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A First Person Account of a Domain Industry Climb Team's Conquest of Mount Kilimanjaro That Raised Almost $200,000 for Charity

As February was coming to a close a group of domain industry leaders assembled by Gregg McNair (PPX International) and Rick Latona (Latonas.com) was on their way to Africa to attempt to climb Tanzania's majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. They decided to take on this daunting task in an effort to raise funds for The Water School, a non-profit organization that has developed a cost effective water purification program that is saving lives in Africa and other developing nations around the world. More background on the climb, its mission and and those who took part can be found on the climb's official website at Kili2010.com.

We normally send these monthly newsletters out near the end of each month but I decided to let this February issue wait a few days into March so that I could bring you photos and a detailed account of how this adventure went. The short answer is phenomenally well as 26 of the 27 climbers reached the summit of the 19,340-foot mountain, raising almost $200,000 for The Water School from generous donors who sponsored the individual climbers.

Mount Kilimanjaro
Tanzania, Africa

Emily Hale
The Water School

For the full and far more interesting answer, we turned to Water School representative Emily Hale who was on the climb team and kept a detailed journal of the assault on the summit and the subsequent descent - both of which took a heavy toll on the intrepid climbers. From this point forward, I will let Emily's report tell the story in her own words.

Emily Hale: For the climbers, the six-day trek was one of the greatest accomplishments they have ever achieved. On Day One (Monday, March 1) all climbers made their way via van and bus ride up the steep road to the gates at the foot of the mountain.  We were graciously welcomed to the mountain by our leader Godfrey and assistant guide Robert. These two individuals would lead the way through fog, rain, hail and ice for the following six days!  

Accompanying our group were 64 porters to carry tents, food and luggage up the mountain for the climbers. We all discovered very quickly that these porters had more strength and perseverance than all of us combined! Just five minutes into the walk the African skies opened and the rain poured down. Seven hours later and about 18 kilometers down the path, we arrived at the Machame camp site (2,890 meters high), wet and tired

The porters set up camp, with over a dozen sleeping tents, dinner tents and cooking tents. The problem was locating your designated duffel bag of clothes and supplies among the mounds of other bags. Sure enough, one duffel bag, which was shared by two of the climbers, Tessa Holcomb and Kamila Sekiewicz, (both from Sedo.com) had been misplaced and left at the hotel! The two women were quickly outfitted in borrowed clothes and sleeping bags, and arrangements were made to receive their duffel bag the following day. 

The best part of day one came around 7pm when we were presented with a hot meal of delicious soup and vegetables. We all left dinner exhausted and longing for

On Day One, Tessa Holcomb and Kamila Sekiewicz 
reached camp but their duffel bag didn't!

bed. The drop in temperature was surprising, as it dipped below freezing. This made sleeping very difficult for those who were novices at camping in the cold. 

Day two began with a hot breakfast of cream of wheat, eggs, and sausages. The climbers prepared for the day’s hike, filling day packs with water bottles, protein bars and rain gear.  
As the climb resumed,  people began to separate into groups - the individuals who preferred a faster pace lead the way, while those pacing themselves formed their own groups behind. 

The rainforest disappeared and shrubs and moss like bushes covered the ground. Half way through the day everyone met for a hot lunch, which had been set up in the middle of an open area with two large tents. The climb continued after lunch, but the sunny skies were soon replaced by dark clouds and the rain began to pour again. Fortunately, it was a shorter day, only 9 kilometers of hiking until Shira camp at 3,840 meters high. After dinner, fatigue set in and everyone was off to bed after their pulse and oxygen levels had been checked. Temperatures were again well below freezing. 

The day three climb was extremely rocky and climbers learned the importance of carefully placing your steps to avoid slipping or rolling an ankle. 

Climbers navigate through a rock-strewn path on day three.

The 15 kilometer leg on day three was separated by lunch at the highest point, known as Lava Tower, at over 4,600 meters high. We then wound around to Barranco camp which we reached by early evening. This camp was situated in a valley, and oddly enough, climbers were able to find reception for their cell phones if they were standing in just the right position, facing just the right direction, at just the right angle. 

By day three, some people were showing signs of altitude mountain sickness (AMS), and suffered headaches and nausea. A hot supper was well received and worn out climbers quickly situated themselves inside their tents and slept in the frosty temperatures which surrounded them. 

Day four would turn out to be a very long and cold day for some. It would also be the last day before the most important event of the climb – the summit! The first part of the morning was the most challenging. Climbers would test their skills and agility climbing almost straight up what is known as “the Barranco wall”. Every step had to be carefully placed and weighted against the rocks. Looking down would only make matters worse, since the valley was steep and the bottom appeared many meters away. 

The second half of the trek continued after lunch, but seemed never ending. The trails were winding and steep as they wrapped around the mountain side, going up and down at steep inclines. The 15 kilometer day four hike took everyone well into the late afternoon to complete. 

The worst weather conditions also came on day four. As the temperatures dropped, the rain that everyone had been used to transformed into ice pellets which violently cascaded down from the sky. Arriving to Barafu camp by early evening, the tents were covered in ice. By the time everyone arrived it was dark and climbers were reminded that they should get as much rest as possible before attempting to summit in the early hours of day five

Matthias Kaiser & Uzay Kadak 
make their way up the Barranco Wall
on day four of the Kilimanjaro climb.

