Rwenzori Mountains- Self-Care Break

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The conversation around people of color in the outdoors has rightfully gained a ton of momentum in recent years. However, with all of this great momentum, being In the midst of many conversations, gatherings, outings, and the like, I started to become exhausted. This topic has been something that has been at the forefront of my work for quite some time now and it has not been and still isn’t an easy issue to address. The very existence of our human race and of our planet is at stake; this isn't the time to be tired. However, like any big expedition, I must pace myself, I must practice self care, and take the time to listen to mind, body and soul.

 

 I needed this break. I needed time away from the conversation. A conversation that I’ve been having since I was 18 and inadvertently before that through casual encounters with white counterparts on my regular hike through the mountains. Explaining who I was and why I was out on the trial instead of some place else. Over the past year, I've grown more and more tired with discussions and explanations. I needed to remember why this very conversation mattered so much to me. 

 

Back in June 2015 I traveled to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro immediately after I graduated college. This was a really exciting time in my life - done with college, no more worries, I was headed home to the “motherland”. I had heard so many incredible stories of the mountain and always knew that I wanted to make it over to Tanzania. However, never in a million years did I know what climbing on a mountain like that would have done to me. The actual climb itself felt pretty standard: early mornings, slow pace, long hikes - but what made this climb more significant than most was the feeling of being the majority. To be on a mountain, in a wild space and not feel like my existence needed to be explained. It was unusual to not question my moment in space, not having to wonder if someone was staring at me unknowingly from behind; odd to no longer be one the few folks who went into their tent at night a shade of purple because our sunscreen wasn't the most absorbent. 

 

My time on Kilimanjaro was special because during that climb my focus was solely on that experience itself. Instead of being distracted with the usual pressures that come with being a person of color in the outdoors I had the opportunity to breath. I was able to be fully immersed in every step I took on my hike up and pay attention to every breathe that left my body. For the first time, I didn’t have to carry any additional "weight" up a mountain. 

 

I wanted that experience again. I remember how it felt to see so many people of color who were experts in the outdoors - people who lived, slept and worked in the mountains. For them, the outdoors was all they knew - it was not a question whether they belonged there or not. I was inspired.  

 

And so, last month I set out to find myself once again. This time, my journey led me to the Rwenzori Mountain Range, which lies on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It consist of six massifs that all sit roughly at 16,000ft of elevation. Mt. Stanley, the highest peak, stands at 16,762 ft. As a collective they make up Africa’s highest mountain range. These mountains hold some of the continents last existing glaciers. 

 

I hadn’t heard much about the Rwenzori’s before I began planning to head there a few month’s before this trip. It was put on my radar from a friend and since then, I couldn’t get these mountain off of my mind. I instantly thought about Kilimanjaro and what that experience was like for me and I began to yearn for that feeling once again. I needed to recreate that space but this time I wanted to be intentional and share this journey with everyone here in the U.S. who aren't taking their occasional self care break, yet who are still having these difficult conversations, who are dedicating their lives to the work of bridging the adventure gap. 

 

Unfortunately I don’t always have the luxury of being objective about my expeditions in the mountains. In most cases, these trips are just as much of an adventure culturally, socially and emotionally as they are physically. Ironically, I traveled 7,000 miles to another country on another continent and not once did I hear the question: “What brought you here” - a question that black folks get over and over again in the U.S, our country, our home.  While in Uganda I learned the answer to this question without even being asked. I was born to love the earth just as my ancestors.

 

There is magic that lives within the Rwenzori’s. Those mountaineers, those porters, those villagers have helped solidify my being. Throughout my time in the Rwenzori, while in Uganda, I experienced what it felt like to truly live off of the earth. To drink from its flowing rivers and to feast from its lush green forest. Everyone in those mountains seemed so connected with nature, through diet, labor, transportation, through all of their everyday function. It confirmed my personal existence in the outdoors. I belonged here, I belonged outside. 

 

 

I thank every single person I crossed paths with who made my experience so special. People who have studied nature in universities, who have mountaineered for decades, people who have fetched water in these mountains since they learned to walk. This was special. You made me feel at home. You have shown me that the “adventure gap” in the U.S. is man made and if my country created this issue, we damn sure can fix it. 

 

All in love,

Tyrhee 

January 9th 2018 - First Day in Uganda

Day One:  I'll start by saying that the Rwenzori Mountains or the country of Uganda for that matter, were not really on my radar at all until very recently. A buddy of mine inadvertently mentioned snow-capped mountains that lived high up at the source of the Nile. I was sold. A High Alpine Glacier, in the motherland, duh – complete no brainer. I wondered why I'd never heard of these mountains before until I started to actually plan to make the trip happen. I'll be very upfront to say that this trip was a pretty penny. From the flight, medication, visa, travelers insurance, hiring of porters, and so many other little things that just kept ticking up the tab. With that being said, I've been in Uganda for eight (8) hours now and my skin is already radiating, my smile is whiter than ever and my spirit is already on its way back to rejuvenation.  I am home.  Within minutes of leaving my hotel, I could hear a guy in his early 20's wearing skinny jeans and a bucket hat blasting Chris Brown’s “Pills and Automobiles” from his cell phone; and down the block another guy who looked to be a bit older bobbing his head to what was distinctly Meek Mill, all I could say was “Aye, it's Lit.” That experience alone reassured me this trip was already worth every penny.  I am those men.  Those men are me.

