Reliving Mission Kilimanjaro- The Holy Cross Connection

“Those of us who never dared to be titans but only obedient children, following as loyally as possible the commands of Zeus, or Yahweh, or the State, now find that the commands themselves are in somewhat fluent condition, changing with time. For the circle has been broken,- the mandala of truth. The circle is open and we are sailing on a sea more vast than that of Columbus.”- Joseph Campbell

Mission Kilimanjaro was an initiative that started with a simple idea and evolved through the belief that anything is possible when we are willing to confront personal fears and perceived limitations on the quest to bring a vision to reality. I made the conscious choice to sacrifice everything I had to bring this project to life and I wanted to share the experience and lessons that I learned along the way in hopes that it will empower others to be unafraid to create their own path. I hope you will seek the adventure in creating a life that is authentic to who you are or wish to be in 2012 and I am very thankful to College of The Holy Cross for helping to build my personal foundation! Be Your Own Hero!

*A big thank you to all of our supporters that made this climb a reality by donating and spreading theMission Kilimanjaro message! Below are entries from a personal diary that I kept while taking part in the climb. I apologize that I was unable to post regularly on HolyCross.com during the course of our climb, however, our entire trip was successfully captured on the Mission Kilimanjaro Blog! Please feel free to visit our website to relive the daily posts..

January 4th, 2011 (Day 1)- Mission Kilimanjaro Takes Its First Breath/ Flight to Amsterdam

The process of boarding this flight to Tanzania cannot be put into words. The realization that a simple thought, a simple idea can manifest to the degree that has will forever change the course of my life.

I have realized that I create my reality and the “I AM” statement is the most powerful in the human language. All of my experiences since boarding this plane have been full of serendipity. I read a book called Health & Recovery by David Hawkins that discusses in depth the process of suggestion and how a simple thought or perspective can create the illusory “I”. What are we? What are we capable of? What if we can manifest anything we can imagine if we are conscious of it?

The last two hours of the flight I watched a beautiful film called, Another Earth, written and directed by a Georgetown film grad (Brit Marling) unwilling to forfeit her passion for pursuing film despite starting a career in investment banking. I am very much in awe of her work and feel that the film was one of the most beautiful things I have seen in quite some time! Marling’s work is definitely a much needed medium in the modern film industry! I look forward to meeting her upon my return to the States!

We just landed in Amsterdam and are getting ready for the second stage of our journey to Tanzania. I am excited to experience a new place that I have never seen and am trying my best to savor every moment. I won’t make the mistake of getting caught up in my thoughts and DOING when I should enjoy what I have created. Time to enjoy the work and sacrifice that has brought this dream to reality!

January 5th, 2011 (Day 2)- Second Leg of The Journey/ Amsterdam Layover to Arrival in Tanzania

Travel has been long, however, arriving in Amsterdam was a really worthwhile experience. Over the course of 21 hours of travel I read Health & Recovery by David Hawkins, parts of Joseph Campbell’s biography “Fire In The Mind” by Steve and Robin Larsen, and watched Another Earth.

Sitting on the plane, it was difficult to completely comprehend that Mission Kilimanjaro is a reality (it hasn’t sunk in). It is simply amazing to see a vision formulated in April persevere through all the adversities to breath it’s first breath today.

We arrived in Tanzania around 9pm (Tanzania time, 1pm ET) and the weather was beautiful. As we exited the plane onto the runway, the moon was shining a gentle breeze hit us as we descended down the walkway. We received our visas and loaded into large vans. Kyle and I sat in the back with the windows wide open, looking up at the bright sky on the way to the lodge. It was really a surreal moment to be breathing the cool air in Tanzania beside Kyle. As we got closer to the lodge, Kyle crept close to me and whispered, “Thank you for helping make this happen” in my ear before giving me a fist pound. It is something that will never leave my memory as he and I worked very hard to make this dream come true. I am hopeful that this experience will change the lives of our teammates like it has changed mine. Reach Your Highest Potential!

