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How Disabilities Only Increase Determination

How Disabilities Only Increase Determination
 
 

THE MORNING dawned brilliantly fine but frosty outside. It didn’t seem anywhere near as cold as yesterday though thanks to being over two kilometre of altitude lower than where I had been this time yesterday. I was still terribly stiff from yesterday’s forty one kilometre marathon.

Horombo Huts and Mawenzi Peak
Horombo Huts and Mawenzi Peak

The mountain was clearly visible outside in the crisp air. The sun was already up as Jaseri and one of the porters arrived at our hut serving us warm water and tea. Gary told me that he had been up in the very early morning when it was still dark and he had seen tiny flashes of light from head torches along the mountaintop ridge. The glaciers near the top were clearly visible from up here. Mawenzi peak was hazy from being so close to the sun.

The waxing gibbous moon was bright in the sky high over our heads, although nowhere near as bright as it had appeared yesterday morning at the summit.

Pancakes for breakfast
Pancakes for breakfast

We went to the dining tent to have pancakes for breakfast. Yum. It was good to have my appetite back being at a sane altitude now and having expended so much energy yesterday.

After breakfast I returned to the hut to do the final packing up (for the last time thankfully). I saw a small group assembled at one of the nearby huts a bit further up the gully. Then I noticed a large boom microphone. I had a closer look and realised there were a couple of people filming one Japanese lady with long black hair wearing a ghastly yellow green coloured jacket.

Blind climber and documentary team
Blind climber and documentary team

Then they left the hut in procession. The lady who was being filmed held onto another Japanese lady in front of her. Then I realised she was completely blind. It was then that I realised this mountain was a big challenge for everyone, and she wasn’t going to let her blindness stop her from climbing it. I thought good on you for giving this a go.

It seemed a shame though that she was going to the summit of an amazing mountain with absolutely spectacular views and yet she wasn’t going to see any of it. There were ten people in her group, no doubt all supporting her filming the documentary. They left and started their long climb up the mountain. I’m not sure if she ever made it to the top though.

Blind climber and documentary team
Blind climber and documentary team

There was a large Canadian group who had gone up at the same time as us. They were also heading down today. They were camped just below the huts. It turned out that everyone in the group had something “wrong” with them – certainly something that would qualify as a valid medical excuse to not be climbing mountains at all.

One of the men in the group had successfully reached the top of the mountain walking on titanium legs. His real legs ended just below the knee and the rest was just titanium. He had been successful in reaching the top, but was admitting now that his stumps were getting sore.

Candadian group with disabilities
Candadian group with disabilities

I recall growing up in school, being the runt of the litter, the one least likely to grow up doing major feats of endurance on major mountains. Born with a crippling bone condition, leaving my legs deformed after several nasty childhood fractures, would have been the perfect excuse never to embark on such a climb.

In my school days I was the last person you would have considered to be climbing huge mountains. Sadly the reality was that I was one of the only ones doing such physical activity at forty whilst most of my classmates were now well and truly past their physical peaks slowing down into middle age. It appeared that their time had come and gone whilst I was a late bloomer living life to the full at aged forty.

My condition wasn’t that bad though. Having seen the blind Japanese woman, the Canadian man with no legs, and all these other disabled people, not to mention a few seventy plus year old women a few minutes ago, I really was more able bodied than any of them.

Our porters making final preparations
Our porters making final preparations

Then I remembered back to what Sapinggi told me on Mount Kinabalu last year. Climbing a mountain is twenty percent physical, eighty percent mental. It was now that I finally realised that if you do have a strong mind – like the disabled people I had seen today, your disabilities and excuses just don’t stand in the way.

Perhaps it is people who had had hardships and disabilities have not only learnt to overcome them, but through overcoming have developed a will stronger than most other people. That willpower gives people the persistence to climb these mountains.

I discovered there and then that many people do this mountain as a means of overcoming their difficulties, to prove their worth in life. Perhaps subconsciously that is why I felt compelled to conquer this mountain.

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18 August 2011

 

Mount Kilimanjaro

Tanzania

 

3°08'20"S
37°26'19"E
3720m ASL

 

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