Earlier this year, 6 of us decided to attempt hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro and on Oct 19th, all six of us reached Uhuru Peak, Africa’s highest point which stands at 5895m / 19340 ft. above sea level. We reached the summit just before sunrise at 6 AM and spent some time admiring the views from the summit – it was cold, by some reports about -15 Celsius and about 20 minutes was all we could spend up there. Here is a day-by-day account of our adventure. We used 7summits/Zara as our tour operator and selected the Lemosho route for our ascent which took 7 days. We were well acclimatized to the altitude and did not experience any sickness. I am sure our daily dose of Diamox helped a great deal. Some key facts about our trip:
Route: Lemosho – 7 nights/8 days
Crew: 3 Guides (Bruce, Faraja, Adam) along with an assistant guide Babu; 16 porters and 1 cook and 2 assistant cooks and the amazing all rounder Ambrose!
Tour operator: 7 Summits / Zara
Day 1: Somewhere before Lemosho Gate to Big Tree Camp
Hike start: 220 PM ~6000 ft elevation
Hike end: 800 PM 9000 ft. elevation
Started off with a bang – unfortunately not the right kind of bang! We were picked up at our hotel in what used to be an Italian military truck around 830AM on October 9th. It was about a 3 hour drive to the Londorossi Park Gate, where we got our permit and the crew had to go through the painful process of weighing all the gear and goods which we were going to take up the mountain. Tanzanian park officials seem to follow strict rules for Garbage in/Garbage out for the mountain. Our team of 6 had a crew of 19 which included porters and cooks. While, the permit process was going on, we had a boxed lunch to consume – bread, boiled egg, pineapple juice and fruit. After we were registered, we had another 90 minute drive to the start of the Lemosho Gate. We got our permits and started around 1 pm and almost immediately it started raining pretty hard. The ‘roads’ here are unpaved and as we ascended, the trucks 4 wheel drive system was put to work. The old engine worked hard to keep on the dirt track and we trudged along until we reached a very slippery section around 220 pm, The driver attempted his best to keep the truck going but we slid sideways and almost toppled over. The truck was stuck but fortunately no one was hurt. This was the abrupt start to our hike. Some of us had dozed off in the truck and the slippery ordeal was a rude interruption. We now had a 2 hour hike to the trail head at Lemosho Gate. At 230 pm, we started hiking up in the rain. The trail was slippery and muddy and make hiking uphill really tricky. We entered the base of the rain forest and around 615pm had to start using our head lamps as it got quite dark. We reached the Big Trees camp (~9000 ft altitude) around 8 pm.
It was a welcome sight to see the tents and look forward to getting some food and sleep. The camp was quite crowded but we could not appreciate the beauty because of the darkness. We woke up the next morning to a bit of sunshine and were able to appreciate the beauty of the camp.
Here is an early morning shot at the camp:
Day 2: Big Trees Camp to Shira I
Hike start: 820 AM 9000 ft elevation
Hike end: 230 PM 11500 ft. elevation
We woke up pretty early and had tea at about 630 AM. The tea and coffee here is locally grown and quite good. After breakfast, we packed up and left the camp at around 820 AM. The hike took us through the rain forest and the weather was cool but humid. We were told that these forests have quite a few animals – various types of monkeys and sometimes even leopards are spotted – we did not have any luck with wildlife sighting. Only exception, we did see a blue monkey – it is not exactly blue but really don’t know why it gets that name. We passed the 10,000 feet mark and took a short break. Soon after we resumed our hike, it started raining. The rain forest is quite dense and very pretty. The picture shows trees with thick moss on the branches.
We hiked in heavy rain for about 4-5 hours to reach Shira I camp.
Unfortunately, this was a miserable day and the trail was very muddy. We got to camp and the rain tapered off. It felt really good to reach the camp and soak in some sunshine. Shira I is above the tree line but there still is sparse vegetation up until 13,500 feet.
We talked to some other hikers – a group from Germany and a few others. One of the ladies in the group is already experiencing headaches – an early sign of altitude sickness. We rested for a bit, chatted in our dinner tent and then had an early dinner. The temperature was around freezing and we were surely in for a cold night.