January 6th, 2011 (Day 3)- Tanzania Packing/ Preparing For Climb

I woke up at 8 am and tried my best to adjust to the 8 hour time difference in Tanzania. I packed up most of my gear and explore the compound. I approached a woman working on the property at the lodge and she agreed to take me outside the gates to interact with local children and members of the community and Moeshi. It was amazing to see the smiles and happiness of children who have nothing. Happiness is a mindset and if Non-Profits could only change their structure to empower Africans to take accountability for their communities through sustainable, entrepreneurial enterprise and rewarding creativity, I believe Africa could be greatly improved. The future of Africa lays in it’s younger generations who hold the key to change.

I spent the afternoon playing with the children in the fields and in the local river before heading back to the lodge to prepare all my gear, pack my day pack, and ready myself for the challenge ahead. I also devised a body weight workout to get my body moving to burn off the stiffness from travel and get ready for the “kickoff’ of our climb tomorrow.

January 7th, 2011 (Day 4)- The Arrival At Machame Gate/ Torrential Down Pours in The Rain Forest

Today was one of the most exciting moments in my life as we anxiously arrived at the Machame Gate and embarked down the trail in stage 1, the Rain Forest. We hiked for 6 1/2 hours through torrential downpours and made good time 1/2 way to Camp 1 at 10,000 ft. We pitched camp around 5:30pm and sat and enjoyed tea as a team (Republic of Tea is an amazing company!)

I sit here tonight writing under the bright skies of a full moon and stars in the rain forest! It is one of the most beautiful places that I have seen despite the heavy rains and mud. I lay a World away in a dream that I envisioned, sometimes not able to comprehend what has been accomplished. What are the limits in this World? I believe this will be one of those key events that will shape the rest of my life. Connect the dots and seek the adventure (Steve Jobs)

January 8th, 2011 (Day 5)- Attack of The Ants/ Stomach Problems/ Cultivating Perspective

Day 5 started out with some difficulty as I had a hard time sleeping and awoke to be attacked by African Ants. Note: Do Not Observe Ants Too Close because they will crawl up your pant legs and destroy you!

The camp was beautiful and we departed on the trail, hiking for 6 1/2 hours before reaching camp 1. I WILL NEVER MAKE FUN OF OR JUDGE MY MOTHER AGAIN when it comes to having intestinal problems while traveling. Having an upset stomach in the Rain Forest is not something I would wish upon my anyone! I will draw strength from this experience and kept pressing on….

My spirits got better getting into camp and I think today was a big HUMP DAY for me. I am confident that things will get better from this point on! Kyle has done tremendously well and I am very proud of him and the rest of the team. Tomorrow will be an eight hour day as we work towards getting halfway to Camp 2 (Shira Plateau) at 11,500ft.

January 9th, 2011 (Day 6th)- Ascent to 11,500ft/ Change of Mindset=Great Day

Day 6 was the first day where I woke up and wasn’t tired. I finally have started to accumulate, allowing myself to be able to sleep! Day 5 definitely was difficult, however, a simple change in mindset helped dramatically. Rather than take pity on myself and play “victim”, I decided to think positively and visualize the way I wanted to feel. Day 6 turned out just the way I envisioned!

We saw some beautiful vies of the cascading mountains as we descended the ridge line. It was a demanding day for Kyle, however, he handled it like a champ! Sandra has been having a difficult time with a virus and will continue to push through as she is tough… We look forward to another long day tomorrow as we hope to reach the Shira Plateau.

Remember:

  1. 1. The Power of Perspective
  2. 2. Alice In Wonderland Setting w/ crazy trees and backdrop
  3. 3. Beautiful views of Moon/Stars cascading upon the summits
  4. 4. “I AM”

Lessons For Future Hiking

  1. Sleeping Pads Are A Must To Stay Warm
  2. Bring Sandals For Damp/Muddy Environments
  3. Bring All In One Body, Hair, and Face Soup
  4. Purchase Down Jacket As Additional Layer
  5. Bring Small Portable Mirror For Shaving
  6. Bring Recharger w/ Batteries For More Efficient Recharging of Equipment
  7. Pack SPF 50 Sunscreen. I burn like a Ginger w/ my Red Beard! haha

January 10th, 2011 (Day 7)- Beautiful Boulder Climb/ Return of Stomach Ailment

Today was simple beautiful as we moved to Camp 2 at the Shira Plateau. Kyle overcame some ridiculous obstacles to ascend to 12,000ft, catching the eye of fellow veteran climbers (Black Hawk Helicopter Pilot) and onlookers. Today wasn’t so great for me personally as my stomach ailment returned at full force with dizziness spells and overall weakness. I would die on the mountain before quitting, however, I could not help but to collapse in my tent once we got to camp as I had nothing left. I am sure things will dissipate and look forward to a good night’s rest tonight.

