Well we had our last day today which consisted of visiting many local shops and re-organizing ourselves for the flight home. We had a great last meal at this restaurant that employs challenged workers to make jewelry and Tara had a nice moment with one of the workers showing her leg. It was really nice. Also, a store owner today gave Erica a free set of Tanzanite earrings for accomplishing the mountain, another incredible moment of kindness. Now, we are about to eat a quick bite and then head to the airport for our 25 hour trek back to LAX. Talk to you all soon…
Well we are officially off the mountain. Yesterday, we made our final decent from Millennium Camp which was at about 13,000 feet to the gate at 6,000 feet. From there we were greeted by song and dance from our porter team (which were our rocks), as well as a small ceremony with our guides and presented certificates of our great accomplishment. From there we drove for about an hour and a half off the mountain back to our hotel for our first showers in over 8 days. Last night a few of us had a couple Kili Beers (Real brand actually), and just reminisced about our trek. Today, we are about to head tro the Arusha Village to mingle with locals and get some people time in, which is something I am very much looking forward to. Tomorrow, we head to the airport in the afternoon to start our journey home.
A couple quick thoughts on what we just did. First and foremost which sticks out in many of our minds is something that will never be able to be taken away from Erica or even us, the first female paraplegic on the summit of Kilimanjaro. I have written it many times or said it but the faces of those coming down, absolutely defeated in exhaustion, seeing us going up, was absolutely priceless. Most people just stopped and starred and were like “how in the hell or why in the hell are you doing that”. Well the truth is, why not. Erica was great and never got mad or down, and neither did Tara for that matter. Both girls gritted their teeth, and kept climbing. Phil seemed to be on the verge of death, something we laugh about now, but he wasn’t well. But both of those girls were going to make that summit. And they did. It was freezing, high and just absolutely exhausting, but they did it.
Not many people really grasp what it takes to climb a mountain like that. It take days in tents, no showers, sleeping bags and cold, early mornings, no food, stomach pains, bathrooms with holes in the floor (me personally, I actually preferred the great outdoors rather than the bathrooms), everyone speaks Swahili, and on top of all that which is a small list, you have to climb a mountain everyday for 8-10 hours. Well we did that. And driving away from the mountain yesterday, it was truly inspirational to see what we had accomplished.
Since you do not know, we left Barufa Camp at about 6 AM on Sunday and made it up to the Crater rim about 430 PM. I was the first to make it to the top actually. I could see the summit about an hour away, but I knew we were not going yet. Our head guide Minja came to me once he reached the top of the Crater with Erica and asked me if we wanted to summit. By looking at Phil (absolutely miserable), Erica freezing, Tara struggling and tired, even Penny was exhausted and run down, we knew that if we waited till morning it would be a real struggle. So I said let’s do it. That was the moment where Matt tells me he was fighting tears the most. I personally was losing my battle. I couldn’t believe it. I was walking so fast (as fast as you can at that altitude) that I almost vomited. Right before we made the summit I called my father to tell him we were going to make it, all of us. I couldn’t even speak due to my tears and the altitude. Then of course, the phone died right when I got off the phone with him, so no one else could call their family, not even Erica (the next day they were able to). We sat up there for about 30 minutes and then headed down, with a bad detour by the guides, but we can laugh about it now. We got stuck out in the cold in the dark, with headlamps, snow and freezing cold for more than an hour which I hear was everyone’s most miserable time, mine as well, at over 18,000 feet which is where we slept. Actually Tara had to bring me my dinner in my tent cause I could not move.
I tell you all this because it is something big that we have done here. Many have sacrificed a lot to get word out there that anything is possible, as long as you just do it. Erica and Tara did it, done. Yes we are in Africa and it is beautiful but once you place yourself on the side of a mountain for over 8 days, that beauty takes a back seat to survival. If you have the resources, please donate at fit4kili.com and your donation will go towards the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
I would also like to thank our sponsors and I hope I can remember them all right now. A lot of the equipment that we used to keep us warm was crucial to our success and these companies I would like to thank right away:
Overstock.com and the C.H.E.K Institute and the Challenged Athletes Foundation for making this dream possible
Mountain Hard Wear - Clothing
Ledge Sports - Backpacks, sleeping bags and tents
Leki - Trekking Poles
AKU - Boots
College Park and Scope - Tara’s Hiking Leg
Colours Wheelchairs - The wheelchair that made the entire trek with not one problem
Zeal Optics - Sunglasses and Goggles
MAGICWheels - The wheels that made the entire trip
Suunto - Watches (So we know where we are)
There are other sponsors that I would like to thank but these are the ones that made it possible on the mountain itself.
OK I am off to lunch. Thank you and please remember to donate.
Well, we actually made it all the way down today and got back to camp about 3pm!
(unfortunately, the rest of Derek’s message was garbled!)
Paul Chek here. I suspect you are as proud and amazed with the Killi Team as I am! What an amazing statement of possibility and personal integrity Erica and Tara have made being the first handicapped females to summit the mountain!
We entered this project with hope that you would all be willing to support a mission that shows all the other handicapped people of the world that there is no need to accept their limitation as a limitation. Tara and Erica certainly could make excuses about why they couldn’t climb even a little mountain, let alone one of the biggest mountains in the world! The entire team have made significant contributions: Derek originated the idea of the charity event; Penny (my beautiful soul-mate) who aided immensely in organization, coaching and motivation; myself who provided hours of assessment and coaching to get everyone in shape; the amazing film crew who gave their services and were brave enough to take the challenge themselves to not only climb Killi, but to film the whole event; And all the sponsors and others that have made donations to help the event take place.
