The story I am about to tell is not for the weak. This story is very inspiring to me, but I am not going out anytime soon to accomplish the goal one of my friends just reached. Let me introduce you to Sheila Robertson. Probation officer by day and non-famous athlete by night. She has run marathons all over the world. She can cycle from Boulevard Lake to the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre and back. I don’t even drive that far. I won’t tell you her age but she is over 50 and under 55. She is 5-foot-11. She is not built like a gazelle, but she is so fit it is crazy. She inspires me and I hope she inspires you.
When she told me she was going to Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, I just knew it was going to happen. She showed me the rules for the climb. I almost died. I never really thought about it, but there are no toilets on the mountain, so you figure it out. That alone would keep me from climbing the mountain. She had to be prepared for many different climates and many different climbs. The mountain went from rain forest to lava rock to snow. I know it was not easy because she told me about a group that broke her heart. “We were heading up the mountain and we saw a group of four climbers heading back down,” said Robertson. “They were only three hours from the summit. I really felt bad for them. It was heart breaking to watch them descend.”
I asked Sheila about her experience. She admitted the only climb she was going to do for a while was a climb into bed. Every detail she relayed was said with a brilliant smile. “I had the experience of a life time but I will be very honest, if it was not for the guides, we would not have made it,” said Robertson. “They took our blood pressure and measured our oxygen levels every day. It took us seven days to reach the top and they were absolutely wonderful. They set up camp. They cooked for us. They even had a song and dance on the mountain to keep our spirits up and they did bring our spirits up on days that were long and hard. One day one of them carried my backpack for me for a while to give me a rest. It really was amazing.”
How far did Robertson actually climb? It was 5,895 meters for us old folks, 19,340 feet above sea level. Just imagine how hard it is to breathe up there. It is Africa’s highest peak. It is the world’s highest free-standing mountain.
I am so proud of her and I am also inspired by her. This woman sets her goals and reaches them. She has made many friends on her journey. She really lives life and I truly admire that. She also has a kind heart. On this journey she would share food with the African children and leave her shoes behind. She did this because she saw some members of the community that cut old tires and tied them to their feet for shoes.
Robertson had to purchase some special clothing for many climates. She had good hiking shoes. Everything from socks to underwear had to be taken into consideration for such an adventure. “I was glad I had the clothes I brought because we had everything from 30-degree heat to rain and snow,” informed Robertson. Again a problem for me. I can’t even pack my big clothes in one suitcase for a month trip let alone many sets for all climates in one backpack.
Robertson and I have laughed hysterically about her calling this a vacation to Africa. To me it was like the torture trip from hell. On Robertson’s return, it was much less funny. I could see her sense of accomplishment. I could see her smile and a glow from her amazing climb. “The view from the top was amazing and well worth the hard work to get there,” she said. I really could understand and see it in her eyes. She even tears up when she talks about the ones that did not make it.
Thank you Sheila Robertson for an amazing story and for being a friend. Life is really worth living to the fullest. All your friends and family are proud of your accomplishment. Sheila would highly recommend her tour guide group. I myself do not need the information. Really.
This story was originally published in the Saturday, March 23, 2013 edition of The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay, Ontario.