Words from Wik

Sharing my Experiences

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Inspiration from Olympians

The Winter Olympics that were held in Vancouver this year came and went, and for most Canadians it was an enjoyable experience (as for many other countries). For me also, however I took some special inspiration from the event and the athletes in particular. I have been training for almost 5 months for my Everest trip, and it has come with it’s emotional highs and lows. I have learned what it means to sacrifice some things in life to achieve something that most people don’t strive for. And so when I think about how Olympic athletes train their entire lives, or at least years upon years of such sacrifice, to get their one chance at competitive glory, their time to show what they can do, I have nothing but the utmost respect for them. And I realize how my training does not even compare, though for me it’s all I can do. And luckily my sport is not a competitive one, I do not have to train to be the best in the world, just good enough. So I just wanted to say, good job athletes, thanks for the show, and thanks for inspiring me to stay focused on what I need to do!
Vancouver 2010

posted by Wiktor at 11:17  

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I just got laid off

So a bit of a different topic today, but one that has an effect on my Everest preparation and climb. The company I have been working with for almost 4 years is trying to sell their Canadian assets, and so is slowly closing the Calgary office, letting people go. I got let go earlier this week, and even though I saw this coming for a while, it was still an emotionally draining day. Anyways, I won’t dwell on it too much, other than to say that I’m taking it all as a positive: I will have more time to prepare for my trip and make sure everything is in place that can be! I’ll re-focus specifically on the fundraising side to get people and hopefully companies involved in raising money for World Vision! Remember, you can donate here.

The other reason I bring this up is to lead into my next post, where I’ll talk about how I got into climbing and what experience I have that is now taking me to Everest. You might be surprised how recently I got into mountaineering, and it was almost all due to the opportunities that I got with my company. I can confidently say that BG (and the people I met along the way) have made me who I am today. Stay tuned!

posted by Wiktor at 4:57  

Friday, December 18, 2009

World Peak for World Vision launch

Today I am launching a campaign through which I hope to raise money for the charity World Vision by attempting to climb the world’s tallest mountain, Mt. Everest. It’s called World Peak for World Vision, and my goal is to raise money for two projects in the developing world. Have a look at the website at www.worldpeak.ca, and if you are able to donate please do. Or simply pass this message along to others who may be interested or may want to donate.

The plan is to train for the next few months, and in the spring head to Kathmandu and start my climb. I will be writing on this blog a bit more regularly to keep people informed and share what it’s like to be training for and then trying to climb the world’s tallest mountain. If you want to stay informed you can subscribe to the RSS or sign up for email updates (top right corner from main page).

Thanks very much for your support and feel free to drop me a line anytime with any questions or comments!

Site Snapshot

posted by Wiktor at 5:48  

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Climbing the next one…

So with just barely having caught up on writing about my last summit on Aconcagua, I am heading off to climb yet another mountain! This one is, believe it or not, is higher than the last one. I’m flying to Kathmandu in Nepal and we’ll drive to China (Tibet) to attempt a climb of the sixth tallest mountain in the world, called Cho Oyu. It’s 8200m tall, 20km west of Everest (aparently you get some good views of Everest from the top!), if you want any more details just check Wikipedia here. I have been getting all my stuff ready in the last few weeks, have been training for months, and just lately (or maybe a long time ago?) I started eating like a pig to gain some weight so that I have more of it to lose while on the mountain.

I will post another entry in the next few days with a link to the SummitClimb News website, where they will post regular updates on our progress as we call in dispatches from a Sat phone while on the mountain. In the meantime, I will post a picture and below it our proposed itinerary, so if you want to know you’ll have a bit of an idea of what I am getting myself into. Enjoy the smileys!

Trying on the gear

Arriving in Kathmandu:

Sep 1) Arrive Kathmandu (1,300 metres/4,300 feet).
Sep 2) Hand over passport to China Embassy, begin processing of Chinese Visa. Training and equipment review at hotel in Kathmandu.
Sep 3) Receive processed visa from Chinese embassy. We may choose to depart Kathmandu for Tibet on this day;

Driving to Basecamp:

Sep 4) Begin Expedition! Bus to Zhangmu, Tibet (2500 metres/8,250 feet); drive to Nyalam (3,750 metres/12,400 feet).
Sep 5) Rest & Acclimatization in Nyalam (3,750 metres/12,400 feet). Walk in the surrounding hills, hang out in the Tashi Amdo teashop. Hotel.
Sep 6) Drive to Tingri at 4,300 meters/14,100 feet. Hotel.
Sep 7) Rest & Acclimatization in Tingri at 3900 metres/12,900 feet. Hotel.
Sep 8) Drive to Chinese Base, 4900 metres/16,000 feet, Camp.
Sep 9) Rest & Acclimatization at Chinese Base.

