The mountain is the highest free-standing mountain in the world!
A group of Black women, aged 40+, just made history as the first all-Black American woman team to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
Diana Kinard and Dawn Frazier are the founders of Shades of Favor, a collective that aims to "inspire Black women to embrace their next chapter of growth through travel and shared experiences."
The two Georgia women met in 2019 and immediately hit it off. They bonded over their love of life, gratitude for how far they had come, and a desire to keep living boldly. The women realized they were favored to be healthy and have the ability to continue pursuing their life's goals. The idea for the "Shades of Favor" group was born.
"We are both grateful that we met, and our friendship grew. Becoming comfortable talking about goals and dreams made us aware of many we shared. It also made us aware that we are at the age [where] we realize that members of our families had stopped saying 'not yet.' After a few messages about Kilimanjaro, we both realized that it was a 'not yet' moment for us both, [and] an idea was born," Frazier told Because Of Them We Can.
"We are both grateful that we met, and our friendship grew. Becoming comfortable talking about goals and dreams made us aware of many we shared. It also made us aware that we are at the age [where] we realize that members of our families had stopped saying 'not yet.' After a few messages about Kilimanjaro, we both realized that it was a 'not yet' moment for us both, [and] an idea was born."
That feeling of "not yet," led the women to invite others to join them. They formed a group of women, ages 42-77, who would venture on the bucket list journey of a lifetime. While the chaos of the last year deterred some and created setbacks, the women persevered.
"To continue to plan and execute our dream trip during a pandemic was a true testament of our faith and belief," Kinard said.
Eventually, the group of 20 dwindled to 9, and the women began training to conquer the mountain in Tanzania, the world's highest free-standing mountain.
"Every training plan says to be in the best shape of your life. The altitude was an unknown factor, so all efforts were attempts to prepare for the lack of oxygen. Getting used to the weight of the clothing, boots, and backpack was a big part of the training. Then focus on spending time on your feet for consecutive days to prepare for the fatigue," Frazier explained.
She continued, "I personally decided to slow things down and spend my training hours in a zone that increased my aerobic fitness. My whole goal is to make my body able to maximize whatever oxygen is available as we get closer to the top. It was tough to slow the walks, runs, and bike rides down, but I found that it kept me from being sore and able to do at least 1.5 to 2 hours each day for about 60 days before I left. Everyone did something different, and that worked for me."
Before they knew it, it was time to embark on the journey. Of the nine women, five ended up making it to the mountain's highest peak, Uhuru, which sits at 19,341 feet. Two made it to Stella Point, sitting at 18,885 feet, and one made it to Gilham Point, sitting at 18,652 feet. The journey took about five days, with some days being short and others being long. They started the day just before 3 am and ended around 4 pm, with another 4-hour trek back down to their campsite during their summit push. While the journey was arduous, it was one that they're all very proud of and one they believe was life-changing.
"We are all stronger than we think. Your body will want to quit, but your mind will keep you going. This was a lesson in life," Kinard said.
The two women credit the group's support with pushing them each on and recommend anyone looking to replicate the trek to find their village, after consulting their doctors first, of course. For the duo, it was not just about the bucket list item but more about proving to themselves and the world that no matter your age, there's always an opportunity to grow.
"I do not want people to think this is all about travel. This is about women who will traditionally be a supportive member of someone's village when she should be the supported member of her own village. It's not about where we are going but keeping a growth mentality," Frazier said.
Source: Because of Them We Can, 22 Sept 2021