It was fun to go through “Alice In Wonderland” type terrain again today and ascend above the clouds. Tonight will be frigid as it gets very cold at 12,000ft once the sun sets. It is amazing to experience the temperature swings as I freeze in my tent on a nightly basis! I probably burn at least 500 calories shivering in my tent trying to get warm. Definitely need to figure out some more efficient ways to secure warmth in my sleeping bag. Probably should have packed on some additional pounds before coming on this climb as my body fat has most likely dropped below 5%. We will make our climb to Arrow Glacier and am excited to meet the challenges along the way even if I look like a zombie from the Walking Dead… haha

Create Your Life- “I AM”

January 11th, 2011 (Day Eight) Trip Through The Waste Land With The Plague

Day 8 was probably the worst day of my life physically. Everything I ate I threw up immediately as it ran right through me. I have not been sick in many years and the only thing I can compare it to was when I was real sick as a kid and had to sit next to the toilet for 24 hours, except this time I had to continuously walk for 8 hours.. haha. Nobody said it was going to be easy! Kyle will set a World Record for becoming the first quad amputee to crawl up Kilimanjaro and I believe I will set my own personal record for most times throwing up on the mountain! Hooyah!

I have been put in the quarantine tent and feel like a Leper. I definitely don’t want to compromise the mission by getting one of my teammates sick as I will never forgive myself. I will regain my strength and make it to the summit even if I have to crawl as I know Takashi will like that from a drama perspective in the documentary! haha

January 12th, 2011 (Day 9)- Rest Day/ Overcoming The Bubonic Plague

Slept for most of the day and tried to regain my strength. Washed all the clothes that I had contaminated the day prior and tried to pull myself together by doing small tasks that would keep me away from pitying myself. We have made the difficult decision to attack the Western Breach to minimize the pounding on Kyle. The route will be very dangerous as many people have been killed by rock falls in years past. I hope to be at 70% tomorrow so I can help Kyle in anyway that I can..

Remember: “Out of the ashes rises a phoenix”.. Remember what brought you here when things get tough (Annie and Brad)

Night: The conditions are windy and very cold. I sit here in my tent and the wind is blowing uncontrollably, causing a loud hissing noise. The sky is simply beautiful, you can see every star in the sky from this altitude. The sunset looked as if they clouds were composed of flames and it is awesome to think of the magnificence of our planet. There is so much that we fail to comprehend as we go through our daily lives, stuck in the mundane routine, unwilling to look up at the magnificence of the night sky.

Today, as I went in and out of consciousness from being so sick, I had a chance to think about all of my life experiences which has given me the necessary strength to get through this brutal virus. It was as if I was having lucid dreams during this sickness that has provided clarity when I have needed it most.

To my brother and Annie, through which the Mission Kilimanjaro vision originally spawned, we will reach the summit, taking no shortcuts. We will head up the hardest route on Kili, the Western Breach, that has taken the lives of many climbers. I write this sitting above the clouds, looking down at lightning storms below. I am happy to be alive. As I lay shivering uncontrollably from a fever, I was comforted by Power of Love by Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, and several other hits on a porter’s African radio that brought me back to my childhood when my Mom played the same songs in her bedroom. It sounds ridiculous, but I see the experience as I serendipitous event.

“As long as your willing to keep “getting up in life”, nothing can hold you down for long.”

January 13th, 2011 (Day 10)- Ascent to 16,000ft/ Camp At Arrow Glacier

We hiked today for close to 4 hours up steep terrain that reminded me of a scene from Lord of The Rings. It was very rocky trail that definitely had me sucking air at various points. I am feeling much better and the team morale is good. We are preparing for the 4 toughest days which will make our break our climb. Our camp at Arrow Glacier sits at an elevation that is cold and covered in snow and fog. We will spend the rest of the day today regaining our energy and preparing for the obstacles that lay ahead. I am confident that the entire team will make it to the summit.

Health: Have lost a lot of weight, however, my appetite is returning along with my energy. Hope to avoid further sickness with an enlightened perspective.

