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Above the Clouds

By Laura Davis | Mon Nov 02 2015
It’s been on my list for 17 years to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. From October 17 to 24, 2015, Matt and I left the world of cellphones, emails, computers, internal team and portfolio board meetings behind to challenge ourselves in a different way.
The 55-mile hike might be classified as little more than an extended “walk”, except for one major exception: the elevation change. But living in Addis Ababa, at 2,356 meters (7,730 feet), certainly helped prepare us for this adventure. We spent the first night at an elevation we were used to and went slowly up from there. After about 3,700 meters (12,000 feet), we were mostly above the clouds for the remainder of our trek. I love clouds, and it was mesmerizing to watch the weather change beneath us, and the fog and cloudbanks roll up the mountainside throughout each day. Basecamp was at 4,750 meters (15,520 feet) and at about 12:20 AM on Wednesday night, we started our final ascent.
We left later than the other groups, but somehow our guides got us to the top first. Slowly placing one foot ahead of the other, with the oxygen getting thinner and thinner with every step, we made it to Stella’s point and then the grand finale, Uhuru Peak at 5,895 meters (19,340 feet), just as the sun cracked the horizon. Our guides timed it perfectly. With a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne to toast the accomplishment and our second wedding anniversary, it was a moment I will never forget.
The trek also allowed ample time to think and journal about what we are doing at RENEW, and it really helped me crystalize and ‘renew’ some of the lessons I have learned after living and working in Ethiopia for almost four years. These are …
  1. You can be very productive when you are offline -
    Being offline for a week allowed us to focus and have productive thoughts and conversations. We had hours to remember, talk and brainstorm about what is and will be in our personal lives and in the work we are doing with the Impact Angel Network in Africa.
  2. Listen to the locals -
    One of our guides had been climbing the mountain for 28 years and the other 17. We went at their recommended hiking pace, we drank water, ate food and rested when they told us to, and we were fine. Our guides had many stories to tell us about Westerners (Mzungus) who thought they could do it better than the guides…and they did not fair so well.
  3. Poly, Poly -
    The term means ‘slowly, slowly’ in Swahili. Doing things slowly is not in our nature in the West, but doing some things slowly may be the difference between a successful and failed summit attempt.
In some regards I would like to think I came down the mountain a different person. Both Matt and I descended with a clarity and vision for a few key areas of our life, the IAN and RENEW.
My advice - don’t wait. If you have those things you’ve always been meaning to do, make a plan and get them done. You will be glad you did.
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