Sunset of my Kilimanjaro Chapter

Originally I re-started this website so that people could track my progress on a blow-by-blow basis of my ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro. But it occurred to me that once the campaign was over, it’d essentially be a “dead” site. After all, it’s not like I’m going back to Tanzania to go again anytime soon. I don’t really want this site to end up like that. I started cantateop.org way back in 2010 in Mexicali as a way to communicate with friends and family and I shut it down when it ate up too much into my study time. All that content is archived somewhere, but it’s also dated (I was still four years from ordination). Rather than let it go fallow, I’ll update the site with new content regularly so that it’s interesting and may have some benefit to others. If it becomes untenable, or if it doesn’t have enough readers, then I’ll make a decision then. But in the meantime, I hope that I can wax more theological than experiential. If you’re reading this text on the site, you’ve already noticed that the DONATE buttons are gone (I closed the funding portal weeks ago), and that the design is …

Kilimanjaro Videos

While I chose to primarily shoot photos on Mount Kilimanjaro, one of our trekkers, Yan, brought a GoPro with him. Yan does extensive trail running throughout the world, but particularly in the back yard Pyranees mountain range outside of Barcelona in Spain. He clearly was the most fit of all us trekkers on the mountain. As such, he had the energy and stamina to run ahead and take multiple video clips throughout our eight hiking days together. Once home he took to editing, stitching and sewing many of those clips, filtering out redundant ones, and coming up with an inspiring 7+ minute video of the whole thing. While I love photography (not that I’m a photographer), there’s a certain dimension (time) that is lost in a still shot. Video captures personality and is obviously less posed. During the entirety of the trek I captured our GPS coordinates with my watch. At the beginning of each day I started tracking and ended when we arrived at our campsite. Yan took to relive.cc, a website that takes all of these recordings and maps it onto 3D maps of the Earth in motion video, inserting photos along the way. In addition, at the …

In The National Catholic Register

While on Mount Kilimanjaro I received an email from Paul Senz, a contributor to the National Catholic Register, among other publications. He had stumbled upon this blog before I started ascending and followed along day-by-day. Not knowing whether I’d summit or not, he reached out to me to see if I’d be willing to do an interview about my experiences as a priest on the mountain. I readily agreed. Once stateside we communicated several times and lo and behold, on March 29th I received an email from a confrere in Rome. The interview hit the “press.” This was exciting news for me. After all, the National Catholic Register is a national publication with an international readership. Within the next couple of days I started receiving more and more emails from friends and acquaintances. You can read the full interview here at the National Catholic Register.

Heartfelt Thanks

At long last, the Dominican Student Brothers have received the donations from all those who supported my Kilimanjaro expedition and they wanted to send their heartfelt thanks to the benefactors. The Master of Students, Fr. Stephen Maria Lopez, OP sent me a card signed by most of the students. I’m including a copy of this card so that everyone can get a chance to see it. While this was a great experience for me, I have to say I would not terribly excited about going to Kilimanjaro ever again. That said, I can never say never. I never thought I’d go a second time, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I wasn’t really inclined to do so. But for the purposes of evangelization and ministry, and for bringing awareness to the financial needs of the student brothers, I’d surely do it again. PS The funding page no longer accepts donations. I’ll be updating the blog to reflect this soon.

Funds Raised!

I apologize for not updating this blog sooner. Being gone from Holy Rosary even for a couple of weeks meant that I had a whole of tasks piled up for me when I returned. When I was in Africa I felt like I had all the time in the word to write these brief articles. I no longer have such a luxury. I was also waiting for the last few donations to trickle in. While most people used Give-Send-Go (via the links on this blog), there were several who simply wanted to write checks. In any case, the good news is that we raised about $11,000 USD! This is an incredible figure and it will assist the student brothers in their formation, most of whom are seeking ordination to the priesthood. I have sent the funds to our Development Office in Oakland, California where it will be dispersed into their account immediately.

