Archive for October, 2007

Climbing Blind in Africa

// October 8th, 2007 // No Comments » // Climbing

Recently I went on my third trip to Africa and my third ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro. On the previous two ascents I was able to stand upon the 19,340′ foot summit of Uhuru peak, guiding large groups with members of various abilities and disabilities. On this trip, however, I found a greater joy. The joy was found not in the summit, but in serving a team that would summit without me. This team was made up of 10 students ages 15 to 20, three of these students being totally blind and one having a visual impairment. Eight out of ten of the students made it to the summit, all of the blind and visually impaired students stood atop the roof of Africa.
For me, it was more fun to climb with this team to 18,000′ and then retreat with the two students who were in need of my help, then listen over the radio for the shouts of joy from those who had made the summit including my co-leader Casey who had never been to Africa. I made the decision that the members of the team who were still climbing were all strong and doing well should continue, Casey with them, and make her first summit instead of turning back as had been our protocol. I could have bragged of how I led these students to the summit, as if carrying them, but the truth is they got themselves and each other to the top and can be the ones to brag that they did it without me. Now I can brag on them for their success, and delight in the joy of giving an opportunity to someone else. After all that is what this climb was all about – opportunities.
Some would say it was the hardest thing they had ever done, others that it was a lifetime high – and not just in terms of elevation. My view of our success, was that all came home in good shape having learned the importance of teamwork and reliance on others. As for the team and their view: This is what the students had to say about standing on the Roof of Africa in 2007:
Anna – It was really challenging, but we made it.
Alysha (Blind) – One of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever done.
Brad – The most physically challenging thing I have ever done, but worth everything we had put into it.
Max – The culmination of my being.
Terry (Blind) – I never thought I would have been standing here today!
Kyle (Blind) – It is still hard to believe.
Charlotte – I really wish I had not been too sick to climb, but I am glad the majority was able to make it.
Justin (Visually Impaired) – Indescribable!
Ryan – It is a beautiful but tough mountain. It is a good teacher.
Jill – When the going gets tough, the tough get going and that is what we did this morning on the mountain.
Casey – I am grateful to have had the opportunity to climb such a beautiful Mt with such an amazing group of people, I only wish everyone could have been up there for the summit experience. I am truly inspired.
Eric – I am proud of the efforts that everyone gave today, pushing through the cold night supporting each other like a great team does, pushing themselves to new limits. The way they were going you would never have guessed the mountain is 19,340′ and nearly half of them couldn’t see.
Please look at the daily dispatches which are posted on the global explorers website – www.globalexplorers.org