If there is any way you can help us with a donation, we and the challenged athletes foundation would be most grateful! We have amassed thousands of dollars in debt to make the event happen, even after we all gave what we could without putting ourselves at risk. Our dream is to use your support to help cover the costs of the trip and finish the documentary movie with the film crew so we can continue to share the dream of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual independence and freedom with people facing life altering challenges around the world.
We all entered into the project without any expectation of financial gain and with the hopes that the world would share the love with us so we can show everyone how to weave dreams and live them. If you agree with us and are willing to participate in sharing a message of hope and possibility for all people facing real challenges that often alter one’s hopes, we would be very grateful for your support.
This project is one in which we all participate in world-healing. This project is one in which missing legs and damaged spinal cords become opportunities for growth and development, which leads to sharing experiences of possibility with others. Though the team has summited and are on their way down now, we need your help to finish the documentary and get it out to people. As I’m sure you know, this kind of production is expensive, but the message is important.
We thank you from our hearts for sharing in a Hope-Offering for challenged souls all over the world! Thank you so much for clicking on this link and making any donation that leaves your heart warm: http://raceforareason.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=156947&supid=266049966
Love and chi,
Founder, C.H.E.K Institute
Hey Everyone, this is Derek and I wanted to give you an quick update!
We are headed down right now because we summited early Sunday evening instead of Monday morning. We are almost at Barufu Camp, which is about 15,200 ft and we are heading down to Millennium Camp which is right around 13,000 ft. Everything seems to be going well, we are adjusting to the descent. I’ve been helping Erica and helping her to the top of Mt Killimanjaro was a challenge as it is now helping her down - Its moment to moment and it is quite an interesting task for sure!!
Everything seems to be going well so far, Erica and Tara did a great job and really put forth their best effort to surmount the challenges they both face to tackle this mountain. On our way down now, Erica has a bit of a headache and so does Tara - but hopefully those will be going away as we drop in altitude.
We want to thank our sponsors and we are grateful for any donations - We are doing this for Challenged Athletes Foundation. Thank you All!
This is Derek, we summited early last night and caught a sunset from the top of Kilimanjaro! So pretty spectacular! Everyone of us made it - Erica and Tara and the rest of the group - even the ones who were not feeling so well! It was very successful! Stay tuned for more updates - Through the Roof!!
I’m about 18,000 ft. and we just stopped for lunch on our day from Barafu camp to Crater camp, which is our big summit push. It is really hard to breathe at this altitude! Erica is doing well, she is stretching right now, and it is a bit cold today. Tara is doing well too!
The trail has been very rocky and steep, and everyone forgot their air shoes. From here we go to Crater camp about 8oo feet away - a couple more hours of climbing. Crater Camp is 18,802 ft. and we will spend the night and wake up early for the final ascent to the summit! So tomorrow morning we are on our way to the top!
OK - I’ve got to go eat …
Thank you! We’ll keep posting - Wish us Luck!
Barafu Camp 15200 ft
Today we moved from Kibo Hut to Barafu Camp which are at similar altitudes (minus a couple hundred feet), but opposite sides of the mountain. Barafu is our staging point for our big summit push in the morning to Crater Camp, which sits at over 18000 ft.
We actually went down for the beginning of the hike today and then moved over some of the roughest and hardest terrain we have come across. It took us about 8 hours to move camps. We got into Barafu Camp about an hour ago to a hectic scene of porters setting up our tents. Tonight is our first night in tents and we will be for the next three. It is quite cold outside and Erica is having a hard time keeping warm but it should be ok with our bags and tents. Today was a very hard day and I am sure everyone will be sleeping well tonite. Tomorrow is THE day for us, make it tomorrow, make it to the top.
Everyone is dealing with their own demons. Phil has battled a bad case of sun poisoning and with the altitude, that can be rough. He made camp today a lot better than yesterday. Tara seems to be in high spirits but told me she became overwhelmed a few times today, but she is doing well. There is nothing wrong with Penny, ever it seems, she is our rock. Matt, Chris and myself are doing fine and are ready for the day tomorrow. Zack is dealing with exhaustion and a bum leg but his spirit seems high with a ‘Hakuna Matata’ yell every once in a while. Erica had a rough day but again, she is tough. It is cold and keeping her warm is a challenge while she pushes. Penny and I have stayed close to her whenever we can. It is truly inspiring to see her motivation to inspire others.
All in all we are to the point we need to be with little mishaps. It is surreal each time we have seen someone taken down in a stretcher in a rush. Also the faces of those seeing what we are attempting is awesome too.
Stayed tuned, tomorrow is it.
PS Remember we are doing this for Challenged Athletes Foundation so donations are appreciated at fit4kili.com
We are all doing OK in the main - a few headaches, upset stomachs, fatigue and sun burn, but no major issues. Tonight is our first night in a tent and tomorrow we head for Crater Camp at 18,000+ ft. Then to the summit the next day!
I may be out of touch by e-mail and txt for a couple of days but we’ll be calling on the satellite phone from the top!