We were able to get some of our clothes dry and have been assured of a sunny forecast for the morning.
Day 3 is an easy day with a short hike to Shira 2. Several hikers choose to skip this camp and do the Lemosho route and summit on the 6th day. We chose the 7 day plan to allow for proper acclimatization and increases the chances of a successful summit.
Mehboob took this shot after dinner. We all were in our tents with our headlamps on. I think this is the best shot of the trip:
Day 3: Shira I to Shira II
Hike start: 930 AM 11500 ft elevation
Hike end: 130 PM 12600 ft. elevation
I had disturbed sleep through the night but having woken a up a few times through the night, I got the opportunity to see the amazing night sky. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures but I am sure no picture could do justice to what I saw – stars like you can reach out and touch. I have never seen something like that. I woke up early around 530 AM and the view from the tent was a majestic Mount Meru rising above the clouds. We only had a 3-hour hike to Shira 2 camp with a modest elevation gain. We got to Shira 2 camp early afternoon. After lunch we rested in our tents and did a short evening hike with about a 400 ft altitude gain. Some of us experience the first signs of altitude sickness – headaches. We discussed the use of Diamox with our guide and all of us started our daily dose. We retired early for the evening. Day 4 is a big day for acclimatization and had a long tough hike.
Day 4: Shira II to Barancco Camp via Lava Tower
Hike start: 900 AM 12,600 ft elevation
Hike end: 530 PM 13,000 ft. elevation
After breakfast, we took a few pictures of Mt. Meru and started out our hike to Lava Tower. The view of Mt. Meru was majestic, rising to a height of about 16,000 feet above the clouds.
We started our hike around 9 AM with a plan to take a lunch break at Lava Tower.
Lava Tower’s elevation is 15,200 feet and this was higher than I have ever gone before. The views were amazing. Every camp has been more beautiful than the previous camp. We were well above the tree line and the vegetation was sparse. As we started hiking, our views were obstructed by fog that rolled in about 30 minutes into the hike. It was a cold day. We stopped for lunch around 1 pm right at an elevation of 15000 ft. with Lava Tower in sight. After a quick lunch, we continued our hike to Lava Tower and got to the about 15,200 feet in about 30 minutes. We met several other hikers but ended up talking to a group of 4 young women who had been in Tanzania for the past 5 weeks doing charity work – teaching English and Nursing. I will never know if it was the Diamox helping me or I did not feel any altitude sickness. It took us about 3 hours to hike down to Barranco camp. The vegetation was something that we have never seen before. The landscape had weird trees called Senacio Kilimanjari and other shrub like plants called Libera Dekka. The Senacio trees live for over 100 years – it seems each branch takes about 25 years to mature. Barranco camp is almost at the same elevation at Shira 2. We finished dinner and sat up chatting for a bit and then decided to retire for the night.
The first thing on day 5 was going to be a steep ascent through what is called the Barranco wall. Our guide, Bruce assured us that it was going to be easy.
Day 5: Barancco Camp to Karanga Camp
Hike start: 830 AM 13,000 ft elevation
Hike end: 130 PM 13,500 ft. elevation
The day started with a challenging hike up the Barranco Wall, a 1000 feet elevation gain with switchbacks, some of which required the use of hands. This was the only part where we did not use our hiking sticks. The path was tough to navigate at times and we were all amazed at how the porters maneuver the precarious points. This part of the trail reminded us of the Angel’s Landing Trail in Utah. Angel’s Landing was a bit more dangerous as it had some sheer drops – no such thing here. After climbing we wall, we were at a plateau with gorgeous views of Mt. Meru on one side and our first good view of the glacier on the other. We spent about 45 minutes here, resting and taking pictures . An interesting observation – we saw the Barranco Camp while hiking up the Barranco Wall and about 30 minutes into our hike, the camp was left clean – no tents, no garbage and no sign of the fact that there were over 100 people that camped there the night before. So it seems the ‘Garbage in/Garbage out’ policy seems to be taken very seriously.
After our photo session, we started our descent into the Karanga valley. The hike was moderately tough and certain sections with loose gravel posed some slipping hazard and putting the padding on our rear ends to good use.