Summit in 4 Days: Warm Showers, Good Food, Great Memories. Enjoy the Present!

Night: Sitting at the Crater Rim at Arrow Glacier has been the prettiest thing I have seen to this point in the trip. The sky looking up at the Western Breach is full of starts and an infinity that cannot be described. Below the lights of the city of Moeshi glow through the clouds that hover over the town. I feel like a God on Mt. Olympia.

Remember: Beautiful green light looking up in my tent after listening to Red House Painters, Vanilla Sky, and The Script.

January 14th, 2011 (Day 11) Rest Day At Arrow Glacier/ Reconnaissance Mission/ Final Stage of The Hero Journey (Confronting Death & Rebirth)

I spent today hiking with Chris, Geneva, and Sandra on a little reconnaissance mission on the Western Breach. It was the first time I had seen the terrain personally and it will definitely be difficult for our team. I would be lying if I was to tell you that I am not a little worried.The Western Breach is a steep incline, full of loose rocks/boulders as well as slippery snow fields that dramatically drop off a couple of hundred feet. If one team member slips, everyone will most likely go with them. The climb will be long and tiresome as we will allow Kyle to lead the way to prevent rocks from being kicked down. I think this is the most efficient way for Kyle to summit, however, it is also the most dangerous for the rest of the team. We came here with a specific goal and we will do whatever it takes as a team to make sure we reach the summit. It has been snowing/sleeting all days as if we are in Siberia! The team made the decision at lunch to potentially leave at 3am tonight during the calm winds. We will hike 10-12 hours through the night in hopes of reaching camp at 18,500ft at 3pm the next day. This is weather permitting, however, I will do anything to get out of this waste land at Arrow Glacier where I freeze every night…

This is the last stage of the hero journey where the heroines must confront death for the opportunity of spiritual and physical rebirth. We are ready for the challenges as we are the ones that have created this to start with! Reach Your Highest Potential!

January 14th (Day 12)- Conquering Western Breach Through 12 Hour Hike

The day started early at 2am as we woke up and began our ascent of the Western Breach. I had a hard time sleeping awaiting the climb was ready to go at 10pm. The actual climb was the toughest physical feat of my life as we cheated death several times over 12 hours of steep ascent. The views were amazing and I enjoyed spotting Kyle for most of the climb to ensure his safety. The team performed remarkably well and we entered the base of the summit around 4pm. Finally breaching the steep columns was so so rewarding as we witnessed a lunar type terrain, complete with glaciers! We are so far above the clouds at 18,500 ft. We are so close to our final goal, just a 2 hour climb starting at 4am!

Remember:

  1. How tired you were entering camp at 18,500ft
  2. The beautiful night and sunrise views
  3. How dangerous parts of the climb were
  4. The feeling of bringing a large scale dream to reality (almost)
  5. The Glaciers
  6. The views above the clouds
  7. The “Tree of Life” like lighting at Base Camp (Sunlight)
  8. The difficulty breathing
  9. Willingness not to give into sickness/ adversity
  10. The Power of Compassion and Perspective
  11. How Cold You Were At Arrow Glacier
  12. Eating Outside with Takashi on Lunar Surface
  13. Walking on the crater like an astronaut!

Night: Slept next to our camera crew members, Takashi and David Pergolini, in a three person tent.

January 15th, 2011 (Day 13) The Fulfillment of A Dream/ Reaching The Summit

We woke up at 3:45am and began our ascent of Uhuru Peak. Upon waking, sandwiched between our two camera men, Takashi and David, I couldn’t believe how COLD it was outside. I quickly arranged all of my things and was served a quick breakfast outside of my tent. I spotted Kyle throughout most of the climb and led the team with him as we ascended up a steep snow field to get to the summit. It was truly awesome to see a beautiful sunrise, composed of the most vibrant colors as we made our slow ascent. We left camp at the Crater Rim at 5:15am and arrived at Uhuru peak at 7:15am. January 15th, 2011 will probably be one of the most memorable days of my life.

