Reaching Great Heights: Student Hikes Mt. Kilimanjaro
Sydney Anderson, a junior double majoring in accounting and business management with a minor in math, is no stranger to taking on big challenges. She serves as the executive secretary for student council, interns for the Institutional Advancement Office and tutors for academic services. In December 2022, she climbed to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the sixth-highest mountain in the world.
Anderson surprised her father with plans for his bucket-list trip in 2021. Having a year to prepare, they found ways to overcome Indiana’s lack of challenging altitudes. “I ran the stairs of the AC [Academic Center] and walked on the treadmill in Lehman [Family Training Center] a lot,” she laughs.
The two departed for Tanzania on Christmas Day and met with their group of 11 hikers, five guides, 35 porters, and two cooks. They began the eight-day trip on December 26, with 6.5 days to climb and 1.5 days to descend.
The first two days were a struggle. Since they were hiking through the rainforest in a nonstop downpour, everything was drenched, even their sleeping bags. Days three through six consisted of health checks and progress toward base camp. Anderson’s favorite day was when the group was rock climbing while crossing Kissing Rock, next to a steep drop-off.
“You basically had to kiss the rock to get around it, which was thrilling,” she says.
On day six, the group slept at base camp from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. They lined up to ascend to the summit on New Year’s Eve at midnight. “The mountain erupted in cheers yelling ‘Happy New Year’s,’ and that was the start of our hike,” she says.
Part of the summit hike happened in the middle of the night, and Anderson struggled to stay awake. The group took two-minute breaks once every hour because it was too cold to safely rest for longer.
“What kept me going was knowing that everyone knew I was hiking it, and I knew I couldn’t turn around and tell them that I didn’t succeed,” Anderson says.
Seeing the top come into view at Stella Point motivated her to continue climbing, even though it would take another hour to reach the peak of the mountain. On the final section of the hike, they shuffled their way through snow and ice.
“That section was the hardest for me because my back was hurting and seized up. I felt like I could barely move. We walked extremely slowly, but I could barely keep up with that pace,” Anderson says. “At one point I had to lay down on a rock, and the guides tried to get me to keep moving.”
They reached the summit at 7:30 a.m., took pictures, including one with the Bethel University flag, and quickly began their descent, since they couldn’t stay at that altitude for long.
The challenges experienced on this journey brought back memories of Bethel’s Appalachian Trail hike for Anderson – a task force trip she went on in 2022. She saw God provide strength in the same ways He did on that trip during her Kilimanjaro climb. Her father’s continual prayer over the team was also an inspiration.
“I was so thankful I got to go on this amazing climb with my dad – and during my college experience. Bethel has helped me to continually reach for my goals, both academically and in life.”