What Am I Doing?
That is a question that people will often ask themselves as they wheeze up to the summit of a tall mountain. I am climbing Africa's "Big Five" peaks (list*) to raise money for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
Why Pediatric AIDS Specifically?
Children shouldn't have their lives ruined before they are born. They should have a chance to live and prosper like anyone else. No one knows how far we are from a true cure or a vaccine for AIDS, but we can stop the transmission of AIDS to children from their mothers now. Once someone has contracted AIDS, they will need a lifetime of expensive medical care. In the developing world, where both money and access to healthcare are often limited, getting this is very difficult if not impossible. Stopping the transmission of AIDS to a child saves them from death or a lifetime of extremely expensive medications. Preventing the spread of AIDS is a far more cost-effective way of dealing with it than treating new patients after they have become infected.
Why the Elizabeth Glaser Foundation?
This foundation supports work that addresses the problem of AIDS in the manner that I just described. It is also an acclaimed charity, rated highly by watchdogs like Charity Watch and the Better Business Bureau and supported by major healthcare donors like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This is in large part because the vast majority of their funding goes to programs, rather than to paying executive staff salaries. Also, many of their projects are in Africa.
Why mountains? Why me?I've been climbing and mountaineering for about 15 years, but I moved to Kenya about three months ago when my wife received a position with the UN here. I'll admit that before moving to Africa, I knew very little about the continent and its peoples, but I've learned much since coming here. Everyone knows about Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, but, as I've discovered, nearly all of Africa's tallest peaks are in the Rift Valley countries of eastern Africa. Also, these countries have some of the highest rates of AIDS infection in the world.
My project is to climb all of Africa's "Big Five" peaks* over the next ten weeks to raise money. In the past, I've essentially climbed for my own personal enjoyment and little else. I'd originally planned to climb the Big Five for the same reasons. However, I'd personally had several bad months leading up to my departure for Africa, and since coming here, I feel that I've begun to get myself back together. I've gotten a lot from Africa and I'll get more enjoyment from climbing its mountains, so it's only right that I give something back. I believe that helping to erase AIDS with a foundation that operates largely in Africa is a good way to do it.
To stay up-to-date on my progress and to get more information, I've created a blog for this project:
**Questions, comments, GIFT CLAIMS, or anything else e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org**
What I Hope to Raise & What You GetAll funds raised by this project will go to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. My published goal is $2,500. It's a little conservative because Indiegogo charges more than double its normal fee of 3% of all funds raised for failure. I want to ensure that as much money raised as possible goes to the Foundation.
I have several fundraising milestones that I would like to reach on top of the first $2,500 milestone:
- $2,500: Whenever we reach this amount, I will take a photo montage of all donors to the summit of the next mountain I climb, take a photo of it, and send the photo to the donors (if you want to participate, just e-mail me a photo at email@example.com).
- $5,000: I'll eat a raw onion and post photos.
- $10,000: I'll shave off all my facial hair and post photos of the process for your entertainment.
- $20,000: I'll post a video of me dancing in my boxer shorts on the summit of the next mountain on the list.
- $50,000: It'll be a surprise.
However, if you donate a certain amount, you can get a gift related to this project!
- $10: I'll give you a hug when I next see you.
- $50: Send me a photo of you (e-mail and I print), and I'll take a picture of it with myself on top of the next summit and e-mail the new photo to you.
- $100: I'll send you a framed photo taken by me of one of the mountains (your choice as to which, here's the list*).
- $500: I'll mail you a locally made African mask. Here, they're about the size of your two hands put together.
- $1,000: You get a new Black Diamond climbing harness! What specific model you get will vary by what is available in the US in May and whether you are male or female.
- $5,000: If you're this generous, I'll get you a full set of four Omega Pacific Link Cams. They're awesome.
For gifts that you choose, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Expect items that need to be mailed to arrive in May. I'd send you them straight from Africa, but the post in Kenya often doesn't get mail to its recipients, so I'll send you your gift once I am back in North America.
If you want all of your money to go to the cause, you're free to let me and Indiegogo know that you don't want your gift.
*The Mountain List!
Africa's Big Five mountains are the tallest in Africa, and they're all in the Rift Valley area.
Kilimanjaro (19,341 ft./5,895 m.): Located in northern Tanzania, made very famous by British explorers and Ernest Hemingway. On a good day, you can see it from Nairobi. Also very famous because it is one of "The Seven", or the highest mountains of each continent.
- Mt. Kenya, Batian Peak (17,057 ft./5,199 m.): Kenya's highest mountain, just north of Nairobi. Kenya actually takes its name from the mountain, rather than the other way around.
- Ruwenzori/Rwenzori, Margherita Peak (16,763 ft./5,109 m.): Referred to as early as 150 AD by Ptolemy, who called its range the "Mountains of the Moon" and speculated that it might be one of the Nile's sources (pretty close to the truth, its snowmelt drains into Lake Victoria). Uganda's highest peak, but it sits on the border between it and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- Mt. Meru (14,977 ft./4,565 m.): Kilimanjaro's little brother sits next to the neighboring town of Arusha. The national park that contains it actually gives you a certificate for summitting. They also require you to walk with a ranger that chases away elephants.
- Ras Dejen/Ras Dashen (14,928 ft./4,550 m.): Ethiopia's tallest mountain, located in north-central Ethiopia in the Simien Mountains between Gondar and Lalibela. Probably the most remote of the Five.
Side note: Often, one "mountain" will have several peaks, or several mountains/peaks will be very close to each other. Different mountaineers use different rules to decide when a peak is sufficiently separate to be considered a separate mountain. In the US, 500 ft. of dip and elevation regain between the two peaks is probably the most common rule. By this standard, the different peaks in the Ruwenzori Range drive Meru and Ras Dejen to positions 9 and 10 on the list of Africa's tallest mountains. However, here, most people consider them to all be a part of "Ruwenzori" to keep the list diverse, which I prefer.
- Ruwenzori: January 6 - 14
- Mt. Kenya: January 17 - 20
- Kilimanjaro: January 31 - February 8
- Mt. Meru: February 14 - 17
- Ras Dejen: Late February/Early March
Other Ways You Can HelpIf you cannot contribute any money, there are always other things you can do. Just being aware of the scope and nature of the problem of AIDS and what can be done about it, especially the latest medical advances in its treatment and prevention for children, can be a huge step in the right direction. Become a part of the policy discussion on AIDS.
The Foundation has plenty of information on AIDS on its website:
Mt. Kenya photo (small photo) (c) Al-Karim Versi, Beyond Wilderness Expedition, Ltd.
Cover photo of myself (c) Jeremy Dixon.