Climbing Kilimanjaro for the Kids: Climb Up So Kids Can Grow Up

Climb Up Kilimanjaro is a unique fundraising event that pairs an athletic challenge to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania with the goal of helping African children with AIDS. Created for serious hikers and trekkers by the American Foundation for Children with AIDS (AFCA), Climb Up Kilimanjaro is an expedition of a life time.

Darn Tough Vermont is proud to support this effort.

What follows is a synopsis of the final push for the summit by Tanya Weaver, Executive Director of the American Foundation for Children with AIDS. Enjoy!

Why we did it!

It is not so late – perhaps only 6pm, but it is cold. Like, really, really cold.  I find myself shivering as I look for something comfortable to wear now that I’ve managed to wash my hair in only one cup of water.  Who knew that was even possible?  Thank  goodness for short hair!  But, now that my hair is wet, I am cold.  So, with my handy headlamp on, I fumble in my bag, looking for what I know will help me.  Out comes my awesome Polarmax shirts and pants, followed by my favorite socks of all time –my Darn Tough socks.  I put these thick Merino wool socks on top of some liners and immediately started to feel warmer.  I tuck myself into my sleeping bag to read a bit before hitting the sack (literally), but before I knew it, it was 11 p.m. and a voice is calling through the tent door, “Tanya, it is time to get up…we ascend tonight”.

With a feeling of anticipation and with my contacts practically stuck to my eyeballs, I make my way out of the tent, not believing the stars above me.  It is dizzying seeing so many stars!  It is wonderful, though. We are about to embark on the last push to the top of Kilimanjaro and I just can’t wait. It is something I dreamed of doing at 16 and here it is, finally my turn to make it to the top. After a cup of tea, a light dinner, and a cup of hot chocolate, my team and I are ready to make a move. It is dark. It is a bit intimidating as I look up and up and up and all I can see is tiny headlamps which look like the lights on a Christmas tree.  They climb and climb above me and I decide not to look up anymore. Instead, I decide this is the night I need to listen to music, so I pop my ear pieces in and soon, I am climbing to the rhythm of favorite songs.

The climb goes on forever, it seems.  In the dark it is hard to know how long time has gone by.  As we stop for a quick break (3 minutes…no more…they don’t want us to get hypothermia), I ask my team mates if they are warm.  Everyone grunts or shakes a head to say that they are fine.  Someone offers, “I cannot believe that my feet are still warm!” While my hands needed a quick rub from the porters because I quit feeling them, my feet are doing well.  Three minutes are up…time to move again.  We follow this pattern for hours.  Finally, finally – the sun comes up and I find myself grinning like an idiot behind my balaklava because we are standing above the sunrise.  Clouds are beneath us and the sun makes its presence known.  We feel warm, not because the sun is hot (it is not), but because we know we are going to make it.  We know we are almost there.

And sure enough…another hard push or two, and we make it to the top.  The glorious view is there to be touched.  The silence of gratitude to all who helped us make it engulfs us.  Then, the celebration starts in my toes and makes its way to my belly and then to my lips and I want to sing.  What a journey it has been!  What an adventure.  What started a year ago with fundraising, planning and exercising has become a memory I’ll keep forever.  My team is amazing…I love every woman on that team for what they did for our kids, for what they continue to do and for the lives they changed.  All because they got up one morning and said “I can climb a mountain to help someone else”.  And, we did it.

38,000+ feet. 14 women. 0 blisters. 0 cold feet (I asked). Thousands of children helped. The trip of a lifetime.

Thanks a million, Darn Tough!  We hope you will always outfit our teams!

-Tanya Weaver, Executive Director of the American Foundation for Children with AIDS

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