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Audley client Scott recently travelled with his son and friends to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on a trip planned by Africa Specialist Joanna, all in the name of charity.

The family has long been involved in supporting the Division of Cardiology at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, and they decided to use their adventure to the top of Kilimanjaro as another opportunity to help the hospital.

For every foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro they summited they're raising one dollar, making a final fundraising goal of $19,341.

They told us their tale of the difficult, yet rewarding journey to one of the highest peaks in the world.

At one of the camps on our way to the top

Scott's son and friend resting at a camp 

"Pole Pole"

From our very first steps upon the mountain, our guides from Tanzania Matei and John began teaching us the Swahili mantra for climbing Kilimanjaro –pole pole (pronounced "polay polay"), meaning slowly, slowly. They were upbeat and jovial from the moment we first met them, as were the entire crew who helped us carry the gear up the mountain – including Heaven, our cook.

Our ascent began through a lush rain forest on a well-groomed trail with a hint of rain in the air, and we spent our first night on the mountain well above the clouds.

On the second day, the trail – ever upward – became considerably more difficult, peppered with large stones and small boulders which we wound our way through as the rainforest gave way to an arid scrub landscape. That evening we were again treated to a hot meal in the dining tent, and Heaven received a group hug.

Representing the Childrens Hospital at the top of the mountain

'Representing Lurie Children's Hospital at the top of the mountain

Adjusting to the mountain

 The air had become considerably thinner on the third day, and we hiked – pole pole – in single file placing our boots in the footprint of the one in front of us. Walking now through a rocky terrain on our way to the Lava Tower, which at over 15,000 feet was the highest any of us had been before in our lives. 

On the fourth and fifth days, the trail took us through a series of descents and ascents as our bodies slowly acclimated to the mountain. Always pole pole. By the end of the fifth day, we had once again climbed to well over 15,000 feet and this time camped at Barafu – the “high camp”.

Mount Kilimanjaro

Enjoying the view from the campsite before the summit push

The summit push

The next day, our guides woke us up just before midnight, and we got dressed, packed our backpacks for the day, and donned our head lights to see in the darkness; Our summit push had begun. The night was inky black, but the stars were amazing brilliant in the cold air. Again we hiked; slow slow in a single file line ever upward in the bubble of light from our headlights.

Matei and John were well experienced, each having summited Kilimanjaro 75 and 69 times, respectively. They periodically stopped us to rest, and the temperatures slowly became colder and colder. Everyone was doing great, and we began to notice snow along the trail.

at the top

The view from the top

19,341 feet

As we crested the mountain at Stella Point, we were greeted by a spectacular sunrise and hot ginger-tea from our guides. We continued our hike along the rim of the crater, pole pole, continuing to climb and finally arriving at the summit, Uhuru Peak at 19,341 feet. Uhuru is Swahili for freedom.

We reveled in our accomplishment, took lots of photographs, and admired the view from the top of Africa. The air was thin and the weather was cold; there are actually glaciers on the summit of Kilimanjaro. After 30 minutes or so, we began our long descent from the mountain. It would take us another two days to descend from our experience of a lifetime, and we enjoyed every step and every memory.

To learn more about the charity or to donate, visit the family's website here.

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