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When Expedition Turns To Mission
by Matt Lloyd

On September 7, 2000, Ryan Soave along with twenty-seven others left sunny Ft. Myers, Florida for the snow-capped peak of 's highest mountain. Their expedition: to scale the 19,340 foot Mount Kilimanjaro - one of the world's seven highest summits. Their mission: to help tiny babies and sick children who are hospitalized in Southwest Florida.

"Slow and steady. Make sure to be well prepared. Make sure all bases are covered," advised Ryan when asked about what help he offered his fellow climbers. Ryan, a graduate of the Fall 1998 NOLS semester in Baja, Mexico, brought significant experience to the group's expedition. "I was really excited about this trip. It was especially interesting because it was such a diverse group of people." Ryan's fellow group members included surgeons and real estate people, builders and attorneys, hairdressers and biologists. Most heard about the trip from friends and read about it in the newspapers. There were eight women and 16 men, ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s.

"Many weren't sure what to expect. Heck, I wasn't too sure what to expect," said Ryan. "But I did know that I had an advantage when it came time to go to the bathroom up there. NOLS has really prepared me for the little things that we experienced. I was able to provide guidance to the others in the group."

The group began their expedition at a camp in West Kilimanjaro where they reviewed their route with African expedition leaders. The group followed the Shira Route to the summit - Uhuru Peak. "This route is known to be slightly longer and more difficult than the 'Coca-Cola' route, the easier route to the top." On September 11, the group made for the Montane Forest Camp, elevation 9,000 feet. The following two days involved elevation gains of 3,950 feet to the Shira Plateau west camp, elevation 11,300 feet, and the Shira Plateau east camp, elevation 12,950 feet.

On September 14, the group reached the Lava Tower camp at an elevation of 14,300 feet. This was the group's first introduction to the Mountain's alpine zone. The effects of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) began to be felt among members of the group. A few people began to experience headache, tingling in hands and feet, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, and increased heart rate at rest.

The group then spent September 15th and 16th at Arrow Glacier camp, elevation 16,000 feet, and Summit Crater camp, elevation 18,500 feet. The climb to these camps was much slower and much more technical.

On September 17, Ryan and 22 other group members set out for the summit, elevation 19,340 feet. This meant that the day's climb began at 5:00 a.m. Most of the group summitted and made it back to camp by 5:00 p.m.

Ryan said his biggest concern was the well being of his father, John Soave, who also took part in the expedition. "I was a bit worried about my Dad. We work together and there was a running bet among everyone at the office about whether he would be able to make it to the top." But it was John, 48, who got Ryan excited about the trek. And it was Ryan's mother who finally put her foot down and gave her approval for the trip on the condition that 24-year-old Ryan go.

Ryan happily agreed. "It was an absolutely fabulous opportunity. I read about the Children's Hospital and then took my first hospital tour. I was impressed." Ryan hopes that the group will raise at least $100,000. The group will give $10,000 of that to the Mkombozi Center for Street Children in Tanzania as a token of appreciation to the country of Africa.

The rest will go towards the Children's Hospital. The Hospital recently opened a $1.2 million outpatient oncology center that was built entirely from community donations. Now, officials want to build a $1 million to $1.5 million pediatric emergency room. Money raised from the Kilimanjaro expedition will be added to the ER pool.

Ryan concluded by saying, "it goes well beyond an expedition. It is now a mission." You can check out the Kilimanjaro mission or make a donation at

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