Moving to Advanced Basecamp:

Sep 10) Walk halfway to advanced base camp, camp at 5100 metres/16,800 feet.
Sep 11) Rest day & Acclimatization at “interim-camp” at 5100 metres/16,800 feet.
Sep 12) Walk to advanced base camp at 5600 metres/18,500 feet. Rest.
Sep 13) Rest & Acclimatization, training, and organization at advanced base camp.

Climbing Cho Oyu:

Sep 14) Walk to camp 1 at 6200 metres/20,450 feet, return to advanced base camp.
Sep 15) Rest in advanced base camp.
Sep 16) Walk to camp 1, Sleep.
Sep 17) Explore the route to Camp 2 at 6700 metres/22,100 feet. Return to advanced base camp.
Sep 18) Rest in advanced base camp.
Sep 19) Rest in advanced base camp.
Sep 20) Walk to camp 1 and sleep there.
Sep 21) Walk to camp 2 and sleep there.
Sep 22) Explore the route to camp 3 at 7400 metres/24,400 feet. Return to advanced base camp. Rest.
Sep 23) Rest in advanced base camp.
Sep 24) Rest in advanced base camp.
Sep 25) Rest in advanced base camp.
Sep 26) Walk to camp 1 and sleep there.
Sep 27) Walk to camp 2 and sleep there.
Sep 28) Walk to camp 3 and sleep there.

Summit Days:

Sep 29) Summit attempt.
Sep 30) Summit attempt.
Oct 1) Summit attempt.
Oct 2) Summit attempt.
Oct 3) Summit attempt, descend to camp 2.

Going Home:

Oct 4) Descend to advanced base camp, pack and prepare to depart.
Oct 5) Final packing, walk down from advanced base camp to Chinese base, drive to Tingri and spend the night.
Oct 6) Drive from Tingri to Kathmandu.
Oct 7) Celebration Banquet. Packing and final shopping in Kathmandu.
Oct 8) Say Good-bye to your new friends, Departure for home.

posted by Wiktor at 19:56  

Friday, January 2, 2009

An email and a Favour

As some of you may know and have read on this blog, earlier this year I went to climb a 6000m mountain in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real. The trip was organized by two gentlemen, one a Bolivian named Iván Berdeja, and one a German named Christian. I have been keeping in touch with Iván, as he’s got lots of climbing experience, and with the latest email I sent about going to attempt Aconcagua, I got this reply:

Dear Wiktor,

I have very bad news. Our friend Iván died on Oct. 17 at the Cordillera Quimsa Cruz during a hike with a group of Italians. There was a lot of fog and he went forward in search of a path (there is a part with no path), he slipped and fell 250m. I can not describe to you the sadness we feel here. Ivan was a very, very good person.

I very much regret having to write that. At the same time I wish you a good expedition to Aconcagua. Please, will you leave a note in memory of Ivan at the summit?

Luck and greetings,

So I’ll say that this was totally unexpected, and I don’t really want to write any more commentary about it. I will let the letter speak for itself. However, what I will do is take a picture of Iván to the top of Aconcagua and leave it there (if I make it up). May he rest in peace.

Ivan Berdeja

posted by Wiktor at 21:58  

Saturday, October 18, 2008

BG Energy Challenge 2008 – Brasil

Over the weekend I had the fabulous opportunity to take part in the BG Energy Challenge – Brasil. This challenge is run in many countries where BG operates (UK, Egypt, Trinidad, Houston, and obviously Brasil, among others). The event took place in Teresópolis, a town outside of Rio de Janeiro (the city of God!)

Basically the event is a team-building, corporate competition type of thing (think Calgary Corporate Challenge), open to any companies in the Energy sector. BG Brasil sends a couple of teams, other companies that operate in and around Rio also come (I’ve seen Schlumberger, Chevron, I think Shell was here somewhere). Obviously I was representing BG Bolivia; we sent an all-female team and an all-male team.

