Parker’s Climb – Reaches The Summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro For Team Fox

Team Parker Summit’s Mt. Kilimanjaro 

July 10, 2011 - The Parker Family at the Mt. Kilimanjaro Summit For Team Fox - Geoff's 57th Birthday

When you are standing at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, at 19,340 feet, you truly have the feeling that there is nothing in the world that you cannot do! You forget how hard it was to get there and for a little while, you no longer struggle to breathe because you have arrived at the summit of this magnificent mountain! You have this amazing feeling that you hope will last a life time; and truly, a part of it will!

When you train for an entire year to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro,  the highest freestanding mountain in the world, and live and breathe a national fundraiser over twelve months time, it would seem that nothing could take the wind from your sails once your team has reached the summit! But, sometimes life can throw you a curve. I will talk about that a little later, but now I will share a little about the amazing Parker’s Climb for Team Fox!

July 4, 2011 - Team Parker starting our Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb

The Parker’s Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro Expedition For Parkinson’s Research will forever be remembered as one of the greatest accomplishments of my lifetime, and I think I can safely say the same for the rest of the family! All six members of the Parker Family reached the summit of Mt.Kilimanjaro on July 10, 2011, (Geoff’s 57th birthday). We were energized by the good wishes and prayers from our loyal Parker’s Climb readers and supporters. This is truly what fueled our steps over the seven-day ascent and two-day descent, up and down this grand monadnock.

Day 2 - It was an incredible feeling to finally see the mountain after 2 days in a magnificent rain forest

There are no words to describe how my family members pulled together as a team during the climb. We supported one and other from the first step, and all the way to the summit and down! When one of our team slowed or needed to rest, we all slowed the pace. We all pushed each other, we shared food and snacks to fuel us, and we looked out for each other every step of the way! The Tusker Trail guides and porters were a crucial element of our success and I would place my life in their hands again!

Day 2 - Pam & Geoff with the first view of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Every member of our family never forgot for a minute why we were doing this climb! We climbed in honor of Team Fox, and for all of the fundraisers who have worked tirelessly before us. We climbed for Team Fox because of their never-ending spirit as they continue to spearhead a cure for Parkinson’s disease, and we climbed to inspire those living with Parkinson’s disease to stay active like Geoff, to hopefully slow the progression of this disease, and improve the quality of life. We climbed for those that have been diagnosed already who struggle every day of their lives, and we climbed for those who have yet to be diagnosed, as Parkinson’s disease continues without a cure.

Day 2 - Geoff and Urio in the rain forest filled with excitement to reach the goal!

Speaking of Geoff, he did amazing during our climb! He started off incredibly strong and was still in top form as we reached the summit on day seven. When we were within 250 yards from the summit sign, Geoff walked up and took me by the hand to walk with me to the summit sign. It was by the grace of God that we were standing there together, and it is a moment in time that I shall remember for a lifetime!

Geo IV, Larri, George III and Madeleine - In the Heather and Moorland Region - Day 3
Maddie & George IV - What an awesome experience in the prime of life!

They say the mountain air and the altitude can do strange things to people and let me tell you, this is a true statement! I became more quiet and reserved, and there were times that I could hardly recognize Geoff during the climb! For those of you who know Geoff, you might say he is the one who is quiet and a little reserved. You could say he is oftentimes “a man of few words”. Well, not during this climb! Geoff chatted his way up this mountain like I have never seen him before! Literally, he never stopped talking all the way to 19,340 feet! Really! One day he turned to me and said, “Pam, why you are so quiet?” My immediate response was, “I am trying to breathe Geoffrey, and you are talking enough for both of us!” And I said that in all seriousness, and with love! 🙂

Day 3 - Team Parker with our incredible Guides - This was one of the most beautiful spots on the mountain - Around 11,500 feet

Geoff was truly the hero of this climb and the reason we Parkers had the fortitude to do this climb in the first place. When you consider that Geoff’s Parkinson’s disease began possibly as early as 2003 or 2004, it speaks volumes for his ability to keep the symptoms in check, in order to be able to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro. We so strongly believe through an aggressive fitness regimen that includes working in the gym, bicycling, tennis and golf, Geoff has been fortunate to slow the progression of PD.

