Written by: Haley Goodman, CMC ’17. Haley is a New York native, majoring in International Relations at Claremont McKenna College. She is currently serving as a Kravis Prize Intern at Helen Keller International. She is the International Editor for the student paper the CMC Forum. Some of her other interests include security studies, developmental politics, technology, writing, and the outdoors.

In honor of Helen Keller International’s 100th Anniversary, a team from HKI participated in the END Fund’s Summit to See the END, hiking Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Kilimanjaro or Kili, as it’s informally known, is the highest mountain in Africa and one of the 7 Summits. Members of the HKI team include Kathy Spahn (HKI’s President and CEO), Dick Sandhaus (Kathy’s husband), Henry Barkhorn (HKI Board Member), Randy Belcher (HKI Board Member), and Rico.

The climb commenced on July 11th and finished on July 19th. Kathy and her team took the Machame route to the summit and reached the summit on July 17th. Dick took pictures along the way, which can be found at the bottom of this interview.

This is the second of a two-part interview; you can find the first part of the interview here. In the first interview, I talked with Kathy before her climb about her motivations, her challenges, and how the climb fits into the context of her work at HKI. Now, I’m sitting down with her to discuss how her climb went.

How was the general experience, any big challenges?

It was easier than I thought. Altitude was a main concern of mine but it didn’t really affect me. I had very mild altitude sickness on Day 3, which took the form of a headache and nausea; that was the only time I questioned if I still wanted to climb Kilimanjaro but, I powered through and made it. I’m hesitant to say it was easy — it was “doable” and I tried to take it one day at a time.

How did you feel once you reached the summit? Relief, triumph?

Since we started toward the summit at midnight, there was no real sense of time. I was afraid to ask how much we had left to go, as we were hiking before sunrise in the pitch dark. Then, as the sun started to come up, I saw a glimpse of the rosy horizon over the crater rim which encouraged me to keep going. When I finally saw the summit from the crater rim, which was about 45 minutes before the summit, I threw my arms around the team member next to me and started to cry with excitement and relief.

Would you do something like this in the future, either for yourself or HKI?

Sure! I’m not really sure what it would be — maybe Machu Picchu. One of the things we, me and my husband, have thought about is the Compostela trail in Europe.

What was the toughest part of the climb?

There were two parts that I felt were tough. The night I got my “taste” of altitude sickness was one of them. But the most difficult part was the descent after the summit; even though hiking to the summit was physically challenging, there was motivation to push forward and reach it. It takes three hours down from the summit to reach the base camp for lunch, but then another six hours to get to a safe, low altitude, and we had already been up since midnight hiking. I was exhausted and had no motivation; it took all of my reserve not to sit down and cry as the adrenaline was gone but there was no choice but to keep on going.

Any advice for those who hope to climb Kili in the future?

Altitude is an unknown; you never know how it will affect you. Take Diamox!! I would recommend training as it helps with fitness. For my pre-climb training I went on the treadmill on a high incline with a pack on my back, this definitely helped me throughout the climb – I never felt fitness was an issue.

To learn more and support Kathy and Team HKI: https://www.razoo.com/story/Hki-Kilimanjaro