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7 life lessons learned from climbing

“As a life-long wildlife specialist who has spent the last 13 years tracking and researching the 2 million wildebeest that form East Africa’s greatest wildlife spectacle, the Great Migration, Carel Verhoef is at the coalface of conservation in the region. He will be leading the 7 Summits Africa Challenge team along with top African mountaineer Sibusiso Vilane, who has summited the highest peaks on each of the 7 continents.”

7Summits

A team of 9 mountaineers, environmentalists and journos are climbing 7 African mountains back to back in 7 weeks for 7 causes.  Their over-riding aim is to showcase the adventure tourism opportunities in East Africa because this group of die-hard environmentalists knows that without sustainable tourism there’s no chance of preserving the nature and wildlife of one of the world’s most diverse and achingly beautiful regions.  The team is mixed gender and made up of experienced mountaineers like Sibusiso Vilane, who has the world’s 7 Summits under his belt, and inexperienced climbers alike. They each have their own reasons for undertaking this world-first expedition.

 

The 7 Summits Africa Challenge is a non-profit initiative and has received the support from the tourism and wildlife authorities of five African countries: Uganda, Tanzania, DRC, Kenya, and Rwanda. In fact, the Kenyan tourism minister even climbed Mt Kenya with the team.  The team has just completed their fifth summit, Mt Stanley in Uganda. They will be gorilla trekking over the next few days before they head to Tanzania for the last leg of the expedition, where they will climb Mt Meru and then Africa’s highest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro.
It takes character and grit to climb a mountain – let alone seven back-to-back, like the team of environmentalists, journalists and mountaineers are currently doing as part of 7 Summits Africa Challenge, presented by Great Migration Camps.

 

They’re attempting this world-first to raise awareness of crucial causes that affect the mountains; their people, wildlife and natural environment. Their overall goal is to stimulate sustainable tourism to East Africa, which they believe is the only hope to preserve the nature and wildlife of one of the world’s most diverse and achingly beautiful regions.

The team has just summited mountain number 5 (Mt. Stanley, Uganda) on their epic trek through Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and took a quick time out to share seven life lessons they’ve learned through climbing.

1. Finish well
“Every time you climb a mountain is different. You can never say you’ve done it before…you have to focus on what you’re about to do and hope to achieve. And remember that is not only about getting to the summit; it’s a two-way journey. Save energy for the climb back down.” explains Sibusiso Vilane, legendary South African climber and a member of the exclusive 7 Summits club (made up of mountaineers who have summited the highest peaks on each of the seven continents).

Sibusiso Vilane

2. Trust your team
“A climbing partner is the most important element of a climb; climbing Mt. Kenya with Sibusiso Vilane was an incredible experience. We climbed 14 pitches together and helped each other through the toughest ones. You are there for each other all the way,” says Carel Verhoef, one of the expedition leaders and a director of title sponsor Great Migration Camps.

3. Respect is key
“If one approaches mountains and life in general with a healthy degree of respect – and by that I mean approaching from a slightly humble but sincere and determined position – the probability of success is that much higher. This applies to our relationships not only with the mountain but also with our fellow man and woman,” says Ake Lindstrom, East Africa’s most experienced mountaineer.

Mount Mere

4. Expect the unexpected
“Mountains are like people, with personalities and moods. They are unpredictable no matter how much planning and preparation you’ve done. External factors like weather play their part and can change the experience, while other members of the team and how they are doing affect the group. Then there are internal factors, like how your body is coping at altitude or with the ups and downs. Like life, there are many dynamics and influences that affect any given moment or decision – highs and lows! Keep focused and expect the unexpected to get there,” says mountaineer and retired physiotherapist, Sally Grierson.

Silverback

5. Persevere through hardship
“No matter how difficult the road is we have to keep moving. Quitting halfway will only deprive you of success,” says eight-time Kilimanjaro veteran and East Africa destination specialist, Gabriele Brown.

Serengeti GMC

6. Discover yourself
“Foot by foot, I learn to respect the mountain…admire its beauty and the challenge before me. Mountains push you to discover who you are mentally and physically,” says expedition photographer Thommo Hart.

7. Slow down
“I love climbing mountains because it’s so meditative. When you’re climbing, nothing else in life matters except your next step. In our busy world where it’s constantly go-go-go, being on the mountain reminds you that slowing down and focusing on what matters gives you the best chance of success,” says New York-based journalist, Jessica Flint, who will be writing a book on the 7 Summits Africa Challenge.

bridge

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
Would you like to take on any of these challenges, here is an idea of what it might cost;
1. Mt Nyiragonga – 2 Days / 1 Night |  From $800 pp
2. Mt Karisimbi – 2 Days/1 Night | From $500 pp
3. Mt Kenya – 6 Days/5 Nights | From $2000 pp
4. Rwenzoris: Mt Speke and Mt Stanley – 9 Days /8 Nights | From $2500 pp
5. Mt Meru: 4 Days /3 Nights | From $1500 pp

6. Mt Kilimanjaro 7 Days /6 Nights | From $3000 pp

Rebekah Funk

Rebekah Funk is a Canadian freelance journalist who splits her time (and heart) between Vancouver and Cape Town, South Africa. Her print and broadcast work has been published by The Canadian Press, The Globe and Mail, Wild Card magazine, the International Network of Street Papers, Sure Travel Journey and The Big Issue South Africa.

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