Each team has three people, and here in Brasil they organize the race as follows: from 8:30 to 12:30 all teams have to run (or walk) to as many checkpoints as possible, and at these checkpoints do a task, or just check in. The checkpoints are on a map given the night before, and strategizing which checkpoints to go to first/last/not at all is quite important. While we have not seen the results yet to see if anyone did, I think it is almost impossible to get to all the checkpoints and do all the tasks in the 4 hours, hence the importance of a strategy (in total there were 11 task checkpoints and 13 check-in checkpoints).

Here are some of the tasks that we had to do: get to the top of an indoor climbing wall and ring the bell; a blindfolded person has to walk a route through an old building being directed solely by his team members’ voices, and not touch any of the “booby-traps” (rope all along the route with bells on it to signify when it’s been touched); two team members ride a route by bike while the third runs along (that lucky third was me!); correctly identify flags of ten countries that were on display; solve two mathematical formulas without the use of anything, except natural elements (ie we could write in the non-existent dirt); smell some food/sauces and name them; hit a golf ball 50 meters; and my [start sarcasm] most favorite, one that made the most sense [end sarcasm] was to have two team members swim through muddy water with three giant inflated rubber balls to the other end, where they gave these balls to a third (lucky) team member who walked back with these balls on land, while the two in the mu… I mean in the water got to swim back. Oh yeah, and the swimmers had to wear their shoes. Ever swam with shoes on? In mud? And then ever ran with soaked, mud-saturated shoes? It’s not pleasant.

There were a few tasks that we never got to, never attempted, so this is not an exhaustive list. An important point though, many tasks could be lost, and then you get no credit for it. Touch a booby-trap rope and ring the bell on it? Game over. Don’t get both mathematical formula questions right? Sorry, no part marks! Then the entire 15 minutes of intense uphill climb, and then 5 minutes of descent, to get to and from the checkpoint is wasted, and everybody is that much more tired and unable to get to some other potential task.

In between all these challenges was obviously the physical part of getting to and from the checkpoints, and also the mental challenge of correctly navigating among them. And for the end, you pretty much had to make it back to the start/finish in four hours, or you start losing points for every minute you are over. We finished in exactly 3 hours, 59 minutes, and zero seconds.

I must say that the event was very well run and put together. Things flowed pretty smoothly; inevitable injuries (I personally saw a cut that later got 6 stitches, as well as a twisted knee) were handled well by the paramedic staff on site; they had about 3 photographers and 2 videographers recording the details of people’s runs and climbs and everything in between. If I ever get my hands on any of that media I will definitely share it.

So yeah, that describes the way the Challenge looked. It was fun, exhausting, interesting, a little bit dirty, and very exhausting. As of now we don’t have the results yet, so I can’t tell you how we did, but we were one of the more physically fit teams (though we failed on several challenges), so we have some hope. We will see and I will update!

Update: So we got 2nd place in our category, lost to the other team by only two points (we could have gotten 5 more points if not for missing a minus sign in the math formula task!) But that is quite good nonetheless, and most important it was fun for all. Oh, and our all-girls team got first in their category, so BG Bolivia represented quite well!

posted by Wiktor at 17:21  

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bolivia is better, but more importantly, I am disabling emails from my blog!

Just an update on the things going on in Bolivia, I left things kinda open at the end of my last post, so I wanted to close off how they ended. I ended up going to the grocery store a day or two later, expecting it to be near empty of the most important food items like I had heard, but instead I found the store full of everything I could have wanted to buy! So instead of leaving with pictures of empty shelves I left with over $100 worth of groceries! (I still wanted to stock up.)

Similar thing with gas. Yes, there was a shortage and people were stocking up, causing an artificial rise in demand. But a few days into the ‘situation’ I went to a gas station, waited 15 minutes in a 15 car lineup, and then filled up no problem!

Oh, and the rumor that the military was being deployed in the city? Didn’t happen. And last weekend, we went out to some discos but they were not letting people in, and instead were closing early because there had been two deaths in the city due to some ‘problems’. Well, that turned out just to be another rumor also, there were no deaths. But that kind of shows the misinformation that floats around and makes things uncertain, and doesn’t allow people to make the right decisions.

