Editor’s Note: Chris Warner is a mountain guide, a climbing gym and guide service owner, and an author of an inspiring leadership book. But to us, Chris has been a friend and product tester for years. When we need honest feedback about our products or some stoke to get us through the day, we often turn to Chris. He recently submitted the following trip report.
I leapt at the opportunity when Mike King of Survivor Summit called with his half-baked idea: climbing Kilimanjaro with cancer survivors and family members to raise money for Livestrong. Having guided nearly 200 international expeditions (that is a nice way of saying “aging guide”), I’ve been up Kili plenty of times. But a trip like this offered what I now look for in expeditions, a chance to transform lives. Judged by the tears shed, I know that this team succeeded.
Our battered, but determined, group met in Tanzania. Mindy had her leg amputated above the knee when she was 14. That operation stopped the bone cancer from eating her alive. Katie, Amy, Missy and Chasse all battled cancer and beat it. Danny lost his wife and mom to cancer in a three month period. Daniel lost his dad when he was 18. Lachlan lost his grandmother. Kim lost her mom (and reached the summit on the 4th Anniversary of her passing). Mona’s brother lost his battle with cancer when he was a teenager. Scott S. lost his mom. Scott A. beat cancer once, only to get a second type of cancer a few years later and was operated on just 60 days before the expedition started. Mike and Brian’s dad is battling cancer now. Caroline lost her mother-in-law. Chad just lost a friend. Lisa lost…….it is amazing how cancer touches all of us. And it is amazing how climbing for others brings out the very best in people.
As Caroline so beautifully put it, climbing Kili was the perfect metaphor for the cancer battle. Standing at the bottom you are facing what seems to be an insurmountable challenge. You have to climb it step by step, with some steps sliding backwards. You need a team of guides helping you learn new skills, showing you new paths, offering a steady shoulder to lean on. You need a team of partners helping you remain hopeful, offering their love when you are most exhausted. And you need a fierce determination, an inner drive, just to crawl out of your tent and shoulder your pack each morning. The whole journey, while exhausting you, really does make you stronger, more aligned with your core values, more thankful for the views and more inspired to climb higher.
Back at Livestrong, the staff was blown away by the power of this expedition. Lance Armstrong was so fired up about our team’s success, he tweeted all about it.
As Lance said, twenty eight of us reached the summit. That is 100%. A perfect number. Another amazing stat: over $200,000 was raised for cancer research and services. And an even better number: two…..next year we are heading back, leading another team of cancer survivors to the summit.
A special thanks to the team at Gregory for sponsoring this expedition. We carried you to the summit, on our hips, shoulders and backs.