This is for those of you who simply can't abide paragraphs when you're digging for information! It's okay, we're with you, this internet is just filling up with words! So we'll be as brief as possible here:
What are you doing?
We are climbing the seven tallest mountains in East Africa in seven weeks. Yes, this climbing series has never been attempted before and yes we're alternating between very excited and totally freaked out about the prospect! In short, two kids from Minnesota, currently living in New York City, are tagging along for an attempt to achieve 110,069 feet of combined elevation in less than two months.
Where are you going?
We'll climb Mount Nyiragongo (11,382 feet) in Virunga National Park (DRC); Mount Karisimbi (14,787 feet) in Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda); Mount Kenya (17,057 feet) in, you guessed it, Kenya; Mount Stanley (16,762 feet) and Mount Speke (16,042 feet) in the Rwenzori Range of Uganda; and then Mount Meru (14,968) and Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet) in Tanzania! In between we'll be visiting the Maasai Mara, and a handful of safari camps and mountain gorilla preserves. Though Jessica has been on two other reporting trips to Africa this year, Patrick will be a complete greenhorn on this adventure.
Who is going?
Well the important thing to know is that there are some folks on this team who will be quite a bit more experienced than us (we literally just bought our first set of mountaineering boots . . .). In short, we'll be following in the footsteps of Carmen Nibigira, from Burundi, one of the leading advocates for East African Tourism, best known for her development of a digital advocacy tool to link the tourism efforts of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Kenya and ease travel between the five countries. She has received awards and praise from institutions ranging from the United Nations to the World Trade Organization.
Sibusiso Vilane is definitely the star climber on the trip: The first black African to summit Everest, he has gone on to assemble countless other firsts, including being the first black African to climb the Seven Summits of the world and to reach both Poles, together known as the Explorer’s Grand Slam, achieved by only some fifty humans in history. He's an author, a motivational speaker, and world class mountaineer.
And last, but not least, are Carel Verhoef, Sally Grierson, and Ake Lindstrom, our leaders and the reason this is all happening. Together, Carel and Sally have accomplished world firsts many of us wouldn’t even consider, let alone attempt. From assisting the first quadriplegic woman to summit Mount Kilimanjaro to creating the first live broadcast of the great wildebeest migration, Carel and Sally’s lifelong goal is to bring the world to East Africa and vice versa. Seven Summits Africa is their latest effort. Ake is our mountaineering logistics mastermind and Jessica's first introduction to climbing in Africa. He has planned all of our ascents using his experience as the head of Summits Africa, an East African mountaineering company. We will also be joined by Jacque van Tonder, Nora Fourie, and Pieter Fourie, who are the satellite communications team and will be filming and broadcasting our adventures.
Why Are You Doing This? (Or: What is Wrong With You?)
Well, Seven Summits Africa was organized to draw attention to the world class mountaineering and outdoors adventure opportunities across East Africa. We were invited along to spread the word. In short, the logic goes: Among countless other things (like, for instance, being the very cradle of our species), East Africa also hosts amazing national parks, incredible mountain climbing opportunities, amazing communities with histories dating from tens of thousands of years old to literally existing since the beginning of humanity, and the richest biodiversity in the world. The problem being: If people don't show up to experience these riches and feed the economies built around them, they won't be around for much longer. Our hope is to learn that there are a whole lot of reasons for more people to travel to and learn more about East Africa.
No Seriously, Why Would You Do This?
Beyond the grander reasons for this trip are more personal reasons. After a combined thirty years of working as editors, we both found something in the wilds of the world—the mountain tops, the untamed rivers—that we needed in order to come back to our senses. It's our hunch that we're not alone. We think that the fitness industry and outdoors industry isn't doing a great job at promoting accessible adventure across many different groups, so we're also hoping to show people that adventure is more attainable than they think.
And also, well, because we were asked to?
When do you leave?
November 2nd! So if anyone wants to sponsor us, or help us pack, drop a line! Just kidding, we're fine. But if you happen to be an executive at a climbing company: We are ready to go full-Nascar in our sponsorship approach.
How do I learn more?
Well, stay tuned, over the coming weeks; we'll be sending out more information about where you can find us on social media and elsewhere, as much of the trip will be live broadcast to the world thanks to our satellite partners. For now, keep checking out the blog and, if you haven't already, sign up for the newsletter!