By Rhonda Massad
Eight years ago, Pointe Claire resident Denis Legault decided he was going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
“I did not know how or when, but I knew I would accomplish my goal,” Legault told The Suburban.
The challenge included not only the climb but fundraising for the Canadian Tire Jump Start program in order to participate. Jump Start helps Canadian families who can’t otherwise afford to enroll their children in sport or recreation activities.
The trip itself took place in January 2014. It cost Legault, an operational manager at Bell, about $6,000 out of his own funds for some equipment and the trip.
Next, Legault set out to raise funds for Jump Start by encouraging his family, friends and colleagues to donate online. He also joined Laval climber Annie Langlois in putting together a spaghetti supper that raised $2,000.
Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest freestanding mountain in the world at 5,895 m (19,341 ft) above sea level.
The climb took eight days: seven to climb and one to descend. They were accompanied by seven guides and 63 porters who carried tents, food and baggage.
“The African people were so kind and welcoming, they were always smiling and making sure we drank enough water,” he said.
Though Legault was always active in sports he prepared for the climb by speed walking 5 km three times a week, and climbed local mountains like Tremblant and Sutton. He lost 30 pounds in the process, making his Kilimanjaro climb that much easier.
“The altitude makes it hard to breathe and it gets worse every day. By the time we reached summit, we had substantially less oxygen than normal, which can cause headaches and dizziness. You can feel your heart beating strongly when only doing simple tasks,” he said. “A lot of people had stomach flu-like symptoms, but I was lucky. One climber didn’t make it the whole way. He tried and was just three hours short but could not continue,” he explained.
The Jump Start team to make the climb of the Mount Kilimanjaro consisted of 16 members, all from Canada, including two women,. They raised over $130,000 for Jump Start.
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