1. Is this your first Climb and how long had you been wanting to do Kilimanjaro?
This trip was most definitely my first real climb, considering that I’ve been living in Florida the past four years, so really hadn’t made it up past a few thousand feet! Hiking was always something I’d loved to do when I lived in Montana as a kid, but I’d never had the opportunity to do anything as intense as Kili. The whole idea came about as sort of just a far off goal - I got psyched on the proposition after my 5th grade camp soccer coach told me about his experience doing it. His stories seemed so surreal, and the way he talked about it made me crave that same invincible, blissful feeling he spoke on. Ever since then it’s always been in the back of my head, but was just one of those bucket listed dreams that you never really think will get ticked off. With my graduation date approaching (I finished high school in May) my dad shot me the idea for a grad gift (he wanted to do something together before he gets ‘too old’) and I was on board instantly… but even then, it didn’t hit me until we were physically standing at the base of the mountain that I was actually there. The whole trek still seems a bit fanciful, and because it’s something so esoteric, I think the only real way to fully understand the significance of the journey is to get out there and do it for yourself. It’s been - without a doubt - equally the hardest and most eye opening thing I’ve ever experienced. If you’ve got the chance to get out there yourself, you won’t regret it.
2. What made you want to give back?
Doing your bit to give back is something that I’ve always found really important, but it didn't really solidify to me that I actually could be an active help on my own until I met Caroline and Jayden Lee [photographers and mutual friends with Cassandra Lee] at a photo convention called Field Trip. I took their class on “How to Change the World”, and after connecting with like minded people who had the same want to help but the same question of ‘how the heck can I make it happen?’, I realized what a talented, giving community I was surrounded by. Moreover, I realized that doing this kind of thing was possible - not even to the degree that I went, but recognizing that a good idea and good intentions can carry you leaps and bounds - every bit counts. Concluding the class, Caroline and Jayden told us not to hesitate to reach out to them if we ever needed any help executing our ideas. I sent them over an email a few months later, telling them about my plan to climb and want to give back. They paired me up right away with Justice Rising, a perfect fit/cause I instantly fell in love with. In doing such a big trip that’s worldly recognized, I thought it’d be a perfect way to get exposure for Justice Rising as well as people on board to help out, especially having both climb and organization linked to Africa.
3. Will there be another Climb for a Cause? (Maybe an Everest edition? ;)
I’d love to think so! Seeing as Kili’s the 4th highest mountain the world, I guess there aren’t too many taller options… Climb for a Cause Everest Edition could very well be the next trek! If not, Machu Picchu doesn’t look too bad… hitting that within the next year would be ideal. Either way, I’d love to get the opportunity to help out such a great organization and group of humbling, inspiring people again! The work you all do is phenomenal - I’m thrilled to have been able to help out!
Note: Zoe is an incredible photographer and documented her trip with stunning pictures of the climb! Check out some of her pictures on our blog featuring her story.