GCSAA Chief Executive Officer Rhett Evans set a lofty goal this week.
We're talking really, really lofty. As in more than 19,000 feet high lofty.
Evans began a trek yesterday that many have tried. Some succeeded. Some have not. No doubt risk is involved. The topic was documented by legendary writer Ernest Hemingway decades ago in short stories.
It definitely is not for the faint of heart. And certainly not for anybody who has a fear of heights.
For Evans, he hopes to scale new heights.
Evans is using vacation time to join five friends who are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, located in Tanzania, a region of East Africa. They are among approximately 25,000 people who attempt to make the climb annually. Roughly less than half successfully reach the top. Evans plans to be among those who overcome the monumental task.
"Hopefully all six of us will make it and have a 100 percent success rate," Evans said before he left GCSAA headquarters in Lawrence, Kan. "Right now, we decided if someone seriously gets hurt or is having a really bad time and we need to be with that individual, we're going to stay with our friends. If they sprain an ankle, we agreed we're going to keep trekking up."
"I probably kind of looked a little weird," he says. "I'd show up every morning with trekking boots, sand-filled weights around my ankles, a backpack with a 25-pound weight plate in it. I'd spend a couple hours on the Stairmaster and just climb, climb, climb. I definitely had people come up to me and say, 'You're getting ready to do some sort of hike, aren't you?' A few walked by and probably thought 'Now that's a new kind of outfit.'''
A concern Evans had entering the challenge was altitude. It can become quite an issue starting at about half way through the climb, and although he has a history of running in high altitudes, none of his events took him to these kind of heights.
"Even Olympic-caliber athletes have gotten altitude sickness," Evans says. "It doesn't always matter what kind of shape you are in. You still can get sick."
Another challenge is the climate changes Evans will encounter. It may be 90 degrees at the base, but that will drastically change as he climbs. Hypothermia is among the health risks when climbing Kilimanjaro.
Cold feat? You bet. And Evans welcomes the test.
"What's cool about it is you go through five ecoclimates. Every step, it gets colder and colder and colder, where nothing is growing, you have glaciers up there, and the wind can pick up and it can snow," he says. "It (temperature) could drop to minus-20 easily."
Evans expects to be at the mountain top by late this week. He planned to pack a GCSAA Golf Championship flag and stake it atop Kilimanjaro, which is located a mere 200 miles from the equator. He also was going to pack another golf-related item or two.
"I want to take a little sand iron, and when I get up top, hit a couple balls off the top of the roof, the roof of Africa as they call it," Evans says. "Fun, huh?"
In his research leading up to the climb, Evans learned that a sign at the summit of Kilimanjaro includes the words Uhuru Peak. Translated, Uhuru means freedom. Evans gets it.
"There's something to be said about being at the top of the summit," Evans says. "It represents freedom, that you could accomplish something not everybody gets to do, that you could overcome things to experience that joy that really being free brings."
Stay tuned to the GCM blog upon Evans' return to read about how it all went for him.