As if in a movie, when we crested the steep side of the mountain, no one was around and the sun had not yet reached the summit sign as we walked over ash and snow to our final destination. One we reached the sign, we took a lot of great photos, interacted with foreign climbers, and dispersed John Corey Johnson’s ashes in a memorable ceremony, a fitting climax to our climb. We stayed at the summit for nearly an hour and a half! I felt great due to all of the acclimatizing that we did in prior days. We have spent a total of 5 days at above 15,000ft during our climb and slept at 18,500ft. We climbed the toughest route and CONQUERED Mt. Kilimanjaro without any major issues. What is possible in this World? BE YOUR OWN HERO!

After our summit, we gradually made our way to beginning climbing down the mountain, where we were touched by serendipity when we saw friends from the “Freedom Climb” based out of Atlanta. I had the special opportunity to interact with this strong group of ladies on Stone Mountain prior to departing and we were lucky enough to help motivate them on their long climb to the top! It was great to see Susan McCabe and many familiar faces to celebrate with! Kyle elected to make the descend on his own on the first day and did quite well, equipped with a ski googles and coverings over his mouth to prevent ash inhalation.

Remember:

1. View of Sunrise

2. The realization of reaching the summit

3. How Cold you were waking up

January 16th, 2011 (Day 14)- Descend Down Kilimanjaro/ Camp in Damp Conditions

We slept in today and it was the best I have felt in quite some time. We woke up around 7:30am and continued making our descent down Kilimanjaro. The terrain was rough and rocky which tore up my feet and legs (shoes are too small). After a 3 hour descend where Kyle elected to be carried down, we reached camp where we were rewarded with Kilimanjaro Beers. I am not a beer lover, however, it was the best beer I have had to this point in my life.

Remember:

  1. How Hard The Porters Worked
  2. The Power of Perception
  3. Learning to Enjoy The Moment Rather Than Focusing On The Next Thing

January 17th, 2011 (Day 15) Departure Gate/ Impala Hotel

We woke up around 7:30 and began our 2 1/2 hour descend down the final portion of Kilimanjaro. The descend was pretty intense and my legs are fairly sore. Trekking through the final stage of the Rain Forest (Hot and Humid) was rewarded by a massive celebration at the Departure Gate. Kyle was greeted by a massive amount of supporters along with porters who sang African songs. There was live music and many people anxiously trying to sell souvenirs while we ate. Kyle had the opportunity to meet with two kids that had amputations and it was a pretty special moment, especially if the interaction will create a small glimmer of hope in the children. We left for Arusha w/ live music playing in the van and took in all the beautiful coffee fields and scenery over the hour long drive.

Remember: The Feeling Upon Reaching The Gate

Night: I am so happy to have been able to take a hot shower and finally be clean after 2 weeks. The Impala is a beautiful hotel with all the westernized amenities you could ask for. We ate and drank like Kings over a dinner celebration with our porters and Kevin Cherilla. Kevin was a crucial part of the team’s success and I have really enjoyed interacting with him throughout the mission. He was very cordial towards me during the awards ceremony and I am thankful for his kind words.

Later that night, we headed to Arusha and a night club where the team danced and watched “cricket” during a slow Tuesday evening.

Remember:

  1. Rooftop Patio
  2. Westernized shops in Arusha
  3. Showering For the First Time

January 18th, 2011 (Day 16) School For The Disabled in Moeshi

Had a fun night celebrating on the the patio of the Impala Hotel with porters and support staff. After a late night, woke up early and headed to the Mwerni School for the Blind in Moeshi, Tanzania. It was exciting seeing the scenery as we drove for nearly an hour to the school. Upon arriving, we were greeted by the albino children and many of the children dealing with various levels of blindness. Our team is so fortunate to have the opportunities that we do in the US and the experience allowed us to better grasp that concept. Met a really pretty girl by the name of Frita, beautiful blue eyes and smile, that was wonderful to be around.

Our team enjoyed taking tour of the school and the speech the head master gave about “breaking barriers” and “infinite possibilities” was uplifting. I hope that just a few students  can grasp this message in their own individual lives.

Night: Attended Masai camp for dinner and enjoyed meeting two girls from British Columbia as they shared their travel stories.

Remember:

  1. How very little can make one happy. Happy comes from within not from anything external.
  2. How fortunate we are as Americans to have the opportunities that we do
  3. The Power of I AM and delivering this message to young people

Thank you to all of the Holy Cross supporters that helped spread our message and followed our climb!

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