Mt. Kilimanjaro

September 04, 2009

By Bill Keefe ('09)

On July 2nd, 2009, 14 weary climbers -- including myself and my classmate Mike Brown ("09) -- reached the crater rim of Tanzania's Mt. Kilimanjaro, the culmination of five days of steady upward progress.  The air at this altitude provided us precious little oxygen to power the ascent.  The barren scree fields below the summit glaciers seemed to steepen before our very eyes.  The dust rising from each boot step seemed almost spiteful and the bitter wind made resting nearly impossible.  Only the joyous singing of the porters and the occasional administration of supplemental oxygen kept the party moving upward.  In the end, 13 members of our party made it the remaining mile to the 19,340 ft. summit of the tallest mountain in Africa.

The six day ascent of Kilimanjaro was a personal test and triumph for many of the participants, but the climb had a higher purpose, as all the climbers raised a minimum of $2,500 for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the climb's beneficiary charity. 

For me, the climb had two purposes. Primarily, it was an act of service, of giving back to the community at large and a way to raise money for an important cause. It was also a way to celebrate my graduation from UCLA Anderson, perhaps a metaphor for a two-year climb towards earning an MBA. In addition to Mike, I recruited my wife Cristina and twelve other climbers to participate in the ascent. Our classmates and other visitors to campus might actually recall the mock camp-out Mike and I staged during the Spring quarter, when we pitched our tent on the knoll just outside Espresso Roma in the center of the Marion Anderson Courtyard. We raised awareness for the climb and solicited donations. Truth be told, much of the support for the climb came from the UCLA Anderson family.

On the summit, there were hugs, awed silences, nausea, lots of pictures, and even a marriage proposal.  Our group spent an hour on the "Roof of Africa" snapping photos of each other with banners from the climb's corporate sponsors.  The descent back to Barafu Camp at 15,000 feet proved surprisingly difficult, but the promise of a hot meal, a warm sleeping bag, and more oxygen in the air was enough to see everyone down.

In the end, the Kili Climb for Cancer raised $71,000 to help the search for a cure.  Friendships were made that will last a lifetime, and everyone got a glimpse of heaven.

Bill Keefe served as the president of the UCLA Anderson Healthcare Business Association in 2009 and is now with Amgen working as a strategic planner and operations manager. Mike Brown served as president of the Anderson Real Estate Association in 2009 and is now a partner with Pelican Holdings LLC.

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