The trail meandered through the valley and the last hour of our hike for the day had us on a steep ascent to Karanga camp.
Karanga Camp was quite a barren camp and with a good view of peak. We had plenty of time to rest in the evening. We met up with a group of Canadians – who gave us some ideas for our next adventure – The Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayas. We met a lot of interesting people on the hike and kept bumping into the same groups every day. It was interesting to see 3 couples enjoying the hike as a part of their honeymoon. There was a group of 9 poeple from Norway; all 9 of them above the age of 62 with the oldest one being 67. We also met a couple who was dating along with the young man’s mother – don’t know if it was a test for the would be mother-in-law or the would be daughter-in-law or a test to see if the relationship would move forward. Day 6 for us will have us either camping at Barafu camp or going an hour and half longer and getting to Kosovo camp. Kosovo camp is not an official camp and if we did get the opportunity, we would save an hour on our summit day climb.
Day 6: Kosovo Camp to Summit
Hike start: 1215 AM 16,200 ft elevation
Peak: 600 AM 19,384 ft. elevation
Hike End: 400 PM 10,000 ft elevation Mkweka Camp
High altitude has some interesting side effects. I have had weird dreams every night – this is apparently quite common. However, we had acclimatized well by this day, given our ascent to Lava Tower (15,200 feet). Per our guide our food has changed every day to cater to the next day’s hike. Our carbohydrate intake had increased significantly.
We started our hike at 8 AM and reached Barafu camp at 1145 AM. Bruce had made it here before us and had already made arrangements for us to camp at Kosovo camp. We have chicken and spaghetti for lunch and started climbing to get to Kosovo camp. We decided to rest for a bit and have an early dinner at 6 PM. After dinner, we attempted to sleep for a few hours. It was very cold and I found it quite difficult to sleep. I am sure it had something to do with the altitude as well. After a few hours of tossing and turning, we decided to wake up and prepare for the long hike ahead. We woke up 1130 pm, had some tea and cookies. We started our summit ascent hike at 1215 AM. It was bitter cold. All of us were dressed up in multiple layers. I had 5 layers on the top and 3 layers at the bottom, gloves and balaclava to cover the face. We were warm enough but all of us had really cold hands and feet. We had 3 guides with us and were walking switchbacks in pitch dark and extremely steep gradient. Our headlamps provided a very focused view – feet of the person in front of us :) The climb was the hardest between 3 AM – 4AM – that is the time when sleep hit all of us. It was hard to stay awake despite the grueling hike. We were delighted when we reached Stella Point at 445 AM. We had some tea and took a break for a few minutes. From Stella Point, the gradient eased up. We started seeing the orange glow of the upcoming sunrise in the horizon just as we reached the summit at 6AM. It was really cold and we did not feel like getting our hands out of our gloves. We ended up waiting for a few minutes and saw a spectacular sunrise. The sunlight lit up the glacier next to the summit and it was an amazing sight. We were all very happy to have made it to the summit without any illness or injury.
I think all our preparation helped us in getting up to the top of Uhuru Peak. We made a fun team and were always in good sprits (except when it was raining the first two days :)). At 645AM, we started making our way down from the Peak to Kosovo camp. The downhill was slipping and sliding more than it was hiking. The trail has loose gravel called scree which makes it very tricky to come down. The only option is to dig your heels first and start walking and most importantly be prepared to fall! I found out that even though I cannot ski, I can scree pretty well.
We made it down to Kosovo camp by 840 am and rested a bit. After having some lunch we packed our gear and began the trek down the mountain. Our plan was to get to Mweka hut before the evening, camp there for the night and start out early morning to get back to Moshi. We got to Mweka Hut around 4 pm.
In the recent past, we have seen mobile OS announcements on version upgrades/updates from Apple, Google and Microsoft.
Apple announced iOS 6 at their World Wide Devleopers Conference (Jun 11 – 15, 2012)
Microsoft announced Windows 8 Phone and Windows Phone 7.8 (to support current devices) at their Windows Phone Summit on June 20, 2012…
…and today, June 27, 2012, Google announced Jelly Bean (Android 4.1). All these OS have new features – some which will be considered innovative and others incremental improvements.