To Geoff, I say “I am truly inspired and amazed at your tenacity to manage this disease day in and day out!”  “The strength you exhibited on this climb was beyond my wildest imagination!” ” Your story will continue to inspire others for years to come, and if we have helped one person with PD to start their own fitness regimen as a way to battle their disease, it was worth every step we took on Mt. Kilimanjaro!”

Geoff - The real hero of this climb - At the base of the Barranco Wall - It was 500 ft. straight up at 14,000 ft. altitude!
Day 4 - 12,850 feet in the Alpine Moorland Zone during a 6.2 mile trek to Barranco Camp

Every member of the Parker family are heroes in my eyes, but they were even before this climb! Three of us caught colds during the climb but we trudged on. George III had a sore throat very early on and could barely swallow for several days during the climb, yet he kept on climbing! My cold settled in the lungs causing me to take very shallow and painful breaths and I was fortunate to make it! By the end of the climb Geoff had the sore throat and by day nine, he once again settled into his quiet stance, sharing the same pain as George. But I will reiterate, he was still talking up a storm all the way to the top! At one point George III said, “Geoff, are you breathing through your ears or what?”

Day 4 - Geoff & Pam - On our way towards the Shira Tower touching altitudes of 15,500 feet
Lulu - She never stopped smiling and was an inspiration to all of Team Parker!

Lulu, George IV and Maddie were incredible! Lulu is my amazing sister-in-law Larri, who started her training for Mt. Kilimanjaro in the airport on the way to Moshe, Tanzania! Really – she took the stairs instead of the escalator! You think I am kidding and I am being totally serious here! She did tell me her legs got a little tired one day! “Love this sister; and will stay in the gym just to keep up with you from now on!”

Larri & Maddie - A Mom & Daughter Moment - As we prepared for another day!

Geoffrey and I were fortunate to return to the continent of Africa for our 7th wedding anniversary! We were married in South Africa in 2004, so it only seemed right that we celebrate during our climb! The Tusker Trail team were incredibly resourceful in getting a homemade cake up the mountain on Day 4, by sending a porter down the mountain to retrieve a cake that was being carried by another porter from Moshe! We were surprised on July 7, 2011 after a day spent at the Lava Tower, the highest day of climbing so far.  We climbed up to 15,500 feet for lunch that day and then descended back to just under 13,000 feet for a night of sleep. It was a long, hard day of climbing to say the least, but when about ten of the Tusker Trail team started singing and presented our anniversary cake, we forgot all about the day of climbing!

July 7, 2011 - Celebrating our 7th Anniversary - after a very challenging day at 15,500 feet - with a cake from the Tusker Trail Team!
Day 5 - View of Karanga Camp from the Barranco Wall - A 500 ascent straight up above the clouds!

The Barranco Wall is the most physically challenging part of the climb (beyond the summit day) only because it is straight up and oftentimes you are using some skill to navigate the large boulders.  The fact that you are now approaching 14,000 feet also plays into the challenge, but I think this part of the climb was one of the most enjoyable!  (Easy to say that now!)

Pam & Geoff - Day 5 - Surrounded by broken shards of rock that went on forever!

Different parts of the mountain seemed to almost reflect different parts of life  to me during the ascent. I was at such peace through the rain forest and the Heath & Moorland zones. Once past the Alpine Zone on day 4, there was very little flora and the mountain terrain was covered in huge broken shards of rock that seemed to go on forever. This part of the mountain was harsh to me and very much reminded me of the broken lives of those struggling with Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders. I found this part of the mountain to be cold and depressing for a time, (could it have been exhaustion perhaps?),yet beyond this point came one of the most beautiful areas well above the clouds, after we climbed the Barranco wall.

