Summits Should Be Earned

I haven’t been to Africa. But since I don’t live under a rock, I know about Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s one of those mountains you learn of early, maybe because of its height, maybe because of its name, which is fun to say because it sounds silly when you’re a kid.

It was one of those places that always held a certain majesty. An unreachable destination for me, despite the fact that it is actually reachable. Tens of thousands of people climb it every year. They earn the summit with their own two feet.

So when I heard on the radio the other day that Tanzania was in the process of constructing a cable car that will take visitors to the top of Kilimanjaro, I immediately cringed. What a tragedy.

As someone who likes to hike and explore and climb and scratch my way to the top of something, that was my first reaction. And it was supported, in a totally unabashed way, by an English adventurer the host interviewed as part of the story.  This guy was fired up, calling the idea “stupid” and saying it was a “bloody” this and a “bloody” that.

The host apologized for the guy, saying he wished he had been more “mealy-mouthed,” which gave me more reason to love the whole conversation. What a great saying.

But in the end, I totally agreed with that hiker guy, who claimed the cable car would ruin the experience, cause unemployment, affect the environment and displace wildlife. I even agreed when he repeated all those things for a second time (like I said, he was fired up beyond remembering what he had already said).

The biggest reason not to do it? Because it robs people of the adventure. It robs people of the chance to earn an incredible accomplishment. It makes something extraordinary absolutely ordinary.

summit 1
We were at the bottom. And wanted to go to the top of Flat Iron. So we did. With our feet.

People could train and prepare and endure the elements that come with hiking to the top of the continent’s tallest mountain – or they could just catch a ride to the top, which would then become more crowded and more infected by selfies and trash and, likely, some tragedies.

So yeah. I’m with the not-so-mealy-mouthed hiker guy. I don’t know what the bloody hell those folks are thinking. A Kilimanjaro summit should be earned, not bought.

summit 2
Summit earned.