It was late in the afternoon and I was about to leave the Tusker office when the phone rang. I crossed the room and answered it. Mike Ramsden, an investment advisor with CIBC Wood Gundy in Toronto, was on the other end. “Hey Eddie,” he said. “I just read about the fundraising Kilimanjaro climb which you led for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. How’d you like to lead a climb for Breast Cancer?” He explained that he works for CIBC Wood Gundy, one of the largest investment firms in Canada. Every year CIBC sponsors the RUN FOR THE CURE, which takes place in 59 locations across Canada, and attracts 170,000 runners. Millions of dollars are raised.
Mike wanted to me to guide thirty of his colleagues up Kilimanjaro to raise money and awareness for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. It was to be called THE CLIMB FOR THE CURE.
This was a good thing. I signed up on the spot – as the guide. This was to be my 21st climb up Kilimanjaro. There were many more to come. Mike spread the word about the climb. Within two weeks we had a full contingent of 30 climbers – all from his company, CIBC Wood Gundy. This was going to be fun.
Here’s how we set it up, and how we still do it. All of the climbers paid for the climbing costs and airfare out of their own pockets. Once on board, every climber had to raise a minimum amount established by the group, which was donated directly to the charity. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) set up an easy to use Donation Page, where the group could track the donations. Things were going very well.
I planned to take the group up one of my favorite routes – the Lemosho Route. This is the most spectacular trail up Kilimanjaro, and it allows us to approach the mountain up the rarely traveled western slope. We would experience the entire western and southern faces of the mountain, trekking through five distinct vegetation zones – from Savannah to icecap, under massive basalt walls and towering ancient glaciers. The day before the summit, we would do what few climbers get to do – sleep in the crater at 18,700 ft., just beneath Uhuru Peak, the summit.
I have learned one important lesson in almost five decades of climbing Kilimanjaro – do not even think you are “conquering” a mountain. Kilimanjaro decides whether you stay or go. So I always approach the mountain as I do my mother – gently, kindly, with lots of love and respect. With this type of humility maybe, just maybe, you’ll get to experience the euphoria that I still get at the top, after decades on Kilimanjaro.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is equally a journey within yourself, and one outdoors. It is an equalizer. The mountain doesn’t care if you’re a physician or a fool. Everyone gets the same treatment. All you have to do is climb quietly and slowly – and check your arrogance at the gate. Only then will you be able to “receive” what it is that every climber seeks on the mountain – the journey, the summit, the exaltation and triumph.
The CLIMB FOR THE CURE was a huge success; win-win is an understatement and here’s why: almost the entire group exalted on the summit, raising $245,000 for charity; and I met my beautiful wife Amy on the climb. The CLIMB FOR THE CURE was our third charity fundraising climb, way back in 2004. Since then we have led over 90 fundraising climbs and raised over $12 million.
And best of all, not only did Kilimanjaro bring me my wife, but it taught me another lesson; to treat her as I do Kilimanjaro – gently, kindly, with lots of love and respect.
It was a good thing to do.