Local group to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro

August 18, 2011 3:10:26 AM PDT
In three weeks, seven women from the Houston area will go on the ultimate climb. They will spend six days climbing up and down Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It's a challenge for anyone, but these women have already faced unimaginable challenges and are ready to tackle this one.

For a Houstonian, even the hills at Spotts Park can be challenging. Now consider Mt. Killimanjaro.

"An adventure of a lifetime, why not" said Deb Sanders, who's part of the group.

That's how these women see the mountain in Tanzania, not as something to be afraid of, but as something to embrace.

"It's going to be such a glorious feeling," fitness expert Shana Ross said.

They've been training for weeks. Each has her own reason, but Becky Pope was the inspiration.

"I want to give hope," Pope said.

Pope has just been diagnosed with her third recurrence of ovarian cancer. After she beat her second, she told Ross she wanted to climb Mt. Killimanjaro. Ross was on board and started recruiting other women. Now they're like sisters.

"It's an incredible bond," Pope said.

Among the group are an FBI agent, chiropractor, federal probation officer, geoscientist and attorney. Each has had her own health challenge, from obesity to cancer to HIV, but now they have a common goal -- summitting more than 19,000 feet.

"Do the snoopy dance, cheer. It will be a very emotional experience, I'm sure," Sanders said.

To prepare, they carry 25 pounds up and down the hills for 2 and a half hours every Wednesday night plus other workouts. They are also chronicling their experiences online and Ross intends to write a book.

"We are all given mountains, if you want to use that metaphor, those things in life that come up. It's what we do with it and how we decide to either climb or stand at the bottom and look up and go, 'Oh I wish,'" Ross said.

Seven women, six days, one mountain, they say, with an empowering message.

"To say you can face a mountain, whatever that is in your life, and not only face it but we can overcome it," Pope said.

Pope says no one has discouraged her from doing this climb -- even with ovarian cancer. In fact, her oncologist is going, too. When she returns, she'll have surgery and undergo chemotherapy.

The climb starts September 12.

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