude sickness. They were monitored closely, given medication as needed, and we packed our bags and headed for Camp Two. This part of the journey included more climbing in the sand, which was frustrating because as you take two steps forward, you take one step back. The team held together, and continued the climb for an additional 2,500 feet, to about 15,500 feet at Camp Two. This leg was about 5 hours, and we used our successful strategy of hiking for 1 hour, then breaking for 10 minutes for water and nourishment.

CAMP TWO - Upon arrival at Camp 2, we settled in and most rested and attempted to take a nap. The tents needed to be surrounded by small man-made rock walls to protect against high winds. Some took pictures, wrote in journals, or used binoculars to view the potential routes we might take to the top. Garry Murray, the Irish climber, used his video camera to take 1-2 minute video clips of each climber describing what brought him to the mountain. We hope to have these videos posted to the website shortly. As the sun began to set behind the mountains, the temperature dropped almost 45 degrees in an hour or so. We had dinner at 6PM in the mess-tent, and then the group discussed logistics, contingency plans, the route and strategy for the summit attempt.

At 7PM, we packed our gear for the summit, and attempted to get some sleep, since we were waking at midnight to begin the final ascent at 1AM. Few, if any, got any sleep.

At midnight, we put on layers of clothing, finalized our packs, and made sure to put our water bottles in our down jackets to prevent them from freezing.

We began the summit attempt at 1AM, with a specific team strategy in place. Each person had a number (from 1 to 10) and we climbed in that order, with the first and last climbers carrying walkie-talkies to maintain communication. The group was lead by the main guide, Carlos Zarate, and trailed by hi lead porter, Todo.

After about an hour and an altitude gain of 500 feet, Penny, a member of our medical team, had a chest cough that continued to worsen and she was fatigued. It was agreed that she should head down to Camp, and Todo guided her back down. She achieved 16,000 feet, a personal best.

We continued on guided by the light of our headlamps and the stars. The bitter cold (4 degrees at this point), winds, darkness, steep terrain, and loose scree continued to challenge the team. Garry's feet were approaching frostbite at about 16,500 feet, and the medical team used heat-pads for his boots to alleviate the coldness.

At 17,400 feet at about 5:30AM, we could see hints of the sun beginning to rise over the mountains in the East. We were anxious for the light and the increased temperature.

At 18,000 feet, the terrain was very steep, and most of the team was experiencing signs of the altitude including dizziness, headaches, confusion, exhaustion and fatigue. However, our concentration needed to be full since the terrain on the sides of the trail was at 60-70 degrees incline, and a slight misstep could cause a serious problem.

The team held together, and at 18,300 feet, we could see the summit, and the sun was bright. We were talking to each other to provide support, and discussing the reasons we were here, and pushing one another to stay focused. We were nervous and worn, but determined and confident that we could make it.

We finally REACHED THE SUMMIT AT 19,200 FEET AT ABOUT 9:30AM, and it was a truly emotional event. We cried, embraced each other, and celebrated the accomplishment of such a difficult challenge. To our left was the crater of the volcano, with a strong Sulfur smell as smoke bellowed from the base of the crater. To our right, was a 12-foot cross.

We took pictures, and talked about Prostate Awareness, and members of our group that are clear examples to men around the world with this disease. Ken and Rick, both in their sixties, have prostate cancer and refuse to allow it to stop them. Diagnosis need not be a death sentence.

Thanks so much to all of for your support, donations, encouragement, and love.

The Team: Ken, Brad, Ralph, Tom, Garry, Doug, Greg, Penny, Rick, Steve


August 14, 2005

After doing three of these mountain climbs for Prostate Cancer awareness and research, this was by far the most difficult for me. Physically, it was the hardest, but emotionally as well. My father, Mario Menelly, died from prostate cancer in June of 2004 at the age of 51, and on the previous two climbs, although he was sick, I knew he would be there when I got off the mountain. This time, he wouldn't. And this feeling caused mixed emotions in me every minute of the climb. I cried at the summit, and I felt so very close to my father. I knew he was with me because I could feel it, and I talked to him and prayed to God to provide me (and the team) with safety and guidance. I miss him and always I will, and it feels good to know that I could do this in his honor, and to raise money to help other men learn that they have many options after diagnosis with this dreaded disease. Climbing will never bring my father back, but it will help other men to take proactive stances with respect to their health. I am 30, and have been getting checked for prostate cancer each year since I was 25.

This is an amazing group of people, and the camaraderie is astounding. The medical team was first-class, and organization of the trip was smooth. Thanks to everyone, especially our sponsors.

Doug


August 14, 2005

We made it!!

