Kilimanjaro #1MTClimb4Peace UPDATE

Greetings friends! I wanted to give you a detailed update on the end results of our fundraising climb up Kilimanjaro. Thank you all for following this journey, for supporting our team and me personally! I can’t thank you enough.

We climbed 6 months ago… I still feel like I am reeling from it all. Still processing it all. But I received a wonderful email this week with updated reports on the funds we raised, and the programs those funds are supporting. Most importantly, real women are receiving support, healing and hope through these programs. In a world full of bad news (all day every day it seems), this is GOOD news.

(Note: If you want to read more about our climb, I am going to be filling out the #1MTClimb4Peace page with reports, blogs, articles, etc. Just click the #1MTClimb4Peace tab in the top menu for more!)

Here is a little story to wet your appetite…. from a Congolese woman named Deborah, a survivor of sexual violence:

My name is Deborah Ngorore, I am 26 years old and I have one child born out of rape. I am from Ntamugenga village in Rutshuru territory and I grow cassava and maize to support myself and my child. In February 2015, when I was in the farming place in the process of cultivating, two armed men met me and told me that if I try to shout they will kill me. They both abused me. 

When I got home, I told everything to my husband thinking he would help me, but instead he kicked me out of the house. A few months later, I realized I was pregnant. It really ached to keep a fetus without knowing who the father was. 

During the delivery process I had complications of childbirth. They ended up transferring me to a qualified hospital but it was too late. I unfortunately developed a VVF. During that time, I stayed there as I didn’t have any means to go for medical treatment.

I would later learn through volunteers who were sensitizing the local community that I was in that there was an NGO helping people like me. I did not hesitate to come and see them. May God bless you as you think of the most vulnerable women, as from now on I have recovered my smile. 

Deborah - Photo courtesy of World Relief.
Deborah – Photo courtesy of World Relief.

I have blogged about it in detail on my other website, Please click on the following image to be taken to the site.



10 Things No One Tells You About Climbing Kilimanjaro

This is part of a series of posts about the #1MTclimb4peace charity climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro on March 8, 2016 (International Women’s Day) with One Million Thumbprints. Please click the category #1MTclimb4peace to see all of the posts in the series. 

You remember that MOU? How I make no promises to share anything coherently, linearly, or chronologically from here on out? Ok, just making sure. Let us continue.

**Disclaimer: Below, you will find that I am brutally honest about climbing Kilimanjaro. You may scratch your head and think, “Why would anyone in their right mind want to climb that mountain?” Why, indeed!?! Ha! Although I have no immediate inclination to ever do it again, I wonder if it is like childbirth…. the farther you get from the experience, the less brutal you remember it being?! Who knows. Having said all of this, I am SO glad I was a part of this particular trip and team. We climbed for a myriad of reasons… many of which we had just met face to face in the DRC. We climbed for personal reasons (and walked away changed human beings). We climbed to amplify the voices and the stories of our suffering sisters living in war zones around the world. And getting to the top of that mountain, together, was worth every single, brutal step. Personally, the climb would not have been worth it, without the camaraderie, support and shared purpose and vision of the One Million Thumbprints Climb for Peace team. With them, this experience was truly life changing and actually enjoyable (clearly…. since I just got a tattoo to prove it!). And I have absolutely no regrets. But I still would have appreciated knowing the following 10 (+1) things ahead of time.**



1. #kililips – I woke up on the morning of Day 4 with a lower lip about 5 sizes too big. WHAT THE….? No one told me this would or could happen. I was not mentally prepared. Over the next 3 days, nearly half the team got their own #kililips. We assume it has to do with altitude issues and/or sun exposure??!! No one has yet to adequately explain it to us. But it was a thing. A really uncomfortable and somewhat self conscious thing. (although as soon as you looked around and saw 3 others with lower lips larger than life itself, you didn’t feel quite as self conscious). 12841174_10153390840926497_3601925566592157440_o(a teammate’s actual lip one morning)

2. Diamox  –  the altitude sickness prevention medication, makes you drowsy. So, when the guides suggest taking a double dose of it (relax, its well within the normal dosage of the medication) right before you start the midnight 8+ hour trek up Kilimanjaro, just know that its like taking a Benadryl or two and then putting on all the clothing you have and going out into the pitch darkness and walking at the slowest snail’s pace you can possible go while still moving forward… straight up a mountain. Diamox is good, and I am thankful I took it. Falling asleep, repeatedly, while walking up a cliff in the pitch darkness, was not so good and just a little, teeny, tiny bit terrifying.

