What a small world. Blue Springs resident Sharon “Sherry” Walters said she was shocked on Tuesday morning when she read a front-page article in The Examiner.
What a small world.
Blue Springs resident Sharon “Sherry” Walters said she was shocked on Tuesday morning when she read a front-page article in The Examiner.
The story “Friends reach for new summits” featured Centerpoint Medical Center employees Dan Thieman and Becky Rumfelt, who reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on Jan. 26.
In a separate, unrelated trip, Walters, 55, also was climbing the 19,341-foot mountain, reaching the Uhuru Peak at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 29.
“What are the odds?” said Walters, who works part-time in medical transcription. “I was just so shocked when I read that. We were all on Mount Kilimanjaro at the same time.”
Unlike Thieman, who’d thought of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro since the 1990s and convinced Rumfelt in 2009 that the pair should make the climb together someday, Walters said the adventure was something she had never given any consideration.
“It was never on my radar – nothing I’d ever thought about or dreamed about,” Walters said.
But Walters has a cousin named Val, a veterinarian who has worked as a missionary for more than 20 years in a very remote region of Uganda. In Africa, Val met a man from the United States, and the two planned a wedding in the small village of Nakayot.
Along with another cousin who lives in Kansas City, Walters planned a visit for the wedding. Val and her new husband wanted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for their honeymoon and encouraged those who also were interested to use the opportunity as a fundraiser.
Walters raised more than $2,800, all of which went to Christian Veterinary Mission to purchase turkeys and goats for orphans and widows in Uganda villages.
“I used Facebook and talked to friends and family,” Walters said of her fundraising strategy. “I was just shocked by the response I got, so I decided to go.”
She already goes to the gym regularly, but Walters needed to kick her exercise routine up a notch. So, she started working out on a stairclimber while wearing a backpack and her hiking books.
Walters and her husband, Paul, also hiked trails at Burr Oak Woods. Together, the couple also have gone skydiving and ziplining.
The climb began Jan. 24 with Val, her new husband and a handful of others in the group. On the sixth day, around midnight, the group awoke to begin climbing to the summit. Walters said she was especially nervous since about half of her group had already experienced altitude sickness or flu-like symptoms.
“You start thinking, ‘What am I doing? I think I’m going to die,’” Walters said.
But the guides encouraged the group members, singing and dancing and offering hugs for support.
“As you’re climbing, you’re thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ I felt like I was going to pass out and fall off of the mountain,” Walters said. “But once you make it up, it was just the most awesome feeling to realize you are higher than the clouds are.”
Page 2 of 2 - For Walters, the experience truly was once-in-a-lifetime.
“It was an adventure. It’s nothing I would ever do again,” she said. “It’s the hardest thing I ever did in my life, but I’m glad to say I did it.”
The trip, Walters said, also heightened her awareness of her blessings. For two out of the three weeks she spent in Africa, she had no access to running water.
“You really come home and realize how blessed you are to live in the United States,” she said. “You really appreciate the conveniences.”
While they climbed Mount Kilimanjaro at the same time, the stories of two Centerpoint employees and Walters are different.
Becky Rumfelt, who turned 50 in January, called climbing Mount Kilimanjaro as “the big 50th see-what-I-can-do trip.”
Walters made the climb with two people in their early 20s, but that means little to her.
“To me, age is nothing,” she said. “My age, hopefully, will never hold me back from doing something. I think it’s just a number.”