Kham Xapakdy, Business Intelligence and Data architect in IS, has been where few of us have ventured: the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Located in Tanzania, East Africa, it is not only the highest peak on the African continent, but also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. At its peak, it rises more than 19,000 feet above sea level (19,336 to be exact).
Xapakdy did the climb with expedition group which included his wife, Jessica Lamey, who works at Penn Presbyterian. “I’ve always tried to do things that expand my experiences and boundaries,” Xapakdy said.
According to the Tanzania National Park website, Kilimanjaro is one of the world's most accessible high summits. Still, the climb isn’t easy. The high altitude makes it both a challenge and a danger. “We for the climb, but it was hard to be physically prepared for the altitude. You can run a marathon but, up there, every step is a challenge,” he said.
And the altitude’s impact on him mentally was a surprise. “The higher you climb, the harder it becomes to think straight, to concentrate,” Xapakdy said.
It took six days to reach the top. Kilimanjaro is so large, it creates its own weather system. “The bottom is a rainforest and, as you go up, you pass through many climate zones,” he explained. “The top is an arctic desert, with 30 mph winds.”
The last day was the final push to the top. “It took 8 hours to reach the peak that day. It was really hard to push yourself to do that last 4,000 feet.”
The reward, he said, was conquering the physical and mental aspects. “The climb itself was more enriching than reaching the summit. You have to want to do it.”