3. Toilets – Whatever company you go with… pay the extra money for a toilet tent. It is still primitive. But holy toilets… for those with any gastro issues, after a long day’s trek or on the backside of summit day (i.e. when every muscle and bone in your entire body is screaming in pain), it is pure  luxury  necessity to be able to sit on a toilet rather than squat over a hole.

IMG_1867 IMG_1868

4. #kiliskin – Ok, so you pack and pack and pack everything you can think of that you could possibly need for 6+ days on the mountain. Everything but sunscreen, that is. *smile* Luckily you have 13 other friends who did not make this mistake. So you diligently lather up each morning with the 30-50SPF creams. And you still get fried to a crisp. F R I E D. As in your ears get so burnt they split open. And your lips split and your skin has raging sun blisters. All of which mean that about 5-6 days later, you are a walking reptile, shedding flakes of skin (in all sizes and shapes) everywhere you go, and especially on all of your clothing. For those of us whose go-to mountain uniform was all black, this was more of a problematic issue. And if you happen to be of Asian descent (as two of my friends on the team are), this will be a potentially traumatic experience as your first and only sunburn/blistering/peeling experience. (i will refrain from posting a photo of this phenomenon – you are welcome.)

5. Distance – So, technically you know how long your trek is. You read all the day-by-day distance and climate zones you will be going through. It sounds exciting and adventurous. At first. But, as in most things, reality doesn’t really translate accurately from projection. No one tells you that you end up walking nearly a half marathon AFTER you summit. Yes, the euphoria of summiting is amazing and fills you will energy and excitement to spare. But the minute you start down the mountain and the pain in your knees, feet, toes, back and lungs kicks in, the euphoria makes a quick exit. All you can think about is getting back to basecamp and either diving in your tent to get horizontal, or collapsing in a chair to get off your feet. So you push it, through the pain (and in my case, through a hail storm!) down the mountain to base camp. Along with a hot cup of tea you are greeted with “Good job! Now repack your backpack and walk down to the next camp… just a few more hours.” And all you want to do is cry.




6. Summit Day – It is horrible. Really, I am just being as honest as I can. I found precious few who would honestly describe the day, so I am going to go there. As stated before, you start the midnight trek exhausted, and then add a dose medication that makes you literally fall asleep on your feet. You have read all about “Pole, pole!” the Swahili phrase, “Slowly, slowly.” But you don’t really understand HOW slowly until summit day. I mean, you have gone pretty freaking pole on the previous days (some of which you are thankful for, some of which you think is crazy). But summit pole is a whole different animal. I don’t think I can adequately describe how pole you go… just imagine the slowest you can possibly move and then know that it is slower than that. I don’t say this to knock the system or the guides. Our guides got all 15 of us up that mountain, so I have faith in their methods. I just wasn’t mentally prepared. Because of how slow you are moving, how dark it is and drowsy you are, you actually fall asleep walking. Over and over and over. It was terrifying once we got to the steep switchbacks. Terrifying. And mentally very hard to deal with. I just kept thinking, “This is the most miserable I have ever felt…” When you summit, all becomes well again in your soul. Euphoria. Adrenaline. Tears. All good things. And then you start down. And the pain kicks in. I didn’t have knee problems until coming down the mountain. My feet and toes and knees and quads and back and shoulders were screaming in pain. UTTER MISERY. And those last “few hours” walking to the next camp down the mountain were the hardest few hours of the whole trip (in my experience). I wish someone could have recorded me walking into our camp on summit day night (not base camp, the next one down)… I was close to crawling because my legs and feet hurt so badly. I literally could barely move. I collapsed into my tent, skipped dinner, grumbled and complained to my tent mate for some time and nearly cried myself to sleep. We started climbing that day at midnight. I did not collapse into my tent until almost 8pm that night. There were about 3 stops during the day for anything more than 5 minutes. Brutal. Utterly, completely miserable and brutal. (but worth it, remember?) Oh and guess what? You have to walk 12 more miles the next day…. This news will make you cry. Or scream. Or hit someone.IMG_6350

