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Mt Kilimanjaro – Not Once, Not Twice, but Three Times

Standard, February 2, 2016, samlcook, 0 Views 0 Comments

‘When I was 120 pounds heavier, I would have settled for standing in the cold comfort of an open refrigerator, searching for something to saturate what I was feeling at that moment: happy, sad, fearful, lonely, anything. I’d even clink through the condiment shelf, seeing if there were any maraschino cherries left. I’d eat anything to feel nothing.

This is the story of my journey up mountains and down the scale’

‘Fat Woman on the Mountain’ and ‘Gorge’ are 2 books written by Kara Richardson Whitely – a woman that has attempted Kilimanjaro 3 times(!) – despite being overweight (and on one attempt weighing 300 pounds!).

When Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild) says that a book is ‘moving and inspiring on every page’ I just knew I had to take a look.

In ‘Fat Woman on the Mountain’ Kara tells of how she worked hard over 12 months (including a hike in the Grand Canyon) to make sure she was ready to hike Africa’s highest peak – and in the process lost ‘half of herself’ in weight. Her hike was more than just a personal challenge though – she also raised more than $11,000 for Global Alliance for Africa before heading off.

Firstly, I connected with her struggles with weight. I could relate to the weight loss goals she set herself – some of them a success, but more often than not, a continual struggle against what she knew she had to do. Struggling not with the training aspect as much as the keeping her diet in line part of it – a struggle I know only too well.

I could also relate to the fundraising aspect of her challenge – and how great it felt to be having an impact, and feeling like she ‘owed’ it to the people who’d donated to her cause, to make it up the mountain.

As a keen hiker who has Kilimanjaro on my ‘wish list’ I also found it very interesting to follow her journey on the walk itself – a ‘behind the scenes’ look at how it is when actually doing such a mammoth hike. A hike where even the fittest and most prepared walkers find themselves a physical mess due to the altitude, and with no option but to turn back. I felt that I was along for the ride with her – and felt myself cheering her along when times got tough.

Did she make it? I won’t give away too much….no ‘spoiler alerts’ here.

In the second book – ‘Gorge’ – we follow along with Kara as she attempts Mt Kilimanjaro a second and third time.

The second book was much slicker – overall the emotional pull was stronger, and Kara seemed to have really found her voice.

I found myself frustrated as Kara continued to struggle with other people’s perceptions – and their open disbelief as to whether she could make it to the peak.

Also, before this second book, Kara had become a parent. I found myself nodding along when she talked of how she felt responsible for making it home safe to her child, and being torn between what she wanted to do for herself – and feeling like she ‘should’ be home with her family.

Did she make it a second and third time? Once again – I won’t spoil it!

I’ve read both of these books twice now. I really love Kara’s raw honesty, and how she doesn’t hold back with sharing what it’s really like to undertake a climb like Kilimanjaro – where the altitude and conditions can make even the fittest and strongest people a blubbering vomiting mess.

Is hiking Mt Kilimanjaro on your wish list? Do you struggle with your weight? Either way – I think you’ll love these books!

Bio: Sam Cook loves bushwalking on the trails close to her home in Geelong, Victoria. Whether it’s the Surf Coast Walk, the You Yangs, the Great Ocean Walk, or any of the other many walks available, she’s out there as often as possible, and through her blog ‘I Heart Hiking’ hopes to encourage others to do the same.  To connect with Sam, you can reach her at

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