Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro After 8 Years of Parkinson’s Disease

So…last week, I did something that was sort of cool…maybe a bit outside of my usual routine…and something that I never thought I’d do 8 years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. I journeyed to Tanzania, Africa, and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro via the Machame Route.

What an amazing and challenging journey it was. Words cannot adequately describe the experience, but to say “it kicked my ass” would be an accurate clinical assessment.

It’s not that I wasn’t physically prepared, it was more a case of high altitude and low oxygen challenging my Parkinson’s embattled brain. The low dopamine levels in one part of my brain, challenging my movement, seemed at complete odds with the dopamine rush in my reward pathway that kept pushing me forward.

What an amazing journey, that I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience. I’m grateful to have photos to help me remember the experience.

Thanks to everyone on my climbing team, old friends and new friends, for their inspiration, support and good humor.

I am slightly disappointed that I didn’t reach the very top of the mountain, as it was less than 500 feet higher in elevation compared to where my uphill climb ended. But to be honest, I’m amazed to have gotten as far as I did. The beer at the bottom of the mountain tasted just as good to me as it did for my team members who reached the peak.

We started at Machame Gate at 5700 feet elevation. On summit night, we camped at 16000 feet, and my Apple Watch would no longer report my blood oxygen level. I made it to Stella Point at around 18,900 feet, which is considered a summit point on the crater rim, but is short of the highest elevation point, which is over 19,300 feet at Uhuru Peak.

All in all, I’m extremely happy to have made it as far as I did, and more than a little awestruck when I look back at these photos.

Now to start thinking about the next adventure…


P.S. – Thanks to Drew Voyles and Beyond Adventures for planning and orchestrating an outstanding trip.

P.P.S.- Thanks to Beyond’s local team in Tanzania, including Gabriel Nkini & the Active Kilitop team for keeping me safe, and a big thanks to my personal guide Ahi, who carried my backpack all week, so that I was able to make the climb.


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