 

Above the Barranco Wall - Our Leader Thobias sits well above the clouds as we savor our accomplishment! One of my favorite moments!

There is no feeling like looking at life from above the tree line and finally above the clouds as you climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  If you ever doubted that you would make it up this mountain, you think again when you see the beauty from this altitude.  I must admit however, the summit was still a very long, hard road ahead at this point, as we camped at 14,950 feet on the rocky slopes of the Barafu Camp. The winds and the cold set in covering your tent and sleeping bag with frost, and sleep the night before the summit really did not ever come.

This was the view on summit day - It looked close but it was so far away!

One of the things that moves you as you climb on summit day is the people who are coming down from the summit. They are exhausted, some are sick and have little life in them and almost all are on a mission to just make it down again after their moments at the summit.

Summit Day - Day 7 - George & Thobias - This may be the longest day of my life - Pole' Pole' has a new meaning - but this was one long walk - all up!

On summit morning Team Parker was summoned to breakfast at 3:30 am.  Many climbers left our camp at midnight to make it to the summit near daybreak, but our plan all along was to arrive behind most teams so we could take in the entire summit day in daylight.  With other climb teams coming through our campsite for the midnight exodus, in reality Team Parker was up all night.  This combined with the fact that you are already six days into the climb made for a pretty exhausted group when we were finally on our way to the summit.

Me & the porter who got me to the summit - I have no idea how I found the energy for the photo - but we were almost there!

I hate to admit that my camera never came out of my pocket on summit day! Thankfully others were taking photos – I was just trying to breathe! Geoff never wavered – I never saw one sign of him slowing down on summit day, but why would he?  We had come this far and I do believe if we had to crawl, we were going to summit.  I must have asked fifty times, “how much further” and I think Thobias always answered, “just a little while longer!” Our last stop before the final summit was Stella Point – and as tired as we were, I knew at this point we would claim this summit!

One tired George arriving at Stella Point - We were within 45 minutes to the Kibo Summit at this point!
The view at Stella Point (Kibo Crater) with Lulu making her way up and Maddie & George off in the distance already!
As we made our way past the glacier to the Kibo Summit - Lulu was still smiling!

The final push, that last 45 minutes to the summit does not seem so bad now!  I remember Geoff chatting up a storm and I recall telling him to get photos of the glacier.  Lulu smiled as we continued, and there was just something reassuring about this! When I could barely see the the Kibo Summit, Geoff took me by the hand and led me to the sign. That was a surreal moment in my life.  A year of planning, a day of remembering most every comment on our blog from readers, many moments throughout the day thinking of all the emails people sent over the year, hours of the last day that I kept saying, “You can do this”, words my trainer said to me for a year in the gym. And the words I kept singing over and over in my head, “There’s always gonna be another mountain…”

There it stood - in the distance - The Kibo Summit Sign at 19,340 feet!

Perhaps the most important moment for me during the entire climb is when I reached the summit and I placed the Team Fox bracelet that I had worn every day since the launch of Parker’s Climb over a sign post holding the Kibo Summit sign.  I had dreamed of this moment for an entire year, and it was now going to be a part of the experience for everyone who follows in our footsteps! This in my mind signified success!

My Team Fox Bracelet now a part of the Mt. Kilimanjaro Summit sign!
The other part of our dream - Pam & Geoff - Mt. Kilimanjaro Summit at 19,340 ft.

In many post over the year, I promised when you saw Geoff’s famous VICTORY SIGN, and my THUMBS UP, it would be for those of you who cheered us on – for those of you who so graciously donated to Team Fox on behalf of Parker’s Climb! Well here it is my friends – You were there with us! We knew it!

Geoff's Victory Sign & My Thumbs Up - With Maddie & George IV

George IV and Maddie took this mountain by storm with little to no trouble. George had the greatest analogy when he pointed out that on the first night of the climb, we slept at a higher altitude than any of us had ever been before! He and Madeleine slept at a camp next to the Furtwanger Glacier at 18,500 feet the night we reached the summit. The amazing thing is that they actually slept, which puts them among a small ten percent of people who are able to sleep at this altitude.