Being woken in the first hour of day five was shocking to most. The climbers arose from their tents distraught and exhausted from the long day of hiking on day four. Godfrey had informed everyone that the summit attempt would be long and dark. The standard attempt would take about eight hours to reach the summit, Uhuru Peak (5,895 meters), and then the descent would take another few hours. 

There wasn’t much time for breakfast, so instead climbers filled their day packs with protein bars, energy gels and water bottles. Equipped with only day packs and head lamps, at 2am climbers began making their way to the summit. Almost immediately the group was separated by pace and two smaller groups formed, each with a guide and a few porters which would stay nearby in case anyone needed assistance. Nausea, vomiting, headaches and exhaustion were all common symptoms of high altitude. At this point one of the climbers faced severe AMS and was forced to turn around and return to camp. 

Sunrise over Muru peak

Slowly the groups made their way up the snowy peak. Zig zagging across the rocks to make it easier on the body, the scene could be compared to watching a movie in slow motion. The lack of oxygen prevents any kind of speed or exertion in a person’s step. Taking breaks every hundred meters is essential in order to catch one’s breath and regroup from the nausea and headaches. The sunrise over Muru peak in the distance was breath taking and stopped everyone in their tracks for a few minutes. The sunrise meant warmer temperatures were on their way and the heat would help to thaw frozen fingers and toes. 

Conquering the summit took pure willpower and determination for everyone. Sure enough, by the time the sun was beaming down on the mountain, the first group of climbers could see the top. However, the group quickly realized that although the top was in sight, the peak, called “Stella’s Point,” would take another hour of climbing. The snowy trek to the peak was even more draining due to the lower oxygen levels. 

At last, the first team of three, Todd Erhlich, Mick Honan and Emily Hale reached the peak in an astonishing time of five-and-a-half hours! Victory! 

This would be just the beginning as the other 23 climbers made the summit in the following hours of the day, and into the afternoon, scattered into groups of two or three. The only thing which kept most people going was the enthusiasm and encouragement from fellow climbers who had just visited the peak and were making their way back down the mountain. 

The sign on the peak explained it all, congratulating us for reaching the highest point in Africa at 5,895 meters high! Customary pictures with this sign were taken as proof that a climber had reached the summit. After 

Jazmin Carillo (Parked.com) - one of the 26 climbers 
who reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

photos and many hugs with those who had joined the journey to the top, climbers slowly made their way back down. It wasn’t possible to spend much time enjoying your triumph at the peak due to the thin air which caused dizziness and disorientation

Climbers making their way 
back down
from the summit.

The climb back down seemed almost as difficult and much longer. The daylight hours made the mountain appear like an endless path winding down, and the camp would not be in sight until the last few hundred meters. On the way down from the summit we all realized why climbingin the dark was vital to successfully completing the climb: the darkness hid the daunting height of the mountain forcing climbers to focus only on the steps in front of them. 

Those who had first descended from the summit had time to rest and pack their belongings to move camp down the mountain to a site called “Millennium”. The groups were still 

scattered, and it wasn’t until part way through dinner that everyone arrived. The final night on the mountain was quiet and everyone was anxious to begin the final descent the next day and reward themselves with showers and restaurant food!

For almost everyone, day six (Saturday, March 6) had started out like any other; packing and breakfast followed by getting ready for the day’s trek. Unfortunately for one individual, Gregg 

McNair, his feet had been so badly damaged by the previous day's descent from the mountain that he called for help. The option of getting a helicopter was quickly diminished as the price increased more than ten-fold in a matter of hours! The only other option was a wheel barrow like stretcher that he would be affixed to by ropes. 

With Gregg tied to the stretcher, porters quickly pushed it down the mountain, jolting and dislodging Gregg to the point 

This "stretcher" carried an injured Gregg McNair
the balance of the way back down the mountain.

that the stretcher almost flipped over several times. Near the base of the mountain a jeep was able to pick Gregg up, along with a couple others, and drop them off at their final destination, Mweka gate. By this time, most climbers were waiting and the porters and guides said their final farewell with a feast they presented to us. 

A feast and farewell speeches 
awaited the climbers after their 
successful conquest of Kilimanjaro

Speeches were made on behalf of The Water School, congratulating everyone for their success and sponsorships of almost $200,000 donated towards the Climb for Clean Water

By early afternoon, everyone headed back to a local hotel in Moshi. Showers began running, drinks began pouring and a long night of celebrating had just begun! Although the climb had physically ended, the event marked the start of many great things to come for The Water School, and most importantly, thanks to your contribution to the climb, over 20,000 people will have clean water for life!  

One of the best parts is knowing that 100% of your donation is actually being donated, this is thanks to a generous donor who has covered all administration costs for 2010! That means each and every cent is going directly towards implementing the Water School Program, which is proven to protect children and families from death due to consumption of contaminated water.

Thanks again for making the climb a great success!

And we thank Emily for that fabulous first person account of the group's adventure. And by the way, who said it is "A Man's World"? The ladies of Kili 2010 take a back seat to no one

Though the climb is over it is not too late to make a donation to The Water School. The only reason all of those climbers put their bodies on the line is because they knew how much good every single dollar contributed to the cause would do. We congratulate each one of them for their great accomplishment and effort to help less fortunate people in developing nations overcome disease and death that have been spread by waterborne illnesses that the The Water School is working to eradicate.

The Ladies of Kili 2010

Sedo's Kamila Sekiewicz and Tessa Holcomb with some 
of the young students at The Water School in Tanzania.

A Water School donation of just $50 is enough to provide clean water for a family of six people for life. So what are you waiting for!? Donations can be made here.   

*****

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