I just found out a few hours ago that new friend Bern Goosen of South Africa had become the first wheelchair hiker to summit Kilimanjaro! Rick McCharles, a key figure in the 4wheelbob White Mountain summit team, passed the news to me and threw down the gauntlet today.
Although I haven't yet picked it up and run with it, Rick noted a couple of possibilities - Bern had bested his record for his first (unofficial) summit of Kili in '03, finishing this trip in 6 days and just a few hours. Bern is classified as a quadriplegic, making this summit just that much more special. It's claimed to be the highest point a chair has gone, and he followed some strict rules - he could accept no assistance for more than 10% of the epic trek, even though he had a formidable support team. But could I best that record?
Bern and I have been e - mailing since my White Mountain trip. He's offered to help organize next year's planned hike up Kili, as I intend to do it in my everyday, slightly modified Colours wheelchair, to which I've grown attached. I'll be meeting with a possible outfitter sometime next month over here, and get this ball rolling...and I know what this means to Bern, as I still bust a grin when I think of my most recent summit - which was a vertical mile lower.
But Rick offered another possibility, one I hadn't explored - how high could I get? Are there mountains of 20,000+ elevations in South America that might be achieveable with the right planning and support?
You can bet I'll be looking for them. Tomorrow. Tonight I'm cracking open my best bottle of 20 year old Glenlivet and raising it to Bern Goosen, the man who did Kili in a wheelchair October 15, 2007.