Wrapping up Seven for Seven: Conquering Kilimanjaro

February 6, 2013

A few months ago, we told you about Samantha Phelen and Erin Brennan, two women from Newfoundland who created an event called Seven for Seven: Climbing Kilimanjaro as a fundraiser for YACC.

They are back from their new year adventure and you can find Samantha’s amazing recap over on her blog, Modern Day Marco. Erin dropped by with some additional cash donations and a souvenir t-shirt last week, and her stories were so exciting, we asked if she would share some of her highlights, too!

Erin Brennan and Geoff Eaton at YACC HQ. We had chills when she spoke of the trip,
and we got her back by telling her about some of the young adults she was helping.

On possibility

We started the trek on day one in the pouring rain. Hoping that the weather would clear up, Samantha and I were waiting for the right photo opportunity to take a picture with our Seven for Seven t-shirts. Finally, after four days of what felt like constant rain, there was a break in the clouds and we decided to pull out our shirts to get a snapshot to send home.

Naturally, members of our group asked about the significance of the shirts. We told them how we raised money for YACC, how we made the seven-night trek for 7,000 young canadians diagnosed with cancer every year, our goals, what we achieved, and why we both choose to do this.

One individual in the group spoke up; he had been a cancer survivor in his late twenties and was now 56. He was diagnosed with rectal cancer, went through with surgery immediately, and the doctor told him he may not be able to have any more children afterward. At the time he had one child. The surgery was successful, and a year later, he and his wife were pregnant with their second son. That son and his wife were also members of our trek. It gave me goose bumps–WOW.

We ran into unexpected weather on day five, and unfortunately, this gentleman came down with a chest infection which was partly caused by the altitude as well.  He was quite sick on the morning of day six and made a very hard decision to leave the mountain before his illness worsened.

He asked to speak to me as we were leaving camp that morning. He pulled up his sleeve and took off his yellow cancer survivor bracelet and asked me to get it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro for him and for my dad, who is currently battling the big C. It was an emotional moment. He gave me the biggest hug and said, “you will get this to the top for me. See you in two days at the lodge.”

Everyone that treks this mountain does it for different reasons, and this gave me the extra encouragement I needed to reach the top. When I summited at 7:44 a.m. on January 4, I held that bracelet high and said, “Here’s to you; thank you.”

We all met back up with him on the night of January 6 for a celebratory dinner and I gave him back his bracelet. It was a proud moment and it proved that anything is possible!

On mountain climbing

The night before we summited, our trek started at 11:45 p.m. on January 3 with plans to get to the top on the morning of January 4. We were bundled up with our head lamps on as we treked though the night. It was a steep climb with a number of ice-capped rocks and zig-zagged trails. You had no idea where you were going, just that it was up!

Our steps were very, very small during the night, and you had to concentrate to keep your mind occupied and not look up because the minute you did, a flooding sensation of discouragement came over you when all you could see was a huge, snowcapped mountain which never seemed to get any closer. A few water stops and breathers along the way kept the group together and focused. The group hardly spoke to one another, and honestly, we needed to keep our breath to walk.

When I look back at this night, I can remember half of it, and the other half is surreal. During the night, I planned out my whole life for the next 10 years and focused on all the positive things as I concentrated on my feet and each step I took.

The sun came up at 5:55 a.m. and it gave me a complete burst of energy to “pick up” the pace (still very slow steps!) to get to the top. We were less than one-and-a-half hours from Stella Point, the first summit, and three hours to the second summit, Uhuru Peak.

Arriving at Uhuru Peak was a proud moment and I personally declared January 4 as “The Best Day Ever.”

Thanks, again, to Erin and Samantha for including us in this incredible adventure! You are both like superheroes to everyone here at the office. We can’t wait to see what you do next!

(If you are interested, donations can still be made on the fundraising site until February 15.)

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