This week we are delighted to speak to Dr. Joel Batzofin, a respected Manhattan fertility expert who summited Kilimanjaro in 2014 with his wife and daughter. He recently wrote a book about his experience on the mountain – One Step at a Time: A climb up Mount Kilimanjaro (available through Amazon). Read on for his tips that will help you on your own journey, as he provides insight into what it’s really like to spend a week on Africa’s tallest Mountain – one of the seven summits of the world.
Why did you climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
My daughter invited me. She was planning to do a nursing mission at a community hospital in Arusha, and when she told me she would be in Tanzania, I suggested she climb Mount Kilimanjaro. About two weeks later she came back to me and said, “Dad, I researched the climb, and I really want to do it. However, I don’t want to do it alone; won’t you please come with me?”
I’m from Africa, born in South Africa, and I had just turned 60 when my daughter made the suggestion. I had never thought of climbing Kilimanjaro, but an invitation such as she gave me, was immediately very appealing. I spoke with three friends who had made the climb, and each told me it was in incredible experience.
My main reason for wanting to do it was to embark on a father and daughter bonding adventure. The adventure took on a life of its own, and ultimately became much more than a climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro. This extraordinary journey is what I chronicled in my book. It really did turn out to be a life changing experience for me, including that I am now a published author.
How did climbing with your family make an impact on the experience?
It was incredible! We bonded in ways never before experienced. We conspired together in the preparation phase, we experienced the actual climb together, and we now share the memories of this amazing adventure. I am confident we will each carry these memories with us, for the rest of our days. I only wish my other daughter and her husband had been able to join us as well.
What piece of advice would you give those that are setting out to make climb?
Prepare well. This is not something to take lightly. This includes physical preparation, mental preparation, clothing and gear preparation, research as it relates to the mountain itself, and also the physiological changes associated with an altitude climb.
The better prepared you are, the more likely you are to be successful. Also, treat the preparation phase as part of the adventure and it will make the preparation phase much more fun. We took practice climbs, and did our shopping together. We read some of the same books and talked to many different people before the journey. We were laser focused once we had made the commitment to do it.
Thomson Safaris was outstanding to climb with, and I endorse them unreservedly.
What impact did the climb have on your life?
This entire experience has been a life changing experience in many ways. I discuss this in the book. It has strengthened my relationship with my daughter and my wife. I learned things about each of them, and also about myself, that I did not know before. It also made me more aware of how fortunate I am to live the life I lead.
It also heightened my spiritual awareness. Through the preparation phase I read a lot about astronomy, and how the universe works. As my work involves creating life (at least the biology of fertility), my spiritual awareness became more focused. It also drove me to write a book — this in itself has been an adventure that has taught me many lessons.
I have become much more aware of the plight of those less fortunate. For example, many of the porters* we saw working had terrible footwear, yet they still climbed the mountain. We will be donating some of the profits from the book, to help provide these porters with better footwear.
Previous to Kilimanjaro had you ever climbed a mountain?
Yes. I had climbed three mountains prior to this, but none were anything near as challenging as Kilimanjaro. I climbed Mt. Marcy in New York in preparation for Kili, but it was only 5, 344 feet. However, do not underestimate it – it was not easy.
I’ve also climbed Table Mountain in South Africa, which is 3, 558 feet, and Lions Head, also in South Africa at 2,195 feet. To put everything in perspective, Kilimanjaro is 19, 341 feet. It’s an entirely different ball game, but one that is worth the challenges. Going through all different climate zones on the climb is something that makes climbing Mt Kilimanjaro so special.
*Thomson Safaris is on the forefront of supporting porter safety, and we now inspect all porters prior to climbs to ensure they are properly outfitted for safety and comfort.