I’m climbing this mountain and making this film because the world doesn’t see me and other people like me. It doesn’t see our potential – only our limitations. As a successful Paralympic athlete I competed in almost complete obscurity—missing the opportunity to represent the possible and to represent those 600 million disabled people in the world (nearly 1 in 10) who are almost completely invisible. I will climb to the top of the highest mountain in Africa to metaphorically shout out, “Notice me. Notice us!”
The documentary film project is about having the courage to expect everything from life and the search to find it. The film cinematically captures my journey to do what many have told me can’t be done - climb to the highest point in Africa and become the first paraplegic to summit Mt Kilimanjaro solely under my own power. The climb is a metaphor for my efforts to bring visibility to the disabled of the world, particularly the disabled in developing countries like Tanzania, where they are hidden away—living shortened lives of darkness and isolation, all because their culture believes they are cursed, that they are useless. For the rare few who venture into the light of day, a world of immobility awaits them, since most paraplegics in these countries lack a way to get around on the trails and dirt roads that connect their villages.
Through the film, which will ask you to see disabled people differently, we will create visibility and opportunity for these 600 million people. Our foundation will donate wheelchairs and handcycles to the disabled of Tanzania, giving them the opportunity of mobility. But the greatest opportunity is for the world to see them differently through the film—to have people see themselves in the disabled—seeing that ability is the courage to expect everything from life and the willingness to pursue it.
It will take me approximately 528,000 revolutions of my pedals to reach the summit. It will also take us approximately $528,000 to make the climb, donate 100 wheelchairs to disabled Tanzanians and then complete the film. We need $1 per revolution from you to change a hundred people’s lives and to shine a light on the needs of 600 million disabled people throughout the world. Together we can make a huge difference. Together, we can change the way that we look at the people of our world -- and that starts with one revolution of the pedals.
Right now, I need your help with the first “Revolution.” We need $50,000 to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and document the journey. Please send me to the top of the mountain so that I can shout for others, and help us create a film that will change the course of history. The downhill will be on me.
To give you an idea of what I will encounter as I climb the mountain, below is a daily description of my journey:
1st Day. Gate to Mandara Hut—Approximately 3000 feet of elevation change and about 7.5 miles in distance. The entire day will be spent in the lush vegetation of the rainforest under the watchful eyes of blue or colobus monkeys. We’ll start on the porters’ road, a not too technical first 2000 feet of vertical unless the rains come. The porters’ road will take me three hours or less, but then the trail becomes rough, rocky, and potentially slippery. The final 1000 feet of vertical will take at least as long as the first 2000. Mandara Hut Elevation: 8,859 feet.
2nd Day. Mandara Hut to Horombo Hut—Approximately 3,300 feet of elevation change and about 9.3 miles of distance. Leaving the forest and entering the heather, we will travel through the mists and the fog. Then the vegetation thins in the moorland. The trail stays rough and rocky with some big steps. The second day will be technical and difficult the whole time. It could rival the summit day for the most challenging. Horombo Hut Elevation: 12,205 feet.
3rd and 4th Days. Horombo Hut to Kibo—3,225 feet of altitude gain. 9.3 miles of distance. Vegetation becomes barren as we move from the moorland to alpine desert. Temperatures can fluctuate from below zero at night to the 90’s by day. We will not have seen any animals since the forest. The first part of the day will be technical and difficult, but there is a slight downhill section as the trail traverses the mountain. The second half is a relatively smooth road to Kibo, the highest hut on the mountain. Elevation: 15,430 feet. We will most likely spend two nights at Kibo to allow our bodies to adjust to the altitude.
Kibo represents the precipice of the summit. Most hikers leave in the middle of the night to summit for sunrise, then return to Horombo. Summit day is the longest and most difficult day.
5th Day Kibo to the Summit—3,910 altitude gain. 3.1 miles of distance. Oxygen content is about half that at sea level. Loose scree covers the steep cone of the volcano. Big boulders guard the rim. There’s no protection from the sun, though arctic conditions mean temperatures plummet from searing heat to bone chilling cold. Altitude will be a huge challenge on this day. I will spend the majority of my time on a winch that allows me to climb a fixed rope. Entering the crater presents the greatest unknown.