Preparing for true test of body and mind
By Dan Cherico '08
On Jan. 27 2013, I will travel from the U.S. to Tanzania, Africa, where I plan to climb to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. At 19,340 feet, it is the highest peak on the entire African continent and one of the Earth's Seven Summits. Over the course of eight days on the trail, I, along with nine fellow climbers and our guides, will travel through five different climate zones, starting in the jungle and ending on alpine glaciers. This expedition will be the most physically challenging thing I have ever done in my life. Although I have extensive backpacking, camping and mountain-sport experience, I never imagined I would go to Tanzania to climb to "the roof of Africa."
The start of my trek actually began in February 2011. While shopping at a local outdoor retailer, I saw a flyer for the Summit for Someone program to benefit Big City Mountaineers. I was immediately interested, and as I read about the program, I became more excited. Summit for Someone is a series of fundraising climbs mostly located in the U.S. Participants in these climbs are required to pay their travel expenses, supply their own equipment and pledge to raise a predetermined amount for Big City Mountaineers. The pledge amount varies for each climb location. In return, the climbers are provided with experienced professional guide services to enable them to have the best ascent possible. Big City Mountaineers is a non-profit organization headquartered in Denver, Colo., that provides transformative wilderness mentoring expeditions to under-resourced urban youth throughout the U.S. Their goal is to instill critical life skills through exposing these youth to the outdoors. (Pictured above: Dan with girlfriend Tiffany Shatzkes '09)
The time I spent and skills I learned in the outdoors have had profound positive affects on all aspects of my life. When it was time to write my college essay, I was fortunate enough to be able to write about my experiences backpacking through New Mexico at age 16. The ability to provide similar opportunities to kids who would not have access to the outdoors is the most rewarding aspect of this endeavor. The money I raise will provide week-long wilderness experiences to more than 25 at-risk urban youths.
I committed to the climb in September of last year. In doing so, I pledged to raise a minimum of $8,500 for BCM and had to start training. For the first few months, I had a simple gym routine and continued my rather active daily life. During the summer, I began to increase the intensity of the training. I started doing hikes throughout the various parks of the Hudson Valley each weekend. Each climb involved strenuous trails, steep climbs and awesome views. However, these hikes lacked high elevations. Without being able to train at high elevations, I must train harder and longer to ensure that my body will be able to handle the low oxygen levels that I will contend with on Mt. Kilimanjaro.
To make the training hikes more enjoyable, I made them a group activity (Dan's girlfriend Tiffany, at far left, and father Gary, at far right, are part of the group). On most hikes, there are three or four of us. Many times my fellow hikers are also fellow alumni. These hikes became great social events to regularly see friends from Binghamton University while also preparing for my expedition. Even when I traveled back to campus this fall for Homecoming, I made sure to hike. I hiked with two other alumni and a current Binghamton student for more than three hours in the Nature Preserve and enjoyed some of the best fall weather I have seen on campus.
As much as the outdoors has influenced my life, Binghamton University helped shape me into the civic-minded person I am today. Even though space in my pack will be limited, I will bring a Binghamton University flag with me to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. When I summit, I will achieve a personal goal and help provide amazing experiences for at-risk youth, and I will be sure to bring Binghamton University with me. The flag will be waved proudly at the top of the tallest free-standing mountain on earth for all Bearcats.