I skimmed through most of these announcements and later went back to look at the details on a few features of each OS. Each OS update has enhancements specific to their “own” offerings; Apple has new Maps, Microsoft has deeper Skype integration, Google has Advanced Search. However, my observations lead me to the conclusion that all OS platforms want to become a one stop shop for consumers: Not only when it comes to content consumption but also to useful, transactional functionality for every day use. Let me elaborate by highlighting a few features…
Passbook in iOS / Wallet Hub in Windows Phone / Google Wallet
The similarities in Passbook and Wallet Hub are stunning and since both are yet to be released, we will have to wait and see which is more elegant and provides ease of use. While all 3 can take advantage of technology like Near Field Communications (NFC), Google Wallet seems to be more aligned to it and is banking on new payment peripherals at retailers.
Microsoft and Apple are hoping to leverage updated barcode scanners, which can read smartphone screens. A lot of retailers are already deploying these scanners already.
What does this mean to businesses?
As an example, Starbucks has already deployed smartphone apps to manage their loyalty card; well it is more than just a loyalty card – it is a mobile wallet that supports Starbucks as a retailer. Users can “load” their Starbucks card into their phone and the app takes care of account management, payments, loyalty points and promotions. The app has been hugely successful and since Starbucks was unwilling to wait for NFC to mature, it has created a new standard of sorts for mobile barcode integration.
Starbucks may be considered a leader here, other retailers who are still contemplating deploying mobile apps (or upgrades to existing ones) may be able to save time and money by leveraging features like Passbook and Wallet Hub and integrating them into their mobile apps.
Please note that in addition to account management functions, these features can used for other transactional integration – a mobile boarding pass your airline, a movie ticket, a promotion coupon – you get the gist…
Social Media Feature:
iOS 6 Facebook integration, Windows Phone People Hub (Currently available)
iOS 6 will bring functionality that has been already present to a large extent on the Windows Phone platform. Once your Facebook account credentials are made available to the OS, default OS applications like Calendar, Contacts and activity feeds will be seamlessly integrated.
Windows Phone takes a different route to social media integration. The “Emails and Accounts” menu under Settings of the Windows Phone will allow you to specify account details for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Windows Live in addition to your Exchange, POP or Google Mail.
Once these accounts are set up, a swipe to the right in the People Hub (aka Contacts) will provide a news-feed which allows for viewing “What’s new” in all accounts or can be filtered by Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. Additionally, upon selecting a particular person (contact), a user can view updates, pictures, posts, tweets and their own interaction (phone calls, emails, sms messages) with that person.
Good news from a users’ perspective but bad for Facebook because it loses the opportunity to present ads.
Real Time Feature:
Google NOW / Windows Phone Live Tiles
Google NOW is going to be a feature in the new Android 4.1 OS dubbed Jellybean. This feature gathers information from the phone and users’ previous behavior related to search, calendar, travel plans, likes and dislikes.
An example provided is a user’s commute pattern – any possible disruption to it would be highlighted in a “card” – such cards can be resident and updated live on the home screen.
Windows Phone Live Tiles work in a similar manner but rely on the underlying app to support the ‘update’ aspect. For example, a user can have an American Airlines app pinned to their home screen. Based on the travel schedule, this ‘tile’ will have flight information like Terminal, Gate, or delay in departure or arrival of the flight.
With these enhancements, the OS platforms will continue to become more real time and integrated to provide everyday features for users. I don’t think the app marketplaces will see any downturn in the near future but apps will provide a rich integration APIs to ‘blend in’ with the OS. As far as ad related revenue, there may be a shift coming in how these apps promote products and services.
Over the last few years, that smartphone in your pocket has become an extremely useful device – to the “Don’t leave home without it” point. The advancement in mobile technology, networks and the availability of applications has enabled a progressive on the go behavior.
But I submit to you that mobility and its uses have only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to enterprise applications, the ones that fulfill a set of useful business functions. There are organizations emerging as leaders in early adoption with innovative set of features – for example: Chase Bank has an application which allows customers to take a picture of a check using their iPhone’s camera and have it deposited to their account. There are several other applications, which blend in enterprise application functions with mobile device features quite nicely. To me the whole idea of writing a check is obsolete but I am sure Chase and other banks will do a lot more to change consumer behavior over the next few years.