Anyways, now the problems are all but over. Almost all the roadblocks have been lifted. My project at work is mobilizing to site (we were waiting for the roads to open. I will spend the next 4 weeks or so in the field, meaning all the perishable food that I stocked up on will probably go bad!) Politicians have decided to spend some time talking (though not before about 30 people died in a province quite far from us). Honestly I expect things to flare up again (there are already rumors of blockades being put back in place), but right now all is well.

Okay, that’s the update in Bolivia. Next thing I wanted to say is that this will be the last time anyone will receive an email when I make a post! I am disabling the automatic email notifier. Why you may ask? Well to be honest, when I had the automatic email notifier on, I felt like I had to write something REALLY REALLY RIDICULOUSLY GOOD for it to be worth you getting an email and heading over to read. So I am disabling it, but I will now feel more free to write small, insignificant little things that keep people in the loop of how life is different here, and what I’m doing or what is happening. BUT, for those that still want to be notified of when I update the blog (both of you), there is an option with an RSS Reader. I use and highly recommend Google Reader (anyone with a gmail account can easily set up a Reader account), and will give a brief description below of what exactly it is, and how it can make your web life easier! For those of you that regularly use an RSS reader just skip the next part (but not before adding my blog to your RSS feed!)

Anyways, an RSS reader allows you to have one place to go to see when your favorite sites have been updated. I use mine to get updates on some people’s blogs, as well as get news on Formula 1 happenings (www.formula1.com) and Digital Photography news (www.dpreview.com). Those are sites that cover my hobbies and I found myself going there on a regular basis, so now I use Reader to know when there is something there worth reading. See the screen below for a sample page from my reader, click to see it full size.

So what I do is whenever I am at work I have gmail open, and once every couple of days or so (or several times a day for those boring days) I click on the Reader link and it loads up Reader with the latest news. I can then read the headlines as well as the start of the article, and if I want to read on I just click the link. Really easy, really convenient. You can add whatever you want there, almost any site that updates with new information once in a while will have an RSS feed you can subscribe to.

Of course, there are many other RSS readers out there, I just find the Gmail one most useful as I always have Gmail open. Anyways, consider trying it out if you haven’t yet. I will admit when someone first told me about these I was a little hesitant to set it up, but now I check it as often as my email.

If you need any help setting it up or adding my blog to your subscriptions, let me know!

posted by Wiktor at 21:10  

Friday, September 12, 2008

A foreigner’s view of living in Bolivia during political unrest

In case you haven’t heard, Bolivia is going through some political tension right now. If you go to Google News and search Bolivia you should have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. Headlines include “Bolivia’s tax disputes lead to blocking of gas wells, highways”, “Bolivia crisis cuts natural gas supply to Brazil by half”, “UPDATE 1-Brazil says it won’t tolerate overthrow in Bolivia”, “US ambassador given up to 72 hours to leave Bolivia”, “Chavez Expels US Envoy to Show Support for Bolivia (Update3)”, “Eight killed in Bolivia clashes, US tensions rise”, “Brazil held to 0-0 draw by 10-man Bolivia” (oh yeah, that last one was the result of the latest football match). Anyways, here’s my impression of what the country is like to live in right now.

I won’t get into the reason for the unrest and protest, you can read about that in the articles above if you like. But in general what has happened here as part of the protests is people block roads. They do that to disrupt basic services in order for their protests to be noticed higher up. So there is no transport of fuel, food, and other essential things. For the last week or so, you could buy gasoline in the morning, but by the afternoon every gas station was empty. Now I am told that there is no more gasoline in the city; in my case I got 3/4 of a tank so I am okay for about a week or so, but once that runs out I’ll be looking to get myself a bike!

Then there’s food. On the weekend I took someones advice and stocked up on water and some canned goods, but because I was hearing mixed impressions of what is going to happen, I never took it too seriously and didn’t really stock up. Today I was told that supermarkets are pretty much empty, haven’t been there for myself to see but I believe it.

