KILIMANJARO – THE CHALLENGE
One Journey Leads to Many
A group of climbers scramble over truck-size volcanic boulders and Frontline’s Will Lyman narrates an apt metaphor. “Building Tusker’s rock solid reputation is similar to what clients face on Kilimanjaro. With each new step looms a new obstacle.”
Tusker founder Eddie Frank’s first trans-Africa journey in 1977 has led to helping hundreds of joyously tired climbers over those obstacles to achieve a life goal — summiting Kilimanjaro.
WATCH: Kilimanjaro – The Challenge
Never Gets Old
As Eddie treks up the mountain his poles pointing upward from his pack, he puts Tusker’s four decade climb into perspective. ”I’m on my 52nd climb and it never gets old — seeing the euphoria of people standing at the summit, a truly life changing experience.”
Flashback images of a dark-haired Eddie on his maiden voyage — his youthful euphoria standing in the lobby of the Kibo Hotel flanked by his guides and brother Laurence. It’s all thumbs up after moving through the Sahara, meeting sword-wielding Tauregs and pulling his truck with a rope tow on a wooden barge across a river in Zambia. “You just climbed up into a four wheel truck headed south across West Africa, the jungles of Central Africa and wind up in East Africa. We were tough, we were brave and we had to deal with anything thrown in our path.”
Ego Go Home
That rough and ready-for-anything attitude is now infused in the group as it ascends into thin air en route to summit base camp. Passing a pitted volcanic rock with a handwritten 16,500 elevation mark draped in bird of prey dung, Kilimanjaro remains wildly raw. A treeless grey plateau is softened only by the cheery yellow Tusker tents and the majestic white summit looming above. The group is now one, helping hands from fellow climbers have literally and mentally pulled them up the mountain. “People always go through the same character building changes when they come on the climb. They start out anxious bringing whatever ego they have from back home, but as they climb it levels everybody out. This mountain makes everybody the same,” Eddie says sitting on a rock with Kili’s summit behind him. He looks as comfortable as if he were in a five star hotel’s lounge telling stories and sipping a martini, which he has been known to do, from time to time.
From Pain to Gain
The anticipation on summit day is infectious. One of the climbers, Frances, is so happy she looks considerably younger. “I feel really good,” she says despite the rigors of six days on the trail. She will feel even better as the group climbs into the snow fields rising above the clouds into the early morning’s bright sun blasting Uhuru Peak. The grim faces turn to joy as arms raise and climbers embrace. It’s that magic photo op being atop the roof of Africa. Later in the warmth of a tent, a champagne cork pops and a climber gives thanks to Eddie.
Sharing the Top
Eddie is just as happy. Helping people realize what they are capable of and achieving their dream, is where his four decade Tusker journey has led — sharing the top of the mountain.