7. Sleep – So, guess what? You can’t take sleep aids on the mountain. No benadryl, ambien, xanax, or anything. This was a real issue for many of us on the trek. You know how much energy you will need day to day, and you know you need precious sleep and rest. But sleeping on the hard ground in a tent isn’t something your bad self is used to…. thus, there will be a lot of sleeplessness. I can’t speak for the whole team, but I felt that in the end, people got what they needed, even if it didn’t seem like it. There was much angst in the beginning over the lack of sleep, but towards the end of the journey your body just takes over. When I literally collapsed into my tent on summit day night, I started to cry thinking about having to get up at 6 am and walk another 12 miles to get to our vehicle that would take us back to our hotel (and a bathtub). I thought it would be literally impossible, physically, considering how much pain I was in. But sleep, although fleeting on the mountain, is incredibly healing. I can’t tell you the amount of times someone was sick, spent, in bad shape and a nap or a night of sleep seemed to restore health to their muscles, hearts and minds. I know it did for me. I woke up on Day 6 and although sore, wasn’t in screaming pain. It also helped that the walk was a beautiful trek through the Tanzanian countryside. Trust the process. Sleep will come when you need it…. and it will heal you in ways you never expected.

8. #kilitoes – So, many of us have come home with toe…. issues. Some are classic “marathon toes”, but some of us have some mystery issues with our toes. Mostly the right toes. I have yet to figure this out, but the fact that several on the team are experiencing this makes me think you need to know about it. Personally, it’s the toe next to my right big toe. It doesn’t hurt, there is no pain. There is also no feeling. But I can feel it when I touch it. Weird? Crazy? Yes. One teammate described it as feeling “detached from my body.” Yes. That. Just felt like you should know you might have weird toe feelings (or lack of feelings) after the climb. Knowledge is power. IMG_1869(my toes on day 1 of the climb. again, because i want you to come back and read this blog, i will refrain from posting post-climb toes. you are welcome.)

9. Climate – I researched as much as I possibly could about the weather on Kili. And the overwhelming response was “It is unpredictable. Be prepared.” I am here to testify to this fact. We came prepared for it to be so cold we couldn’t see straight. It was not. We had mostly clear blue skies and sun for most of the trek (which also contributed to #4 above). Some clouds and a few drops of rain came in and out a few times, but nothing sustainable or more than just a few minutes. Until summit day. We all summited Gilman’s Point in perfect clear blue skies and relative warmth. I summited with nothing but one Under Armor cold gear base layer shirt on. But 2 hours later, just as we were approaching the Uhuru Peak summit, the clouds has rolled in. And with them hail, snow and rain… for hours. I walked down the mountain in a whiteout… fog, hail, snow. It was crazy. By the time we started walking to the next camp, though, it was clear blue skies again. And the day after we got back to our hotel (day after the trek ended), it rained for 2 solid days. We looked up at Kilimanjaro as we left Tanzania and it was covered with a distinct layer of white. It is truly, truly unpredictable. Good luck with that. IMG_2349 IMG_2376 IMG_2434 IMG_2600 IMG_2590 (these 5 images were from day 3 on the trek) IMG_9308 IMG_9369(first summit and 3rd summit 2 hours apart) IMG_9259 IMG_6414 (standing on top of the world and then coming down the mountain in a white out – 2.5 hours apart. also, it looks like a level, straight road ahead. not so. it is nearly straight down, just doesn’t show up in the image.)

