Why we climb

Why did you climb Kilimanjaro?

This is a question many climbers may be asked in the next few weeks. It was gruelling and the climb tested our physical and emotional limits. Why did we do it?

There may be many reasons, but for everyone, part of the reason will certainly be the charities we raised money for. All climbers were expected to raise $5000.00 for a selected charity. Teams of climbers worked together on the featured charities. In my case, I raised money for Rec Link – a group that opens up recreational opportunities for kids and families in Ottawa inner city neighbourhoods.

Another one of the charities is SOS Children’s Villages, an international organization that works for children in 134 countries around the world. The children SOS works with are at risk due to the loss of parental care. In some cases, these children live in community with a house ‘mother’ who cares for children on a daily basis until they move on to other communities. SOS provides health care, education and a family-centered base for the development of the child.

We had the unique opportunity to visit a SOS community in Arusha once our climb was completed.

This was an important visit. It is rare that climbers get a chance to see what their money does and how their selected charity works. We do this work in the belief that all of our efforts will pay off and that the charity will be able to do a little more good work because of our efforts.

It really brings all this home when we actually get an opportunity to visit one of the projects that is associated with a Dream Mountain charity. I don’t think it matters a great deal where we visit or who we see. We all could have visited some of the neighbourhoods served by Rec Link and we would have heard similar stories.

The important thing to remember is this is why we climbed. It wasn’t for us, it was for others who we had the privilege to support through our fundraising efforts.  Our greatest success came before we ever touched ground in Tanzania.

We achieved something for people who we will never know. We worked as a good team and we raised over $200,000.

This is what counts and this is why we climbed.

Asante sana to our guides and porters on Mt.Kilimanjaro


Over the 8 days of our climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro, asante sana became one of the essential Swahili  phrases we all learned.

Asante sana to all our wonderful guides and porters – all 93 of them.

Our guides and porters all came from Zara Tours, based in Moshi, Tanzania.  (Twitter: https://twitter.com/zaratours)

Zara Tours is managed by Zainab Ansell, a creative and committed social entrepreneur who I wrote about last week.  Zainab employs all the porters and guides and has made a great effort to bring more stability to their lives by creating bank accounts for all employees so that payment for expeditions goes directly into their accounts to assist the families of Zara staff.

The porters carried everything we needed – food, water, much of our gear, tents, toilets – they were a moving village. Every day, they began our day with a hot cup of tea or coffee at our tents. They then supplied us with a great breakfast while filling up our water bottles and water bladders for the day’s climb.

They then broke up camp and scampered way ahead of us to set up camp for lunch and our night stay.

While we carried a small day pack, our porters carried everything else. The life of the climb flowed through them.

We were accompanied each day by our guides who stayed with us, checking on us throughout the day. On summit night, they were the ones who carefully watched us and cajoled us to keep going – slowly polepole. At one point, as we froze during the night ascent of the peak, the guides actually broke out in song and started dancing. I am not a great dancer, but I moved right along with them in order to warm up in the frigid dark.

The guides and porters took care of us.

After hurting my leg on the way down from the summit, several porters looked after me and eventually lighted my way to the next camp – almost in complete darkness. That was a really long day.

When climbers started to struggle down off the mountain after the long summit night, porters alerted to our level of exhaustion dropped what they were doing and climbed up the mountain to meet us and make sure we got down to base camp safely.

They did this because they were so committed to helping us – Canadians unknown to them only a few days ago.

On the last morning as we prepared to descend to the park entrance, everyone gathered to sing and dance in celebration of our collective achievement. We sang and danced with our guides and porters because we had become connected to these incredible people – our lifeline on the climb, our guides to the top.

Asante sana