Social Climber: Overcoming the fear of the first hike

Brickworks Loop TrailHuman nature tends to fear the unknown, so when I made a public declaration last week that I was training to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in August, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I was scared. Uncertain about whether I could complete my first #KiliHikeTO without wheezing along the trail while requiring multiple breaks. I was unsure whether anyone would want to sign up and hike with me on a Sunday morning – especially in the winter. Would I fuel up with the right food or would I get hungry and crash mid-hike? Moreover, I do not classify myself as an avid outdoorsman, so would I enjoy the weekly hikes, or would they simply become laborious?

There were so many variables. So many unknowns.

As usual, I spent too much time over thinking the situation.

Added into the equation is that I’m still recovering from the damage inflicted by an errant hockey puck hitting my baby toe. The injury has caused me to limp, at times, along this roller coaster of a recovery.

It became clear, rather quickly, that a large part of this effort is going to be mental as opposed to physical. Fortunately, I have received strong support from the community including commitments from several people who have already agreed to join me for a #KiliHikeTO. To those who have signed up, thank you. For anyone who has shared words of encouragement or is planning to sign up, thank you, too!


I woke up early on Sunday morning to prepare a proper meal for the inaugural hike. A three egg omelette with red and green peppers and onions. I also drank copious amounts of matte tea to wake up, warm up and hydrate. I added a protein shake to the mix before walking out the door. This may have been overkill, but I wanted to make sure that I didn’t ‘crash’ on the first hike.

It was -14 degrees outside as the sun was rising over Toronto. I don’t mind cold and crisp sunny days, so this was ideal hiking conditions in my opinion. I gathered up my favourite ski clothes; from base layers to shells, from toques to mitts. I was ready to roll.

Robyn signed up to be my hiking partner this morning. Robyn is role model for personal fitness and also one of the people who inspired me to get back into shape. Once upon a time, we both worked for the Toronto Argonauts. Currently, we work in similar industries, so the conversation flowed easily.

Robyn and JaimeRobyn and I connected at the Evergreen Brickworks and we set out on an uphill climb towards Moore Avenue and the base of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Starbucks in hand, it was more of a leisurely stroll as we explored the trails in this hidden gem that exists below the city’s busy streets. Part of the fun was trying to identify the bridges we were passing beneath. Dodging excited dogs on the trail became a secondary challenge.

I’m happy to report that I survived the first hike. Despite earlier fears, the greatest danger to my personal health turned out to be the thick patches of ice on the trail, and not the gentle ascent.

Overall, the hike was shorter than I expected, but it gave me a good sense of what my weaknesses were – and that’s the point in the early going.

Based on the RunKeeper app, which I downloaded to start tracking the weekly hikes, we were out on the trail for about an hour. We hiked just over four kilometres, which gives me something to measure against going forward.

For the actual hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro, our team will climb 98 km over seven days, so that averages out to about 14 km per day. I would like to get my strength and fitness to the point where I can hike at least that distance each week here in Toronto. But for now, this was a great start to get my training off the ground and overcome some initial fears.

For readers who are new to this series, here’s a quick reminder of why I’m climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro:

Firstly, I’m representing the Canadian Blood Services campaign For All Canadians fundraising cabinet on the #Climb4Cord. Our goal is to raise funds to build Canada’s new national public cord blood bank. I do this in honour of my late father, Dr. Howard Stein, who died in 2006 after battling leukemia. Secondly, I’m doing this for myself. I am determined to get back into shape and take control of my personal health.

The countdown to the #Climb4Cord and the morning of Monday, August 12th, 2013 when I will be standing on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro continues. To help me on this journey, sign up now and join me for a #KiliHikeTO.

The #Climb4Cord features a group of business leaders who will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in August 2013 with the hopes of raising $750,000 for the campaign For All Canadians, which is dedicated to building Canada’s new national public cord blood bank. Click here to donate to my personal page or for more information on the campaign please visit:

About Jaime Stein

Jaime is the Senior Manager, Social Media at Hootsuite. He is a digital marketer with expertise in social media and content marketing. His experience stems from leading the social media strategy for two national brands. Jaime holds an MBA with a focus in Marketing and Strategy from the Rotman School of Management where he was selected valedictorian by the students of the Morning MBA Class of 2011. He is the former radio voice of the Toronto Argonauts and currently lives in Vancouver with his wife and two sons.
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4 Responses to Social Climber: Overcoming the fear of the first hike

  1. Love this, Jaime! Can’t wait to hear more about your journey.

    I also want to commend you on what appears to be a bladder made of steel. Copious amounts of tea…protein shakes…Starbucks….I quite obviously could not survive a hike with you :-p

    • Jaime Stein says:

      Thanks Stephanie! Not sure if my bladder made of steel is my advantage. If you can’t make it out for a #KiliHikeTO, maybe join for a coffee afterwards? Let me know.

  2. Caron Court says:

    Great job, Jaime. I better start training for our hike in April…especially if you’ll be up to 14k by then. When I was at CIBC Wood Gundy, I did all the communications for their Climb for the Cure (also Mount Kilimanjaro). Maybe I’ll wear my Climb for the Cure jacket on our hike. 🙂

  3. Jaime Stein says:

    Looking forward to our hike, Caron. I’ve seen some photos of the CIBC Wood Gundy climb in my research. Very cool. You SHOULD wear your jacket. But cover up the logos with an ING DIRECT Orange Scarf 😉

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