10. Landscape – Ok, there are endless images of Kilimanjaro and the treks and various routes. You see all of this. But do you really SEE that you are actually walking across MARS? Because that is exactly what it feels like from Day 4 on. There is nothing. No vegetation. Just dirt and scree. You see all of this, but it does not compute in your brain until you are walking, for hours and hours, across no-man’s land and you feel like you are on an alien planet. I tell you this because in my past experience, hiking treks were always full of beauty…. you know, like hiking in the Rockies in Colorado, or the Pacific Northwest or the Alps. There is beauty everywhere… at every turn, vista and lookout. NOT SO ON KILI. I think that is one of the reasons summit day is so hard… you are summiting a mountain on Mars. The only beauty you see is when that precious sun emerges and warms you up (soul and body) and you see the clouds below. But other than that, its lots of dirt and rocks. Just be prepared. The first and last days of the trek are breathtaking in the rainforest and low alpine zones, which is a very redeeming fact on the tail end of a Kilimanjaro trek. IMG_9245 IMG_2857

11. Guides – No one tells you how amazing they really are. No one. Sure you can read the reviews and such, but if you luck out and get the kind of guides we had, you will be blown away at the quality of care and the work they put in on your behalf (meaning you personally, as well as your team as a whole). They get to know you by name, early on. They watch and learn about your health and how you are adjusting to the climb. They are like walking therapists when you find you think you can’t do something they have come to believe you can do. They whisper strength and encouragement into your ear (and soul) when you need it the most. When they tell you they will get you up and down the mountain safely, they will. And they do.  Pick a good company. Do your research. And trust your guides. Pay them well. Talk about them afterwards. We could not be more thrilled with our experience with The Africa Walking Company (search tripadvisor or google for reviews. We booked them through Africa Travel Resource). IMG_2603 IMG_9400 IMG_9486 IMG_1842 (From the top: Abraham – lead guide, AWC group, Asha – amazing cook, Lucy – assistant guide)



What did I miss? What threw you for a loop? Would love to hear your experiences in the comments. 

Coming soon…. “Packing List for WOMEN climbing Kili”, and “Top 10 things/gear/gadgets that got me up and down the mountain successfully.” And eventually…. the actual day by day climb. 🙂

UHURU – an epiphany at 19,341 feet

This is part of a series of posts about the #1MTclimb4peace charity climb and my #MPC2016 challenge up Mt. Kilimanjaro on March 8, 2016 (International Women’s Day) with One Million Thumbprints. Please click the hashtag #1MTclimb4peace to see all of the posts in the series. 

As most of you know by now (and by most, I mean the wonderful 7 of you who subscribe to this blog 🙂 ), our whole team summited Mt. Kilimanjaro on March 8, 2016. Statistically, 3 of us were not supposed to make it for one reason or another. We beat the odds, and all 15 summited Kili at the Gilman’s Point summit (with some truly incredible stories to boot!). There are 3 summits along the rim of the top of the mountain. Some paths take you to Gilman’s Point first, others to Stella’s Point and the last summit is called Uhuru Peak.



I did not know what Uhuru meant when I stood in front of the sign at the peak. A group of 6 of us had continued along the trail past Gilman’s to try to make it to Uhuru before bad weather came in. As soon as the sign was in sight, our guide said, “Go ahead and run if you want… no more pole pole.” I literally ran to the sign. I was euphoric. My heart was about to beat out of my chest, but I was giddy with excitement. We all took our photos, cried, hugged and just a few minutes later  our guide said, “Sorry, we have to go now, the storm has come.” And we booked it down the mountain in a complete white out (hail, rain, snow, fog). But that is a story for another post…




(when I ran to the sign and took a selfie because no one else was there to take the photo yet 🙂 )

It wasn’t until the next day, our last day on the trek that I found out what the Swahili word Uhuru means.