Over the next several years, mobility will change drastically – the technology evolution in smart devices, the growth of tablets and increased affordability will allow user adoption of smart devices to exceed feature phones globally…. But the main advancement will be in usability and availability of applications, which enable end-to-end business processes on the go!
Mobility and everything to do with mobile devices has been a passion of mine for years. I have always believed that success comes in loving what you do for a living.
Focusing on my passion for innovative technology and love for mobile devices, my new venture PopcornApps provides Enterprise Mobility as a core service offering.
PopcornApps is on a mission to help clients enable a rich experience for B2B or B2C users of smart devices; providing functionally relevant business processes optimized over the mobile device channel. Integration to existing applications for functions like Product & Service catalog, Billing & Payments, Order Management, Shopping Cart, Work Orders, Trouble Tickets etc. is the real key to delivering a good enterprise mobile application.
My team and I are working hard to bring meaningful solutions to a myriad of industry segments and geographies. I look forward to the support of my personal and professional circle for guidance, advice and enabling business growth for PopcornApps.
Competitiveness in the market place is an ages old phenomenon (well maybe not ages – Webster says the first known use of the word ‘Competitive’ was in 1829) – anyway in my book that is ages old!
Competition has been a factor for individuals (in sports, studies, debate, politics etc.), for countries (Super power, leading economy etc.), for service providers (Hotels, Airlines, Telecom operators, IT companies etc.) and for products. It is a phenomenon that gets sparked when an innovator brings an idea to fruition and others try to ‘ape’ the idea or ‘better’ it.
As competitors compete, it becomes important for them to differentiate and highlight how their product, service or solution is better (or different) than their competition.
A company that has managed to differentiate its products and services is Apple. Apple has been at the forefront of innovation to the extent that many a strategy session have asked the question: “What is your ‘iPhone’?”. Well the iPhone, iTunes, iPad have truly been game changing products and services and have been aped by Apple’s competitors.
Apple has an integrated model of product development with a closely managed supply chain and a marketing machine which keeps the products ‘edgy’ and consumer oriented with a great deal of geeky stuff (like processor speed, chipset jargon) purposely kept out of the ‘spec’ sheet for the most part. Apple also closely controls things like the Operating System, hardware and related third party software used by its products.
But I submit to you that in this fiercely competitive and fast moving world of Telecom, the differentiation between players is fast eroding and while there have been several products touted as ‘iPhone killers’, some of products on the market today may come close in form and function.
The iPhone has created competition in the handset/mobile device space and players like HTC, Motorola, LG, and Samsung have partnered with Google and Microsoft to provide choice to folks who are not squarely in Mr. Job’s camp.
However, if you take a quick minute to assess Apple’s competition, you will find some striking similarities:
- Most of them use chipsets, display, memory etc. from a handful of suppliers – Qualcomm, nVidia, Sony, Toshiba etc.
- All devices have relatively similar pricing and depend on the telecom operators to decide on price in markets that support handset subsidies
- Some of these devices bear the striking resemblance to the iPhone
- As the technology evolution continues, the top spot is enjoyed by a ‘super’ smartphone for 2 -3 months at a time
So where is the differentiation? It is in the industrial design of the product and a thin veneer of usability related ‘value-add’ software, which can be provided over the Operating Systems like Android and Windows Phone 7. Such usability software like HTC’s Sense UI and Motorola’s Motoblur seem competent additions.
Advancements in technology bring about reduction in component pricing. Paired with availability of global resources, this has made the mobile device industry look like the computer manufacturing industry of the late nineties – largely involved in assembly work from a myriad of hard-drive, memory, graphics and motherboard manufacturers. Packaging, industrial design and pricing are the only differentiators. Product refresh cycles have been more accelerated than ever before and consumers have become ever more demanding.
In this industry, the barrier to entry has been significantly lowered. Big names like Dell, Sony-Ericsson, Lenovo have entered the market place with their offerings – some better than others. With little-known Indian manufacturers like Micromax coming out of $100 android-based smartphones, are Apple and other ‘Tier-1’ manufacturers desperate for differentiation? Damn right they are!
