Guide Jake Norton is in Africa kicking off Challenge21, a four-year project in which he will attempt to climb the Triple Seven Summits—the three highest peaks on all seven continents. The challenge is an effort to draw funds and attention to one of the world’s greatest crises—water and sanitation—while raising $16,763 for Water For People.
Story by Jake Norton
The Rwenzori have several names, but none perhaps so apropos as their current one, which also happens to be their original name: Rwenzori. It means “The Maker of Rain.”
I’ve never visited a place so intensely lush, beautiful and, yes, damp, in my life. It’s almost beyond belief, and it seems to indeed be the maker of rain.
After visiting some amazing Water For People field sites yesterday just north of Fort Portal, Uganda, we continued to the small town of Kasese, at the foot of the Rwenzori. A last night in quasi-civilization filled us with amazing curry, rice, and chapati … yes, we are still in Uganda, not India!
And, this morning, we moved into the mountains. And, quite a day it was. The Kilembe Trail, which we are climbing, is a newer route in the Rwenzori, coming online only in 2009. And the first day a big one, gaining 5,400 feet over about 6 miles of rain forest and jungle. The whole team did spectacularly, climbing at a good clip and moving through bamboo forests and mud bogs with smiles on their faces.
We’ve really got a great team here:
Ned Breslin, Water For People CEO: Ned was told he should climb the Rwenzori back in 1987 when he was living and working on water issues in northern Kenya. It took 24 years, but he’s finally made it … and having a good time, too.
Barb Neary & Dan Fillipi: Barb and Dan are old friends of mine and Wende’s, and also old friends of Water For People. They’ve traveled to field sites in West Bengal, India, and supported Water For People in many ways for years.
Collin Barry: Collin, too, is an old friend, who studied at Korbel School of International Studies at University of Denver with Wende. He came to Uganda from Stuttgart, Germany, where he consults for Booz Allen Hamilton. Collin is also a great friend of Water For People.
Charlie Lovering: Charlie and Wende go way back; he was 4 years old when she nannied for him in Connecticut. He’s now a Senior at Colorado College (my alma mater), and has interned with Challenge21 for the summer.
Tim Ryan: Tim is yet another close friend of mine, Wende’s, and Water For People’s, having shot images and video of their work around the world. This is Tim’s second time to Uganda, but his first in the Rwenzori … as with all of us.
And, of course, we have our amazing, strong, friendly, and fun Ugandan team, without whom we could not do any of this. From William, our lead guide, to Joseph, one of our porters, the entire crew runs a tight ship, and a smiling one.
And, much to our delight, they followed through on our request today to disallow the Maker of Rain from doing its thing while we climbed. We somehow stayed dry—aside from our sweat—the whole day, although the sky unleashed just minutes after arriving at camp.
Tomorrow? We’ll keep our fingers crossed as we cross bogs and make our way to about 12,000 feet at Camp II.
P.S.: You’ve no doubt noticed that these dispatches are, sadly, without images to go along. After 4 hours of working the sat phone last night and praying to the sat phone gods, I finally came to the realization that the connection here in the Rwenzori is not robust enough to send images through. That may change as we get higher, but currently we’re in deep valleys, limiting my sat phone connectivity. I’ll send what I can when I can!
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