Have you ever had an experience where a word or phrase jumped out and just grabbed you at a soul level? Perhaps you pick a word each year and it really defines your journey for that time… Perhaps something happens and that word or phrase helps you hold on when life seems to be crumbling around you.


This was my word.

Personally, climbing Kilimanjaro was a journey of freedom for me. This whole blog is a testament to that journey.  It has been an intensely personal journey of becoming free FROM some things and free to BECOME something new. This is the beauty of participating in a community like My Peak Challenge, where the challenge to get fit and healthy permeates all parts of our lives… emotional, spiritual, mental, physical.

This past year, I have become free of unhealthy patterns and thoughts (I can’t do it, I am not a runner, I will never finish this, I can’t climb that, I won’t be able to breathe up there), unhealthy beliefs (about faith, God, myself, my purpose). And in the process of getting free from those things, I am becoming something totally new. I am healthier than I have been in years. I have accomplished goals and benchmarks that that old me would have given up on a long time ago. I have pursued dreams and attained them. I have a newfound sense of worth and purpose and calling. I (physically and mentally) can and do hard things for the sake of others. I am now living a legacy that I feel good about leaving my girls. (Please hear my heart… this is not coming from a place of pride or arrogance, but of transformation and deep gratitude for the changes in my life.)


(this was the first drawing I did of the tattoo.)

So, this idea of uhuru, of freedom is deeply personal and meaningful to me.

It also represents the past few years of my social justice journey. About 6-7 years ago, I started learning about human trafficking and slavery. Since then, social justice issues and passion has very much been a part of my life and personal journey… from starting the Do A Little Good website, to hosting fair trade holiday shopping events, so hopping on planes and flying to places like India and the DRC to document and share stories of freedom and hope and dignity in the face of intense suffering.

Climbing Kilimanjaro with One Million Thumbprints was an act of pursuing the freedom of my sisters who live in the war-torn countries of the Congo, South Sudan and Syria/Iraq… freedom from violence, shame, despair. We long to see women around the world free to live with value and purpose, in dignity and in safety. That is why we climbed. For uhuru, for peace. 

When I came home, I realized I wanted to do something that would literally engrave this word, this concept of freedom on myself. So, I engraved it on my skin.

My first tattoo.


Mountains: If you have read this blog from the beginning, you know how much the mountains mean to me. They are one of my happiest of places. Always have been. And it was Sam Heughan’s munro images on Instagram that literally shook me out of my numbing life existance onto this journey of freedom a year ago (almost to the day… April 1). The three peaks are representative of the MPC logo and the role that community has played in my life and transformation over this past year. They are also representative of the 3 loves of my life… my three little girls who are watching me, learning from me.

Uhuru: I drew this word out in my own handwriting, which is way messier and harder to read than the tattoo artist’s handwriting was. But I asked her to trace my handwriting because this journey of freedom is seldom neat and tidy and more often messy and hard to follow.

Rivers: The lines on either side of uhuru represent another happiest of places for me… the river. I grew up on rivers and streams and I would rather be in a river than just about any other body of water. I love the sound, the feel, the look. I love that they are in constant motion, moving with purpose with a destiny in mind. They are refreshing.

I chose to have this put on my wrist so I could look at it each day and remember… Remember the past, the journey, the accomplishments, the adventure (MPC, Kilimanjaro!). Remember where my soul finds rest and peace (mountains and rivers!), and where I have yet to go (more peaks and valleys) on this journey. Remember my calling and purpose (to pursue freedom for myself and others).

Getting the tattoo was actually a deeply spiritual experience. I didn’t expect that. I never thought I would get a tattoo (just never had the desire), but now I can’t imagine not having this symbol on my body.

Again, I am so, so, so incredibly grateful for this experience and journey… all of it. I am so grateful to be on the path I am on now. I am actually excited about life, about the future and all the possibilities it holds. Reminds me of a verse in the Bible that I used to laugh (cynically) about, but that I can actually hold with hope now. Proverbs 31:25:

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
    and she laughs without fear of the future.