So what is the Toyota way? Quite honestly, I would have been very sympathetic to Toyota’s situation and taken a view that the pressure got to them but judging from the magnitude of the recall, recent reports in the press and Akio Toyoda’s hollow testimony in front of the US Congress, it is clear that greed got the better of the folks running Toyota.
I have never owned a Toyota but must admit that the FJ Cruiser did catch my passing fancy.
A search on amazon.com reveals over two dozen books written on Toyota; all highlighting its place in the uppermost echelons of quality, engineering, manufacturing and HR policies. There are cases/coursework specific to Toyota taught at leading business schools across the world. Experts have been quick to comment about the fall from grace, some standing by what they have authored earlier and brushing this off as a mere blemish. So how does this all change? Will books be put out of circulation?; reprinting halted? What will happen to Toyota’s number 1 spot amongst global auto manufacturers – it certainly did not see its first birthday! With 10M recalls, numerous class action lawsuits, it seems that the problems have just begun for Toyota. I bet you the business schools will add another chapter to the numerous Toyota cases or better yet create (may have already created) a case on brand damage and offer expert advice on how to rebuild/repair a tarnished super brand! Someone profits!
While Toyota is having the worst possible time in its history, Ford declares a profit showing signs of revival amidst an array of new models which are surprising pleasing to the eye. Ford Taurus, once a top rated car, fell prey to a disastrous redesign in 2000, seems have reincarnated in a superbly updated form. And there are other cars in the Ford lineup that are doing well too.
I am sure over the coming months and years, investigations will reveal more facts – was it the carpet? the onboard electronics? negligence? faulty raw material? Toyota has a tough task ahead to rebuild consumer confidence. In addition to the largest ever recall, to make matters worse, there are also allegations of Toyota being in bed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Mr. Obama has another problem to take care of.
Mr. Toyoda, it just cannot be a simple confusion of priorities – lives have been lost, many put at danger, possibly wrong convictions and jail terms have been dealt. Good luck to you!
About convictions, one Mr. Lee was driving his 1996 Toyota Camry with his family (including his pregnant wife) when he hit two cars at 90mph. The prosecutors accused Mr. Lee of having his foot on the gas while approaching the two cars and he was sentenced to 8 years in prison. If this conviction gets overturned, Mr. Lee will be a happy man but the real question to be asked is “How long have these problems gone unnoticed?” Good luck to you too Mr. Lee!
I saw this movie ‘Up in the Air’ – has been classified as a comedy. This is by no means the start of a movie critic career for me but I found the movie to be a sad story. Sure there were funny moments but overall the movie conveyed a message of loneliness and portrayed a man in self denial when it comes to the need for friends and family.
There are parts of the movie that I could relate to: Ryan (portrayed by George Clooney) is a road warrior with the mentality of a miles hog. As he says in the movie – He has a number in mind as his target (10 million miles). This number made me realize that while I don’t have a target in mind, I am approaching 6 million frequent flyer miles. Another number he threw out was the amount he travelled in one year (350,000 miles) and he goes on to say that the moon is 250,000 miles from the earth. I have been doing 275-325K miles every year for the last several years. But there is a difference: I don’t deny missing family and friends while I am away and I hate most hotel rooms! And I always have someone looking forward to me coming come. Ryan also flashes an American Airlines Concierge Key card in the movie – yes that is a real program – I have the card.
Another depressing aspect of the film is the role Clooney plays. Ryan works for a company who gets hired to fire people. Needless to say, currently this is a touchy subject particularly in the US but the movie did a good job on highlighting the realities of job losses and people’s reaction to being fired or let go. Ryan has a methodology going about his job and more often than not, he helps people focus on the positive and look forward to the future rather than focus solely on the fact that he/she does not have a job.
The movie also made light of technology replacing the need for personal contact and features an experiment by a young new hire (a Cornell grad) who tries to replace folks like Ryan with call center type agents who follow an elaborate ‘flow chart’ for firing people over video conference.
All in all a decent movie with some good humor, amazing aerial shots of major US cities and an accurate portrayal of the harsh realities of corporate downsizing! Plugs all over the movie for American Airlines, Hilton hotels and Avis car rental.