In February 2015, Lone Peak Hospital CEO, Mark Meadows, scaled the renowned Mount Kilimanjaro.
Even though the goal was a personal one, as the head of the local hospital, Meadows is an example to his employees and the people of the community. “We try to promote a healthy lifestyle, we’re in the healthcare business we should be promoting a healthy lifestyle. You don’t have your health you don’t have anything, you can’t do anything,” said Meadows.
Meadows and his son-in-law spent the better part of a year planning their trip. They needed that year to train and prepare for the arduous journey, which is demanding not only on the muscles, but on the lungs as well. The rapid increase in altitude on Mount Kilimanjaro can be the most difficult challenge, so spending time at higher altitudes beforehand is paramount. “It’s really the altitude that gets most people. About a month before I spent a lot of time up at Snowbird or Alta,” said Meadows. The Wasatch Mountains are excellent training grounds for the African peak, particularly Jacob’s Ladder and Cherry Canyon, for their difficulty and altitude.
Once at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, the trail takes hikers through several different terrains. From jungle at the base, to barren rocky cliffs void of plant and animal life, then a snow-capped peak. “As you start the trek you start at about 4,500 feet so you really start in the jungle/rainforest area. You work your way up from 4,500 feet to 10,000 to 13,000 to 15,000 feett and then you come back down to 13,000 feet. So you go up and then you come back down to let that acclimation set in, then what you’ll do is go back up to 16,000 feet, spend part of a day there resting and then you start your ascent at midnight.”
The biggest struggle for any climber is elevation. Because the altitude change is so intense, repeating part of the climb before making the final ascent helps prevent severe altitude sickness. Oxygen is less dense at higher altitudes, which means if you ascend too quickly your body struggles to get enough. Headaches, fatigue and nausea are the most common symptoms and even the most physically fit can struggle if they aren’t acclimated properly.
The heat of the day combined with the extreme altitude can make the final stretch incredibly difficult, so groups normally start climbing at night when the conditions are tamer. “At night ... the temperature was about 30 degrees [and] when the sun starts to come up, within an hour it starts to feel like it’s 60 degrees. You’ve gone from wearing all of your clothes, to taking off most everything and carrying it down. When the sun comes up you don’t do well, the altitude sickness starts to beat on you.”
But Meadow’s group had a flawless final climb.
“It was a perfect scenario because there was new snow on top...we had a clear night, the stars were as bright as I’d ever seen them in my life - to be at that elevation and to see the Milky Way, the Southern Cross which is fantastic... it was thrilling.”
Kilimanjaro is a volcanic mountain. Unlike our mountains that were formed by earthquakes and glaciers, there are only two other peaks near Kilimanjaro. The view from the top is unobstructed across the horizon. “It’s like a 180 view of the sun coming up.”
Climbing high peaks is not a particular passion for Meadows, but setting and achieving goals is important to him. “Sixty is the new 50. It wasn’t a pleasure cruise but it’s nice to ... push yourself. You don’t know what you can do until you do it.”
Mount Kilimanjaro might seem like an out-of-reach goal for most people, but Meadows was insistent that he was able to do it with time and effort, not purely talent. “You don’t need to be a climber. Like a lot of things you just need to be consistent and steady.”
That being said, a group of tourists should not make the climb on their own. There are guides and porters that know the area and how to make the journey safely. “[The guides] are just wonderful... full of energy. We get the recognition because we made this goal to achieve... a personal goal, but we don’t do it without the support of others. They’re the encouragement. They cheer us on, keep our spirits up.”
Meadows and his wife have a lifetime “bucket list” of goals to achieve. Though she did not accompany him on this particular trek, several years ago they hiked across the high mountains of Nepal for two weeks together. He said, “A lot of people wait until they’re done and retired, and say I’ll do it then. Well, if you wait forever you never get it done. Life will pass you by and something else fills the void. You are only as old as you think and feel.”
Mount Kilimanjaro is in the country of Tanzania, on the eastern coast of Africa. The peak is 19,336 feet above sea level and is one of the “Seven Summits,” a group of the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. The mountain is an extinct volcano that erupted nearly 2 million years ago. The name of the mountain is Swahili, and some say it means “Mountain of Light” or “Greatness”.
Lone Peak Hospital strives to be an example to the community of healthy behavior and lifestyle. They regularly host free health clinics and seminars that are open to the public.
Lone Peak Hospital is located on 11925 South State Street in Draper, Utah.
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