Hi gang, I am back in Arequipa safe & sound, although very sore. The climb was more difficult than we thought. Very steep and precarious trail most of the way. We started at 1am and 9 of 10 climbers reached the summit at 8 am. Everyone liked my slow and steady pace so I led the group behind our guide Carlos. The last 1000' was 3 deep breaths per small step. Everyone is OK today. The summit had a spectacular 360° view of Peru with a huge volcanic crater that still smokes a little. Today we go to Cusco and on to Machu Picchu for the next few days.

See you soon,

Ralph


August 10, 2005

After a year of planning, training, dreaming and logistics, we are about to embark on the ascent of 19,223' El' Misti outside of Arequipa, Peru. Our team of ten climbers spent the last week adjusting to high altitude in Bolivia trekking at Lake Titicaca one of the highest lakes in the world at almost 14,000'.

A number of us have had flu like symptoms but thanks to antibiotics everyone seems to be in better health and ready. We have a terrific medical team this year in Tom, Greg and Penny and they have been giving daily specialized treatments for aches, pains and chronic muscle problems (Rick sprained his ankle and without the cutting edge Graston technique treatment would probably not be able to climb). Some of us have had headaches and other high altitude symptoms but we all feel better and ready to go.

Conditions on El Misti seem to be good with little wind and bright sunshine. The temperature at 4800 meters at our camp prior to final ascent are expected to be around 0º when we start at 3am on Saturday the 13th. We plan a ceremony at the summit to honor those who are living with prostate cancer and those who have passed on. I know you will be there with us in spirit.

Some highlights of our expedition:

La Paz, Bolivia where we arrived last week is the highest airport in the world at 14,000'. El Alto, its sister city, is the fastest growing city in Latin America.

Llama steaks, guinea pig, and quinoa soup are the favorite foods of Bolivianos but not necessarily of our team of climbers

Our guide, Jahel, was great and an expert on archaeology. We nick named her Pachumama, after the ancient earth mother goddess of the Andes.

Turns out Tom has a special way with the local Llama population. They like to kiss him!

We saw a traditional reed boat on Lake Titicaca, which was a real highlight. This design was copied by Thor Heyerdahl for his Kon Tiki raft expedition.

We trained for a challenging 4 days at 13000'+ on the mystical Isla del Sol, which assisted us in our acclimatization in preparation for our climb.

It is National Week in Arequipa and the people have been friendly and hospitable.

We will write when we return from the summit late on Saturday. Wish us a safe and successful ascent.

Ken, Brad, Ralph, Tom, Garry, Doug, Greg, Penny, Rick, Steve


August 8, 2005

We are back in La Paz after a great adventure on a beautiful remote Isla Del Sol on Lake Titicaca. Everything is going well. We did some serious hiking on the island and around Copacabana. Brad got sick but seems to be recovering OK. Rick sprained an ankle but got some good therapy from our med staff and hopefully will recover enough to climb El Misti this week. We are all showing signs of being in good shape for the El Misti climb during our warm-up hikes. We are off to Arequipa tomorrow morning. I hope there is less snow there than the Mountains surrounding La Paz.

Ralph Lake


August 4, 2005

We arrived in La Paz at 6am this morning on time! We had some travel problems but hooked up with the team in Miami and flew to La Paz together. Its cold here; 35 this morning. La Paz is 13K´ elevation and I could feel the altitude when I got off the plane. We are at the hotel and will go to a Bolivian Independence Day festival this afternoon. Tomorrow we are off to Copacabana and a pre-Inca ruins at Tiwanaku.

Ralph Lake


August 3, 2005

I just wanted to say hello and let you know that nine other climbers and myself are leaving for the Peruvian Andes and this years Cancer Climb for Prostate Awareness today.

Thank you for supporting our efforts on behalf of the Prostate Awareness Foundation. If you have not contributed, it's not too late. Here's a new and easy way to be with us in spirit. You can go to our special websites designed by justgiving.com. The addresses are:

www.justgiving.com/pfp/kamalik - Ken Malik
www.justgiving.com/pfp/neal - Brad Neal
www.justgiving.com/pfp/pafralph - Ralph Lake
www.justgiving.com/pfp/menelly - Doug Menelly

This way you can donate using your credit card and still take advantage of a tax deductible contribution.

You can follow our efforts by visiting www.prostateawarenessfoundation.org and clicking on the El Misti site on the home page for email updates from our climbing team.

The Prostate Awareness Foundation is a non profit 501 (c) (3) organization. Your donations will help to sustain the foundation so that we can continue to help men and their families all over the country with prostate health concerns by providing them with much needed health information and sane patient driven guidance.

Thank you,

Ken Malik