A Trip Of A Lifetime

It’s not often that a trip of a lifetime comes around, but when it does you have to get on it.  This September four friends will be embarking on what is bound to be the most memorable trip of their lives.  Misty, Kiesha, Carl, and Donzel will be giving their snowboards a break and heading to Tanzania, Africa to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro. We caught up with Misty to get a run down on this epic adventure, but before we speak with Misty, let’s take a quick look at the trip and participants:

Mountain:  Mt. Kilimanjaro aka “Mt. Kili” or what we like to call “MT. KIL”!

Elevation: 19,620ft

Total Distance: 37miles/62km

Hours per day of hiking: 5-6 hrs

Average daily Altitude: Anywhere from 3,000 meters- 5,895 meters

Trail: Machame Route (6 day-option)

Trekking Company: Gladys Adventures



Misty Casseus (bottom right of picture) resides in L.A., she is a nurse, fashion stylist, and the co-owner of the clothing line, Flipside Fresh. Misty always tries to incorporate a little adventure on every trip she goes on.  This time will be no different.  Misty has literally been around the world and back. Her passport stamp collection is pretty impressive. Living in L.A., Misty has the advantage of having local mountains to hike in upwards of 10,000 ft of elevation.  I guess that crazy L.A. rent comes with some great amenities.

Kiesha Earle (top left of picture) resides in Philly, but is a NYC girl at heart.  She is a Senior Investment Analyst for Vanguard.  Kiesha describes herself as pretty easy breezy and is all about checking adventures off her bucket list.  Back in the day Kiesha would crush numerous guy’s hopes and dreams  on the basketball court, and take their lunch money in the process.  Now she focuses on being one of the baddest chicks in Cross Fit.  Like Misty, Kiesha has a pretty impressive passport stamp collection and is hoping to link up with Misty in L.A. for some trek training.  Kiesha’s funniest quote about this trip thus far, “Are there going to be toilets and showers on this hike?”

Carl Foulks (bottom left of picture) resides in N.C and is a Gastroenterologist.  He is also a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.  Carl is no stranger to adventure and challenges.  He participated in the Ironman competition in 2010, numerous Half Ironman competitions, and triathlons. He loves mountain biking during the summer and has a few races on deck. Carl considers himself an adrenaline junkie, that will try any crazy feat at least once.  Carl’s motto is “Not exercising is incompatible with life.” Dr. Foulks has been volunteered to assume the task of making sure everyone’s GI system is in tip-top condition on the trail; stomach bugs are no bueno.

Donzel Johnson (top right of picture) resides in Louisville, KY.  Donzel is a chemical engineer for General Electric. Mr. Johnson has one objective in life: going fast, whether carving the slopes on his snowboard or on his mountain bike.  And in a few weeks he will be fulfilling his dream of driving a racecar around the Kentucky Speedway.  Ironically, Donzel hates hiking, but Mt. Kilimanjaro was on his bucket list, so he couldn’t turn down the opportunity.  He is still secretly hoping they will allow him to ride his bike down the mountain. We will see what happens (thankfully there’s a nurse and doctor on the trip).

Now for the interview:

How did this trip come about?  I was speaking with Kiesha on the phone one day about possible trips.  We were going back and forth about the places we’ve been and places we wanted to go.  I ran across a link to Living Social for a trip to Tanzania, and we both decided that was going to be our trip for 2013.  We were so excited, but we knew in order for it to be fun, we needed to invite more people, but you can’t just go on a trip of this magnitude with just anyone. We started going through our mental rolodexes of friends and came up with a total of 6 people that we could see ourselves being with on such a long trek.  But, as often is the case with group trips, the list quickly shrank because of finances, or vacation conflicts.  Thankfully, Carl and Donzel had no conflicts and immediately said they were in.  Kiesha and I have known them both for quite a while through various snowboarding trips, but we didn’t get to really know them until we all went to Park City earlier this year. They both are so easy-going and a lot of fun to hang out with. 

How did you decide on a trekking company? TheLiving Social deal we found was going to take us on the Marangu Route, and through research I found out that trail doesn’t have a good success rate.   So instead we decided to build a trip on our own.  In the process we came across Gladys Adventures, a boutique trekking company based out of Moshi, Africa with a 96% success rate.  Gladys also donates money to the Tanzania Porter program called the Partner for Responsible Travel Program, which ensures fair treatment of mountain crews on treks.  This is something that is very important to us; we wanted to make sure that our porters would be taken care of appropriately.

Is this your first long hike?  No it’s not; I hiked the Inca Trail for 4 days to Machu Picchu.  This will be everyone else’s first hike, but hopefully not their last!

What are the dates of the trip?  September 13th- September 27th.  We are heading to Turkey for a few days after the trek to soak up some sun and rest from the strenuous hike.

What kind of training regimen have you been doing?  I’ve been doing a little bit of everything.  I have been hiking once a week, incorporating yoga, Pilates and weights.  The guys are always in the gym, but they are about to start their mountain bike season shortly.  Kiesha is no stranger to the gym; she is all about her Cross Fit.

What is your biggest fear climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro? My biggest fear is our entire group not making it to the summit. I know we’ll be physically ready, but altitude sickness could be our downfall.  Altitude sickness has stopped many people from reaching the top and chances are we all will have a bit of it at some point on the trail.  As I mentioned before, certain routes have very low success rates—some routes only have a 20-25% success rate. Unfortunately, it is hard to duplicate altitude sickness in our training routine, but our group is determined to make it to the top. We are preparing ourselves physically and mentally for this tough adventure.

Do you need to check in with your doctor before going?  Yes, we all need to make sure our shots are up to date.  I know I need yellow fever and I probably will get a tetanus shot prior to leaving.  Carl has asthma, so he is going to make sure he has everything he needs, as the air gets thinner the higher you go.  And all of us have some sort of orthopedic issue that we need to make sure is straight before we really deep dive into training next month… getting older is no joke.

Are you worried about the personality dynamics on this trip?  No, not really.  We all joke around saying that we either are going to be friends for life after this trip or hate each other’s guts by the end.  I believe that everyone chose wisely to come on this trip.  Everyone has been so low maintenance throughout the planning process, and that is usually half the battle right there.  It has made my job as coordinator a lot easier.

Do you guys have any other adventures planned?  We do, it seems the Fab 4 has decided to head to Japan in February to snowboard.  And I am hoping my schedule will allow for it.  Snowboarding in Japan, who would have thought?! Our snowboarding buddy Fanon is planning the whole trip. It’s going to be awesome!

Do you have any advice for others wanting to hike Mt. Kil?  I probably should wait until after the hike to give advice.  But as far as the planning aspect, I would say research, research, and research some more.  The cheapest option is not always the best.  Pick a good group of people to go, it will make the adventure that much more memorable.  Give yourself enough time to train before departing because it’s not an easy walk in the park.  Most websites recommend a minimum of three months of training.  And have a positive outlook on the trip, 70% of this trip is mental.  Having a good attitude and a supportive team around you will help you accomplish anything you put your mind to!

Wow, Misty…this is about to be some trip!  We can’t wait to see the pictures and hear how it turned out.  You guys have an awesome time, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  Oh and by the way Fab 4, you guys just made our FRESH LIST!!