Remember Kerry Twibell? We introduced you to her before the holidays as she was gearing up for her hike to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
We checked in with her to see how the experience went. Interested climbers, take note – Kerry shared a thoughtful recap and some wise words about preparing for the trip. Check out the interview below.
Team Fox: What were some moments from the climb that stand out?
Kerry Twibell: The happiest moments were interacting with all the great people I met and the camaraderie shared by the team and the guides. The friendliness and happiness of the local porters was contagious and every time you passed someone on the trail, you’d say “Jambo” which means “Hello.” Their positive energy really kept you going when the going got tough. Also, as we were ascending on summit day, I saw the sun begin to come up on top of the clouds and over the Shira peak, which is a lower peak that we could see very clearly as we were scaling Kilimanjaro. The sun was such a barrage of colors and warmth that I can’t even explain and it was a feeling that I don’t think I could ever have again. The best way to describe it… it’s the most beautiful sunrise you have ever seen x 1000.
TF: Is there anything about the experience you would have changed?
KT: The only thing I would have changed is that I would have brought more rain gear because it poured for three days straight and none of our clothes were able to dry after they got wet. However, we had an absolutely picture perfect, clear morning at the summit. With the way things worked out, I wouldn’t have traded the rain for anything.
TF: What is the greatest thing you learned?
KT: Mind over matter. It may sound very cliché, but I am convinced that’s how we got the top. We didn’t think about anything but getting there. And there were plenty of reasons not to. I got sick a few times; my team was in pain, feeling tired, etc. Our guides would tell us “pole, pole” which in Swahili means “slow & steady”. This challenge, like all others, was conquered one step at a time. So many brave Parkinson’s patients like my mom take things one step at a time each day. I will take that learning with me through all new challenges I embark on.
TF: You raised more than $10,000 in the three weeks before your departure, and donations are still coming in. Did you have a particular fundraising strategy?
KT: I decided pretty late in the game (only a month before) to do the climb. I decided to fundraise to tell my story of why I am passionate about this cause. I used Facebook, which is a great real time medium, and email. On Facebook, I posted daily status updates with the countdown to the climb and made sure the link to my fundraising page was always visible. And I decided to email everyone - and I mean everyone - in my email address books. I wanted to be very sensitive toward asking for money over the holidays so I asked for a small donation of $10. I was so humbled by the generosity that I experienced – people went well beyond the $10. And so many people were kind enough to support me and the cause. My tips are (1) keep the message simple (2) design your page with Team Fox to tell the details of your story, e.g. why you are fundraising (3) promote promote promote - using a countdown to the event seemed to generate interest from my network. Team Fox makes it very easy for people to donate online and that I think was a huge catalyst for donations. In addition, I think the great reputation of the Foundation made people confident that their money was going to the right place.
TF: Anything else you’d like to share?
KT: Reaching the summit was a true elation; let me tell you, you’re VERY happy when you’re finally there. One of the big milestones toward reaching the summit was when you reach Stella Point at 18,652 ft. after climbing through the night. The incline from Barafu Camp (15,297 ft) to Stella Point is some 3,000 feet; it’s the hardest part of the journey. I remember when we started out from Barafu Camp the only thing you can see aside from the millions of stars in the sky are the headlamps of the other hikers, which themselves look like stars because they seem to be aligned straight up in the air. It takes you a moment to recognize that those lights are moving and they in fact belong to other climbers – AND that seemingly straight vertical ascent is where you are headed! That leg of the journey takes about seven hours and is the most physically and mentally taxing… it takes everything you have inside of you to put one foot in front of the other and you’re moving almost comically slow. You lose perspective on all time and place and all you think about is that with each step you get closer to the top. The thought [of quitting] never entered my mind. I derived strength from my mom, in whose honor I was climbing, and all the people who had supported me with their generosity, prayers and well wishes. I honestly feel that they were behind me helping to push me along towards the summit.
Having that experience, combined with the elation of reaching the summit was quite emotional and I definitely cried tears of pure joy at the accomplishment and also tears of humbleness at those who have summits to overcome daily and how they have the strength to do it.