Throughout my life, I’ve had moments permanently etched into my memory—instances in time where I’ve taken a mental snapshot of my life and held it close to my heart, in the hopes that I’d never forget, and always be thankful for witnessing. Summit Day on Mount Kilimanjaro was one of them.
Around midnight on July 2, 2012, a group of my teammates and I embarked from high camp at Barafu to head toward the summit.
I will always remember the smell of camp stoves cooking a light breakfast; the wind-whipped chill of the cold mountain air; and the black-indigo of the night sky, with bright stars illuminated all around. I still reminisce about how absolutely cold it was to the bone, and yet my heart was still warm and aflutter with anticipation and excitement
But more than anything, I remember looking out toward Uhuru Peak and seeing traces of headlamps twinkling along a serpentine path on the way to the summit. They were like ants along a trail. Peering up at those small beacons of light made me so nervous while I was preparing my body with enough fuel and clothing for the final 4,000 foot climb.
Soon the time had come to start climbing, one foot in front of the other, slowly, “pole pole” as they say on the mountain—never truly gazing up to see where my group was along the trail, but rather to look out at those blips of light up ahead on the way to summit, and silently cheering them on. It took great effort to see faces, to remove a glove, or to talk with my teammates.
Onward we pressed, until the first vestiges of orange, fuschia, and aubergine made their way over the horizon. I couldn’t look up at the trail of headlamps any longer, only at the heels of the person in front of me. We kept climbing after a tasty treat of hot tea and sugar cookies, and finally made it to Stella Point. A large sign greeted us, but we weren’t done yet. There were still forty five minutes to go before summiting.
As we walked, the sky began to fade into cerulean. It matched the glacier on top of the peak. Finally, off in the distance, we saw the huge green summit sign, and I started to cry tears of joy. They danced down my face and froze on my eyelashes. I swear it actually got colder as we approached Uhuru, but I was warmly comforted with the thought of the people I was summitting for; my uncle, my grandmother, and countless others that I had carried with me from the base.
We posed for photos and reveled in our accomplishments. The glacial winds increased as the sun fully rose, and we wondered how we’d get down the steep incline we had just successfully completed. We traversed back to Stella Point and then planted our heels into the ground and pushed off the land with our trekking poles. We skiied on scree the remaining 4,000 feet below back to Barafu. Exhausted. Elated. Elevated. Happy.
I’ve been back in Austin now for a full year, dealing with the mundane, annoying details of my personal life, and wishing to somehow be transported back to that moment in time I remember so clearly. I can only hope I have more instances in my life like Summit Day, where sounds, sights, and smells remind me that I’m lucky to be alive—and to even be dealing with the nitty-gritty, silly, stupid problems that life throws my way. Some days, it’s harder than others to be thankful.
What I’ve learned, though, is how to summit a challenge, each and every day, whether it’s at 19, 341 feet, or just in my backyard.
Perspective, like memory, is a beautiful thing.
Today marks one year since my teammates and I embarked on our trip to Tanzania to summit Kilimanjaro for charity. Can’t believe how fast time flies sometimes. I’m definitely thinking of my fellow “partners in climb" today, and I’ll wishing us all many more amazing journeys in the years to come.
I did last year. Now it’s your turn!
Registration for Survivor Summit, a LIVESTRONG-partnered event I participated in as part of the inaugural 2012 team, opens today for its February 8-21, 2014 expedition…
This is an opportunity to fundraise $10,000 for cancer programs and services, and challenge yourself as you climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest freestanding mountain and one of the “seven summits.” This time around, you’ll head up the Rongai route to the roof of Africa. And as a reward, you’ll go on a safari after the climb to the Ngorongoro Crater.
No previous climbing experience is required; just a good attitude and a strong desire to kick cancer to the curb.
For more information, CLICK HERE.
You know this will be the experience of a lifetime. So go ahead, apply! Good luck!
It was so nice to catch up with my tentmate and “partner in climb” from Survivor Summit, Mindy today at Whole Foods! Even though we both live in Austin, we hadn’t seen each other since October. This time around, we didn’t have to worry about setting up our sleeping bags and sleeping pads in the shadow of Uhuru—we just ate good food and enjoyed each other’s company. Here’s hoping I get to see her again soon.
It’s been a year since I set up my Tumblr to get the word out about my climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro to fight cancer. Here was my first post, which has since been updated to reflect 365 days, 441 posts, and one very big summit (19,341 feet to be exact—which still sounds crazy) later. Some things have changed, but still there are things that stay the same: I still aspire to be the best person I can be, and each and every day, I’m learning how to do just that. There will be missteps along the way for sure, but all I can do it put one foot in front of the other and keep on climbing.
Something tells me this applies to more facets of life than being an entrepreneur. Many of these lessons can apply to any sort of challenge, and I especially like the mountain background—although I never did see Michael Jordan while climbing Kilimanjaro…
On January 15, 2012, I publicly announced that I was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with Survivor Summit to help fight cancer. After many miles of traveling on airplanes, over 38 miles of hiking, and climbing 19,341 feet, I summitted the roof of Africa on July 2, 2012.
It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by since I started to fundraise money for a wonderful cause, and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime.
But the funny thing about adventure is that it doesn’t always include mountains, expeditions, or crazy goals. Sometimes, life has plans of its own that it likes to throw in, just to keep you on your toes. For me, I’ve definitely had my share of highs this past year, but I also encountered some pretty big lows—like landing myself in the hospital for two days for a recurring health issue.
But even though my expedition up Kili has long since ended, my adventure goes on. I’m reminded of a quote from Yvon Chouinard:
“The word ‘adventure’ has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts.”
I’m not sure why, but in challenging times, this quote really helps bring me some perspective. I have no way of knowing what this year has in store for me, but I hope to learn and grow from whatever challenges—good or bad—may come my way, so that I can savor the “adventure” that is called life.