Climbing Kilimanjaro

post date: May 31, 2008


That awesome mountain in the photograph is Kilimanjaro, tallest peak on the African continent. I have a particular interest in this mountain because one of my sons, two of my brothers, and a sister-in-law and two nieces will soon be climbing it. As I write these words all of them are en route to the great mountain.

It all started a year ago when Alan and Andy (two of my brothers) and I went to Oxford to watch a basketball game. While we were there Andy said he was thinking about climbing Kilimanjaro and why didn’t we go with him? I thought he was kidding. But he wasn’t. Andy can be obsessive about some things. When he gets an idea in his mind, he just won’t let it go. Somehow he talked Alan into joining him on this great quest. So 10 months ago they began researching companies (there are many) that lead groups of hardy hikers to the summit of Kilimanjaro. I think Andy watched every National Geographic special ever made about Africa. I knew Alan was serious when he started working out with a personal trainer last fall. Then he talked Nick into going with them. Oh, I forgot to mention that Andy is doing this in honor of Megan’s recent graduation from the University of Mississippi. Andy decreed (is that the right word?) that his wife Betty should go and that Kathleen (an undergraduate at Wake Forest) should go too. Andy is into running and hiking and stuff like that, the girls are athletes, and Betty plays tennis so I think they were all in good shape anyway and now they are in better shape. Besides going to the gym four times a week, Alan has been hiking with a backpack on the Natchez Trace. And Nick has been working out in Birmingham. I know about all of this because Alan has been talking about it pretty much nonstop since January.

Kilimanjaro is one of the famed "seven summits" that climbers like to conquer. Andy chose the longest route, the one that starts in the rain forest. They will go from 90+ degrees at the bottom to 15 degrees at the top. It will take them nine days to climb the mountain once they start, they spend two hours at the summit, and they will come all the way down in one long day. They will also go that whole time without taking a shower.

We are very proud of all of them because it is a huge commitment and one that is not without its dangers. Certainly it is no easy thing to climb to the top of a mountain like Kilimanjaro. This morning we hugged Nick and prayed for him and Alan and the rest of the crew that God would give them journey mercies, good health, no accidents, and that they would make it to the top, back to the bottom, and them safely back home again. Thus fortified with prayer, they went off to follow in the steps of Columbus, Magellan, De Soto, Edmund Hillary, and many others who set out to prove they could do something amazing while the rest of us sit at home watching TV. Bon voyage, and happy climbing.

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