Unexpected Attention

From the beginning I knew that going on this trek to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro would attract some attention. A Catholic Mass at the top of Africa is the sort of thing that just doesn’t happen very often. Two priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) did it in September of 2015. Perhaps it was just because it’s 2022, where social media has a much larger role to play in modern culture. But, I had no idea how much attention it would garner (well, at least to my level). That I was tramping around in my white habit made me known to all the guides and porters on the mountain. Many of whom wanted to speak with me or to take a picture with me. I’ve already covered this a couple of times, but it still intrigues me that I was more or less a celebrity there. As of February 21, 2022, my single post with a picture of me in front of my altar sort of went semi-viral (at least to me) on Facebook. My very modest (and infrequently updated) Facebook page is ”liked” by almost 800 people and shared by almost 400. It does not include …

Reflections on Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro

19 years ago, before I entered the Dominican Order, I was a successful businessman checking things off a bucket list. One of the items was a climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. Back then I wasn’t in the greatest of shape. A desk job coupled with a fine restaurant lifestyle doesn’t do much for one’s health, especially the waistline. But, I was determined to make the climb a success. At one point in my training I was climbing Mt. Si, a 4,100 ft (1,250 m) mountain near Seattle three times per week. When the weather switched to rain and mud I turned to swimming to continue my cardiovascular regimen. I took precautions, acquiring a prescription of Diamox to combat altitude sickness, and a separate prescription of Malarone to combat malaria. When the actual climb came I thought the lower slopes were easy. The guides kept things at an agonizingly slow pace which ensured that all of us would make it to the top. Going too quickly is a sure way of instigating altitude sickness. In addition, we opted for the 7-day Machame Route, which was sufficient time for us to acclimatize to approximately 13,000 ft (4,000 m). …

Coming Home

On the way off the mountain and back into the town of Moshi those heading home (including myself) had to make a stop at the regional Health Ministry Hospital to get a RT-PCR COVID-19 test. Everyone exiting Tanzania must take this test before they can get on trans border public transportation, such as my Qatar flight. The turnaround time is 48-hours and they cut it to the bone, returning results to us via email after 46 hours. No sweat here (not!). One of our guides uses the acronym TFT, which translates as Tanzanian Flexible Time. In other words, if you don’t make your flight, you, uh, don’t make your flight. Never mind that there are connections, appointments, and obligations at the other end that require our presence. This is a perfect time to recall and recite the Serenity Prayer, which while it seems a little cliché for a confessor that routinely doles it out. But it seems so applicable: I am typing this as I prepare to go to the airport. I’m hoping that everything goes smoothly because I do have Sunday Masses to preach and I arrive in Portland Saturday afternoon. I’m not certain what was going through my …

On Reaching the Peak

Of the Seven Summits (highest peaks on each of the seven “traditional” continents), the easiest to achieve (even though it is not the lowest) is Mt. Kilimanjaro. Yet, at 19,341 ft (5,895 m) it’s no slouch either. What makes it easier, perhaps, is that it requires no technical gear. One does not require ropes, crampons, axes, or any specialized training. This isn’t to say that the mountain is easy, or that anyone could do it. But rather, it’s the most accessible. The reasons are varied. But perhaps the most obvious is that it is pretty close to the equator, which is generally hot year-round at sea level. Denali (Mt. McKinley) by contrast is so far north that it spends most of its time shrouded in snow. Climbing on snow-capped mountains brings with them all sorts of technical challenges. While there are glaciers on Mt. Kilimanjaro they’ve receded quite at lot in the past hundred years (or so) where much of the mountain is snow-free year-round. Secondly, Mt. Kilimanjaro eruptions in the past have been lava-based, meaning that liquid magma comes out the top and flows downward. Over time the mountain builds up but depending on the flow of the lava …

Uhuru Peak

After months of planning and a healthy dose of Divine Providence I made it to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. This was the point of this website and blog. I wanted to draw attention to the spiritual needs of my parishioners at Holy Rosary in Portland, Oregon, as well as the spiritual and financial needs of our Dominican Student Brothers in Formation. I did a ton of praying which I’ll cover in a separate post. These days with lots of COVID-19 restrictions, just getting to Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania has its challenges. Finding the right company to lead us up the mountain with the maximum amount of acclimatization ensured the best changes of making it to the top, but even then that’s not a guarantee. Nature also provide some interesting challenges. January through March are the ”driest” months of the year but different weather patterns as of late are bringing much more rain to the area that previously recorded. Then, there’s the simple physical toll that high altitude demands on each climber. Altitude sickness can hit the most physically fit just as much as the average Joe. Even then, getting to high elevations doesn’t actually mean that one can stay …