Talk about peak condition!
A Red Hook woman is lugging a 20-pound pack over the Brooklyn Bridge during her daily hike to work, training to scale Mount Kilimanjaro on Jan. 16.
“I’m pretty determined to make the climb,” said 41-year-old Jamie Slater, who is tackling the mountain to raise funds for research into multiple myeloma — a form of cancer that kills more than 11,000 people in the United States per year.
The graphic design artist is joining a nine-day trek up and down Africa’s tallest peak — the height of more than 13 Empire State Buildings at 19,431 feet — alongside a team of 16 other Americans hailing from across the country, including four survivors of the deadly disease. Slater is taking part in honor of an old work buddy, who is also a survivor.
Each member of the team is responsible for raising $10,000 for the cause — although a few have raised as much as $30,000, and the team to date has amassed $200,000, according to Slater.
She hopes the climb will show those suffering from the potentially fatal cancer that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that not only is recovery possible, but that survivors can go on to accomplish incredible feats of athletic prowess.
“We’re letting people know who think this is a death card that there are people not just living with it, but they’re able to create and do these amazing feats, like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro,” said Slater. “And their ability to do that is a direct result of research for new medications, and that’s what we’re raising money for.”
The party will spend seven-and-a-half days ascending up the mountain and one-and-a-half-days going down in temperatures ranging from -20 to 100 degrees, but the most harrowing leg of the climb will be the short final ascent to the peak, Slater said.
To reach the top, the team will awake at around midnight — when winds are expected to be at their most mild — and trudge to the top guided by lamp light as they suck at the thin air that only contains about half the amount of oxygen at sea level.
The climbers will only be able to spend about 15 minutes at the peak before heading down the other side of Kilimanjaro, or they risk suffering serious illnesses related to lack of oxygen.
“Your body isn’t meant to be in that level of altitude,” said Slater, who did some altitude training in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The 17 Americans will be accompanied by a support crew of no fewer than 80 porters, each carrying about 25-pounds worth of gear — including one unlucky fellow whose task is to haul the group’s toilet up and down Africa’s tallest peak.
“We’re going to be a small city moving up the mountain,” said Slater.