When Expedition Turns To Mission
by Matt Lloyd
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
"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
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
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
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
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 www.kiliforkids.com.