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Pole Pole – To the Roof of Africa

August 20, 2010

Pole, Pole.

One of the 7 Summits shines from camp, photo by Lee Womer

Magical Africa.  The climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro starts in Arusha, Tanzania at a park ranger station with lush plants, HUGE plants actually, red dirt, thatched houses, and lots of climbing porters.  It’s an amazing array of people, large bags of supplies, Range Rovers, chatter, and the start of a summit journey to the Roof of Africa.  Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest free-standing volcano in the world, with the summit at 19,340 feet.

The journey starts in a tropical forest with monkeys chattering away in the trees.  It is typically quite muddy here as it is a rain forest after all.   Kilimanjaro is a unique ascent, as one goes through five different climate zones en route to the summit.  One traverses the mountain as well, while slowly ascending through the altitude.  The porters all tell you:  Pole, Pole which means “slow, slow”.  One really can’t do anything faster anyway!  Your breath is taken away by the beautiful scenery.

My summit day started in the night, as most do, around 11 p.m.  A hot breakfast and off we go.  One is traveling over scree, so sometimes it’s one step up and two steps back.  The climbing porters were sensing our frustration at this seemingly futile attempt to go UP hill as opposed to DOWN hill.  Suddenly, they broke out in hymns, singing in Swahili.  Our focus changed…not from our battles, but to the beautiful songs they were singing…at altitude!  Onward we trudged, to Stella’s Point, then to Uhuru Peak, the Roof of Africa.

The Summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the 2009 Climb to Fight Breast Cancer team

Uhuru means “freedom” in Swahili.  This is what Climb to Fight Breast Cancer participants are climbing for….freedom from cancer, freedom from treatment, freedom from disease…the so-called NED:  No Evidence of Disease.  What an appropriate summit for the climbers and what they are climbing for….will you help with funding NED for those near and dear to our hearts?

(Editor’s note – The 2010 Climb to Fight Breast Cancer Kilimanjaro team summited this week! Congratulations to the climbers and many thanks to the fantastic guides at Alpine Ascents International for guiding all Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Rainier, Baker, Denali, Elbrus, Volcanoes of Mexico and Kilimanjaro teams!).

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