We all just died laughing when George told us that he watched Maddie sleeping so peacefully that he wanted to wake her to be sure she was getting enough oxygen! He also shared that at this altitude, it took about five minutes to take off each boot that night.  I think he felt a lot better when the rest of us admitted that it took us at least that long to remove our boots and we slept back at 14,500 feet that night.

George, Maddie and Shabani - a long way to the finish!

Statistics indicate that about 80% of people who try to sleep at an altitude of 18,500 feet will get a pretty significant headache. The powerhouse Parker siblings breezed right through the headache and slept well! Parker’s Rock!

Day 6 - The Rocky slopes nearing the Barafu Camp

Since we were up at 3:30 am on summit day, George, Larri, Geoff and I decided to return to our base camp after the summit because we figured with an 80% headache rule, it would certainly consume us! This was one wild descent from 19,340 feet back to 14,500 feet.  We truly skied through deep volcanic rock on the back of our boots at lightning speed, and for much of the descent we were in the dark. You literally had to feel your steps in the dark because you could not see the trail! This only proves that our guides were incredible and amazing. I have never been so happy to see a camp in my life! We did it – we went up – and we came down! And then we went into a very, very deep sleep until early the next morning!

Geoff's Birthday Celebration - July 11, 2011 - One day after his birthday!

There was one bit of unfinished business before leaving this mountain! On our last night, and one day after Geoff turned 57 on Kibo Summit day, the Tusker Team surprised Geoff with a birthday cake! This was our second cake for the week and in the true spirit, our Guides and Porters sang Happy Birthday while Geoffrey cut the cake.   We are pretty sure that we are the only group to have two cakes ushered up that mountain in the same week – but it was a very special week indeed!

July 12, 2011 - The Final Morning - Team Parker with our 3 Guides and 27 Porters that kept us going!

Team Parker with our Incredible Guides – Thobias, Shabani and Urio

In the United States, there are as many as  1.5 million people living with Parkinson’s disease.  World wide there is said to be somewhere between 5.0 to 6.0 million people who have been diagnosed with PD.  I still believe that these estimates are low, and it is a fact that the number of cases will continue to increase as a large percentage of baby boomers reach their senior years.

We firmly believe staying active is the key to prolonging health and mobility for those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  Geoff has certainly proven that his daily regimen which includes some form of physical activity is working.  But we also know, that we must find a cure!

Geoffrey - The Inspiration For Parker's Climb! - Turning 57 on this very day!

If you have not donated to Parker’s Climb, I hope you will visit our Team Fox page to donate now. We are so grateful for all of those who have donated and who followed us over the past year! We are so incredibly humbled by the outpouring of support as we help fund The Michael J. Fox Foundation initiatives to help end this disease.

A special thank you to Russ who created our Parker’s Climb Website more than a year ago, and updated it while we were away.  Also, to Kelley for updating our Facebook page while we were climbing to keep everyone there updated!

Much Love,

Geoffrey & Pam, George III & Larri, George IV and Madeleine

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On July 22, 2011, just two days after returning from Tanzania, East Africa, my mother was diagnosed with an incurable brain disorder as well. There are some events in life that you just cannot prepare for and having a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is one of them. We are familiar with this feeling because we lost Geoffrey’s mom to Alzheimer’s disease just over two years ago.

It has taken a while to catch my breath; but I still firmly believe that one day we will beat these diseases, if the research continues. It only takes one of these brain disorders to be cured, to open the door for many other cures. We cannot stop working for the cures! We will not stop fighting for the cures!

There’s always gonna be another mountain…

Its not about how fast I get there, Its not about what’s waiting on the other side… It’s the climb! pkp

 

May our lights continue to shine - like the sun on this majestic mountain!

 

 

 

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