Gary, an SOS Security Account Manager in Phoenix, Arizona, has always loved the outdoors and has been backpacking since he was 18. He has hiked throughout the southwest, which is an accomplishment itself. However, he had a dream of maybe someday climbing “big” mountains.
Then, Gary turned 60. Instead of thinking about relaxing in the backyard or catching up with old friends, he told his wife that he felt the need to do something truly “epic” while he still could, and again thought of the big mountains. After a few months of researching various ideas, the thought of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro (“the roof of Africa”) began taking shape. After waiting for nearly two years, he decided to move forward and started researching and learning about opportunities. He quickly realized that research alone was not going to get him to the top of this African wonder, which reaches 19,344 feet and is attempted by more than 50,000 adventurers each year. He knew he needed to prepare himself physically. And so, he began nearly four months of rigorous training.
Gary, a former police officer, began hiking 10-20 miles each week. He committed to weekly hikes at elevations of 7,000 – 8,000 ft. and scaling Mount Humphrey (12,633 ft.) in his home state, each month. He poured himself into a rigorous schedule, working to prepare his body for higher altitudes where there would be far less oxygen. He continued to push himself, adding trips to Mt. Whitney (14,505 ft.) in California to his schedule.
Soon, it was departure day. The 23-hour plane ride to Tanzania began on Tuesday, he arrived on a Thursday, and departed from the Stella Maris Hotel early the next morning to begin their adventure. Gary quickly realized that his goal was not solely about him. Instead, he needed to rely on the experience, assistance, and guidance of the 25 guides and climbers that were with him. The team spent six and a half days and averaged 4000 feet of climbing toward the summit. Every minute of the trip was focused on working together since not doing so could be life-threatening.
Although he had put in months of training time by himself, he found that the entire Kilimanjaro experience was centered on the group. There were cooks, water carriers, and porters. While he carried twenty pounds of gear, he relied on the other members to survive. It was this teamwork that ultimately helped Gary reach the top. As the group made their way up the mountain, Miyar Adventures’ cooks prepared healthy, nutritious foods to fuel them. This was essential as they burned an astonishing 10-15,000 calories each day. The hikers slept in sturdy tents and even had private commodes being transported with them.
After climbing seven hours on a windy day in September, he finally reached the summit. He remembers the panoramic view and the biting cold, but the biggest takeaway was not quite what he expected. The climb was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and achieving this dream was something few people do. However, he was most impressed with the importance of the required teamwork.
For eight days, his life was in the hands of the group, far beyond any other previous job or experience he had. Each guide, helper, and climber were a crucial element in this journey. The experience crystalized something for Gary. As he reflected on the experience, he could not help but focus on how many people worked together to make this happen for him. Yes, he did it, but certainly not without the support of so many people, starting with his family. As the Tanzanian government presented the climbers with certificates of achievement, he thought about his career achievements and promotions. Suddenly he realized that along the way, as he advanced, it was the support of his coworkers and leaders that made it happen.
While he felt successful, it is clear now that success only occurs when we support each other.