10 years after Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro summitWe were chatting with Martina Navratilova this weekend about her Kilimanjaro climb (ok, maybe not chatting, but I asked her about it) and it occurred to me that it has been almost 10 years since we climbed and summited Kili.

While it was a lot of work training and preparing, it was a fabulous experience and we’d do it again. But, more than Kilimanjaro, it is Africa that we fell in love with. Africa is a magical place.

Roaming around the Serengeti, having to stop at times to wait for elephants or giraffes to cross the road, watching lions sleep from 10 feet away, are experiences that last a lifetime. However, it’s the overwhelming kindness of the African people – people who many times were living without running water & proper sanitation – that sticks with you over the decades.

Africa will change your life

When we were preparing for climbing Kilimanjaro 10 years ago, we were invited over to a friend of a friend’s house, who had just returned.

While we were looking at his photos, he said, “Africa will change your life.” We mumbled something like, “I’m sure it will,” thinking, yeah right, we’re just going to go climb a mountain.

Looking back, he had that spot on.

How Kilimanjaro and Africa has changed us in the last 10 years

When we came back from Africa, we decided we probably needed to stay state-side a bit more.

We’d spent the previous years traveling internationally extensively (we had to get extra pages for our passports), our parents were aging and we figured we’d hang around the U.S. for a while. From collecting African art, to naming our dogs Moshi (a town at the foot of Kilimanjaro) and Kibo (the peak you summit), Africa continued to change our lives after our return. But, with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the African culture, and its people, it is nearly impossible to not want to help where help is desperately needed.

Let’s start with the Kilimanjaro glaciers

According to the National Academy of Sciences, of the ice cover present on Kilimanjaro in 1912, 85% has disappeared and 26% of that present in 2000 (2 years before we climbed) is now gone.

If current climatological conditions are sustained, the ice fields atop Kilimanjaro and on its flanks will likely disappear within several decades. Climate change is also blamed for the severe droughts that have hit Eastern Africa. As the rivers dry up, so do fishing, irrigation, and electricity. No water, no life – and Tanzania is just an example. Climate change is affecting the entire world.

So what do you do?

We stopped buying bottled water years ago and refill Nalgenes with tap water and keep them in the fridge.

We have replaced our light bulbs with LED bulbs.

We reduced our living footprint drastically and strive to also reduce our carbon footprint.  When we are in Aspen, we rarely drive – we either take the bus or walk.

Challenge21We find people who are working to make a true difference, like Jake Norton and Wende Valentine with Challenge21, and we help where can.

It all may be a grain of sand in a desert of need, but it is something we all can do.