Dr. Phil Stella’s brainchild garnered the support of four fellow physicians: Mark Falahee, MD and Mike Masini, MD from Orthopedic Surgery; Mike Sarosi, MD from Interventional Radiology; and John Walsh, MD from Gastroenterology, as well as three other friends for the climb.
Starting in the mud and rain and mist of the rainforest jungle at 2100m, they took the eight day Lemosho Route through the heather and moorland of the caldera of the volcano, the sparse but spectacular vegetation of the highland desert, and then the moonscape of broken volcanic rock and scree, to the glaciers at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro’s-Uhuru Peak, at 5895m/19,341 feet.
Remarkable experiences along the way included: hundreds of Blue Monkeys calling out in unison around their camp one night-at 4 a.m.! Hiking through and having lunch in the clouds; 25 foot cacti growing out of volcanic rock; climbing through the night to reach the summit at dawn, with the clouds 12,000 feet below and glaciers around them at the highest point on the African Continent. The warm and friendly people of Tanzania comprised of equal parts Christian, Muslim, and Chagga tribesmen living in harmony was very pleasant cultural lesson. The trip also taught all a profound respect for the benefits of oxygen and the warm soft beds that exist at sea level!
A quote from Dr. Stella that adequately sums up the experience: “When I got back, I related the climb to what my cancer patients have to go through including the marked weakness as well as dependence on my guide to help me along the journey and keep me safe just as our patients are dependent on us. It was a humbling experience to climb this massive mountain which is what patients must feel like when they are told they have cancer.”