By on December 1, 2010 in Historical Figures, Kilimanjaro

High Achiever

During a recent keynote speech former president Bill Clinton said that he’s nowhere near the point of slowing down his hectic pace and his desire for high achievement. Despite well-publicized health issues over the last decade, he said he wants to live long enough to see his grandchildren, run a marathon and most surprisingly, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Regardless of what anyone says of his accomplishments, Bill Clinton has clearly always been a high achiever. For him to climb Kilimanjaro would be a fitting addition to his portfolio of accomplishments.

Mt. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest freestanding mountain in the world. Composed of three distinct volcanoes with two of the peaks capped with snow, it is truly a special place in this world and a unique challenge for those who wish to climb it. In 1998, ex-president Jimmy Carter climbed the mountain, but failed to reach the summit. Our own Eddie Frank met him in the process. You can be sure that with Clinton’s competitive nature, he would love to be the first former President to make it to Kilimanjaro’s summit. In recent years, Kilimanjaro has received plenty of extra attention in the media as the mountain’s glaciers have almost completely receded. Clinton has stated that he would like to witness them up close before they are gone forever. On Tusker’s climbs, Eddie Frank – silly as it may seem – always has his clients “kiss the last of the glaciers goodbye.”

Clinton’s Kili Connection

Bill Clinton also has a special connection to the mountain. In 1997, he granted a wish to a 16-year old boy with lymphoma through the Make-A-Wish Foundation – a charity that fulfills wishes of children around the world who are living with life-threatening illnesses. The boy’s name was “Yoni” Dotan, and his dream was to meet Clinton. Avi Bar-Aharon, founder of Make-A-Wish Foundation-Israel, made the meeting possible. Usually these non-business meetings only last 20 minutes or so, but Clinton and Yoni got along so well that they hung out for a long while and remain friends to this day. The great news was that 8 years later at the age of 24, Yoni’s lymphoma was in remission. Furthermore, he had become the international spokesman for Make-A-Wish Foundation. At the request of Bar-Aharon, Tusker Trail organized a 23-person fundraising climb for the foundation and Yoni was one of those climbers. In fact, Tusker Trail has run seven fundraising climbs for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Yoni invited Clinton to join him, but he was unable to make the trip at the time (see Clinton’s letter to Yoni). Yoni made it to the summit, from which he spoke to Clinton who congratulated him on his accomplishment. It’s easy to see why Clinton’s connection to the Make-a-Wish Foundation — and to Kilimanjaro, are so strong.

Historically, Clinton has shown that he is not a man who lacks motivation in pursuing his goals. But he is a person who at times in his life seems to have not taken his health seriously. Though Kilimanjaro is a non-technical climb, there is a high degree of fitness and intense discipline that is required to safely undertake the challenge.

It’s an issue that certainly makes us ask the question “Is the former president up to the challenge?”

Burgers & Bypasses

Back in 2001 when Clinton left office, his cholesterol level was at such an unhealthy level that he was at risk of coronary heart disease.

So it came as little surprise when in 2004, Clinton was forced to undergo quadruple heart bypass surgery. The former president admitted that the surgery was a result of poor dietary choices and a lack of exercise. His heart trouble was a wake up call that got him to reevaluate his eating habits and lifestyle. After the successful operation, Clinton established a more healthy diet and exercise regimen.

Clearly, with ambitions as lofty as climbing Kilimanjaro, Clinton must feel fairly confident that he’s physically up to the task. But for someone with past health concerns like his, Clinton needs to make sure he’s climbing with the best support team on the mountain.

Teaming with Tusker

If Bill Clinton, or anyone for that matter, wants to ascend the slopes of Kilimanjaro with the most experienced and safety conscious professionals on the mountain, then Tusker Trail is the only choice.

Tusker’s owner Eddie Frank has taken incredible steps to ensure that his clients are safe on the mountain. Thanks to the highly specialized medical training each guide receives including training specific to high-altitude climbing, Tusker is “Physician Approved”. Tusker has partnered with some of the world’s foremost wilderness doctors – medical professionals who have climbed with Tusker and witnessed first hand how their guides operate in the field. Unanimously, they have said that Tusker is a top-notch operation that sets a world-class standard for high-altitude trekking. Michael Callahan (MD, DTM & H, MSPH), a physician who works with CIMIT/Massachusetts General Hospital, among other organizations, says “Tusker guides are distinguished from all others in the mountaineering world by their training as High Altitude First Responders.” Bill Clinton may have a 24/7 Secret Service detail to protect him, but when climbing Kilimanjaro, he needs nothing short of Tusker Trail’s 34 years of Kilimanjaro expertise.

It would be fitting that Mr. Clinton, Yoni Dotan and Tusker Trail join forces in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a massively successful charity climb that will garner international attention and go a long way towards supporting this incredible cause.

Up in the Air

Clinton has so far made no indication as to when he plans to climb. Clinton is 64 years old and while people his age (and much older!) climb Kilimanjaro successfully, the physical capabilities of the body do begin to rapidly change right around his age. Clinton’s best bet is to climb soon. By doing so he’d realize his dream of “kissing the disappearing glaciers”, as well has help raise funds for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Since leaving office, Clinton’s star has hardly faded. He is socially and environmentally active and he has a strong presence in the international community.

Tusker Trail challenges former President Clinton to walk his talk and trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro with Yoni — not only for himself, but also for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Not only would this fulfill his personal dream, but it would do the same for numerous “Wish” children around the globe.

Co-Founder of Make-A-Wish Israel and International Board Member Denise Bar-Aharon wrote President Clinton this month encouraging him to fulfill his dream of climbing Mt. Kili for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.


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