Everyone knows why people climb mountains, but what on earth would compel a group of climbers to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro, one of the world’s most famous towering peaks, without shoes?
As far as the Old Mutual Barefoot Kilimanjaro Team is concerned, conquering Africa’s tallest mountain (19,341 feet) sans boots was meant both to issue a statement and, more noteworthy, to raise money for the Children’s Hospital Trust in South Africa.
The team achieved its lofty goal Tuesday, presumably with major callouses, after a week of climbing, and proclaimed on its website, “We may be on top of Africa, but we feel like we are on top of the world.”
In a blog post by renowned endurance athlete Andrew King is this passage: “We reached the peak as one very emotional tribe knowing that we had achieved what we set out to do. The entire barefoot team had summited — sore — but with no serious injury.”
The climb was made at a time with little snow on the route from the Mt. Kilimanjaro Park gate to Uhuru Peak at the summit, but there was snow high on the slope and the summit push began in in sub-zero temperatures.
On a slow pace while approaching the summit, King wrote, “Coming around a bend we were faced with a daunting and yet exciting terrain — snow and ice. There had been a two-foot dump of snow a few days prior that we had not seen from base camp.
“Although there were sections where hikers had trodden a path through the snow, there were other areas where the barefooters had to negotiate their own route over the snow and ice.”
Strict rules allowed for shoes only while in camp, between established climbing times. Preparation included months of barefoot hiking, running and “virtually living without shoes in order to give the climber’s feet the best possible chance against the elements on the mountain,” the expedition website explains.
But why barefoot again?
“We live in a fortunate age where, for the most part, individual expression is accepted and celebrated,” reads a partial explanation on the website. “Outlandish fashion, tattoos, and vibrant hair color attract little attention or comment. But appearing barefoot in public, or running or climbing a mountain without shoes draws immediate attention. Being barefoot is not regarded as an act, but as a statement.”
And just who are these shoe-less conquerors of Kilimanjaro?
Besides King, the team consisted of Matt “Boeri” Botha, Hedley Young, Camilla Howard, Clyde Barendse, Rich Hamman, Sean Disney, Dr. Ross Tucker, Paul Jason and David Russell-Rockcliff.
Hopefully, they met their other objective of raising funds to help treat and cure sick children.
– Images showing the barefoot team during and after its summit push is courtesy of the Old Mutual Kilimanjaro Barefoot Team