Then there’s the rioting. When blocking roads is not enough to get the attention of the federal government, people in this city went ahead and stormed, burned, destroyed, and in general took over every government run building. This included the national phone company (we use that company at work, and after the raid for half a day our cell and work phones did not work), tax agency, and others. This made for some great TV footage, but it’s mainly isolated to specific locations, and the rest of the town is just like normal, you wouldn’t even know anything is up.

Now another reason I didn’t really stock up on food was that our company has an evacuation plan for expats and foreigners in case things get hairy. I expected that if things get as bad as they are now, or as bad as people predict it will be, we’d be on our way out. Well I just found out today that won’t be the case. We are staying in Bolivia for whatever may come. I’ll admit at first I was a little annoyed at that, I was expecting the company to take us away before we had to stock up on food, water, gasoline, take care of where we go, put up with a military presence, etc. But now for me it’s actually an opportunity to really live and experience things like a local, not have an easy way out, and put up with the annoyances that everybody else must put up with. So for me it’s okay.

However, for some others it’s not that great. Some other expats who have family and pregnant wives have expressed concern that the company is making the entire family stay, not evacuating the families that have no business purpose to stay. This I must agree with. And evacuation is something that is still possible now (only by air, rail and road transport is blocked as mentioned above), but even that may not be possible later as airports get ‘taken over’ or fuel shortages prevent planes from refueling. Already American Airlines has stopped flights to Bolivia.

So what’s every day life like? Not much different. A few interesting things happened at work today. Some of the more important people were given radios to be able to communicate in case things got worse still and phones stopped working. But otherwise things are normal. There was a company dinner planned tonight. I went swimming at 8:00 pm. I went to a friend’s barbecue at 9:00, had good food and beer, a normal day. At 12:00 midnight we were told that the city had been, or is about to be, “militarized”, or have military deployed, and so we all went home right away. But there was no military on the roads that I could see.

So every day life is okay. The place I live is a fairly safe neighborhood (the only down side being that several important political figures live there, with a potential for trouble from people looking for them). But otherwise I am going to work tomorrow, there is a try-out for the Brazilian BG Energy Challenge on Saturday. Life is as normal.

So that’s about it for the current update, should anything major break I will do my best to write about it and let you know.

posted by Wiktor at 1:20  

Friday, March 28, 2008

What is happening in Bolivia?

Hey everyone, long time since I posted. Somehow just haven’t found the time or the topic to write since I’ve come to Bolivia. What I have been meaning to do is let people know what Bolivia is like as a county. There’s a lot of things going on right now here, and I wanted to write about some of them, but didn’t really know how.

Anyways, I found someone else’s blog entry that explained the current situation so well, I had to pass it along. So if you have any interest in Bolivia or South America in general, give it a read.

Before you do, some background (so that you better understand what you read):

– Santa Cruz is the rich province in the east; all the government is in the west.
– Most people from Santa Cruz dislike people in the west in general (similar to Canada’s western alienation, Scotland’s dislike for being ruled from London, etc., but more severe and slightly racial), and the president specifically.
– The majority of the people in Bolivia are native Americans (aka Indians; Bolivia and Peru are two countries in America that didn’t completely wipe out their indigenous populations with settlers); most of the rich people here are what they call “whites” (what I would call people of Latino descent, Hispanics). The indigenous have a distinctly darker skin tone, and are usually poorer. The current President, Evo Morales, is of indigenous origin.
– The currency here is Bs (short for Boliviano’s). 1 B = 15 cents.
– MAS is the current governments political party name.
– When you get to the line in Spanish, use Google Translate or Altavista Babelfish to find out what they are saying (viewer discretion advised if you use Google).

Alright, here is the link!

posted by Wiktor at 18:36  

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Lion King, Live

First of all, Merry Christmas to everyone! Don’t forget the true meaning of it all, as there’s more to it than gifts!

Here are some pictures from a little safari I had in South Africa. The entire time I couldn’t help but think I was watching the Lion King, but in real life. So the following are the starring cast:

Opening scene to the movie
African Sunset

Little Nala
Little Nala Sleeping

Bugs eaten by Timon and Pumba
Bugs Eaten By Timon And Pumbaa

Little Simba
Little Simba


Teenage Simba
Simba not quite grown up


Sarabi, Simba’s Mother
Sarabi, Simba’s Mother


There are no pictures of Timon, they were too fast to catch on camera.

Take care!


posted by Wiktor at 15:36  
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