 

Slightly jet lagged and disoriented, jumping in and out of time-zones to get here, I am taking it easy as I wait for my climbing partner to arrive. I explored the nearby botanical garden where I ran across Velvet Monkey, exotic plants and fruit.  I’ve seen massive termite mounds and walked down to a local water front and listened to the ocean water crash against the bank. Pretty nice start to my three (3) weeks here in the Pearl.

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May 17th 2017 - Tyrhee Called Last Night!

Ever wonder what it’s like to climb the highest mountain in North America? Just imagine when the pilot says, “You may now move about the cabin, we’ve reached 20,000 feet…”  Unbelievable.  Tyrhee called last night to update us on his progress (we were, of course, shocked but happy to hear he’s safe).  Here are details of the conversation:

  1. The night time temperature has averaged -30 degrees. WTH?
  2. The team ran into a massive blizzard at 11,000 feet. Tents were blown down so they spent a day waiting on the weather to improve and building snow shelters to protect their homes.  Wait, wasn’t that the plot of the kids book Three Little Pigs?
  3. The weather has caused several blisters to develop on Tyrhee’ s fingers. He’s lost feeling in the tips on all ten fingers. (And what did you complain about today?)
  4. The team is going to rest at the 14K Camp for a day or so to get acclimated to the altitude (Can you imagine how thin the air must be that high up?)
  5. 17K is the last camp before the team will go for the summit. Thursday (5/18), the team plans to go about half way in order to drop off gear.  They will then head back down to 14K to rest a bit more.  After they get all of their gear to 17K, S*** GETS REAL!

According to Tyrhee, he feels strong but does have some anxiety. He is eating well, but the cold weather makes it hard to sleep comfortably (this may be the understatement of the century). He obviously really wants to summit this time.  And if you’re cheering for Tyrhee and the Jackson 4 – send them your best and share their story!

More updates later. In the interim, do it for the CULTURE, Tyrhee.

 

 Photo of the team pushing through the 5.5 mile slog across the Kahiltna Glacier, far in a distance is the approach to the 11,000ft and the 14,000ft camp. Shot By: Hudson Henry

Photo of the team pushing through the 5.5 mile slog across the Kahiltna Glacier, far in a distance is the approach to the 11,000ft and the 14,000ft camp. Shot By: Hudson Henry

Win Some, Lose Some. Live to Fight Another Day.

They trained hard. They’ve climbed high.  They withstood the toughest conditions.  But ultimately the Mountain controls their fate.  Tyrhee and Jackson 4 went to 17K this morning to retrieve their cache, and are expected to descent Mt. Denali this afternoon.  They will not summit this time around.  There is a severe blizzard on the forecast Tuesday and Wednesday, which might make it impossible for the team to come down for another week.  Keep in mind the only access to food and shelter they have is what they carried on their backs up the mountain.  Several teams on the Mountain have already turned around.  The weather was just too volatile and dangerous.

The entire team feels great, which makes this decision all the more difficult to accept. They spent months training and thousands of dollars to make this trek possible.  To come so close a second time brings its own set of disappointments.  And yet, their journey has inspired us all.  Tyrhee’s take was simple yet profound: “You win some, you lose some. But you live to fight another day…”  Oh, and rest assured there will be another day!

In the coming weeks, Tyrhee will take time to reflect on the journey and share additional insight on his incredible mountaineering journey. In the meantime, let Tyrhee and the Jackson 4 how proud we are of their courage and send them lots of love!

Continue to share the story and look out for updates about what’s next in the near future.

Tyrhee Moore: Be Patient. Be Still. Be Ready

Tyrhee and the Jackson 4 just called again to check in. Yesterday, they were able to take half of their gear to 16,200 feet.  They went back down to 14K and have spent almost four (4) days waiting for weather to improve.  They woke up this morning, broke down their tents, put on their gear with hopes of ascending to 17K. Not Happening.  The visibility on the mountain is extremely poor right now, and climbing at that altitude with poor visibility is unwise.  So they wait.  The forecast looks like poor weather for the next 3-4 days, which would extend the trip a bit longer than anticipated.  It takes about 8-10 hours to travel from 14K to 17K, so they need a solid window of clear(er) weather in order to set out.  The wind speeds exceed 25 mph, which drives down the temperature and makes conditions unbearable.  The good news is that they have plenty of food left.  And the team’s health is solid.

Tyrhee was in good spirits, although a bit bummed about the weather. The conversation reminded us that on mountains (and indeed in life) there are obstacles placed in our way that we have absolutely no control over.  Sometimes the best course is to Be Patient.  Be Still.  “The Mountain controls our fate,” Tyrhee said. “When the weather clears, we have to go.”  “WHEN OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS, YOU’VE GOT TO BE READY TO WALK THROUGH THAT DOOR.”

Be Patient. Be Still.  Be Ready.  We are witnessing history with this climb.  And if his actions alone were not enough to inspire us, certainly his words during this difficult time on the glacier has taught us that “We can all be mountain climbers in our regular lives!”

“We Need a Strong, Strong Prayer…” – Tyrhee Moore

SHARE HIS STORY AND SEND THEM WELL WISHES!

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